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HP’s Burch on SMB marketing

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During the recession, small midsize businesses—like many larger enterprises—put off making capital expenditures. As a result, the average SMB’s technology euipment is in dire need of replacment, according to Brian Burch, director of SMB marketing at Hewlett-Packard Co.

Burch’s company, which holds the top spot in the enterprise world, is looking to solidify the same position in the SMB market. Burch recently spoke with “Inside Technology Marketing” to discuss his marketing plans for the coming year.

ITM: What’s your top marketing objective for 2010?

Burch: This is going to be the year of the refresh. Our data says that a lot of equipment had to be extended through the recession. Small businesses had to make tough choices with their precious capital, so they had to nurse their existing technology beyond its usual replacement cycle.

This year there are going to be a lot of purchasing decisions made as the economic situation starts to brighten. We need to make sure our message is out there. I need to be highly “frequent” because I can’t be certain what day, what week, what month anyone might be making a buying decisions.

I want to make sure that I have hopefully touched them in the recent past so I can be top of mind.

ITM: What forms are you going to use to do that?

Burch: It’s going to be a heavy frequency through e-mail, increased direct mail as well as more investment in Web forms of communications. We have social efforts. We’re tying e-mail together with Web browsing history so we can dynamically merchandise based on that history.

We started investing in mobile over the past six months. We want to be omnipresent.

ITM: How important is mobile in your mix?

Burch: Mobile allocation quadrupled from Q4 of ’09 to Q1 of 2010, and we’ve bought all we can buy. From our parameters and the people we are targeting, there is no more availability. We’ve bought it all.

We’re having amazing success with mobile ads that our customers see when they browse. Instead of a link that takes people to a Web page for browsing, if someone clicks on the banner a little dialer pops up and gives people the opportunity to connect with our call center and a sales rep picks up and says, “I’d like to share the details with you about this HP $599 deal we have.”

ITM: How have your media choices changed over the past 12 to 18 months?

Burch: Print continues to decline as a percent of the overall mix. It’s not a constant and persistent air cover, and what’s out there is being used as a call mechanism to drive calls into a call center.

One of the things that’s really successful for us is a financing program we put into place. We’ve got a zero percent 12-month financing program and a more traditional 36 month zero percent program that functions more like a traditional lease program. We’ve been publicizing both in print and with our resellers. It’s a primary message in a lot of our direct marketing.

ITM: Is video important in your mix, too?

Burch: There’s been a heavy emphasis on webinars focusing on the channel partners, and helping those channel partners find the information that they need. But we aren’t doing any talking-head video for our Web site. We don’t see much utility in that.

We have demonstrative animation about our products. We also invested with Intel to build a series of videos—insights from the experts—and virally distributed them. We referenced them in e-mail, a URL was referenced in catalogs. We did a PR launch around [the campaign]. We tweeted about it.

ITM: So is social very important to HP?

Burch: We haven’t put a lot of money into it. A lot of our Twitter activity is not through the official vehicles. I’m on Twitter, my boss is on Twitter, many of my staff, Edelman [our PR firm] is on Twitter.

We’re also investing in something with the Small Business Administration we call Business Matchmaking. We’ve been doing it for a number of years. What it does is go every year to multiple cities in the U.S. and marry small businesses that want to vie for large-company or government contracts with the actual procurement executives who are responsible for the contracts. Companies get “matchmade.”

The program has facilitated 75,000 face-to-face meetings and the amount of contracts awarded have resulted in billions [of dollars’] worth of contracts. People involved end up tweeting about HP unofficially.

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