HP expands SME services push

Hewlett-Packard is expected to unveil an expanded programme of products and services for small and medium-size business customers...

Hewlett-Packard is expected to unveil an expanded programme of products and services for small and medium-sized business customers later today at the HP Partners America Conference in Los Angeles.

Last September, HP announced a $750m initiative geared at marketing and research and development efforts for the SME market. Customer feedback has led to the creation of new services packages that are delivered through HP's partners or directly from HP services to SMB customers in North America, said ML Krakauer, vice president and general manager of customer support business.

HP has taken great strides in improving its relationships with the SME market since its acquisition of Compaq, said Yankee Group analyst Helen Chan. The company's focus on improving its relationships with channel partners since the merger will help it a great deal in the SME market, where companies prefer to purchase products from local resellers.

"If you're trying to sell technologies users haven't used before, that requires consultative selling," Chan said.

Part of HP's plan for the SME market is to show owners of small companies what the latest products and services can do for their business, and that's hard to do without a strong partner programme, she said.

HP thinks it has an advantage over its competitors such as Dell and IBM because of its close relationship with partners and its roster of technology experts ranging from imaging and printing to servers and storage, said Chris Ogburn, director of sales and development for HP SMB Americas.

SMB customers will pay more for products that come through partners who can help them set up and configure their new equipment, said Ray Boggs, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts.

These customers do not wish to learn the intricacies of network management, and will appreciate the value of service packages that allow them to implement IT products while keeping their main focus on their growing business.

Services packages will also help boost HP's standing among its channel partners, Boggs said. These smaller resellers are used to selling low-margin hardware products such as printers and PCs, and services are higher-margin offerings that also give the resellers more opportunity to sell additional hardware while engaged with the customer.

SMEs provided almost a third of HP's revenue last year.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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