Marketing: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Partners are increasingly going to be on their own when it comes to marketing, with fewer SoftBucks to grease the marketing skids.

As Microsoft rejuvenates one of its old marketing campaigns, "People Ready," a shift in tactics gives us some insight into how its relationship with partners will change.

First, we're working with a recycled marketing campaign. Considering how expensive these suckers are -- I've heard $150 million for this one -- there's something to be said for recycling a campaign. Most of that money isn't recyclable because it's spent on costs like advertising, events and mailings, but some can be saved through the approach.

Second, Microsoft is suggesting that it will give partners much more access to marketing collateral, such as video. Microsoft is already very generous with marketing collateral, of which I suspect partners don't take sufficient advantage. The partner site is loaded with white papers, partner marketing tips, graphics, brochures and the like. But when you flip this coin over, you get another picture. Microsoft has a well-honed machine for generating marketing collateral, which means the company and its contractors and agencies can knock out pretty good stuff at relatively low cost -- much less than it would cost the average Microsoft partner to duplicate.

The biggest cost of marketing, in most cases, is delivering the payload: funding the direct mail, Web advertising, print, TV, telesales and other campaigns that get the marketing message in front of the customer. So, this is a "free like a puppy" kind of free.

You can expect to see more of this. In response to the economic climate, Microsoft has told many of its business units to drastically reduce their marketing expenses. In some cases, a unit began the fiscal year in July with a big campaign, then found out in October that they were through 25 percent of the fiscal year and 75 percent of their revised marketing budget.

This means that partners are increasingly going to be on their own when it comes to marketing, with fewer SoftBucks to grease the marketing skids. That's bad, in many ways, but there are some significant mitigating factors, such as the following:

  • Maintaining customers is more critical than ever. Acquiring new ones, which is typically five times more costly than keeping your existing ones, is harder and more costly than ever. Many partners will divert new-customer acquisition funds to current-customer services. If you can help your customers survive the downturn, your customers can help you survive, too.
  • You know your target market better than Microsoft does. Broad-reach advertising from Microsoft has economies of scale, but its return on investment is not necessarily any better than more costly marketing campaigns that target exactly the right audience. If you need to cut back on marketing, reducing the size or reach of your campaign to focus on only the best prospects may be better than reducing its quality.
  • Not all partners find a neat fit between Microsoft's priorities and their own, but it's worth trying to figure out where Microsoft is still spending money so you can piggyback on that. One guide is Redmond's list of major competitors -- Microsoft doesn't want to lose ground against them. Technologies like virtualization from VMware, unified communications from Cisco, and hosted services and applications from Google and IBM may still be getting marketing dollars.

Finally, if you haven't explored the sales, marketing and training resources on the partner Web site, now's the time to do it. Make sure you know about every promotion that Microsoft offers. Customers today are laser-focused on getting the best deal, and you may find discounts and rebates that get them to open their wallets.

What do you think Microsoft could do better? How is the economic climate affecting your marketing efforts?

About the Author

Paul DeGroot is principle consultant with Pica Communications, which provides consulting services for customers with complex Microsoft licensing issues.