Zebra Technologies establishes SMB specialization

Zebra’s new specialization is not targeted at a broad partner base but at a fairly select number of partners who already have an SMB practice, and is focused on making those practices even more profitable and effective.

Bill Cate, Vice President of Marketing and Global Channel Strategy at Zebra

Zebra Technologies Corporation has announced a new specialization for resellers serving small and medium-sized [SMB] businesses in North America. The two-tiered program is designed for a select number of resellers who already have an SMB practice and a strong sales and customer base in the space. It provides assistance specifically focused for SMBs around mobile computing, printing, and scanning products, and is based on the recognition that SMB is fundamentally different than the enterprise market.

“This specialization is about steeping back and acknowledging that SMB is different, and that if you approach SMB with the same channel strategy as enterprise, you will fail,” said Bill Cate, Vice President of Marketing and Global Channel Strategy at Zebra.

Zebra now has 14 specialization programs, some of which are pure product-aligned, and some of which are horizontal-focused.

Zebra started out as primarily an enterprise vendor, and that remains the main part of their business, but the SMB space is significant to them.

“Approximately 20% of our current revenue in North America is with SMB customers,” Cate said. “We define SMB as companies with 10-1000 employees for the purpose of our program, and with revenues of 25 million to a billion. That’s a very wide range, but the wider range allows us to incent and reward partners for selling into a larger system of customers, even though we don’t go after the whole SMB space.”

Cate said that the available market in SMB for their space was about $500 million last year, and grew about 15%.

“We piloted an SMB program in 2021 with approximately 20 partners in it,” he noted. “Several of those in the program grew their SMB revenue with Zebra north of 20. We don’t always pilot programs, but this one was very helpful.”

The SMB market for Zebra’s products is very different compared to the enterprise, Cate stressed.

“We don’t see our primary competitors in the enterprise space,” Cate said. “They don’t have an SMB strategy. We think we are leading the pack in SMB especially with partners. Our real competition in SMB isn’t our traditional competitors. It’s breaking through and getting information to the SMB buyer. They buy differently, because they don’t have the resources and time to research like the large enterprise does.”

This different buying pattern is why Zebra rethought its approach to the SMB space, Cate stressed.

“We took a completely fresh look at this,” he said. “We dedicated a very senior team to this, and they took a new look so we wouldn’t approach SMB customers the same way. They have shorter buying processes, and fewer decision makers. Most of our enterprise customers have very good ideas of the problems they are trying to solve. SMBs don’t. So we don’t approach them with product, but with solutions. Manufacturing, back of store retail, field  services, and warehouses are the main areas.”

Cate also emphasized that it is a compete misnomer that SMBs want less expensive value tier products.

“They want the right solution, and are attracted to same type of products as the enterprise,” he said. “It’s the same size of scanners, not the low-end ones, that they want. We help them find the products by driving awareness with a marketing campaign we call ‘The Answer Is,” and then we target the leads directly back to SMB partners.”

The SMB Specialization classifies partners as either Specialist or Advanced Specialist.

“Specialist is a combination of a minimum SMB threshold and selling to a minimum number of SMB users,” Cate said. “Our strategy will be to focus on a small number of partners, at least in the first couple of years, who have bult a practice, so we can build a high touch approach. The Specialist threshold is $1 million and they must have sold to 400 end users, so these are not minimum requirements. We are targeting around 30 partners that fit the criteria. They also need a business development resource in the space and an annual business plan.”

The Advanced Specialists have a threshold revenue of $2.5 million, must have sold to 1000 customers, and must have an e-commerce infrastructure. This tier is made for the CDWs of the world – and CDW is in fact a member.

Qualifying resellers will have access to business-building benefits such as pre-qualified leads, market development funds, go-to-market support, and growth incentives.

“These specific incentive rebates are based on their growth on SMB and overlap  with our other rebate programs,” Cate indicated. “They also get a dedicated channel and marketing manager that supports them, and get access to pre-qualified SMB leads. We have isolated very specific MDF funds for them, like ‘The Answer Is’ campaign, as well as the traditional stuff.”

The specialization launched February 16.

“It’s not for everybody,” Cate said. “It’s for partners who already have a practice to go into the SMB space.”