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6 Steps To Build Presence in a Vertical Market

Microsoft has long beaten the drum for partner specialization, and the cloud is amplifying the call further. Partners that pursue a vertical market strategy consistently report higher sales win ratios of opportunities within their specialty.

With all the pressure and evidence, it's surprising that most partners still don't have a strong industry focus. One hesitation is the concern that there will be missed horizontal opportunities if you focus on one industry. But industry focus doesn't mean that you have to stop horizontal marketing. They are two separate approaches. You can continue your horizontal marketing -- just carve out a segment of your prospect base that fits your industry criteria.

A Systematic Approach to Industry Specialization
While there is no magic formula, by taking a systematic approach, you can build your reputation to become an industry specialist. It takes commitment across the company because it will affect every aspect of the business. Identify a committee to work through these steps and hold them accountable for reporting on progress.

  1. Choose the industry, and be as specific as possible. While that may sound obvious, it seems to be the biggest stumbling block for partners. There are countless technology providers who claim to be "Distribution" or "Retail" industry leaders. Find a smaller pond to fish in with a more specific definition. For example, "Food and Beverage Distributors" or "Sporting Goods Retailers."

  2. Tap into your internal resources. You will be much more successful in the long run if you have employees who are genuinely interested in the industry you target. Do you have employees who already participate in industry professional groups? What kind of projects really get the team fired up?

  3. Do your research. You likely already have some insight into the industry you choose to pursue, but you need to do your research. At a minimum, buy the First Research report or other current market research that is available. Find and follow all of the professional Web sites that serve the industry. Identify someone to monitor these regularly to get to know the hot topics, as well as industry leaders and social influencers.

  4. Define your value proposition and solution set. To be successful in sales and marketing, you need to have a very specific value proposition. What problem does the client have and how are you going to solve it? Identify the components of the solution set and define the entire set in terms of the benefits to clients. Validate with current customers in the industry. Ask them if they think your value proposition is compelling.

  5. Build specific content. Create a Web site that is specific to the industry. It doesn't have to be a complex site, keep it simple and direct. If you have the resources, start a blog and update it often. Make sure all content, including Web text, collateral, e-mails, e-books -- whatever you create -- directly supports your value proposition.

  6. Participate in the community. Immerse yourself in the industry's professional community, both virtually and in person. Join the professional association Web sites and LinkedIn groups that serve the industry. Follow the common industry hashtags on Twitter. Listen and learn before you start to participate. Attend industry events to meet people face to face. Seek meetings with the industry influencers that you have identified to see if there is a way you can work together.

There are good reasons that many partners can attest to for taking a vertical approach to sales and marketing. Win ratios, project size, referrals are all likely to increase when you build your reputation in an industry. Be systematic, genuine and looking for ways to give back the community so that everyone is more successful.

How are you approaching vertical markets? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 18, 2014 at 9:13 AM0 comments

5 Ways Partners Can Tell Customers About New Services

Business models are changing and most partners are expanding the number of services that they offer to customers. Unfortunately, your customers don't clairvoyantly know when you add a new service line, like backup and disaster recovery or business intelligence. You need to tell them -- which requires marketing.

Fortunately, it's the easy kind of marketing. Your customers know you and will be open to hearing from you. Their contact information is already in your CRM system. There's nothing to hold you back. Here are some ideas to kick off your existing-customer marketing program.  

1. Monthly Newsletter
Sending a monthly educational update to your customers is undoubtedly the single most effective marketing tactic you can use to build deeper relationships with them. Through a monthly newsletter, you can provide valuable updates that demonstrate your knowledge and tell them about the benefits of the new services that you offer.

Find relevant, interesting material to share in every issue so that your customers look forward to opening and reading the email. There is plenty of great content that you can tap into, including:

  • Microsoft's Ready-to-Go marketing site, which has tons of content -- some obvious, some not.
  • Vendor and ISV blogs that you can link to.
  • Contributions from customers or complementary businesses that are creating content. They will appreciate the additional exposure.

2. Educational Events
Nothing replaces talking to your customers face to face. Topics should be business problem-focused, not product-focused, to appeal to a broad audience. There is no reason that you can't hold a combined event for new and existing customers. A few ideas to help you build an appealing event:

  • Organize a panel of local business leaders to discuss how they are handling a common challenge.
  • Invite a topical expert or university professor to address the future of business.
  • Partner with complementary service providers or businesses to help build out content.

3. Business-Planning Sessions
If you would like to make the transition from vendor to business partner, you need to understand where your customers are headed and help them get there. Make a list of the customers that you think have the greatest growth potential and request a meeting to discuss their growth and technology plans. You can add value by advising them on the best technology to support their growth.

The business review should be all about your customer's business, not a sales pitch. Ask questions about their plans and challenges. Listen and prepare recommendations based on their needs.

4. Networking Events
Many of your customers face shared challenges. You can position yourself as an advocate by sponsoring regular networking events that bring your customers, and potential customers, together. Networking events can be as simple as get-togethers at the local sports bar every month. Tip: Make it the same day each month, like the second Tuesday, so that it's easy for people to remember.

A side benefit of networking events is that you get regular updates on the challenges that your customers are facing. By finding solutions, you can expand service offerings to meet their needs.

5. Customer Portal
You may already have a support portal for your customers. Take it a step further and make your Web site a central hub of information. You'll need active engagement from your employees to monitor and interact with customers to keep them coming back. Some of the ways you can build engagement include:

  • A forum where customers can share problems and ideas.
  • Frequently asked questions maintained with current answers.
  • A local resource page with trusted business partners you can recommend to customers.

A key ingredient to your success in expanding service offerings is to educate your current customers. Regular marketing programs that connect you to customers will build deeper, more profitable relationships. Most of your customers will be happy to hear from you. Just try it!

How are you building relationships and sales to existing customers? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 02, 2014 at 11:29 AM0 comments

Microsoft Adds Marketing Best Practices to Ready-to-Go

A new section on the Microsoft Ready-to-Go (RtG) marketing site rounds out an impressive set of resources for Microsoft partners. The Marketing Best Practices portal takes away the last excuse that partners had left for not making a full commitment to marketing. Campaigns, sales tools, Web content and event management resources now combined with guidance on how to use them -- that should do it.

"We heard from the partners that while they appreciate the RtG resources, they wanted to know how they could market better. They were looking for some education to help them use those RtG resources more effectively," explained Karey Bakker, content manager of U.S. SMB Marketing for Microsoft. "We had been doing marketing training webinars, but wanted to make it really visually appealing and available on demand."

Sound, Practical Marketing Advice
The Marketing Best Practices section of RtG includes training videos and supporting resources, plus links to outside sources of marketing information. Your first stop on the page should be the videos. Short and to the point, the videos deliver sound, realistic marketing guidance on the foundational elements of an effective marketing program, including:

  • marketing planning and ROI
  • digital marketing
  • SEO and SEM
  • event marketing
  • social marketing and blogging
  • nurture marketing

Supporting each of the video topics are "Getting Started" guides that provide examples and step-by-step recommendations. For example, the Event Getting Started guide includes a timeline of all the tasks that will make your event more successful. That's a very practical tool for a partner holding its first event. 

Further down the best practices page, there's a list of marketing-related articles and blogs. The RtG team promises to regularly update that list with new material relevant to partner interests.

[Click on image for larger view.] Event Marketing Best Practices Source: Microsoft

Something for Every Level of Marketer
The best practices hub is a particularly great resource for marketers who are new to the channel or just getting started. Between the campaigns, Web content and best practices, RtG provides a strong foundation for an effective marketing program. But even the most seasoned marketer can benefit from watching the videos and checking out the guides and resources. They're bound to remind you of something you were meaning to tackle or spark a new idea.

"We understand that there are a lot of different types of marketers in the channel. The owner that works on it after hours, the dedicated marketing person, as well as sales reps working on their own," Bakker said. "We wanted to make it easy and valuable for each of them."

Bakker promises that this is just the beginning and that content will be expanded with regular updates.

Microsoft has made huge strides in the past couple of years with the RtG marketing resources for partners. There's simply no excuse left. The content, tools and guidance to establish a consistent, professional marketing program are all there. Making it happen is up to you.

Have you executed a great campaign using RtG materials? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on August 13, 2014 at 4:35 PM0 comments

Partner-to-Partner Collaboration Taken to the Power of 5

Some partners just get it. They understand that combining forces with complementary partners will make them more successful.

One such partner is Bishop Technologies. Tapping the strengths of four other companies, Bishop recently organized and executed a marketing campaign that added at least 30 highly qualified leads to the Office 365 migration pipeline.   

A Well-Defined, Targeted Campaign
Spearheaded by Tina Sieben, Bishop's VP of marketing, the marketing campaign offered a complete solution to companies facing end-of-life support for a discontinued e-mail archive solution. Leveraging existing partner relationships and recommendations from Microsoft, Sieben assembled the group of partners that could provide customers with an easy migration path from their legacy archive to Office 365.

The marketing campaign partnership included:

  • Bishop, which provided the value-added reseller and migration services.

  • Archive360, the ISV and developer of the Archive 2-Anywhere migration tool that Bishop used for the migration process. Archive360 also provided the list of customers using the legacy archive software.

  • Project Leadership Associates (PLA), an Office 365 deployment partner that could provide implementation services beyond the archive migration.

  • Microsoft, which provided marketing and messaging recommendations and support.

  • FishNet Marketing, a telemarketing firm engaged to call and qualify prospects.

In preparation for the telemarketing campaign, Sieben coordinated with partners through weekly calls to define the messaging and call management. FishNet was chosen as the telemarketing vendor based on its experience with Microsoft solutions.

FishNet telemarketers called the legacy archive customers to determine if they were still using the solution and what their plans were to migrate before support ended in 2015. The goal of the telemarketers was to set up an appointment for a Bishop consultant to speak with a migration decision maker.

"We launched the campaign in May and it ran through early June," Sieben said. "We generated 30 appointment leads and have seven solid opportunities. This was a 'pilot' test limited to Microsoft's Central Region states, with very good potential to expand the program to the remaining regions."

This campaign could be a poster child for one of Microsoft's prime directives for partners, driving consumption of Office 365.

"The archive is a roadblock to adoption of Office 365. By moving data into Exchange Online, users have to go to Office 365 to access their archived e-mails," explained Dan Langille, VP of business development at Bishop. "We built an ecosystem of partners where we each do what we do best. We are focused on the archive migration. The ISV, Archive360, with the migration software. And FishNet Marketing is the expert on knocking on the doors of those companies we know have end-of-life archives."

[Click on image for larger view.] Set expectations early with a clearly defined plan for lead and opportunity management.

A Proactive Approach to Results
Defining how leads and opportunities are going to be handled is a key to success in any shared marketing program. Since Partner of Record assignments can get complicated, Sieben plotted out the scenarios and ownership.

Just like in client projects, setting expectations upfront lays the foundation for an amicable long-term relationship. By proactively defining roles and outcomes, you can avoid any misunderstandings about account management after the leads start coming in.

Sieben also provided a performance results recap to all of the players. With measurable results and a solid pipeline, the partnership can take on the next marketing campaign with confidence.

P2P relationships take time and effort, but the rewards can be well worth the investment. Offering complete solutions to customers through complementary partnerships opens opportunities in markets you may not be able to capture alone.

How have you made joint marketing programs work? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on July 31, 2014 at 9:23 AM0 comments

Attract Top Talent and Help Your Community at the Same Time

What if you had an easy way to explain what your company does and how awesome it is to work for you? Not with dry, technical job descriptions, but with real people explaining what it is like to work for a Microsoft partner.  

A new e-book, specifically written to help Microsoft partners' recruiting efforts, profiles young women, each working in a different role for a Microsoft partner. Titled "12 Amazing Tech Jobs and the Women Who Rock Them: Imagine What You Can Do," this e-book aims to educate and inspire the young people you want to recruit. The e-book and supporting promotional materials are located here on Microsoft's Ready-to-Go marketing site.

Written To Help Partners Fill the Talent Gap
Across the board, partners cite recruitment of qualified candidates as a top challenge to business growth. The e-book was written to help you educate and excite young people about the broad range of opportunities available with technology services providers. Though aimed at young women, the 36-page e-book is as relevant for boys as it is for girls -- and even for adults who have always been curious about technology companies. Glossaries throughout the text explain common business terms and acronyms.

Resources To Help You Promote the E-Book
An infographic, Web banners and sample content are available to promote the e-book on your Web site and in your community. Recommendations and the content to support promotion of the e-book include:             

  • Post the e-book and infographic to your Web site using the provided Web banners.
  • Post the blog about the e-book on your Web site.
  • Send the press release to local papers and your Chamber of Commerce.
  • Send the e-mail to local educational leaders, including high schools, colleges and private institutions.
  • Use social media to further promote the e-book in your community.

An excellent resource for students, teachers, guidance counselors and parents, "12 Amazing Tech Jobs and the Women Who Rock Them" also provides a concise, easy-to-understand overview of the technology services sector. Explanations of the channel, different types of partners and how the cloud has changed the industry help young people understand our industry.

The Women Who Rock
While the women featured in the e-book are most definitely amazing, they are not unusual. They were chosen to represent the diversity and character of all the women in the partner channel.

To help young readers imagine what it is like to work in the channel, each woman describes what she does, how she came to be in her role and her job's impact on her life. Roles include Project Coordinator, Product Evangelist, Customer Sales Manager, Channel Manager, Solution Architect, Remote Support Manager, SharePoint Consultant, Business Analyst, Recruiting Specialist, Sales/Marketing Manager, Developer and CEO. An introduction from Jenni Flinders, Microsoft's vice president of partner strategy and programs, and a close from Jacky Wright, Microsoft's vice president of strategic enterprise IT services, provide additional advice and insight.

An interesting aspect of the profiles is that nine of the 12 women had no intention of going into a technical field. One way or another, they discovered an opportunity to challenge themselves and work in a field that was a bit intimidating. Quotes from each reflect the insecurities that most young women face when considering a male-dominated industry.

Help Your Community, Help Your Business
The e-book is a great opportunity for you to share a resource that will help your community, as well as your business. You can demonstrate thought leadership on the timely topic of women in technology by promoting this educational resource in your community. Download the e-book today and share.

How will you use the e-book? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on July 16, 2014 at 8:06 AM0 comments

Tips for Getting More Mileage from Sponsorships

Whether you are considering sponsoring a local charity fundraiser or a trade show premium, you can get more value from the money spent with a bit of planning. Before you write the check, consider how you can turn the investment into a win-win for your organization, as well as for the event attendees.

Charity Events for Team-Building
Supporting community events not only gives back to the community but can also provide a great way to do team building with a purpose. Take your charity sponsorship to the next level by promoting active volunteer participation with your employees. Your employees lead busy lives and while they may want to support charity events, they may find it hard to make the time. A few considerations:

  • Choose an event that happens during your slow season. 
  • Let your employees participate in choosing the event to support.
  • Be ready to lead by example and commit your own time.

Thought Leadership for the Community
When it comes your turn to sponsor the local Chamber of Commerce meeting, take the opportunity to do more than stand up and take a bow. Work with the organizers to demonstrate your commitment to technology thought leadership. A few ideas include:

  • Present a scholarship to a student or fund a classroom technology upgrade.
  • Invite a Microsoft speaker to talk about the future of technology in business. 
  • If you have the opportunity to make a presentation, profile a local business or charity technology project you have completed.

Promote Reseller Events
ISVs are often asked to sponsor customer events held by resellers. These meetings can be a valuable chance to connect directly with shared customers, or they can be a monumental waste of time as you address an empty conference room. To make sure it is worth your time, help the reseller attract more customers with:  

  • A newsletter article or blog post giving real examples of how customers benefit by coming to an event like this.
  • A raffle that the reseller can promote to attract more attendees. Coordinate with other ISVs to make it an even more valuable prize.
  • An offer to help with promotion, like blog posts on your Web site or sending out invitations to prospects in the area.

Trade Show Premiums that Work
In addition to the booth, there are often opportunities to sponsor additional events at your industry trade shows. Before you agree to participate in any tradeshow premiums, find out exactly what you get for the money. Will you get access to attendee e-mails? Will they include your name on promotional e-mails?

Instead of hoping that attendees will remember your name from the lanyard, find an active way to connect with your audience. A few ideas include:

  • Sponsor a before- or after-hour event that gives you a chance to interact with attendees. Take as many of your employees as allowed to maximize your connections.
  • Offer to provide a free training class in a new technology.
  • Use social media to promote premium activities you sponsor. 

Sponsorships are a great way to increase your exposure in the community and in your profession. Don't just write the check and forget it. Actively participate to connect with more people and make for a more memorable event.   

How have you gotten more mileage from a sponsorship? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 25, 2014 at 9:25 AM0 comments

Advice for Microsoft Pinpoint and MarketPlaces Profiles

Have you updated your Pinpoint profile lately? The Microsoft online partner directory and associated product, MarketPlaces, provide exposure to the millions of visitors doing product research on the Microsoft business sites. To make the most of that opportunity, find some time soon to update your profile applying best practices from experts.

Advice from the Trenches
Anya Ciecierski, co-founder of the ERP SoftwareBlog and other Microsoft partner group blogs, recently shared some of her top suggestions for Pinpoint profiles.

"The biggest problem that I see with partners is that they filled out their profile years ago and they've become very out of date," Ciecierski said. "It's very important that you update profiles to reflect services associated with the most recent version of the software. Apparently, searches only deliver results based on the latest version of software."

"Customer reviews are also very important. Microsoft makes it very clear that reviews play a vital role in Pinpoint search rankings," added Ciecierski, who is also the Director of Marketing for CAL Business Systems, a Dynamics gold competency partner. "Very few partners have any reviews."

To improve your search results, Ciecierski recommends focusing on keywords. "Optimize for keywords. Think about how a prospect is going to find you," she said. "What phrases are they typing in and how will you stand out in comparison to the other partners listed?" Keep in mind that prospects can search by multiple attributes including location, competency, industry focus or business need.

A few additional pieces of Ciecierski's advice to improve your profile include:

  • Pay attention to the rules for what not to include in company, app and service descriptions. Back and forth with the Pinpoint review process can be time-consuming.

  • Take full advantage of linking to your Web site, both to guide prospects to your site and because the backlinks from a Microsoft site are valuable for SEO.

  • Personally ask your clients for reviews and make it as easy as possible for them to complete them.

Processes Keep Profiles Up to Date
As with most things, putting processes in place that will keep your profile up to date is the best way to ensure the tasks get done. With 88 customer references associated with its Microsoft Dynamics MarketPlace profile, AbleBridge starts the request process early.

"We incorporate asking for a review during the sales process," said Ryan Plourde, principal and founder of AbleBridge. "During our regular 30-day follow-up to ask how things are going, we'll specifically ask for the review."

Plourde reiterates advice on keeping product versions up to date. As an ISV as well as reseller, AbleBridge updates product listings with every solution update.

"The product description doesn't necessarily change but when we update a product, there is a whole chain of events that we go through," Plourde said. "One of those is to update versions supported in Pinpoint."

Still a Few Challenges
A common complaint from partners is that getting support when you have questions or are having trouble with Pinpoint is not a simple process. Frustration with the Pinpoint processes and lack of support has been an ongoing theme in conversations with partners in past Pinpoint stories. Currently, the "contact the Pinpoint Support Team" links are routed to the Partner Network general support site.    

According to Ciecierski, there are some confusing aspects to the Pinpoint profile process, with some fields linking back to MPN partner account data. Without knowing the "tricks," fine-tuning your profile can be frustrating. To help navigate those challenges, she has created "Pinpoint Profile Optimization Training," a training program for Microsoft partners. There is a fee for the training.

WPC Sessions
If you are headed to the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), there are several Pinpoint sessions listed in the session catalog that should provide additional insight into optimizing your listing. "An insider's view - Pinpoint evolution" promises to share new features planned for the fall. The "Pinpoint lead generation training" offers help in distinguishing your profile from competitors, and is offered in three time slots to work into your schedule.

While Pinpoint may have its challenges, the site still offers partners exposure to the millions of visitors to Microsoft's business-facing Web sites. Building on the advice from partners who increase traffic to their own Web sites through Pinpoint, spend the time to optimize your listing. And then put the processes in place to keep your listing current instead of a task at the bottom of the list.

How have you found success with Pinpoint listings? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge. 

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 12, 2014 at 7:32 AM0 comments

Five Ways To Add Thought Leadership to Your Content

The term "thought leadership" gets thrown around a lot when talking about marketing content. We all know that most content is not coming from thoughtful leaders sharing their wisdom with the world. And it's OK that not all of your marketing content is thought-provoking or industry-leading. As long as your content educates your audience and establishes your knowledge of the market, it's doing the intended job.

Content is the currency of marketing in today's buyer-driven sales process. Your prospects are doing their own research and your job is to help educate them. Whether you are reaching out to them through e-mail with whitepaper offers or building your online presence with a blog, educational content is marketing gold.

Taking Content to the Next Level
When you do want to take content to the next level, how can you create something that builds your reputation as an expert? Real "thought leadership" content -- in which you share the wisdom that you have accumulated as an advisor to businesses -- doesn't mean you have to take a month off to write a whitepaper. There are a variety of ways that you can share your knowledge and experience, including:

  • Create a series of videos. If writing is not your thing, try video. Create a series of short videos where you share insights into technology's impact on industry trends or market opportunities.

  • Hire a professional writer. Share your insights through interviews and let the writer compose your thoughts. To make it work, you must be prepared to invest the time and actively engage with the writer.

  • Partner with an industry expert. You can provide the platform for thought leadership through partnership with an industry expert. Consultants who have built their reputation as an industry leader are good candidates to write blog posts or whitepapers. They may be more affordable than you think, appreciating retainer arrangements. 

  • Collaborate with a complementary partner. Sharing the work and being accountable to someone else provides motivation to keep the whitepaper or e-book project moving forward.

  • Record your thoughts and have them transcribed. Use your drive time to record your thoughts. Use a transcription services, like SpeakWrite to turn those thoughts into written word that you or a writer can fine tune.

Make the Most of the Thought Leadership Pieces
When you put the effort into creating a true thought leadership piece, it makes sense to get the most mileage that you can out of it. After you've created your core whitepaper, e-book or video, break it into bite-sized pieces to spread the wealth. For example:    

  • Turn the whitepaper into a PowerPoint e-book by summarizing key points. Use the full whitepaper as your call to action at the end of the e-book.

  • Use the outline from the whitepaper to create a series of short videos.

  • Break up the key points into a series of blog posts -- you can hire an outside writer to craft the posts once you have the foundation.

Keeping up with a steady flow of content is hard enough without the pressure of creating thought leadership pieces. But creating a work that stands out from the rest will set you apart as an expert, establishing your credibility and unique value. Take it slow; just aim for one a quarter and build on your success.

How are you upping your content game? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 28, 2014 at 2:34 PM0 comments

Maximize Your ROI from the Microsoft WPC Expo

Whether the investment you make in the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) Expo is time spent visiting the booths or tens of thousands of dollars as an exhibitor, you will up your return with thoughtful planning. As hard as it is to focus during WPC with sessions, old friends and parties all vying for your attention, you need a solid plan to make sure you leave with concrete revenue opportunities.

Make the Most of Your Expo Visit
As an attendee, you should plan your time in the Expo hall just like you do for sessions. Ask your consulting team for two lists -- the top customer challenges and the ISVs with most potential. With those lists in hand, you can focus on specific vendors, but keep an eye out for new players that solve an emerging problem.

With clear goals, you can ask the questions that will qualify the fit of vendor solutions quickly. You do both the vendors and yourself a favor by disqualifying yourself when the solution is not what you were looking for. Spend time with the exhibitors that have the potential to drive substantial service revenue for your business.

Get Full Value from Your Expo Booth
Based on the investment of time and money as an exhibitor at WPC, your planning should be well underway by now. According to Jeff Hilton, founder of The Alliance for Channel Success, you should break your planning into three phases:

  1. Pre-conference marketing to get people to your booth.
  2. Conference practices that will qualify visitors and move them through a specific lead-generation process.
  3. Post-conference follow-up.

A common theme in Hilton's advice for planning at all phases is to clearly define the partners you want to target. "You can't deal with 15,000 people and you don't want to fill up your pipeline with the wrong set of those 15,000," Hilton said. "The trick is getting to the right partners."

A simple, focused message is more likely to attract attention from your best prospects than a broad approach. "This year, the layout of the Expo will be a little different, with product focus areas," Hilton explained. "You are likely to have competitors as neighbors, so it's even more important to have a highly targeted, differentiating message."

As visitors enter your booth, questions designed to immediately qualify good prospects will help your staff focus their attention where it counts. "You should have people pre-assigned to handle the deeper levels of engagement for good prospects," Hilton advised. "Your staff out front should identify the right people and move them into the booth for the deeper conversations."    

Post-conference activities are historically where most exhibitors stumble. "It's amazing how many companies don't follow up after an event," Hilton said. "It goes back to leads. If you flood the sales people with a stack of unqualified leads, they are going to give up and not pursue them."  

Coming back to the importance of defining your best prospect, Hilton recommends that you prioritize the leads. Sales people should follow up with the top prospects quickly, delivering a clear value proposition. A plan to nurture the remaining leads through marketing should be in place and executed while the show is still fresh in attendees' minds.

Advice from the Experts
If you would like to get more advice from the experts, The Alliance for Channel Success is holding a webinar with more recommendations for WPC exhibitors on May 15 at 12 p.m. Central time. To attend or view the recording, go here. Attendees will receive a copy of the It's Showtime! booth and exhibiting planning toolkit (or you can contact Hilton to get a copy of the toolkit).

The Time To Plan Is Now
WPC 2014 is set to kick off on July 13. Whether you are an attendee or an exhibitor, it makes sense to plan ahead to make the most of your time at WPC. Obvious advice, but these eight weeks until WPC are going to pass before you know it. As an attendee, the Expo provides the opportunity to find a vendor to help you uncover more service revenue. As an exhibitor, you want to be ready when your next best partner walks into the booth.

How are you getting ready for WPC? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 15, 2014 at 10:36 AM0 comments

Three Attention-Worthy Microsoft Ready-to-Go Marketing Campaigns

Over the years, there has been valid criticism that Microsoft's through-partner marketing programs were too product-focused. To its credit, the marketing team is changing that approach. Specifically, there are three campaigns currently on the Microsoft Ready-to-Go (RtG) marketing site that deserve attention from every category of partner.

Connect with SMB Realities
The three campaigns are components of high-level messaging for SMBs to "stay ahead of the game."

  • Be Lean and Stay Lean focuses on how small businesses can do more with less but be ready to scale with growth.
  • Business Anywhere addresses how SMBs can support mobile devices and connect remote workers to the information they need.
  • Tap Your Data Goldmine hits the business intelligence message of applying your data to decisions that make a real difference in all aspects of the business.

Each of the campaigns has multiple presentation decks, e-mail templates, copy blocks, videos and sales tools. There are partner guidance PowerPoints that summarize SMB research to make the case for the partner service opportunity.

While these campaigns are aimed at the SMB market, there is plenty of good messaging that can be applied to enterprise marketing. The messaging is business problem/solution-focused, covering a range of subjects from disaster recovery to mobile support to collaboration.

Add Your Own Value Proposition
The presentation decks, copy blocks and sales tools are a great foundation, but there is still room to add your own messaging. Add your value proposition to every marketing piece you use. Make a clear, concise case for how you add value that help your clients get the most from these solutions.   

A Goldmine of Content
Any partner who is challenged with creating content will find fodder for blog posts, Web site text and calls to action in these campaign materials. The campaign materials will save you many hours of do-it-yourself work and, with a little creativity, you can make them go even further.

  • As with most of the RtG campaign materials, the Telesales Scripts contain the most specific, targeted content. The number of ways you can use this clear, benefit-driven content is unlimited. It really is great stuff.
  • The speaker notes in the PowerPoints are written in a conversational tone, which makes them useful to adapt to written content, like blog posts.  
  • The videos provide effective calls to action for the e-mails in the campaigns, but you could also turn the PowerPoints into e-books with a little effort and creativity. 

Whether you're an MSP, VAR, SI or some combination, you'll find some marketing gems in these campaigns. The Microsoft marketing teams responsible for these programs deserve recognition for taking a fresh approach to through-partner marketing. Keep up the good work and keep it coming.

How do you get more from RtG campaigns? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on April 30, 2014 at 4:27 PM0 comments