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Microsoft Learning Partner Wins with Outside-the-Box Marketing

While it may seem obvious that taking a creative approach to marketing is a good idea, it's tough to step outside the norm and try untested tactics. The problem is that new ideas don't always work. Sometimes, though, they hit big -- and there lies the value in trying.

An Indirect Approach To Finding Customers
Microsoft Learning partner QuickStart Intelligence, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., trains IT professionals and developers on Microsoft technology. The bulk of QuickStart's business comes from Microsoft and partners, so it faces a common challenge for both training and ISV partners: How can it work cooperatively with partners to connect with end users?

In 2009, QuickStart decided to take a new approach to marketing. Justin Slagle, QuickStart's director of business development, said, "We wanted to get out of the loop of waiting for people to deploy new technologies. We wanted to help customers deploy more software which required a presales approach working with partners."

One-Day Technology Conference
QuickStart's unique approach was to hold a day-long technology event targeted at business decision-makers. By educating CEOs and other executives about the benefits of new technology, QuickStart was promoting adoption of applications new to the organization, as well as the latest versions of owned software. The assumption was that training opportunity would follow the adoption. 

"We started out with a one-day technology conference," Slagle said. "We wanted to make it very local and very high-level so that we could draw in the c-level." 

The event was so successful that QuickStart expanded the program. The company has hosted 16 events at various convention centers with as many as 28 partners as co-sponsors. The technology conferences typically draw between 200 and 600 customers who get to choose from dozens of sessions at the 100-200 technical levels.

This year, QuickStart has five SharePoint Intelligence Conference events and five Cloud Intelligence Technology Conferences scheduled. It is also leading a group of Microsoft Learning Partners, all Star Learning Alliance Partners, that are hosting nine more events to complete a 14-city series across the entire United States.

"The beauty of the event is that high-level decision-makers come to understand the new technology from Microsoft," Slagle said. "At the end of the event we ask the customers if they would like to do a proof-of-concept to see how the technology would work in their organization. We've had up to 77 proof-of-concept leads come from a single event."

QuickStart's investment in this marketing program has grown over the years. It has a dedicated staff to manage the events year-round. So, is it all worth it?

Slagle said, "We have helped our partners build multimillion-dollar pipelines as a result of these events. QuickStart sees a significant ROI in training business within six to 12 months."

How are you thinking outside the box?  Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on March 15, 2012


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