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IBM launches portal for midsize businesses

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Aiming for companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees, IBM Corp. last month launched a new Web portal it hopes will become a popular destination for information technology buyers at midsize businesses.

The site, at www.ibm.com/ mediumbusiness, is designed to better serve the product information needs of midsize clients, said Sara Ramlo, manager of worldwide small and medium business sales for IBM.com.

The IBM.com site lacked a "a strong presence for where a midlevel customer could find products and solutions that made sense, based on how we understand they like to buy," Ramlo said. She said IBM.com maintains a wealth of content and product information for larger customers and addresses small business with its Small Business Center, which users can reach from the IBM.com home page.

Before launching the portal, IBM conducted research among midsize-business customers in the U.S. and Europe to determine their information needs. It found that 60% of IT spending by midsize businesses will be on solutions and services. Thus, the new portal focuses on e-business and infrastructure solutions.

Some of the e-business solutions enumerated on the site are customer relationship management, business intelligence, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, wireless and security.

The site also provides information on services that are specific to different industries, such as financial services, retail, industrial, service providers and life sciences.

Promoting the portal

To promote the portal to midsize customers and prospects, IBM this quarter will send e-mails to midsize-business customers and launch a direct mail campaign with CD-ROMs demonstrating the new portal, in addition to integrating the message with broader corporate campaigns.

As part of IBM’s corporate advertising, the portal will be promoted in campaigns that focus on specific solutions, such as supply chain management.

"As IBM invests in solutions campaigns, the campaigns will be linked to resources on the site," said Ramlo, who would not disclose the marketing budget for the midsize-business portal. However, she did reveal the portal has its own marketing budget, and that marketing dollars from specific IBM solutions groups, such as supply chain management, will be allocated to the site.

The midsize-business portal also includes marketing support functions, such as "call me" buttons that customers can click on to have an IBM representative call them for additional information. The average turnaround time for callbacks is five minutes. Customers can also initiate online chat sessions with IBM reps, which can be set up in about two minutes.

In addition to servicing existing clients, "We are looking at this site as a good way of acquiring new customers. That was clearly part of the strategy," Ramlo said.

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