IBM offers partners marketing analysis and mobile help

IBM is seeing strong growth in the global SMB space

To kick off its annual PartnerWorld conference, IBM has prepared a new round of incentives to help its partners generate more business.

"We're focusing on helping our partners take advantage of the huge growth in cloud, mobile, social media and big data analytics," said Ed Abrams, IBM vice president of marketing for midmarket. Citing figures from IDC, IBM expects the combined revenue for such markets will top US$2.1 trillion this year.

To help its partners get a bigger share of this potential revenue, IBM is offering free analysis services that would identify new market opportunities. The company is also offering technical training to help partners more effectively develop and manage mobile applications.

PartnerWorld, being held in Las Vegas, is IBM's annual conference for its business partners, those IT system vendors, independent software vendors and integrators that use IBM technologies and services to deliver systems to small and midsize businesses (SMBs). IBM's SMB strategy has been to support the many regional and specialized vendors that routinely sell to SMBs, and know their market better, rather than compete against these vendors for such customers.

Overall, IBM expects the mood of this week's PartnerWorld conference to be even more buoyant than last year, given that its partners seem to be recovering from the economic doldrums of the past few years. "We are seeing even stronger growth and investment [in the SMB space] than in the past. All of our estimates show that this part of the market is truly rebounding," Abrams said. He also noted that business has been particularly strong in emerging markets, such as in Africa, for instance.

To keep the momentum rolling, IBM is offering business partners a year of free access to IBM-hosted analysis services. "This will help the partner to do analytics of their own business, identify the patterns [that would show] where they can and should market themselves differently," Abrams said. In this incentive package, IBM will also provide partners with funds to help in marketing and finding new clients.

IBM also intends to help partners get a handle on extending their systems to mobile platforms, an effort that stems from the company's new MobileFirst marketing initiative. IBM expects that by 2020, more than 10 billion mobile devices will be in use.

In this program, called Ready for IBM MobileFirst, IBM will offer participants in its PartnerWorld program a series of workshops and tutorials at training centers around the globe. It will also offer certifications and technical support.

At PartnerWorld this year, IBM will also tout a few customer success stories. With the help of IBM partner Zobrist Consulting, United Kingdom online tool retailer Bishop Company is using an IBM system to better detect buying trends in a potential customer base of young males, through the analysis of social media. Since starting this analysis last October, Bishop's sales have increased 200 percent, according to IBM.

IBM will also showcase the work that it has done with restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory, along with IBM Business Partner N2N Global. The restaurant has been tracking its food deliveries and storage much more closely, and can tell when food deliveries are late, or when the food is being held past its freshness date. The information can be used to alert individual restaurants when to remove items from the menu, if fresh ingredients are no longer on hand.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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