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Marketing Is Alive and Kicking in the Partner Channel

"Marketing is Dead" is the headline of a Harvard Business Review article that has sparked controversy and attracted outraged responses from marketing gurus across the country. Author Bill Lee asserts that traditional marketing, like advertising and public relations, has been replaced with "peer-based, community-oriented marketing." Seems like that pretty well sums up the marketing strategy most Microsoft partners have had in place for years.

Leading the Marketing Revolution
While Lee's intended audience is corporate marketing leaders rather than small businesses, his message has interesting implications for partners. Buyer behavior has matured from advertising-induced response to self-directed product research. Purchase decisions are based on information from trusted sources instead of the claims of advertisers.

Since most partners are small organizations without formal marketing teams, they have always had to depend on demonstrating expertise and building personal relationships to win business. Referrals are the life blood of new business for partners -- and always have been.

Even Lee's example of effective community-oriented marketing comes from the channel and Microsoft's MVP program. Calling out the success of Mr. Excel, whose Web site gets more visitors than the Microsoft Excel Web page on some days, Lee recognizes the value of subject matter experts sharing their knowledge directly with customers.   

Who knew that Microsoft partners were leading a marketing revolution? Well done!

Building Communities   
While partners are clearly ahead of the game in practice, there are still lessons from Lee's observations. Communities are vital to building a larger pool of prospects. Microsoft has an excellent program to help partners engage with their local community.

Community Connections matches business organizations with partners to promote educational programs about Microsoft technology. The opportunity to get in front of your local business community as an expert representing Microsoft is huge. Take advantage of it.  

Building Content
Because of the nature of the technology business, explaining the value of products and services through whitepapers and webinars (now known as "content") is old hat for partners. Not that building content is easy -- it takes time away from billable work or family. But content, from blogs to whitepapers, demonstrates your expertise and makes your Web site an educational destination.

The explosion of content on the Web presents challenges and opportunities. Challenge in standing out from the crowd, which you can overcome with consistency and quality, and opportunity in the variety of content vehicles. Find a medium that you enjoy and keep doing it.

Setting the Pace
It's wonderful to recognize that partners have been setting the pace in marketing for years. "Peer-based, community-oriented marketing" comes naturally (and authentically) to Microsoft partners. It's great to know that is what prospects are looking for.     

How are you reaching your prospect community? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on August 23, 2012