Growing and Prospering with Customers

By becoming trusted technology advisors, Microsoft Partners can thrive as their customers prosper.

Our industry operates under the mandate of Moore's Law: Microprocessor capacity doubles every two years. Business is now done in digital ways that were only dreamed of five years ago, offering tremendous productivity advantages and cost savings. In fact, there is such an enormous wealth of innovative technology on the market that any company without an IT staff is bound to be overwhelmed by it.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs), in particular, need help to make the right technology decisions. They look to solution partners as trusted technology advisors who can translate the "bits and bytes" of high tech into meaningful business solutions that will enable them to grow and better serve their customers.

Consider the success of X Factor Consulting, a Laguna Beach, Calif.-based technology consultant to Marine Depot, one of the first companies to take exotic fish sales online. A favorite among marine hobbyists for its rare species offerings, Marine Depot ships fish safely, backed by an "arrive alive" guarantee.

X Factor helped Marine Depot by implementing Microsoft Great Plains 8.0 for financial management and distribution. Between November 2004 and April 2005, Marine Depot's completed same-day customer orders increased from 75 percent to more than 95 percent. Outbound order fulfillment grew from a capacity of 600 orders per day to more than 1,500—an increase of 150 percent—with the same warehouse facility and staff. The company was recently honored with a Microsoft Business Solutions 2005 Pinnacle Award for Excellence in Innovation for the increase in productivity and sales it achieved by using business software to improve inventory accuracy and shipping time.

In this example of a mutually beneficial partner-customer relationship, I see clear evidence of a very promising direction for all Microsoft solution partners. There are currently 5 million small businesses in the United States and more than 600,000 are launched every year. According to AMI-Partners, annual IT expenditures by U.S. SMBs, already at about $150 billion, will grow to $212 billion by 2009. These customers will need the right technology solutions to support that growth.

Our goal is to help our solution partners capture a healthy share of this business. Through the Microsoft Partner Program, we are investing nearly $2 billion in partners worldwide this year. For example, we will deliver a wide range of subsidized technical, sales and marketing training courses that will help our partners continue to enhance their success in selling and delivering industry-leading Microsoft solutions to customers.

We have heard great feedback from partners that the training offered is helping their businesses. For example, 280 partners revealed that after they participated in a deep technical training on Windows Server 2003 Active Directory they had sold new engagements that totaled close to $2.6 million.

Along with training opportunities, we are also increasing investments in partner marketing. A successful reflection of this effort is the Partner Engagement Program (PEP) for small business, which is focused on helping our partners identify and fulfill the technology needs of smaller companies by capitalizing on the business value achieved through Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003, Windows XP Professional (with Service Pack 2), Office Small Business Edition 2003 and related applications. More than 11,000 partners have enrolled to date. By registering for PEP, our partners have access to evaluation software, white papers, customer-ready presentations and demos, sales guides, project plans and various training opportunities all geared to help increase their customer influence.

Another example is the Microsoft Across America program, which makes our people, products and services easily accessible to solution partners and their customers. Throughout the year, the program provides approximately 1,400 opportunities for partners to connect with local SMB customers and prospects across the country.

For Microsoft solution partners who want to team with other types of Microsoft Partners to deliver end-to-end customer solutions, the new Microsoft Partner Channel Builder program provides an easy and innovative way for partners to collaborate, share their expertise and extend their sales reach into new areas and territories.

These are just a few examples of how we're enabling our partners to create a symbiotic and profitable relationship with SMBs. By becoming trusted technology advisors, our partners can thrive as their customers prosper. And that's what helping others realize their potential is all about.