Written by: Nigel Williams, VP of worldwide channels, LinksysYou might think of Linksys, a division of Cisco, as only a consumer networking vendor. Linksys is taking several steps to change that impression, however. At a recent press event, the vendor detailed its move into the SMB market segment (i.e. companies with 100 or fewer employees are Linksys’ target market) with a new program called the Linksys Partner Connection (LPC). Nigel Williams, VP of worldwide channels at Linksys, shared the following specifics about the LPC program, which went into effect on Aug. 1, 2007.
Business Solutions magazine (BSM): What's changed with Linksys that makes this the right time to reach the SMB market?
Nigel Williams: There are many things that have changed with Linksys and the market that make this the right time to go after the SMB market. For nearly two decades, Linksys has delivered communications solutions to the consumer and small business market segments. Due to the dramatic growth in both market segments, Linksys re-organized in 2005 into business units that created greater expertise and specialization in meeting the needs of each market segment. Thus, the Linksys SMB unit was formed. In 2006, with a new business unit and product strategy in place, Linksys changed the SMB unit’s name to the Connected Office Business Organization (COBO).
The Linksys Connected Office Business Organization develops and delivers a set of products and solutions that provide small businesses with the flexibility to choose the right products for today, with a migration path/investment protection for future solutions. The Linksys COBO offers customers the opportunity to choose from a set of standalone Business Series voice and data products along with Linksys One Ready products, which provide plug and play, remotely configured and monitored solutions for secure data, voice, and video when placed under the Linksys One hosted solution from partners.
Linksys and Cisco have a broad SMB product portfolio in the industry and that’s a key competitive advantage, especially when you factor in the Linksys-to-Cisco trade-up program and now the linkage of the Linksys and Cisco Partner Program that unites Cisco SMB Select and Linksys registered partners with a common communications, registration, and marketing model. No single vendor is going after all the areas that Linksys and Cisco are in right now in the SMB market. We feel we have the opportunity to go after this segment with solutions built specifically for the small business market. We also have developed VAR programs, training, Cisco program linkage, and support services.
BSM: What are some of the primary reasons that Cisco VARs who already resell other vendors’ SMB solutions should consider moving to Linksys SMB products?
Williams: The Linksys Connected Office portfolio includes products and secure, voice and data connectivity solutions that are purposely built to address the flexibility and ease of use needs of SMBs. The Linksys Business Series of standalone voice and data products address cost and simplicity requirements while the Linksys One solution offers a plug and play, remotely configured and monitored solution for secure data, voice, and video – all from a single vendor.
The Connected Office will enable small businesses to choose from point products to plug and play solutions with service and application deployment capabilities. With our promotion of the Linksys One platform, we will grow our base of service provider partners while expanding our VAR channel. Promotional activities with VAR, DMR (direct market reseller), and e-tail channels will be expanded to promote the enhanced product portfolio.
Cisco’s partner community can collaborate with Linksys customers to understand their specific needs, and then outline a migration path, and help them in many facets of their life cycle services planning. Cisco and Linksys will be rolling out a Unified Partner Program that will enable Cisco VARs to tap into the benefits of reselling Linksys solutions while Linksys VARs will have training and migration paths to become Cisco Select Certified partners.
SMBs can leverage their Cisco/Linksys solutions to enhance their competitive capabilities, build their customer bases, better service their customers, and enhance their operational efficiencies. If an SMB customer invests in a Cisco SMB product or solution within three years of its Linksys product purchase, Cisco will protect the customer’s investment with a cash rebate of up to 100%.
BSM: Since Linksys goes to market via so many channels (e.g. brick-and-mortar retailers, e-tailers, distributors), how will you avoid channel conflict with your VARs?
Williams: Linksys values the integrity of the channel and therefore does not sell direct nor sell its small business solutions in retail outlets. Business Series are sold through value-added distributors (VADs), VARs, and DMRs. However, with the LPC program, VARs will receive additional discounts and specialized programs that will enable them to become more competitive and profitable. The benefits to the program include:
BSM: Now that Cisco VARs and Linksys VARs will be enrolled in the same program, won't this be a major competitive disadvantage for Linksys VARs?
Williams: The Linksys Partner Program is a separate, partner-facing program that stands on its own. There is a link between the Linksys and Cisco partner programs at the registered partner level, and the Linksys Business Elite partner level.
BSM: What are some of the key ways Linksys will now be able to leverage its alliance with Cisco's products, services, and programs?
Williams: Cisco and Linksys are working on the alignment of our partner programs to help our mutual partners drive growth opportunities in the SMB market. Over the long-term, the establishment of a value-based LPC program will lay the foundation for ongoing alignment and collaboration between Linksys and Cisco. Initially our aligned channel strategy will focus on linking our registered partner base and integrating our distribution capabilities. We also intend to automatically link Cisco Certified Partners and Linksys Business Elite partners in the near future.
Our distributors will be able to develop programs that span the Cisco and Linksys brands and SMB product portfolios, driving growth and profit opportunities for our integrated partner base. Leveraging Cisco’s distribution capabilities will double Linksys’ global reach. Cisco has approximately 150 distributors globally that cover every region of the world, which is nearly double Linksys’ current coverage.