Microsoft reconnects with SMB channel

Microsoft reconnects with SMB channel

Microsoft will commit $2.5 million to a series of channel-based marketing, training and product initiatives in an effort to "reconnect" with its SMB (small and medium business) reseller network.

At the launch of its revised channel strategy yesterday, Microsoft admitted it had lost touch with the "high-value" SME sector through focusing too much on enterprise-level accounts.

The recommitment initiative, which is already underway, includes $1 million in marketing development and sales support, $1 million in performance-based rebates, and $500,000 in skills development and training. There will be 55 roadshows in both metropolitan and regional areas.

John Ball, Microsoft's SMB group manager, said the level of rebates and R&D funds will be determined on partners' past track records and the fiscal viability of proposals. Meanwhile, Hotlab technical training has been organised in conjunction with Di-Data, allowing 1000 SMB partners to take three-and-a-half hour sessions on Windows XP for $49, half the full course price.

Microsoft will also increase activity in "information-starved" regional centres, with six of the 33 roadshows already undertaken being outside city centres.

"We haven't had a strong regional strategy in the past to go to broad-based partners," said Ball. "Partners want to see a Microsoft person in their local geography."

Ball said sales training will take precedence in these areas, especially for smaller partners who generally excel at the technology side while struggling with sales and marketing.

Mark Iles, director of Microsoft's SMB group, said Microsoft has every intention of expanding its 5500-strong SMB reseller network and the revenues associated with it. "If we get 10 to 20 per cent growth in SMB reseller sales we'll be very happy," he said.

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