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IBM refocused its small and midsize business market approach with the introduction on March 13 of Express Advantage, a set of business services to be sold through partners and customer enablement tools aimed at making IBM easier to navigate.

Express Advantage delivers six new services, three Tivoli solutions and four work station and server solutions, all designed and priced for the SMB.

The offering marks the first time IBM has marketed services through partners and also marks Tivoli’s entry into the SMB.

Expanding the offering and pricing, the Tivoli line allows VARs to create a beachhead at customers they otherwise would be repelled from, said Darrin D. Nelson, vice president of software and services at Strategic Computer Solutions, Syracuse, N.Y., an IBM hardware, software and services reseller.

“For IBM and VARs like us, these aren’t going to be money makers,” Nelson said. “We’ll make something off of the sale, but the real value is that we have something to offer them. It keeps the competitor out and you’ve entered the account, which is the important thing. You can cross-sell and up-sell and as they grow you will get to the products where there is profitability.”

Click here to read about IBM recruiting 5,000 partners in the SMB space.

Vincent Taravella, director of channel sales at Vormittag Associates, Ronkonkoma, N.Y., which builds an ERP (enterprise resource planning) application on IBM’s iSeries platform for SMBs, said that IBM has been marching toward the SMB for years and making progress along the way.

“It’s a new found focus for them that a lot of us have been waiting for,” Taravella said. “The iSeries is reliable, stable and scalable to the SMB and has been for years. But we weren’t their target. We’ve been here all along. Now the program has kind of grown around us.”

The offering, including a concierge-like portal to IBM for small businesses and simplified credit processes, combats the notion that IBM is too large and difficult for IBM customers, said IBM executives and partners.

“Too many people think were tough to deal with,” said Steve Solazzo, general manager of IBM Global Small and Medium Business. “They think we’re world class solutions for the enterprise, but we’re too tough to deal with and too difficult to navigate.”

Big Blue faces a big branding problem in the market, where many customers associate the company and its products with the enterprise, Solazzo added. But the company is actually one of the largest vendors in the space, he said. The SMB push comes with a marketing campaign focused on “companies whose IT department is called Larry,” he said.

Taravella said the IBM name has always been an advantage in the space, where customers “buy what they know.”

The line is likely to be attractive, especially to midsize businesses, which need the business advantage of WebSphere and Tivoli, but have not had easy access to it, said Susan Huhn Eustis, president of WinterGreen Research.

IBM woos SMBs with bigger portfolio and price cuts. Click here to read more.

“WebSphere has become an essential aspect of doing business effectively,” Eustis said. “It replaces manual processes, which are full of mistakes. It’s not just that they’re slow or expensive, they’re ineffective. That these companies can automate processes will mean better profitability.”

IBM also rolled out support for the PartnerWorld Express Advantage for IBM Business Partners, which provides simplified access to resources, programs, solutions, technical support and sales and marketing campaigns.

IBM Business Partner programs now available through the new portal include Built on IBM Express Advantage, PartnerWorld Industry Networks, IBM Express Seller and SMB ISV Advantage.

The program also includes PartnerWorld Express Advantage dashboards and SMB Incentives for Accelerated Growth, a set of incentives across IBM’s portfolio of hardware, software and services to increase profit potential in the midmarket.

Click Here for a full accounting of the Express Advantage offerings.