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Customers Explore Possibilities with Microsoft Experience Centers

What better way to show your customers the value of the latest technology than to allow them to experience firsthand the best that Microsoft has to offer?

Through "day in the life" Microsoft Experience Center (MEC) scenarios, partners help customers imagine what they could accomplish with the newest productivity tools -- many of which they already own.

The Value of the MEC Experience
The two Technology Solution Centers that Micro Strategies, a multi-gold business process and infrastructure partner, set up in its Denville, N.J. and Malvern, Pa. locations provide the perfect setting for MECs. Designed to showcase state-of-the-art technologies from both IBM and Microsoft, the facilities provide customers and prospects with an immersive experience.  

"Every customer has the same kinds of too many e-mails and lack of collaboration," said Ray Scardelli, vice president of sales and marketing for Micro Strategies. "The way we structure a MEC is to give customers a real-world experience with Microsoft technologies. It's not a presentation or a demo."

"When we get them into the session, we ask leading questions," Scardelli explained. "Whether the attendees are CEOs, CIOs or operations folks, they are all using Microsoft productivity tools, but all using different pieces and not to its full potential. We make it fun, but in the end, we show them how powerful the Microsoft solutions can be."

Because the company has two centers, Micro Strategies is able to demonstrate new levels of interactivity between geographically dispersed meetings. "We use the two facilities all the time. We'll have one of our experts in the other facility join the session virtually on a large screen and answer a customer question in real time," Scardelli said. "He'll whiteboard the solution on the smart board and when they are done, he can send the whiteboard session to the customer in an e-mail."

How Do You Get Them in the Door?
With the tight schedules of business people, it's challenging to get customers -- especially a number of executives from one organization -- to invest time into the MEC. Based on its success with MECs, Micro Strategies has made them an organizational priority.    

"In the majority of our marketing efforts, we work in the discussion about MECs," Scardelli noted. "When we talk to customers, we always offer the MEC. Everyone in the organization is well-versed in what the MEC is and what it can do for the customer. It is part of the fabric of our organization."

To help motivate both salespeople and the rest of the organization, Micros Strategies rewards employees through praise and financial incentives to get more customers into the technology centers. Friendly, interoffice competitions motivate employees to aim for the company goal of two scheduled MECs per week. "It's not easy to get customers out, but we work hard at it," Scardelli said.

Scardelli would like to see more tangible action from Microsoft sales teams to drive customers to MECs, noting, "We are doing the marketing and building excitement around MECs, but we feel like we are on our own. LARs are starting to engage more, but from the Microsoft standpoint, we just haven't seen the traction."

Outcomes from MECs
While MEC sessions are run as an educational service to customers with no sales pressure, they build trust and good will. Since the MECs give customers a peak into what they are missing, participating companies often request an assessment to take stock of their current system capabilities.

"During the assessments, we work to show how we can add value and demonstrate to customers that we have the expertise," Scardelli said. "We build trust through our work and the relationship goes from there."

Partner To Extend MECs to Your Customers
While investing in the hardware required to deliver MEC sessions in your own facility may be out of reach, there is an easy solution. Learning partners, with the space and computers already in place, are teaming up with value-added resellers (VARs) and system integrators (SIs) to offer MECs to their combined customer bases. Read more about how that works and then reach out to your local learning partner to get started.

How are you educating your customers? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on April 11, 2013