Marching Orders for 2007
New software from Microsoft, new avenues for partner growth. Advice from Microsoft executives and channel luminaries on how to maximize partner opportunies in 2007.
Calendar year 2007 is going to be one of the biggest years in Microsoft
history for new product launches. The company likes to bill 2007 as the
year when the fruits of $20 billion in R&D spending will be released
from Windows Vista to Office 2007 to Office SharePoint Server to Exchange
How should Microsoft partners get ready for the new year? Redmond
Channel Partner put variations of that question to a number of Microsoft
executives and channel luminaries. Read on for their answers.
Corporate Vice President
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group
Play with the New Stuff
Q: How should Microsoft partners get ready for 2007?
A: I'm going to say there are three steps partners should take next year.
In the very, very short term, everyone needs to install and use Windows
and Office, the SharePoint platform and, to the extent they can, also
put in Dynamics CRM. They should do that not only as users, but actually
in the context of what solutions our partner businesses are, or should
Office presents something new on a user desktop. I'm going to say the
same thing [for] SharePoint as a part of Office. I realize it's a server
platform tool, but every partner should put SharePoint and Office together
in their organization and start using it immediately. They need to get
it in there and use it first because they're end-user tools and the people's
imaginations will work much faster using the products than training on
them. To get a platform installed that has Windows and Office in their
organization is really important.
The second thing is an element of just pure training. I installed Office
2007 recently, and I got all of the extra tools for the premium edition
installed as well. I went into OneNote, and OneNote is totally different
now. It's simple, and it takes 15 minutes. So there's just a lot of training
on all of the individual applications that are going to make a huge impact
in every partner organization. This is about "People Ready"
in our partner [companies]. It's the individuals and our partners that
are going to have new ideas about new solution areas, because they're
using the tools in a different way. So I'd say spend small chunks of time
The third thing is that every partner should sit in a room and come up
with a solution in their business that is linking to a new piece of technology.
It could be something in Office or SharePoint, but it could be SQL or
CRM. They ought to sit down and think about, "How do we either evolve
something we already have or go do something we haven't done," and
force the issue with themselves. They should envision a solution and a
customer opportunity that aren't in [place] today, on the new platform,
and incubate it, and then learn with us and give us feedback.
I think the partners doing that in their own businesses will help us
accelerate the innovation, because they will then come back and tell us,
"Wow, it turns out that the competency model that you have isn't
really going to be valid in the next generation." Or: "This
is a way we can all go to market better."
So the more partners I have to [train on the new software], the faster
I think together Microsoft and its partners can design, if you will, for
the next generation. Sales in business is going really, really well right
now at our partners and at Microsoft. It's a pretty healthy technology
environment. I think we're all in the bottom of this thing; it's just
going to peak fast.
U.S. Partner Group,
The U.S. Perspective
Q: How should U.S. Microsoft partners get ready for 2007?
A: That's a big question against a very broad audience: There are 120,000
different U.S. partners out there.
The key thing for us as we look to really drive forward, and with the
business launch that's just around the corner, is that we're highly focused
on working with our partners on the launch. I'd really like to get partners
to spend time on two key sites.
I'd urge partners to go to Launch Central on the Microsoft Partner Portal.
It's a great, single partner source with messaging tailored around products
and training and solution development. It's got demand-generation tools
around all of our products, whether it's Vista, Office or Exchange.
Then the U.S. Partner Readiness site [MSReadiness.com] is really a great
point [of departure]. There are sales and marketing tools through MSPP
and the Microsoft Partner Events section, and everything can be accessed
off of U.S. Partner Readiness.
Those two portals really allow our partners to prepare and also to get
visibility and transparency to the different tools, as well as prescriptions
to prepare their organizations for launch.
The other key would be to continue to connect really well with their
Microsoft partner account managers. There's a multitude of opportunities
out there. If they have questions or need help in doing these things,
they should turn to their Microsoft representatives.
ISV Sales & Marketing,
Worldwide Partner Group,
The ISV Plan
Q: Most ISVs are well into the process of thinking about Windows, Vista
and the next generation of applications. What can they do in the upcoming
year to move solutions?
A: What we found in our discussions with ISVs is they were shifting a
lot of their sales and marketing to be more telesales driven. In the '80s
and '90s, the marketing formula was a little bit more simple. You [would]
go to Comdex and other events and take out ads. We're living in a different
One of the shifts that we saw with ISVs is they wanted more clear ROI
and more visibility into their pipeline. We were also seeing dissatisfaction
with the telesales service they were setting up. This is a place where
we saw a very common pain point across our ISV base.
We took a step in building an infrastructure that our ISVs could tap
into. Microsoft is contracting with a set of high-quality telesales vendors
around the world who understand how to do solution sales to business.
These aren't kids out of college doing telemarketing. They understand
how to take leads through the qualification process. We work with these
vendors to really make sure that we can get to a certain quality guarantee.
We can now leverage our global buying power, and bring the cost to a level
that ISVs would not be able to get on their own as any single ISV if they
tried to access this service.
There's an opportunity for ISVs to qualify for joint funding around some
of these campaigns, too.
ISVs should also look at our new International ISV Assistance program.
We wanted to help ISVs make better decisions about which markets to enter,
and accelerate those moves. We have a set of relationships that exist
in the field worldwide with ISVs. They might be very strong in one market,
and have less of a foothold in others.
We've added incremental account managers in local markets worldwide that
ISVs are interested in expanding into.
In addition to putting more account managers in the field, we've added
programmatic resources worldwide. ISVs can go through our portal for tools
and advice on when to go international and which markets to go into. It's
not always the biggest market that makes the most sense for their particular
If we can help them get to the right place as fast as possible, that
really helps them grow.
Mac McIntosh Inc.
Put Together a Marketing Plan
Q: What should Microsoft partners do in terms of marketing to get ready
A: Microsoft partners need to start the new year with a pipeline of new
business opportunities they can close in the first half of the calendar
With this in mind, you should be working on three things right now:
Creating a well-targeted database of the prospects (companies and contacts
at those companies) most likely to need your products or services in 2007.
This list should include companies and contacts similar to those you've
had the most success with in the past, so you have referenceable examples
and a track record of success with their industries or applications, making
it much easier for these new prospects to say "yes." In addition,
it should include some prospects from specific industries or with specific
applications that appear to have the most potential.
Planning an ongoing direct-marketing campaign that reaches out and touches
the prospects on your database regularly, using mail, e-mail or telemarketing.
The idea is to make sure your company is in sight and in mind when the
prospect is experiencing the problems and feeling the kinds of pain your
company, products or services can help relieve. These marketing touches
should be frequent enough that your company is not forgotten, but not
so frequent as to become a pest. I recommend you aim for once a month,
understanding that you'll run behind on occasion and only touch prospects
nine or 10 times a year as a result. Start working on your first monthly
mailing, e-mail or telemarketing call now so it's ready to go the first
week in January, when people are getting back to work and focusing on
growing their businesses over the new year.
Improving your Web site. [Upgrade] both from the perspective of being
found at the top of the list when people are using search engines to find
your kind of company, products or services, and from the perspective of
helping the prospects who visit your Web site to move forward with their
awareness from inquiry to consideration to purchase process.
Acumen Management Group Ltd.
Re-Evaluate Your Sales
Q: What should partners do to get their sales organizations ready for
A: As a consulting firm to many Microsoft partners, we recommend that
our clients ask themselves 10 questions as they look forward to 2007:
- What worked this year and what didn't? Did I attain the sales goals
and make the pre-tax margin goal I wanted?
- How can I improve on this year's metrics? If I had a 50 percent win/loss
rate, what can my team do to make it 60 percent next year? Has my average
order size increased over the previous year and what can I do to keep
it growing next year?
- Have my salespeople become more solution-focused or professional
than they were 12 months ago? What new training programs should I implement
- How many new clients did I add this year, compared to my goals? Did
the percentage of revenue from new clients grow faster than growth of
my base review?
- What new value-added services can I add in the next year that will
endear me to my clients and outflank my competition?
- Based on my revenue goals for 2007, when do I need to add new salespeople
to attain my objectives? What's the ramp-up time? What are my recruiting
- How are my management skills? Am I still a "doer" versus
a "leader"? What can I do in the new year to improve my management
- What are my financial, business and personal goals for each of the
next eight quarters? Do I have a vision for my business or am I really
- Is this the year to establish an advisory board for my company?
- What three things can I do to stay fresh in 2007? Perhaps take some
Fridays off? One three-day weekend per month? Plan for a two-week vacation?
Renew your passion, set your vision and build actionable sales and marketing
plans that are realistic and in alignment with your goals.
Directions on Microsoft
Get Your Story Straight
Q: What is your advice to partners for 2007?
A: Every partner should have a Vista and Office 2007 story of some kind
for 2007, to capitalize on Microsoft's huge marketing investment in this
area. You may have doubts about how quickly the market will jump on these
products, but you should have no doubts about Microsoft's commitment to
make them successful, even if-for partners, especially if-it means spilling
cash, such as business incentive funds, all over.
If your applications run well on Vista, or if you can position your product
or service as Vista-compatible, you need to tell Microsoft about it (starting
with your local office or your partner account manager), because they'll
be looking for partner solutions that demonstrate momentum around Vista
and Office 2007 and that can get these products through customers' doors.
Microsoft is particularly looking for upgrade deployments that can help
Vista beat the PC run rate (e.g., the rate at which the OS will get into
the market simply by being sold with new PCs).
Exchange 2007, and in particular unified communications (integrated voice
mail and e-mail as well as corporate instant messaging integrated with
voice over IP), will be another hot area. If you have customers still
on Exchange 2000, Microsoft wants to talk to you.
Microsoft will be rolling out new technical certifications related to
these products, and, in all likelihood, some new partner competencies
as well, so partners should budget funds for training and competency achievement.
Longer term, make sure you know what's happening with Windows Live and
Office Live. Try the betas, subscribe to relevant RSS feeds, understand
the development tools behind them. The Live initiatives are new and poorly
understood, and even Microsoft doesn't really know where they're going,
so you have an excellent opportunity to provide feedback on how they can
help you or you can help them. Remember that Microsoft is capable of taking
a very long view; it can (it doesn't always, but it can) patiently and
slowly build a new business and fund it through several iterations, until
the company or a partner figures out how to win.
CEO, SMB Nation
Reinvent Your Small Business Practice
Q: What priorities should partners serving small business have for 2007?
A: First, sustained profitability. Our recent survey data revealed that
two-thirds of SMB channel partners are profitable, which is a good thing.
Consider sustaining that profitability to be a key goal in 2007. That
would be a win with the current stable state of the economy.
Second, reinvent thyself. Another trend we discovered via surveying related
to current specialty and reinvention frequency. The majority of SMB channel
partners, who overwhelmingly deliver network infrastructure services,
have been in the trade for five to 10 years and claim to reinvent themselves
every three to five years. So what are the most popular choices for SMB
channel partners to reinvent themselves in 2007?
- Managed services
President, U.S. Chapter
International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP)
Ride the Wave
Q: What is IAMCP's advice to partners for 2007?
A: "Ride the Wave" is our advice to partners and a recipe for
success in 2007. It's also the tag line for the International Association
of Microsoft Certified Partners for 2007. Our recruiting booth at the
Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston featured a tiki hut and an IAMCP-branded
surfboard. Why? Because the technology wave that's about to be launched
by Microsoft in early 2007 with Vista and Office 2007 is not just going
to be a big wave-it's going to be huge.
As partners who are always looking to grow our businesses, we must get
our sales and marketing teams up to speed and get our technology people
up to speed. Microsoft is going to do the heavy lifting by launching megatons
of nationwide and worldwide publicity. To ride the wave, we need to get
up on our surfboards, get the wind to our backs, and catch the "big
But don't just get your company ready. Get a competitive edge by joining
the IAMCP and participating with us as we offer specialized readiness
opportunities offered exclusively through our organization by the Microsoft
product teams to help you get ready. We are working shoulder to shoulder
with the U.S. Information Worker (IW) marketing team now to get some incentives
put together to help you gain the IW competency quickly, prepare you for
2007 and help you to ride that wave.
And last but not least, remember that there's strength in numbers. Use
the IAMCP to help you get to know LARs, CTECs, Dynamics, ISVs and other
kinds of partners who can jointly go to market with you. The fact is that
Microsoft partners who use Steve Ballmer's famous "coopetition"
regularly do more business together than they have ever done alone.
Bottom line: Ride the Wave, join the IAMCP, partner up and increase your
revenue for 2007!
Redmond Channel Partner magazine
Reach Out to Each Other -- and to Us
Q: What do RCP editors recommend that Microsoft partners do to thrive
A: Network. Let me explain why.
Over the past few years, I've become well-acquainted with the Microsoft
Partner Program from both the inside and out.
First, as a contractor, I edited two Microsoft-sponsored publications
targeted to midsize partners and customers. Fifteen months ago, I left
that gig for an offer I couldn't refuse: helping edit an independent magazine
for all Microsoft partners.
If there's one thing I've learned from both experiences, it's that "partner
community" is far more than a convenient catchall phrase for describing
our audience. Meeting and interviewing many of you has reinforced my initial
sense that partners have created a genuine, strong and vibrant community.
Of course, you're dedicated to your own organizations-but most of you
seem committed to your collective success as well.
So my humble advice to you for 2007 is to keep constructing that community.
At the very least, take advantage of Microsoft-sponsored networking opportunities
such as TS2 sessions, regional partner briefings and, of course, the 2007
Worldwide Partner Conference (to be held July 10-12 in Denver).
But I urge you to explore independent organizations as well. You'll meet
plenty of like-minded partners by getting involved with two key groups
represented elsewhere in this "Marching Orders" package: SMB
Nation and the IAMCP.
And I encourage you to check out other resources that can help you keep
building bridges, such as:
- The PartnerPoint Portal, a 4,600-member organization whose Web site
is stocked with partner directories, news, blogs and other tools and
- Vladville, the blog and Web site of Vladimir Mazek, a Microsoft systems
administrator and engineer, who provides a forum particularly useful
to Small Business Specialists.
- Your closest local or regional peer organization, such as the Technology
Wizards group of Small Business Server Consultants in Portland, Ore.,
or the Cincinnati Networking Professionals Association. (Watch for a
feature story on grassroots partner organizations early in 2007.)
Finally, keep in mind that we at Redmond Channel Partner magazine
view ourselves as both a resource and an advocate for your community.
Our mission for 2007—as it's been all along—is offering insights
intended to help partner companies succeed. We welcome your comments any
time about how well we're succeeding ourselves.