Belkin to create partner ecosystem

Belkin, a Los Angeles-based connectivity and iPod accessories vendor, is usually considered an afterthought in the market place. But, under new leadership and with the development of a partner ecosystem, the company’s Toronto-based subsidiary wants to change the company’s perception.During a Canadian exclusive event at Toronto’s UpCountry venue, Belkin Canada released a broad range of products including wireless routers and KVM switches, along with its better known laptop and iPod accessories.

The company also has a new slogan: “Inspired for Life,” which is intended to promote that its products all somehow fit into the home, work and/or play atmospheres.

Belkin, which originally started out as a small private company based out of a garage in Hawthorne, Calif. with only two employees, hired former Samsung and NEC Canada chief executive Greg Milkovich as its country manager. Today, Belkin employs more than 1,000 people worldwide and recently hit the billion dollar revenue milestone.

“Belkin has traditionally been associated with the cable business,” Milkovich said. “But today, the company offers a wide range of products spanning from iPod and laptop accessories to net­working and other connectivity devices.”

Milkovich is banking on Belkin finding itself in the home market space, which he believes has been traditionally underserved.

To help address this space, Belkin has introduced the N1 Wireless Router that’s designed to share broadband Internet with networked computers. Users can also speed up the troubleshooting process and see which connections aren’t working by viewing the wireless router’s built-in network light up display.

Another product is the Flip Wireless KVM Switch, designed for the home and SMB office user to switch between two computers, using only one monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Belkin’s new focus is on trying to build its channel presence in Canada. The company has a channel program called the Margin Maker Partner Program, which offers marketing materials, technical support, and other incentives, but admits it is in the midst of creating a new program for partners under the same name.

Everything old is new again
“We’re launching the new program on October 1st,” Milkovich said. “We’ll be taking a three-prong approach to get the new program out by leveraging channel publications, our partner database and our distribution partners.”Milkovich added Belkin is revamping the Margin Maker Partner Program because the company wanted to add a uniquely Canadian flavour to it.

“This is a Canadianization of the program so it fits in nicely with the relaunching of Belkin in Canada,” Milkovich said. “We’re creating a unique program for our resellers. We’ll be keeping the same look and feel and we’ll keep the same attributes and value-adds with respect to incremental resources and information to benefit our partners. We want to make it easier to navigate to meet the needs for back-end incentives and promotions.”

He believes the new program will be a great opportunity for both current and potential Belkin partners because its design will focus on Canadian numbers versus U.S. ones.

“The main difference this time around will be the different levels that resellers will need to achieve to receive rebates,” Milkovich said. “We’ll have Silver, Gold and Platinum levels.”

While he believes the transition from the current to the new program will be virtually seamless, Milkovich assures resellers that Belkin will continue to work with them so they understand the new Margin Maker site, different Canadian programs and promotions.

Milkovich also makes mention of Belkin’s strategy to expand its commercial presence and footprint within Canada by executing various marketing initiatives, offering even more promotions to distributors and by creating dedicated working sessions to train partners on how to sell Belkin products.

“We’ll be doing a lot of training with our VARs like lunch and learns,” Milkovich said. “We’ll do distribution training sessions and our resellers will also have access to individual training. We’re planning cross-country seminars for next year too.”

The original Margin Maker was focused on channel growth.

“Belkin’s channel when it comes to resellers is huge,” Milkovich said. “It’s in the several thousands and it’s growing. We experience greater than 30 per cent year over year growth when it comes to our partner community.”

Milkovich says Canadian resellers can expect to see more than 50 per cent margin opportunity on most Belkin accessory categories, while other Belkin categories begin with margins over 25 per cent.

Both partners and customers can also expect to see Belkin products integrate into people’s lifestyles.

“Our message to channel partners is to look towards Belkin to enhance their product line,” Milkovich said. “We’re more than just a cable company and we want partners to know they only need to come to one supplier, which is us, and we’ll provide them with all of their solutions.”

Another key strategy for the company is to remain affordable, while being able to interoperate with existing hardware.

Belkin Flip Wireless KVM Switch is $49.99 and is compatible with all USB-based PC and MAC peripherals.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
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