RealTime IT News

Microsoft Wooing Hearts, Minds of SMBs

Facing challenges from free business services offered by Google  and, to a lesser extent, online office tools maker Zoho, Microsoft  is adding more goodies to its menu of offerings to small business owners.

The Redmond, Wash,-based software vendor is striking deals with leading chain retailers in order to build a more personalized approach to landing small business customers.

Microsoft hopes to give retail sales a boost from certified small business specialists working in conjunction with CompUSA's in-store advisors, the TechPro Business Providers.

Microsoft has also decided to hold in-person events in conjunction with its Small Business Summit, being held from March 19 through March 23, at CompUSA stores. According to Cindy Bates, general manager of Microsoft's U.S. Small Business Group, "by attending the Web casts at CompUSA stores, customers have the opportunity to engage in a direct dialogue with Microsoft and CompUSA representatives, as well as network with other small business owners."

The CompUSA in-store events are free to small businesses and will take place at 35 locations across the United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The programs include topics on branding, sales and marketing, security, business efficiency and mobility, all from the perspective of the small business owner.

The Microsoft Office Live team has also been trying to generate sales for its online offerings in brick-and-mortar locations. Marja Koopmans, director of partner strategy for Office explained that Geek Squad and Best Buy for Business, the in-house consultants for Best Buy  will suggest Office Live to small business owners looking to build a Web site and establish a domain name for their e-mail accounts.

Koopmans said Microsoft is priming the pump by offering three months of services for the price of one.

She admitted that this approach is new to both Microsoft and Best Buy, particularly where selling online services through the retail channel is concerned.

"We're learning together," she told internetnews.com.