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IBM Rolls Out Small Business Initiative

IBM Corp. Tuesday launched a new worldwide small business program featuring customized Web links to Internet-enabled applications and services.

The IBM Small Business Program will offer competitively-priced customizable hardware and software bundles, e-business tools, and technology service and support programs.

In addition, IBM said it is backing the venture with a $100 million marketing campaign, which includes $70 million in print and electronic media advertising, as well as Web-based, affinity, and direct marketing campaigns.

IBM will also recruit business partners to provide marketing and sales support for small companies with fewer than 100 employees. IBM said its strategy is to reach customers through a variety of distribution channels.

The program includes the new IBM Small Business CustomConnections, a tool that enables small businesses to manage access to Internet resources used to conduct e-business. The application allows users to create customized pages that organize the Web according to business needs. Web-based application links can be grouped into categories that define the application's business value to the company.

Users can gain access to personalized news, weather and stock quotes based on the company's profile and receive reminders about upcoming events and appointments via e-mail. Small businesses can also obtain access to Internet-based information in sales and marketing, market research, public relations, customer service, computing resources and legal areas.

IBM is also negotiating with major Internet service providers and financial services companies to custom-tailor the application for their customers.

Another IBM small business offering is the IBM e-business Accelerator, an online consulting service geared toward helping executives understand how they can use the Web to gain competitive advantages. The e-business Accelerator is an interactive Web site offering information, consulting advice and customized assessments of companies.