RCP Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.

Microsoft Partner Taps Team Knowledge for Marketing Success

Every marketer in the channel has experienced the frustration of knowing that they are sitting on a gold mine of rich content, but simply can't bring it to the surface. They know their consulting team holds the real-world knowledge that makes superstar blog posts and downloadable whitepapers. By offering multiple paths to bring that knowledge to the surface, one partner is striking it rich with content marketing.

Ramping up their content marketing over the past 18 months, 10th Magnitude, a gold Microsoft cloud platform partner, provides multiple paths for its consultants to share their deep Azure knowledge.

"We've found success by allowing people to contribute in the way they are most comfortable," said Dorinne Hoss, director of marketing at 10th Magnitude. "Not everyone is a writer, especially technical folks, so we give consultants the option of an interview. We will either write it up as a blog post or we can record it for one of our video series."

A Variety of Video
One of two series, the Manhattans Project videos are informal interviews with consultants on current topics. Consultants don't have to spend a lot of time preparing, but get to share their knowledge on a familiar topic. A second series, Epicenter, repurposes presentations that 10th Magnitude consultants do for the community, like meet-ups and webinars.

The prospect of video may seem expensive to most partners, but 10th Magnitude is fortunate to have the talents of Marketing Manager Michael Gibson. Gibson serves as moderator for the videos and then turns raw video into the finished product. As Gibson demonstrates, professional-looking videos can be created in-house.

One particularly well-received video is a review from Microsoft's Build conference. "We recorded an internal briefing meeting where the consultants who attended Build shared what they learned," said Hoss. "We polished it up and put the video on YouTube. It has gotten thousands of hits."

The Secret to Superstars
Why some videos and blog posts take off and some don't remains a mystery. Like the Build video, Hoss says that sometimes a blog post becomes a superstar, getting high numbers of views for months on end. "We regularly review our content marketing to look at what's working and what's not," said Hoss. "Unfortunately, there's no secret formula and we are a little leery of trying to direct too much. We trust our consultants' instincts. Those topics that they really get excited about are often the ones that turn into superstars."

Unless they have a need for specific content to support a topical campaign, consultants drive the subject matter for content. "Naturally, the consultants want to talk about the projects they are working on," said Hoss, "This year, for example, there has been an explosion of interest in the Internet of Things. We have found that the topics our consultants want to address generally mirror what our clients are thinking about."

Content Promotion Is the Final Piece
Half of the equation for successful content marketing is promotion. 10th Magnitude promotes content through a variety of channels, both organically and paid. "We've spent a lot of time building our social media followers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook," said Hoss. "We've had some good results with our investments in search advertising on YouTube, Google and Bing."

With bigger pieces of content, like an Azure e-book it created, 10th Magnitude has syndicated on sites like CIO.com with success. "That type of content syndication is not cheap, but it's a good way to get leads from people interested enough to give their information up. Downloading those bigger pieces of content can deliver high-quality leads," said Hoss. "The challenge is finding the right mix of channel and content. It requires making some investments and testing."

At the moment, videos are delivering the best rewards for 10th Magnitude on multiple levels. "While it's not a direct correlation, we know that the videos have done a lot to influence sales," said Hoss. "The videos are good for Microsoft sales reps, as well as our own team. We make sure our Microsoft contacts are aware of the content we are producing so that they can use it, too."

Drawing the knowledge out of your consulting team to build great marketing content is probably the most common challenge for marketers in the channel. They are a direct connection to the topics that are timely and relevant to your prospects and customers. There is no secret to mining those riches other than offering more ways to make it easy and comfortable for your consulting team to share.

How are you building great content? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on July 06, 2016 at 12:17 PM0 comments

Marketing Excellence Report for Microsoft Partners Expands Scope

Wouldn't it be helpful to have a list of the Microsoft partners who are doing a great job with inbound marketing? Even better if the list is accompanied by analysis of why their marketing works.

That's exactly what you will get from the Inbound Marketing Excellence Report, which this year evaluated over 25,000 Microsoft partners. In the report, Fifty Five and Five, the London-based marketing agency dedicated to the Microsoft channel, ranks 250 partners and provides analysis for the top 50.

While there is no shortage of marketing research available today, a report specifically focused on Microsoft partners provides unique insight into the practices of businesses who serve similar markets with similar services. Based on the preview copy of the Marketing Excellence Report, partners will reap important insights into the evolving inbound marketing practices of businesses just like their own. The final report is scheduled for release in July during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) next month. You can pick up a hard copy at the expo or pre-register for a copy here.

The ambitious project expands on last year's review of Office 365 and SharePoint partners to include the broader Microsoft channel. "We extended the report based on the feedback we received. Partners really appreciated the independent report and wanted to see a broader range in the types of partners we reviewed," said Aidan Danaher, marketing manager for Fifty Five and Five. "Ultimately, our aim is to continue the report over the years to provide partners with insight into the trends in the industry. By including partners across business models, we can provide a truer industry snapshot."

Another improvement in this year's report is the inclusion of more prescriptive marketing guidance and step-by-step guides. The Key Findings section provides analysis of overall channel trends and calls out best practices. The description of methodology, including the tools that Fifty Five and Five used for analysis, provides information that partners can put into practice to evaluate their own progress.

The Marketing Excellence Report ranks partners on a scale of 0 to 100, grading their blogging output, Web site and social media activity. In-depth analysis of the reasons the top 10 partners earned their spots offers inspiration partners can use to improve Web site appearance, service descriptions and content delivery. In addition to details on the top 50 partners, a list of the 200 runner-up partners includes their scores, giving each of those partners an objective measure of their marketing efforts.   

Also included in the report are interviews with marketing leaders from cutting-edge partners providing practical guidance for real-world application of inbound practices. The foreword is written by David Meerman Scott, well-known marketing strategist and frequent WPC presenter. The report provides an interesting perspective of the state of Tweeting with a page of stats on Twitter and the Microsoft partner channel.

Fifty Five and Five included a bonus section this year called "The 6 Month Marketing Fitness Plan" to provide specific recommendations to help you move up in the rankings for next year's report. With its practical and achievable guidance, the plan provides step-by-step marketing activities that any partner can implement.

The report can be particularly useful to marketing professionals who need help convincing leadership of the value and effectiveness of specific marketing tactics. "If you face resistance within your company and some of your competitors made the list, you can use the report to start conversations," Danaher said. "The report is independent, so there is no hidden agenda. You can help your team see that other partners are finding success with blogs or social media."

An important takeaway from the report is that most of the tactics reviewed don't come with high price tags. "CEOs often associate marketing with a lot of money," added Danaher. "Blogs and social media don't require big investments. The company can build a lot of value -- and Web site traffic -- just by harnessing the ideas within the organization." Which is a concept that many marketers are challenged to prove to leadership.

The "Top 50 Microsoft Partners: Inbound Marketing Excellence Report" is free and will be available for download after July 11, 2016. Or stop by booth #1718 at the WPC Expo for a print copy. 

How are you improving your inbound marketing activities? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 15, 2016 at 10:52 AM0 comments

Partners: Encourage Customer Adoption with a CSM

As partners become more dependent on recurring revenue, keeping customers becomes just as important as acquiring them. And in the cloud world, keeping customers is all about adoption.

Which means that you need someone on your team who is dedicated to helping customers realize the value of your solutions all day, every day.

While the role of customer success manager, or CSM, may be new to some types of partners, they have a long history in the Microsoft channel. In the Dynamics world, CSMs (with the acronym more commonly meaning "customer sales managers") have always played a key role in the organization. Yearly renewal of maintenance agreements, continuing education and add-on product sales were an essential part of the relationship with ERP and CRM customers, as well as a substantial revenue stream for the partner. With cloud applications, those same three drivers -- renewals, education and add-on products -- justify the role the CSM.  

The CSM's work kicks in after the initial sale. "The reality is that once the salesperson closes the deal, they need to move on to the next opportunity," said Kimberly Gordon, Microsoft's director of customer reference and advocate program for the United States. "There needs to be initial coordination between the salesperson and the CSM to make sure the deployment is going well. Then the CSM's role becomes very important to nurture a continuing relationship with the customer."

The role of CSM is unique in a technical services organization because it isn't a pure sales role and isn't a technical role. "A CSM serves as the clients' advocate, bringing their perspective to every aspect of the partner's operations," explained Tina Featheringham, client success manager for Pittsburgh-based MSP and Dynamics partner Vertical Solutions. "I am not sales, I am the technical person, but I bring all the pieces together."

"If the customers don't love the products, they won't use them," said Featheringham, who has a long and highly awarded career managing Microsoft customer accounts. "My job is to help them understand and harness the power of the applications."

Featheringham's most effective educational tools are the applications themselves. "While webinars with screenshots are fine, it's not like showing the function in action," she said. "I use Skype for Business for most of my calls. I can share my desktop and show them exactly what I am talking about."

With products that are in a state of continual change, like Office 365, staying ahead of your clients to educate them is no small task. "You have to keep yourself informed and there's no magic fountain," Featheringham said. "These days I get most of my information from following the Microsoft product blogs. And I spend some time every day going through RSS feeds to get the nuggets of information."

One creative way that Featheringham engages with clients is to ask them to keep a list of things they "hate" when they are first using an application. "Nine times out of 10, I can show them that there is a different or better way to do those tasks that they will love."

Staying connected to the technical side of the organization is critically important to success for the CSM. Featheringham works closely with the Vertical Solutions engineers to identify common issues that customers are having or to come up with solutions to special situations. Through their collaboration, a recent call to the help desk for support of an FTP site problem turned into a migration to OneDrive.   

In addition to the daily education of individual users, Featheringham schedules quarterly high-level meetings to make sure clients are realizing the full value of the applications. "We can add more value if we help our clients think proactively about how the software can help achieve their goals," she said. "These conversations go a long way to build our long term relationships. When we understand their business and goals, we can really impact their productivity and growth."   

For partners looking to grow recurring revenue streams, it comes down to math. You have to keep the customers you have while you continue to add new ones. More and more partners are recognizing the importance of dedicating resources to each of those goals separately. Salespeople who are good at acquisition are unlikely to be good at proactive customer nurturing. The CSM's role is to drive adoption of the applications and strengthen the clients' relationship with your organization. When done right, it's an investment that will pay for itself many times over.

How are you driving user adoption and building customer relationships? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 01, 2016 at 11:38 AM0 comments

Microsoft's Secrets for Creating Customer Evangelists

In an age when potential buyers regularly research reviews and testimonials of products and services as part of the purchasing process, customer evangelists have become an essential part of partners' sales and marketing efforts.

To build the kind of loyalty that motivates customers to spend time on reference calls, case study interviews and event appearances, Microsoft takes a continuous approach to nurturing those relationships. Without making a big investment, partners can build their own league of customer evangelists, willing to devote time to sharing their story with prospects.

"When you are trying to make your number every quarter, you need customers to help you send home the message," says Kimberly Gordon, director of Microsoft's U.S. customer reference and advocate program. "I used to sell and understand the importance of the reference call."

To be able to support those reference calls on their own, partners need to develop long-term, two-way relationships. In a project-driven industry, many partners built their businesses on short-term customer engagement: Make the sale, implement the project and move on to the next one. Nurturing customers may not be part of their company DNA.

"Forging those long-term relationships with customers is really just about letting them know that you care," Gordon said. "It starts with things like quickly getting them through any deployment issues and always calling them back within 24 hours. Nurturing begins with the very first project and never stops."

One of the best things about nurturing clients is that is doesn't require deep pockets. Gordon says that many of the Microsoft strategies to reward customer advocates cost nothing but time -- for example, connecting the customer to specialized resources when they need help on a project, providing a quote for the customer's press release, or featuring the customer story in a national publication.

One of the most popular "thank you's" sponsored by Gordon's team has been an executive breakfast held every year at Microsoft's now-discontinued Convergence conference. The breakfast gave customers who had served as references an opportunity to interact directly with Microsoft executives, industry analysts and peers. "Our goal was to simply to show the customers how much we appreciate their time without asking for anything," said Gordon.

Without a big investment, partners can implement a similar customer advocacy reward program. Actively and continuously showing appreciation for customers smooths the way when you need a favor. A few ideas to get you going include:

  • Tweet or blog about customer achievements.
  • Ask customers to speak at your next event, providing them with exposure to a local audience.
  • Sponsor a quarterly networking event or executive briefing for clients at a craft brewery.
  • Make proactive calls to check in on customers.       

A programmatic effort to consistently engage with your customers will pay off in additional business, as well as provide a steady source of references.   

"At the end of the day, you don't want to ignore existing customers. Don't just go back when it's time to renew a contract or get idle people off the bench," said Gordon. "Make customers feel valued with the small things that you do over time. Provide that value add and take your relationship one step further."

How do you build long-term customer relationships? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 05, 2016 at 9:56 AM0 comments

8 Great Partner Web Sites To Inspire Your Makeover

You've been putting it off for too long. You know your Web site needs an update -- especially if it's not mobile-friendly -- but its redesign keeps going to the bottom of the list.

Summer is just around the corner, and with a slower pace of business, it's a great time for a Web site makeover. To inspire you to make the commitment, we found some partners who are setting the pace with stand-out Web sites.  

1. Palmetto Technology Group, an Office 365 partner, has a history of staying ahead of the marketing curve. Its Web site has a clean design with photographs of real people. It's mobile-friendly, offers lots of content and makes it easy for a visitor to make contact.

2. Clean design and limited text make the Web site of system integrator RBA Consulting immediately engaging. No big words, no clichés and leading with customer stories set a non-tech tone that is likely to appeal to business decision makers. The customer stories are a refreshing break from the problem/solution/benefits case study drudgery.

3. The home page of eMazzanti Technologies, an SMB partner, gets straight to the point with a description of who it helps and what services it delivers. It offers content in a variety of forms, including blog posts and videos, on the home page. It's nice to see a sense of humor at the bottom of the main page with some IT Ninjas. We need more of that in the channel.

4. Sonoma Partners cuts to the chase, as well, with very efficient use of words. It handles the challenge of establishing credibility for multiple industry specialties especially well. On the home page, in just a couple of sentences, Sonoma Partners conveys its industry knowledge in three different vertical markets.

5. For those partners who want to take their vertical marketing a step further, justfoodERP is an example of an industry-specific site done right. In addition to effective use of bold graphics, the site is full of educational content and customer stories. The live-chat pop-up is a nice touch.

6. The strength of Alligatortek's Web site comes through its focus on customers. With an entire section dedicated to client relationships, the custom development partner sends a strong message on its top priority.

7. Tidestone Solutions, a Dynamics ERP partner, makes a personal connection with readers by labeling its site sections "Your Industry" and "Your Current Software" -- a subtle but effective detail. Tidestone appears to be perfectly comfortable showing the size of its team and making introductions to its consulting team. Targeting those companies looking for personal, caring service, it makes a strong case.

8. Designing a Web site to connect with partners effectively is a challenge for every ISV. Business Intelligence ISV Solver has clearly given a lot of thought to that challenge. The partner overview page defines the options without clutter, directing visitors down the right path without confusing them. 

These are just a few examples of the many partners doing a great job with their online presence. Your site doesn't need to be state-of-the-art -- just informative and engaging (and work across devices). Now that you have some fresh inspiration, it's time to get started.

Have a Web site success story? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on March 16, 2016 at 2:17 PM0 comments

Newsletter Content that Your Customers Will Welcome

Creating a newsletter every month may not seem like a tough assignment...until it's yours. In the beginning, everyone has lots of great ideas to share. Consultants promise project stories from the field. The support team will supply a steady flow of tips and tricks. Management looks forward to sharing their leadership and best-practice advice. All the ingredients for a read-worthy newsletter.

Then they get busy. And you're on your own.

Newsletters Build Customer-Lifetime Value
Newsletters may be the most important marketing activity to support partners' cloud business models. More dependence on subscription-based relationships means that building customer-lifetime value should be a primary focus of the marketing team. Monthly newsletters may not be sexy, but they are the workhorse of ongoing customer engagement.

Creating a monthly newsletter that customers will actually open and read is daunting indeed. Their inboxes are stuffed and their attention is short. But you do have some advantages -- they know you and they view your organization as an expert source. Build on those strengths and throw in a dash of personality.

A few ideas to inspire:

  • Be the Microsoft filter. The amount of information Microsoft creates each month is staggering. Help your customers sort through it by summarizing a couple of top stories and providing a link. The Fire Hose is a good central source to monitor.

  • Multi-part customer success stories. Your clients are interested in hearing about businesses like theirs. They want to hear about common challenges and how other businesses dealt with them. While most case studies are boring and lifeless, they don't need to be. Give some background and tell the story in real words, describing the challenges and the solutions. By writing the story in "chapters," you can keep installments short for readability and, if done well, a reason for clients to tune in next month. (It sure worked for The Martian.)

  • Top problem solved this month. Dealing with real customer problems every day, your help desk should be a rich source of material. They may not have the time or inclination to write something up for you, but you can interview them. Ask clarifying questions to translate the issues into common terms that non-technical readers will understand.

  • Use Microsoft marketing resources as a foundation. The content that Microsoft makes available through Ready-to-Go marketing has dramatically improved over the past couple of years. There are templates and artwork you can use to make your newsletter look more professional. Use the content, like campaign materials, as a base, then add examples and commentary to make it your own.

  • Office diversions. A little fun can go a long way. Something as simple as a monthly cartoon can entice your readers to open the newsletter. A subscription to a business cartoon service is a low-cost way to show customers you have a sense of humor.

  • Ask your customers. While it's tempting to send out a survey asking what your clients would like to see in the newsletter, you're not likely to get much input. Instead, ask them in person at your next event or call them on the phone.

Coming up with interesting content isn't as hard as you think. Stand in your customers' shoes and write about the business issues that they deal with every day. Don't worry about being a great writer; practice is the only way to get better. Outsourcing is an option, but an outside writer won't reflect the personality of your team.  

A good newsletter provides an incredible marketing value to your organization. It takes time. It takes commitment. And your customers will appreciate both of those.

How are you engaging with customers to build lifetime value? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on March 02, 2016 at 11:03 AM0 comments

Microsoft Adds ISV Go-To-Market Services

Delivering on the promise to provide more support for developers and ISVs, the Microsoft Go-To-Market Services Web site has an impressive collection of sales and marketing resources. Almost any type of partner, especially SIs and VARs who are formalizing intellectual property for the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, will find the site's templates and planning tools valuable.

The site includes four groups of resources -- "Attract Customers," "Engage Users," "Accelerate Growth" and "Expand Partnerships" -- plus a Concierge Desk. The Concierge Desk promises one-on-one consultation to help you make the most of the resources.

Attract Customers
There are a number of programs to help with online marketing, from search advertising to Microsoft Office store listings. According to the success stories posted on the site, these programs are delivering real results for partners. To help you focus in on the services that could help you the most, guidance from the Concierge Desk may be the best place to start.

Also, in the Attract Customers section is a co-branded event in a box. The templates are very heavy on Azure, so you will want to adjust the message to focus on the benefits of your solution. While association with Microsoft will help build confidence in your brand, your prospects are most interested in the value that your solution brings to their business. When you are planning an event, consider asking one or two of your current clients to speak.

Engage Users
Every Microsoft partner should download and use the Sales Accelerator Toolkit. There are two parts to the toolkit -- a "Value Prop" e-book and "Demand Gen" e-book.

  • The Value Prop e-book includes customer surveys, a competitive analysis template and a positioning framework to help focus your messaging and better connect with your prospects. The guides are practical and easy to follow.

  • For many partners, just knowing where to start with marketing is the biggest barrier. The Demand Gen e-book and templates provide a great starting point for you to take a systematic approach to marketing.

The mini-case study and datasheet templates will help you create professional-looking support documents. Use plain English and specific examples of the benefits that your clients have received. For the case study, use statistics if your customer can provide them. "Our salespeople now close 25 percent more of their sales on the first call" is far more powerful than generalities.

Accelerate Growth
The Accelerate Growth section leads to a number of the other Microsoft partner and ISV support sites. The ISV and Application Builder Site has become a major hub with Microsoft's renewed focus on ISVs. 

Expand Partnerships
This section also leads to Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) resources like Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) and the community blog. Additional resources to consider are the MPN Yammer groups and the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), which is an active professional association with chapters around the world.

Case Studies
There are dozens of short partner case studies under the "Success Stories" tab, which suggests that lots of ISVs have discovered and are using the services of the Go-To-Market site. Great to see partners taking advantage of Microsoft's efforts.

While the Microsoft Go-To-Market Services Web site may be intended for the ISV and developer communities, there are marketing resources that every type of partner should be using. A visit to the site is well worth the time. 

How are you using the ISV Go-To-Market resources? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 17, 2016 at 12:22 PM0 comments

Partners, the E-Mail Newsletter Is Back: Revive Yours with These Tips

With social media hogging the marketing spotlight over the past couple of years, one would think that e-mail was a relic of the past. Apparently not. The Harvard Business Review reports that e-mail is making a "triumphant resurgence." HubSpot's recent Digital Publishing Benchmarks Report found that 34.3 percent of B2B marketers are still using e-mail to drive revenue.

The good news is that the mechanics of sending out and tracking e-mail newsletters have gotten much easier over the years. But there is still that little detail of creating content month in and month out. And not just any content, but meaningful content that your prospects and customers will be interested in reading.

To help you overcome that perpetual challenge, we've assembled some resources you can tap.

First Stop: Microsoft Ready-to-Go
Microsoft's Ready-to-Go (RtG) marketing site has become a goldmine of content and education for partners. Go beyond the e-mail templates to find the building blocks for newsletter content. A few ideas to quickly create a compelling article:

  • Summarize a campaign whitepaper, linking to the document through a landing page on your Web site.

  • Use the notes in the sales presentations, which are written in a conversational tone, to create an informative article that addresses a common business problem. There are often interesting statistics in sales presentations that make a good call-out.

  • Tap into the growing number of videos on RtG to deliver content for all customer preferences.

  • Use the telesales guides as a source for good benefit and persona-driven text that you can expand into an article.  

ISV- and Vendor-Supplied Content
Trading partners are an often-overlooked source of content. Ask the ISVs and other vendors that you work with to help you create content. They may have a stock of pre-written articles or be willing to commit to an article each quarter. 

Local and Regional Business Partners
If you serve a regional market, your local Chamber of Commerce or technology council will appreciate promotion of their events. Invite a non-competing business that serves the same market to contribute a regular article. By consolidating local business information, you add value to your newsletter and provide a good reason for people to sign up.     

Industry Influencer for Vertical Markets
If you are targeting a vertical market, consider teaming up with an industry influencer. An article from the industry expert, especially one who is active on social media, can build your standing and readership.

Customer Frequently Asked Questions
If you don't already have one, work with your consulting and support team to develop a list of your customers' frequently asked questions and responses. Include one or two in every issue of the newsletter.

Recycle Blog Posts  
If your organization has (or had) a blog, there are probably older articles that could be spruced up to be just as relevant today as when they were written. Content is the gift that keeps on giving -- a little polish and that blog post will shine again.

Content Curation
Through content curation, you monitor information and bring the best to the attention of your prospects. When you find an article worth sharing, provide a summary of the article, add commentary and link to the full text. By helping to filter and uncover valuable content, you save time for your prospects and build your status as an industry expert.

A newsletter can be a powerful marketing tool, but it's very challenging for most partners to create read-worthy content every month. Tapping into the resources of vendors, partners and your own consulting team can ease the burden. Providing valuable information to your prospects and customers every month establishes your business as an expert and keeps your name fresh in their minds.

How are you engaging customers and prospects through your newsletter? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on December 15, 2015 at 11:30 AM0 comments

5 Crucial Steps To Market Your Microsoft CSP Package

For most partners, marketing the packaged services of Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program is uncharted territory. Packaged services force a change in messaging from software to business value -- a welcome but challenging transition for most technology marketers. The business problem that the packaged service solves, instead of the technology behind it, has to drive the messaging and the marketing.

As you start to build the marketing plans that will support your CSP offerings, Microsoft's Cloud Profitability Scenarios should be the first stop. Under the ModernBiz campaign at the bottom of the page, the Partner Value Propositions do an excellent job explaining how cloud technologies plus partner services combine to deliver the full value to customers. These docs should be required reading for everyone on your sales and marketing teams.  

Then, follow these five steps to create your own value propositions and build the marketing campaigns that deliver a clear, benefit-driven message to your targeted audience.

1. Spend Time with Consultants To Understand Services
Ideally, the marketing team will be closely involved in defining the CSP offerings, identifying target markets and value propositions. At the very least, marketers need to understand -- in very real terms -- the services that you provide through the packaged services. While that may seem obvious, there are too many marketers who have never visited a client or listened in on support calls. Effective messaging can only be created by people who can stand in the shoes of your prospect.

2. Build on Resources that Microsoft Is Providing
Microsoft has upped its game in providing marketing resources to partners. If you're not taking advantage of them, you're missing out on a high-value benefit of being a Microsoft partner. The ModernBiz campaigns provide a foundation for messaging that can save you tons of time. Add your own branding and vertical or functional focus to build out your campaign and take it to market quickly.

3. Name the Packages
By naming your offerings, you establish that there has been an investment in time and resources to define your solution. A name makes it easier for customers to understand that it is a "set" of services. The name doesn't need to be unique or catchy, but it should to be descriptive. Think "Industrial Distributor Sales Portal" or "CFO Business Insight Center" or "Employee Onboarding System."

Naming the packages delivers other benefits, like educating your internal and Microsoft sales teams on your offerings. As a named solution, it works well with Pinpoint's structure and intent and will convey a level of professionalism to prospects.  

4. Define Your Target Market
Defining your ideal prospect should be part of initially determining the set of services that you package, so you should have a headstart. As every experienced marketer knows, messaging is easier and marketing campaigns are more effective with a clearly defined target market. If you only go after prospects that are a good match, you'll lower cost of sales and add long-term customers.

5. Create Specific Benefit-Driven Messaging and Campaigns
Even if your buyers are still IT folks, your messaging needs to be focused on the outcomes you deliver rather than the technology you leverage. The message should be all about your customers' pain and how you solve it. The old acronym WIIFM ("What's in it for me?") should be your guiding principle. How are you going to make your prospects' life better? The more specific, the better.

Establishing your cloud business means redefining practices and processes from the ground up. As the communications center of your business, marketing should play a leading role in your CSP planning. Both internally and externally, clearly articulating the value you are bringing to customers through the cloud will help drive your success.

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

Posted by Barb Levisay on November 19, 2015 at 1:13 PM0 comments

Report Names Top 50 Microsoft Partners for Inbound Marketing

For most partners, inbound marketing is still more about good intentions than flawless execution. There's no shame in that, but there is hope. The secrets of 50 Microsoft partners recognized for their mastery of inbound marketing will soon be revealed.

The "Top 50 Inbound Marketing Excellence" report from Fifty Five and Five profiles Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint product vendors who are leading the channel in marketing. The report will be released at Future Decoded, Microsoft's partner event in London taking place next month on Nov. 10-11. You can also sign up to receive the printed report through the mail after release.

The report was researched and complied by Fifty Five and Five, a digital and content marketing agency for Microsoft partners. "We wanted to address two issues with the report. To showcase the great work partners are doing across channels, ranking the effectiveness of their inbound marketing, blog and Twitter presences," said Chris Wright, founder of Fifty Five and Five. "And to highlight that inbound marketing doesn't have to be massively time-consuming to raise the company's profile."

For all partners, figuring out where to spend limited time and money on marketing is a constant challenge. While the report focuses on Office 365 and SharePoint ISVs, the lessons learned will apply to all partners. Planned as an annual project, Wright expects the pool of partners reviewed to expand.

"We wanted to make the report a practical tool for all partners," Wright said. "There are good examples of how these partners are using social media presence, blog posts and Web sites to attract their audience."

Partners are likely to be particularly interested in those partners making a big impact on limited budgets. "It's not just about big budgets," Wright said. "Smaller companies that have tried to be more innovative made the list. Good content doesn't have to come at a high cost."  

While there are plenty of reports out there covering inbound marketing, a resource like the "Top 50 Inbound Marketing Excellence," which is specific to the channel, promises to be highly valuable. It's helpful to hear from successful marketers who share the unique challenges of working in the shadow of Microsoft.

"Partners are often explaining complex products, and based on the report findings, blogging is the most effective. A blog post is easier for people with limited time to digest," Wright said. "Whitepapers and e-books also serve a role, supporting a later stage in the buying cycle."

In addition to the profiles of partners, the free 50-page report includes advice from content marketing experts, including:

  • Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot CTO and co-founder 
  • The CMOs of both Nintex and Sharegate
  • Christian Buckley, SharePoint MVP and Microsoft partner marketing guru
  • Steve Rayson, director at content marketing analytical platform BuzzSumo

Kudos to Fifty Five and Five for investing its time to recognize excellence and share marketing experiences with the rest of the channel. Based on the combined knowledge delivered through this report, the competition next year should be even stiffer -- which will be a win for the entire channel. 

How are you making inbound marketing work? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on October 28, 2015 at 10:38 AM0 comments