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GPC 2016: HP Inc. reworks HP Partner First, expands printing portfolio

HP Inc. declared it's pursuing the A3 copier industry, with the buyout of Samsung's printer business and launch of a new portfolio. The vendor also revealed updates to the HP Partner First program.

BOSTON -- At the Global Partner Conference 2016 yesterday, HP Inc. revealed aspirations to capture the A3 copier industry and retooled its approach to partnering through an HP Partner First overhaul.

HP Inc., which spun out of Hewlett-Packard Co. earlier this year, kicked off the conference by announcing it has entered a definitive agreement to purchase Samsung Electronics' printer business for $1.05 billion. The buyout is part of a major push into the $55 billion A3 copier industry, HP said, as the company looks to replace today's copier systems with innovative, multifunctional printer technology. HP said it will integrate Samsung's A3 printer products with HP's PageWide technologies to develop a new portfolio.

"We had a couple of runs at [the A3 copier industry]. We tried our own product, [and] we've partnered with a couple of different OEMs, and it didn't work out for us. We learned a lot, but we came to the decision that we needed to have a full portfolio. ... That's the only way to play this segment," noted Christoph Schell, president of the Americas at HP.

"We have a 30-year-old relationship with Canon on the A4 side, and Canon does a really great job on engines. I think we do a really good job at taking these engines ... [and] putting [them] into a chassis that works and marketing that. So, we were looking for the same when we talked about A3," he said.

Schell added that HP liked that Samsung was essentially a newcomer to the printing space. From a research and development (R&D) perspective, they didn't have much legacy baggage. And after experimenting with Samsung's engines, HP found they combined with HP's knowledge of firmware and software. "So, that joint R&D effort was built. And at some point, we simply said, 'OK, given the potential here, maybe we do not want an OEM. Maybe we should consider purchasing this.'"

HP also highlighted that Samsung's printer business brings with it a portfolio of intellectual property, including more than 6,500 printing patents. The acquired printer business also employs a workforce of about 1,300 researchers and engineers with expertise in laser-printer technology, imaging electronics, and printer supplies and accessories.

Schell noted that Samsung would come with its own network of channel partners, as well. "Some of the channel partners that [Samsung has] are some of the same channel partners that we have already. Some of them are new. So, we're coming with a clean sheet of paper to this. We're going to pick what makes sense from a go-to-market point of view. ... We now need to see who fits in and who doesn't."

The transaction is expected to close within the next 12 months.

Soon after announcing the Samsung buyout, HP revealed another bound into the A3 segment with a line of A3 multifunctional printers. The portfolio will feature 16 new HP PageWide and LaserJet platforms; security across devices, documents and data; and enhanced monitoring to predict service and supply needs.

Restructuring HP Partner First

At the Global Partner Conference 2016, HP said it has redesigned its Partner First Program with a simplified three-tier structure of Silver, Gold and Platinum, as well as three sales tracks for resellers; a bolstered Co-Marketing Zone to facilitate marketing campaigns; and a new Social Media Center.

Schell said three considerations fueled the HP Partner First update. First, he said HP was driven toward a more authorized distribution model because of the current omnichannel environment. "In an omnichannel environment, customers have a lot more transparency on your value proposition," he said, adding the transparency can have a significant effect on how customers perceive companies as brands. "HP comes from an environment where we had open distribution. As a partner, as a reseller or as a retailer, you could sign up with a distributor. It wasn't really all that difficult ... If you have one and [the] same product that has 15 different price points in a day, then partners lose trust."

The second consideration was the complexities around engagement between HP and its partners. "We wanted to simplify it," he said. "We've made it easier for them to communicate with us. We made it easier for them understand what the targets are [and] how they're going to be paid out. We made it easier for them to understand how to get trained and certified."

Addressing HP's one-size-fits-all philosophy for managing its partners, particularly resellers, was the third consideration, Schell said. With that in mind, HP introduced its three new sales tracks linked to volume selling, global systems integration and specialized solutions.

The specialization track allows partners to develop competencies for select products, services and contractual products. HP plans to roll out new areas of focus, such as A3, device as a service and mobility, during the first half of 2017.

Bolstered marketing resources

On the marketing side, HP launched the new Co-Marketing Zone Plus, or CMZ+, which aims to help partners create customized and cobranded marketing materials. Through the CMZ+ portal, partners can now upload target customer lists and use one of five online modules for campaigns: cobranded collateral marketing, electronic direct mail marketing, microsite marketing and event marketing or search marketing management. Once a campaign is launched, CMZ+ allows partners to track the campaign's effectiveness, return on investment, performance and pipeline development worldwide, HP said.

Recognizing social media's influence in the sales cycle, HP also introduced the Social Media Center (SMC), which is a component of HP Sales Central. SMC offers customizable content that partners can share with their on their social media platforms. "As more and more Millennials are impacting the workforce, we need to be ready" to do social selling, Schell said. "In order to invest in social selling, you need to be social-media-savvy, and, at the end of the day, social media is all about relevant content."

HP plans to release SCM globally by the end of the year.

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