On the Campaign Trail
Microsoft has replaced its 'go-to-markets' with customer campaigns. What does the switch mean for partners?
- By Rich Freeman
- October 01, 2006
For many partners, it had become a summer ritual. Every July, Microsoft
tinkered with its list of "go-to-markets" (GTMs), adding a few
here and removing a few there. But not this year.
Instead, during Microsoft's 2006 Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston,
the company made official what it had been quietly telling some partners
for weeks: GTMs are history.
Introduced in 2002, GTMs were coordinated sales and marketing
initiatives aligned with Microsoft's top revenue priorities. The operational
efficiency and productivity GTM, for example, promoted infrastructure
applications such as Windows Server and Exchange Server to enterprises
and midmarket organizations, while the financial management GTM drove
adoption of various Dynamics ERP products among small businesses.
Now Microsoft has scrapped GTMs in favor of new "customer campaigns,"
the first of which was scheduled to reach the channel in September, and
the last of which is supposed to roll out in December.
|GTMs and Customer Campaigns: What's New
||Based mostly on what Microsoft
wanted to sell
||Based mostly on what customers
need to do
||Fiscal year 2006: 19 campaigns
||Fiscal year 2007: 12 campaigns
||Mostly IT executives
||Greater emphasis on business
||Little granularity by audience
||Often broken out by industry
and job role
||Strong availability for later
stages of sales cycle, weak availability for early ones
||New tools help partners initiate
and qualify opportunities as well as close them
||Partners built their own or
took prospects to reference sites
||Microsoft provides a wide variety,
all ready for immediate use
Like GTMs, customer campaigns seek to shift Microsoft's marketing spotlight
from individual products to multiproduct solutions. Unlike GTMs, however,
customer campaigns are inspired by what businesses need to accomplish
rather than what Microsoft wants to sell. In place of the Microsoft Office
system solutions campaign in last year's connected productivity GTM, for
example, this year's customer campaign lists goals such as "find,
use and share information" and "build customer connections."
Furthermore, there are fewer campaigns (just 12 this year, compared to
19 GTM campaigns last year). To an unprecedented degree, the campaigns
augment Microsoft's usual talk of features and functionality with discussions
of business value. And in a tie to the company's "People-Ready"
branding, which emphasizes employee empowerment, they frame many of those
discussions in terms specific to an individual's role- and industry-based
Pam Salzer, Microsoft's worldwide partner marketing director, calls the
switch to customer campaigns nothing short of revolutionary. Many partners
are less certain. "I would call it evolutionary," says Lee Ho,
vice president of corporate marketing and strategic alliances at Panorama
Software Ltd., a business intelligence ISV and Gold Certified Partner
based in Toronto, Canada. Ho sees customer campaigns as simply the latest
step in Microsoft's ongoing effort to bring its marketing practices in
line with what its partners have been doing for years.
Indeed, though it's still too soon to be certain, customer campaigns
appear likely to impact Microsoft more heavily than its channel. Partners
have always talked up solutions and business value. What makes customer
campaigns important is that Microsoft may finally be catching up with
A Clean Break
To fully appreciate the significance of customer campaigns, it
helps to revisit what preceded them. Long ago, before customer campaigns-or
even GTMs-existed, Microsoft built most of its marketing around stand-alone
product pitches. Given the company's staggering growth, it was hard to
argue with that approach. But many in Microsoft's channel did. The businesses
they sold to had more interest in solutions than products. Microsoft's
relentless focus on this server application or that desktop system rendered
much of its messaging irrelevant to customers and useless to partners.
Meanwhile, as Microsoft added more and more products to its catalog,
it increasingly found marketing dozens of separate offerings wasteful
and confusing. "The feedback we were getting from customers, partners
and the field was that there's too much stuff out there," says Robert
Crissman, general manager for U.S. partner enablement at Microsoft.
GTMs were Microsoft's first attempt to consolidate and rationalize its
marketing. Based on broad technology themes, such as connected productivity
and business applications, GTMs each contained one or more campaigns.
Each campaign, in turn, highlighted one or more key Microsoft products,
often in the context of a solution. Last year's connected systems GTM,
for example, included five campaigns. One of those, business intelligence,
promoted SQL Server and Office. In support of each campaign, Microsoft
provided an integrated set of sales presentations, collateral pieces,
Webcasts and other materials.
For a company whose marketing calendar had historically been built around
product launches, GTMs represented a significant departure from tradition.
But a close look at the 2006 fiscal year's GTM lineup reveals lingering
vestiges of old habits. For one thing, many campaigns still plugged a
single product. The connected customer campaign, for instance, was little
more than a thinly veiled Dynamics CRM push. Other initiatives, such as
the Exchange 5.5 upgrade and Oracle migration campaigns, spoke more to
Microsoft's priorities than those of its customers. Meanwhile, there were
nine GTMs last year, containing 19 campaigns. That's a big drop from dozens
of separate product drives, but still a lot of messages for customers
and partners to absorb.
Customer campaigns are Microsoft's bid to make a clean break from its
past. For starters, they're based on customer aspirations -- such as "drive
business performance" and "enable your mobile workforce"
-- rather than revenue opportunities. "We focused on what the customer
needs to get done, and those are the customer campaigns," says Microsoft's
Salzer. Additionally, in a rare display of discipline, Microsoft limited
itself to just eight campaigns for enterprise and midmarket organizations,
and four campaigns for small businesses. Not one includes a product name
in its title.
Of course, product marketing isn't entirely out of the picture. Microsoft
will devote plenty of energy this year to launching new releases of Windows,
Office and other key products. According to Salzer, in fact, Microsoft
changed the start dates for several customer campaigns to keep them from
conflicting with the Office 2007 and Dynamics CRM 3.0 rollouts this fall.
Product launches may not dominate Microsoft's marketing plans any longer,
but they're still a top priority.
Just the same, several aspects of customer campaigns suggest that Microsoft
is finally catching on to how businesses really buy technology and partners
really sell it. For example, five of this year's eight enterprise/midmarket
campaigns target business decision-makers, suggesting a heightened appreciation
of their critical role in IT purchasing. "In years past, we focused
primarily on the IT decision-maker," Salzer notes.
|Customer Campaigns Fiscal 2007
|Enterprise and Midmarket
||Build Customer Connections
| Enable Your Mobile Workforce
|Find, Use and Share
|Drive Real-World Business Processes
|Drive Business Performance
||Optimize Your Application Platform
|Optimize Your Business Productivity
|Optimize and Secure Your Core
||First Server, Right Server
|Mobility and Communications
|Sales and Marketing
To get non-IT executives' attention, customer campaigns emphasize business
value and ROI. And in keeping with Microsoft's new "People-Ready"
branding, campaign-messaging frameworks now address specific job roles
and industries, allowing partners to leverage one set of talking points
when presenting to a manufacturer's COO and another when meeting with
a retail firm's CFO. "We're trying to think about people, and give
the channel the materials they need to support those people," Salzer
Among those materials is a new set of turnkey demos designed to illustrate
a proposed solution's business benefits. Partners can host the demos online,
and ISVs can extend them to showcase their own wares along with Microsoft's.
In the past, notes Salzer, partners who wanted to show customers a sample
solution involving Office, SQL Server and Dynamics CRM had to construct
it on their own. "Now we're actually building out a demo for partners,"
says Salzer. "You literally have a demo-in-a-box. It's phenomenal."
Steve Hicks, president and CEO of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Cadre5 LLC, a
Gold Certified Partner specializing in custom application development
and digital design, agrees. "That's one thing we lacked in the GTMs.
I don't think there were enough demos to show people how the actual application
would work," he says. As a result, Cadre5 had to either build demos
itself or talk existing clients into hosting site visits. "I'd much
rather have a generic thing out there than have to go through that,"
Salzer says that GTMs were light on tools for the prospecting and qualifying
stages of the sales cycle. So Microsoft has developed assessment frameworks
that partners can use to analyze a customer's business pains and propose
matching solutions. "It isn't quite like getting a partner a lead,"
Salzer acknowledges. "But it gets them the materials they need to
fish for leads."
Getting in Sync
Though most partners are reserving judgment on customer campaigns
until they've been around for awhile, some see cause for guarded optimism.
"I like the strategy of gearing it to specific positions, to the
project manager or the director of customer service, because that's who
we're usually calling on," says Hicks. Keith Brophy, president of
business development at Troy, Mich.-based system integrator NuSoft Solutions
Inc., a Gold Certified Partner with six competencies, is similarly upbeat.
"[GTMs] were more technology-centered. We had to come up with our
own value propositions," Brophy says. "These customer campaigns
are doing that thought process for us."
Still, prior experience with GTMs is tempering expectations for customer
campaigns among partners. To be sure, many partners say, GTMs made working
with Microsoft easier in important ways. In the pre-GTM era, for example,
Microsoft provided little guidance on which products to push hardest.
"You would do something, but you weren't sure if it was important
to Microsoft or not," observes John Scandar, executive vice president
and co-founder of Fullscope Inc., a Dynamics AX integrator and Gold Certified
Partner headquartered in Athens, Ala. GTMs clarified Microsoft's sales
goals, he says, enabling partners to set their own goals accordingly.
GTMs also provided a common vocabulary for strategizing with Microsoft.
Hicks recalls how difficult it once was to discuss topics such as content
management with Microsoft employees. All they wanted to know, he says,
was where Visual Studio fit in. "We were just kind of out of sync
with each other," says Hicks. For the first time, GTMs got everyone
speaking the language of solutions, enabling Cadre5 to have more productive
conversations with its Microsoft contacts.
But day to day, GTMs changed little about how most partners did business.
"It's not as if the go-to-markets Microsoft created were the first
time our company had them," says Ho, of Panorama Software. "We've
always had go-to-markets." The same goes for Resolute Inc., a business
and IT consulting firm and Gold Certified Partner based in Bellevue, Wash.
Bob Tedesco, the company's former chief technology officer (he left the
firm this summer), says that most of Resolute's target markets corresponded
to GTMs because the campaigns covered so many technology categories. "It
was pretty hard not to map to the go-to-markets," he says.
Not surprisingly, then, many partners look for customer campaigns to
exert little influence on their sales and marketing strategies. Any big
changes, they say, will be on Microsoft's side of the relationship. Brophy
says that partnering with Microsoft will now be a little simpler, mostly
because the software giant is now embracing solutions too. Even Salzer
concedes that customer campaigns simply put Microsoft more in step with
what partners have been doing all along. "Many of our partners sell
solutions every day," she says. "These campaigns will just support
Raise Your Voice
Salzer directs anyone interested in learning more about customer
campaigns to the Partner Marketing Center on Microsoft's partner Web site.
Ho visits regularly and encourages other companies to do the same. "Microsoft
creates more partner-ready collateral and tools than most partners even
know about," he says. In fact, Tim Phelan, founding partner of Alpharetta,
Ga.-based OmniVue Business Solutions LLC, a Dynamics reseller and Gold
Certified Partner, says that free demand-generation resources are among
the best reasons to participate in Microsoft marketing initiatives. Tapping
into Microsoft's direct mail templates, telemarketing scripts and other
materials helps OmniVue stretch its marketing budget and launch campaigns
more quickly. "It's not our sole source of branding or lead generation,
but it really helps us take [our marketing] to the next level at a very
low cost of entry," he says.
Tedesco likes Microsoft's marketing tools too, but wishes partners played
a greater role in defining and shaping the campaigns they support. "I
don't believe we have any voice, and I would love to have some say in
what's really working," he says. For his part, Microsoft's Crissman
points to several ways partners can provide input about customer campaigns.
"If they're a managed partner, I would encourage them to give their
feedback to their PAM," he says. Other firms can speak with one of
the community development managers who cover the unmanaged channel. Microsoft's
twice-a-year partner surveys, quarterly partner briefings and annual partner
conferences are also good forums.
Brophy, for one, definitely plans to speak up if the passage of time
reveals weaknesses in customer campaigns. Meanwhile, he's hopeful but
cautious. "These customer campaigns are extremely new," he says.
"It's a step in the right direction, but the future is going to tell
whether they're effective."