HP's director of SMB marketing, Brian Burch, discusses the pent up demand for new technology in many smaller businesses and how some SMBs are moving aggressively to seize new opportunities.
Brian Burch is the director of SMB marketing for HP in the Americas. Previously, a founding member of HP's home products division, Burch leads HP's efforts to serve the enormous and diverse small and midsize business market.
In this interview with InformationWeek SMB, Burch discusses the pent up demand for new technology in SMBs and how upgrading can actually save businesses money. He also addresses where netbooks make sense for a business and the aggression he sees in SMBs eager to seize new opportunities coming out of the recession.
InformationWeek SMB: One of the things that often causes confusion is this elastic term SMB. It can mean a lot of different things. What's HP's view of what SMB means and the particular needs and pain points?
Brian Burch: We define small and medium business as companies with one to 999 employees. My primary focus in marketing is companies 10 employees and above. Typically, the sales engagement for the one to nine person company is either a retail store or over the web, and so, from a marketing perspective, a lot of my energy, and all of my energy to support our indirect channel partners is focused on the larger size companies of 10 to 999. Really, our support of our channel partners probably is focused above a hundred employees.
The definition of what that audience is looking for is really changing swiftly. It's interesting to us how quickly things like virtualization, cloud services, and all the things that we historically think of as more enterprise class offerings, are really becoming relevant to the SMB audience and how aggressive many of them are being, especially as we get into what we think is going to be a really enriching refresh cycle for a lot of these companies. They're really looking at the top end of what technology can do for them because it's pretty proven at this point that for many different business segments or business verticals having the right technology is really a competitive differentiator.
InformationWeek SMB: That's a sentiment we hear from our readers all the time: they look to technology to level the playing field with larger companies and give them an edge on competitors. You mentioned cloud services and virtualization specifically, let's dig into that a bit. What is bringing those technologies in particular into reach for SMBs? Is is it just lower price points or are those technologies now more accessible to companies with little or no IT staff?
Burch: Well, I think making prudent use of capital is part of it and IT infrastructure is something that a lot of growing businesses are really obsessed with. I think there are efficiencies that people are looking for, but I think what we hear most often is the reduction of complexities. Some of the things that you virtualized can remove complexity, basically, improve overall security and just make it easier for less IT resources to do more and maximize the productivity. From a cloud perspective, there's ways that growing businesses can leverage services through a cloud subscription that. frankly, the overall investments to do in house would just be prohibitive.
So, I think that, whether it's hosted, exchange type products, or collaborative work spaces, or something HP is very focused on, which is web-based customer contact using a product that we've introduced called Virtual Rooms. These products make it very inexpensive and simple for these types of businesses to leverage a traditional web conferencing experience at price points that they can afford. Over time, everybody realizes, "Wow. This saves us so much money. We could pay more for this than we are now." And no one wants to do that.