To reach SMBs, IBM goes for its channel partners

IBM has unveiled its first full-fledged brand campaign that targets the channel partners who sell its products and services to small and midsize businesses. This will be part of an ongoing company-wide ini­tiative to reach out to these customers.

“IBM has been perceived as [being] better with big customers,” said Karstin Bodell, VPof channel marketing, North America, at IBM. But, as this campaign and other efforts are trying to make clear, the company “is easy to work with and focused on the midmarket,” she stated.

Bodell added that the midmarket is a “high growth area,” and the campaign would be focused on channel partners because “companies in [that] segment typically buy from our channel partners” instead of directly from IBM.

In the past, IBM’s marketing to chan­nel partners has focused variously on the end-user, on specific products or on high­lighting specific business partners.

The campaign has “a totally different feel” from previous efforts, Bodell noted. It integrates print, e-mail and online ads, encouraging channel partners to share their thoughts with IBM and other partners on a new online forum, Voice of the Business Partner. The goal is for IBM to help chan­nel partners grow their businesses.

“IBM does a [great deal] to go after midmarket clients directly,” Bodell said. “But the chan­nel partners are the ones that are going to be in front of the clients, so we want to influence them.”

The messaging of the campaign will evolve to address issues that channel partners bring up on the forum.

The budget also sets this campaign apart from earlier efforts. The campaign rep­resents “a large growth in advertising to business partners,” Bodell said. She added that IBM hasn’t advertised before in trade magazines that target channel partners.

IBM will be running a three-page gate­fold print ad in CRN, VarBusiness and Chan­nelPro magazines from July to November. Online banner ads will also appear on each magazine’s Web site in the second half of the year.

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