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Microsoft Community Connections: 'You Don't Know What You're Missing'

When it comes to marketing these days, content and inbound get all the attention. While those are definitely important aspects of your marketing strategy, they shouldn't replace meeting face-to-face with customers and prospects.

For one partner, Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) has helped it build a significant flow of leads and a larger presence in local, state and national organizations.

In 2010, Prism Technologies Group, a Texas-based Gold partner, started engaging with MCC to help it spread the word about the cloud and Office 365. "We have found working with MCC and the [Microsoft] stores here in San Antonio and in Dallas helped us engage with businesses," said Bryan Guinn, CEO of Prism. "We found it to be a good collaboration, where Prism Technologies Group focuses on the services side and the stores capture some of that hardware-type services and solutions."

Over the past couple of years, Prism has had a number of big successes with MCC-assisted events. When the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) held its annual conference in San Antonio, Prism worked with MCC to host multiple sessions. The educational sessions focused on how attendees could improve productivity, increase collaboration and better reach out to their customers. Prism then followed up with an event at the store.

"That was a big one, and led into a store event afterwards that was a day-long event focused on women in the workplace," said Guinn. "Since that program, the organization has invited me and others from our company to speak at several of their local events. It's been a very good relationship."

Working with the San Antonio Area Foundation, which supports local nonprofit organizations of all sizes in and around the greater San Antonio area, Prism has hosted events as part of the annual IT Summit.

"Unfortunately, many nonprofits don't know about the discounts they can receive through different procurement mechanisms. So you see them often spending more on technology solutions than they need to," explained Guinn. "Through the MCC team and the store, once again, we sponsor a one-day event. We bring in 30 to 40 unique nonprofits and walk them through several different aspects of technology to help educate them. Those have always been really great events."

Holding more than 30 events annually leveraging the MCC content and resources, Prism finds value participating in a wide range of venues. It works with Chambers of Commerce across Texas, including the statewide Texas Chamber of Commerce Association. But the company is not above a good barbecue.

"The funniest one of all was in Goldthwaite, Texas. They have an annual goat cook-off and barbecue competition," said Guinn. "In partnership with the store and the MCC team, we went out for a day, setting up a booth. We talked about the more rugged-type devices that would be applicable to farmers and ranchers and that type of environment -- displaying those devices and having conversations with them. We did some drawings and giveaways and actually did some barbecue judging. It was a lot of fun. We had a good time, got some good exposure."

For many partners, the idea of pulling off one, let alone 30, events is daunting. According to Guinn, it's all about repeatability.

"Once you've done as many as we have, you kind of figure out a good, quick model," said Guinn. "We can quickly set up an event, do good content delivery and get some meaningful value out of it -- both for the people who attend and for us, from a lead-referral perspective. We've built that repeatable IP around the events. We know which ones work, which ones don't, what days work best, what times work best. We've done enough so now we can just kind of crank through them."

For those partners concerned with poor attendance as they work through the event learning curve, Guinn says not to get discouraged. "You're probably going to have events that you don't get as many people as you would like. But sometimes those turn into the best events," said Guinn. "We had one a few weeks ago that we spun up very quickly. We had about 18 people register and six show up, but those six people ended up having extremely in-depth, engaged conversations with us."

For every event, Prism sees additional benefits from exposure to potential prospects -- even if they don't attend. An active presence in the community reflects commitment and gets noticed.

In terms of the MCC resources, Prism leans heavily on its content, personalizing it with its own messaging. Since the retirement of MCC's event registration tool, Prism uses Meetup for their announcements, registration and promotion. Meetup makes social media sharing easy, which has become more important to registration. Approximately 20 percent of registrations for Prism events come through social media today.

Over all, Guinn attributes about 20 percent to 30 percent of Prism's new business to events. To duplicate the success of Prism's event marketing, Guinn strongly recommends getting started with MCC.

"Take advantage of the resources available through MCC," he said. "They've got a good support system. They've got good people available to walk you through the process. The content they provide is really what's meaningful to people now and they update that content regularly. You don't know what you're missing out on until you give it a try."

While the online world may be driving much of our work, it's still important to get out of the office and talk to your prospects. Holding events can be a rewarding and even fun way for everyone in your organization to participate in marketing. Fall is a great season for events, so go out to MCC and connect with one of your local business organizations.

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

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 29, 2016 at 7:07 AM