Sandra Zoratti, vice-president of worldwide marketing of the soon-to-be-formed InfoPrint Solutions Company, a Ricoh/IBM joint venture, added interactive marketing to the InfoPrint Solutions Company marketing mix to multiply the reach of the sales force in pursuit of the coveted small and medium-sized business (SMB) market.
Here is an overview of Sandra's innovative marketing communications approach. She will present this case study in more detail, with hands-on demonstrations, at the upcoming Business Marketing Association's annual conference (www.bmaconference.com).
The SMB market has been defined many ways. IBM uses the most frequent qualifier of SMB—number of employees. The challenge, of course, is to find a relevant definition and segmentation so that online tools can appropriately filter and quickly direct qualified SMB companies to content that is most relevant to their needs.
Historically, IBM has had a strong presence in larger corporations. But industry experts now maintain that the growth rate for information technology investments in the SMB world exceeds that of larger businesses. A few years back, IBM made a strategic decision to capitalize on this opportunity.
A Tough Challenge
Though awareness of IBM's brand was strong, IBM worked to establish and boost brand consideration and brand preference in the SMB arena, via targeted efforts in three areas:
- Gaining the trust of potential SMB customers through deeper relationships with them
- Proving relevance—that IBM provides solutions and products that meet SMB customers' needs
- Demonstrating—for sales reps and customers alike—that IBM is easy to do business with
The business model for SMBs is very different from that of large enterprises. First, the customer needs—and thus the required solutions—are different. Second, the relationship requirements or sales coverage are different. Third, there are many more SMB companies than large enterprises.
Thus, to accomplish the three objectives outlined above, the challenge was how to implement a marketing model that helped to create stronger relationships, extended the reach of the sales teams, and was easily executable.