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Not Marketing Windows 8? What Are You Waiting For?

There are two schools of thought in the partner community on the best approach to marketing during the first wave of a product launch. One is to wait until Microsoft starts getting traction after a product launch and then answer your customer's questions. The other approach is to get in front of the product launch -- training employees and testing beta code -- to ride the Microsoft marketing blitz wave.

While the first approach is less expensive and limits risk, the second can deliver rewards on multiple levels. Obviously, making points with Microsoft is a benefit, but building excitement for your team and your customers sets you apart from the crowd -- which has never been more important.

Driving the Microsoft Agenda
"In the eyes of Microsoft, if you are not driving the agenda with the customer, Microsoft is going to find somebody else that is willing to," said Ric Opal, vice President of Peters & Associates. The Chicago-based multi-gold platform and communications partner with 70 employees is well along on the Windows 8 path. The company was running Windows 8 and the Office 2013 preview bits internally before the Oct. 25 launch event so it would be able to talk to clients based on personal experience.

"We are having roadmap discussions on behalf of Microsoft. Leading the charge and selling the stack. It's been exceptionally successful," Opal added. "If I am retiring field sales quota for Microsoft, I am going to get engagement around delivery and that's where we make our money. The more I make it about Microsoft, the more it winds up being about me."

Investing in Employees
Marketing can have as much effect on your internal team as it can on your customers. The cautious -- those who want to make sure there are no Vista overtones before they start talking about Windows 8 to customers -- don't inspire confidence in employees. 

Most employees, especially the young tech employees you need to grow your business, want to be on the leading edge. Microsoft's Build 2012 developer conference sold out in hours, not days. There is excitement in the channel and your employees want to be a part of it.

Peters & Associates has been in business since 1981 and the average employee has worked there for 10 years -- not the expected profile of an early adopter. But with four Virtual Technology Specialist Program (vTSP) members, Peters & Associates is clearly investing in employee education. And it actively markets the value of those vTSPs to its clients and prospects.  

Microsoft describes the vTSP as a select group chosen from the elite in the partner community whose focus is to augment Microsoft's internal Technology Specialist team. Their primary role is to communicate the value of Microsoft solutions to customers and to provide architectural guidance for enterprise integration solutions.

When asked about the investment in training, Opal responded, "Our field-based technologists can't wait to get the bits. They are excited to stand it up on their own machines or in the lab. We view it as an investment in our value proposition."

Transition from Implementer to Advisor
As partner business models change, the importance of becoming a technology advisor instead of a technology implementer is vital to survival. Leading the conversations about Windows 8 with customers and prospects builds your credentials as an expert.

"We are trying to augment what Microsoft is doing and take advantage of the air cover that is currently in the market," Opal noted. "If they do a Win 8 launch event in Chicago, we will run one in the suburbs for the people who didn't make it to the main launch."

Microsoft's Ready-to-Go marketing site has plenty of materials to get you started educating your customers. Even if you haven't invested in employee training yet or don't hold dedicated events, you can start the conversations.

The Opportunity To Educate
While it's true that most of your clients are going to wait -- maybe even a long time -- to implement Windows 8 and the rest of the products that are releasing this fall, you have the opportunity to be an educator. It's easier to market to the existing demand than to generate new demand. But enthusiasm is catching and your employees and customers may be drawn to competitors who are not afraid to ride the wave.

How are you talking to clients about Windows 8? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

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Posted by Barb Levisay on November 08, 2012 at 11:57 AM


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