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Partner Builds on Microsoft Launches with Events

When Microsoft launches new services and devices, partners get the opportunity to build on the national marketing push and increased public awareness.

Yes, Microsoft used to involve partners more, hosting big launch events across the country. Now, partners have two choices: Wish for the past to return or take matters into their own hands. Cyber Advisors, a managed infrastructure partner based in Minneapolis, Minn., chooses the later, with great success. 

Bridging the Gap for SMB
In October, building on the releases of Surface 2 and Windows 8.1, Cyber Advisors held an event titled "Out with the Old, IN with the New" at the Microsoft Store in the Mall of America.

"It was the second year of our Microsoft Store Series events," said Dan Sanderson, VP of sales and marketing for Cyber Advisors. "We time the events close to Microsoft launches because it drives interest. Last year, we capitalized on the Surface release."

Consumerization of IT is one of the forces that Sanderson sees as driving interest for businesses to attend Cyber Advisors' events. "Especially in the SMB space, we are seeing a crossover between the consumer side and the business of Microsoft," Sanderson said. "The owners of these businesses have a phone and tablet that they use for both their personal and business life. By inviting business customers to the Microsoft Store, we can show them how to bridge that gap."

Of the nearly 100 attendees at the October event, SMB business owners and managers made up about three-fourths of the crowd, with enterprise managers filling out the group. Reflective of the experience of other partners, events at Microsoft stores are most effective in drawing small and midmarket businesses.

'A Consultative Approach'
The Cyber Advisors seminar started with a short presentation explaining the benefits of moving off Windows XP. In all of his company's events, Sanderson keeps the sales part short, spending the bulk of the time letting technical people demonstrate.

"The last thing that customers want is to listen to salespeople," Sanderson said. "We take a consultative approach, bringing credible technical people in to present. Our top level architects do the demonstrations."

After the introduction, two sessions were set up on opposite sides of the store. On one side, consultants presented a scenario-based demonstration based on the Microsoft Experience Center (MEC) program. On the other side was a demonstration of Office 365 and the ease of migrating from Exchange. Attendees could move from one side to the other to get a sense of both presentations.

"We got a lot of opportunities coming out of the event," Sanderson said. "There are three specific opportunities that will pay for the event 25 times over, one being a 300-seat Exchange-to-Office-365 migration."

While social media marketing may get all the attention these days, events are an effective way to connect with your prospects, especially in the SMB space. If you need more inspiration, check out the Microsoft Ready-to-Go site for more partner event stories.

How are you using events to connect with prospects? Add a comment below, or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on November 14, 2013