Channel Call

Make the Most of Your WPC Experience

It's the mother-of-all-networking-events and you'll need a good strategy to make the event pay off for your own business.

Before last year's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, several VARs asked for my opinion on how they could effectively approach it. They were frustrated because they did not feel that past attendance yielded positive results. As we spoke, it became evident that a good amount of the time spent at a conference is in interacting with vendors, both current and prospective. Below are strategies, suggestions and tips for any VAR to maximize interactions at the conference.

Make a Plan, Work the Plan, Measure the Plan
The key to making a conference worthwhile is to develop a plan ahead of time. Map out your goals and objectives, figure out your timelines, analyze how you want to measure success and schedule a post-mortem meeting so that you can understand if the plan worked or not. Too often, companies head to conferences and they do not have a mission. They just show up...and waste time and money in doing so. Get a plan and work it! If you are not sure as to how to write an effective plan, drop me a line. I'll be happy to assist you.

Networking, Networking, Networking
You've got a plan in place and most likely a component of that plan is to meet people that can help your business: vendor executives of the host company (e.g. Microsoft execs), vendor executives from exhibitors and peers. All three types are extremely worthwhile to meet and in fact should be weighted equally in importance. Why? Well, the host company executives will help you in navigating the "bigger picture," committing resources and money to help you grow your business and in introducing you to more important people. As you know though, the bigger the company, the slower they may move.

Meeting vendor executives from exhibitors is very important because these are the folks that have the technology that will help you expand your portfolio of offerings. Get to know these individuals. As a suggestion, call a few key executives ahead of the conference and schedule dinner with them.

In a column from many moons ago, I suggested ways to deal with executives in assessing a potential relationship. Take those tips and apply them. Finally, make time to sit down with your peers so that you can compare notes on different vendors' programs and personnel. You might be surprised at what they have to say -- both good and bad.

Be Unique
Host a party. Wait a minute -- isn't that for vendors to do? Well, yes...and no. Think of it this way. If you host your own party or happy hour or golf tournament (you get the idea), then you will stand out among your peers. More importantly, you will stand out among vendors. You will get their attention, which is what you want. They will seek you out because you will automatically appear to be a top-level performer. Even if you are not a top-level performer, the mere perception of being one will elevate your people to rise to the level of this expectation. What a great thing that would be for your company. I have seen small, five-person companies jumpstart their businesses after partner conferences because they took the time to get creative by hosting an event at a partner conference. Try it.

Be Bold
Hey, partner conferences can all be the same. And if you go to them to simply be "one of the herd," guess what? You'll be one of the herd. Boring. However, if you go with a bold approach, you will differentiate yourselves.

Instead of going to vendors' booths and collecting their t-shirts, switch strategies and directly hand the vendor one of your t-shirts. And, by the way, make the t-shirt memorable. Years ago, I saw a group walking around handing out neon green t-shirts. They told everyone who they handed a t-shirt to that they must wear the shirt the next day in order to win a prize. The prize was something cool too, like an iPod (when they were first introduced). Guess what happened? The entire trade show floor -- the entire conference for that matter -- was full of people wearing those neon green t-shirts.

There are certainly no magic formulas for success, as the bottom line is that good planning and hard work produce the best results. Keep this in mind and positive results should abound.

About the Author

Keith Lubner is managing partner of Channel Consulting Corp., a N.J.-based global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies.