With a new focus on the SMB segment and a dedicated line of products and solutions as part of its Connected Office push, Linksys has set aggressive goals to grow its business through the channel in Canada, and has enlisted ASI Corp. as an authorized distribution partner to help it execute.
While long known as a developer of consumer products, such as wireless routers, sold through the retail channel, in June Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, launched Connected Office, a host of new purpose-built product offerings and associated services targeted specifically at the SMB space.
Bob Martin, channel manager for Linksys Canada, says they had found that in the past VARs were selling traditional home-based products to SMBs, but those offerings didn’t have the feature power or the robustness needed to help those clients grow their business. The Connected Office line seeks to specifically address that market segment.
“It’s a quality level and a feature set that SMBs are looking for,” said Martin.
And Martin is confident it’s a value proposition that will resonate with Canadian SMBs, and with the channel. Currently he says Linksys has over 1000 partners in Canada, of which 15 per cent are VoIP authorized. The goal for this year is 50 to 80 per cent growth in both categories.
“We’re collaborating with Cisco much more now to do cross-selling and cross-messaging between our different registered partners,” said Martin, adding he’s finding about 30 per cent overlap between Cisco and Linksys partners. “The message I’ve taken to the partners is let’s try to standardize your business on one offering, one brand, strengthen your relationship with one vendor, and increase your benefits going forward.”
On the partner side, Martin says Linksys is preparing to launch a “rev 2.0” of its partner program next June that will add more benefits and training opportunities. It will be a multi-tiered program, says Martin, with opportunities to specialize in storage, VoIP and other areas. He adds partner benefits will be based on investment, not necessarily just revenue.
“My biggest challenge in Canada is one of awareness, and getting the word out there that we have this (SMB) level of product, because the Linksys brand is traditionally known as a retail brand,” says Martin. “We’re putting-in a lot of effort and marketing in collaboration with our friends at Cisco to get the message out that we have these business-class products.”
To help Linksys reach more VARs, the company has brought the Markham, Ont-based Canadian division of ASI onboard as a distribution partner. Martin says he sees ASI as a great channel for the smaller VARs, the traditional sub-10 person shops that are doing a lot of system builder business, building PCs and servers.
These sorts of smaller VARs become a trusted advisor to their SMBs clients, selling them desktops and servers, and Martin says they’re also where those clients turn when they need something more sophisticated, such as the new business offerings from Linksys. Martin says he sees ASI as a great channel to reach those kinds of VARs, and get them trained and enabled with Linksys.
Newman Ho, business development manager with ASI, says he sees a lot of opportunity in working with Linksys, particularly after their acquisition by Cisco, adding the relationship will broaden the networking solution ASI takes to its reseller community.
The advantage ASI brings, says Ho, is the breadth and depth of its customers.
“Typically the larger distributors like Ingram focus on the larger resellers and solution providers, but we also focus into the SMB reseller business and the small retailers,” said Ho. “That’s a market that is usually overlooked by the larger distributors.”