Channel Watch

Get Market Development Funds While the Getting's Good

Since Windows 7 launched, Microsoft has resuscitated two well-received partner funding programs: The Big Easy and the HP/Microsoft Frontline Partnership.

Microsoft is waving some money at partners right now to help sell Windows 7 and the rest of the stack of new releases including the newly shipping Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010.

If you think this money can help your sales efforts, pursuing those funds should be your top priority. Since the Windows 7 launch, Microsoft resuscitated two of its well-received general partner funding programs: The Big Easy and the HP/Microsoft Frontline Partnership.

The Big Easy provides a rebate to customers who buy multiple Microsoft products with a subsidy check made out to a Microsoft partner for additional services. The Frontline Partnership is a joint Microsoft/HP marketing program that offers the companies' joint partners up to $2,000 for event-based marketing in addition to providing Ready-To-Go-Campaign-style marketing materials and resources. These are only some of the small business funds and programs available right now. Similar efforts are underway for midmarket- and enterprise-focused partners.

If you've been a Microsoft partner for a while, the availability of money now shouldn't be surprising. Microsoft usually has resources sloshing around for partners when there are big new releases to promote. What's different this time is the economy.

Several market development fund programs for partners ran out of money well before the Microsoft fiscal year 2009 budget ended in June. Throughout Microsoft, we're hearing rumblings about budgets (and even some more headcount) being slashed pretty severely in fiscal 2010, as well. And when talking to financial analysts, Microsoft executives are promising to keep operating expenses at a bare minimum this fiscal year.

Ordinarily it's hard to blame anyone for running lean these days. Yet in spite of Microsoft's dividend payments, the company still has a huge stockpile of cash. True, treating deep pockets as if they were infinite poses the risk of depleting those reserves. Still, it seems Microsoft is trying too hard to survive the worst downturn since the Great Depression by using only operating expenses rather than dipping into its reserves. Tapping into reserves strategically can help partners sell Microsoft software and in the end yield a return on investment. (See the December cover story, "Good Riddance," for more about the thinking inside Redmond during the downturn.)

In any case, if you're interested in that money, go get it. It may not be on offer for long. What are you seeing and hearing from your Microsoft contacts about market development funds? Let me know at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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