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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

Microsoft Helps Partners Fill Pipelines with 'Smart Partner Marketing'

For many partners, marketing remains the one function that seems impossible to master. Perhaps because technical minds yearn for clear-cut solutions, most partner leaders would rather take a trip to the dentist than think about marketing.

In its quest to help partners tame the marketing monster, Microsoft recently launched the "Smart Partner Marketing" site, which provides step-by-step guidance for even the most reluctant marketer.

The Smart Partner Marketing site was quietly launched in July, but has already gained the attention of partners. "Since we launched the site, we have had around 3,500 unique visitors per month which has been generated purely in organic ways," said Kevin Price, Microsoft's director of partner and channel marketing. "The assessments portion of the site is very popular, as is the cloud buyer's journey page...with over 2,100 visits since launch."

Those partners who visit the site will find it worth the time. Price and his team have done a truly commendable job in bringing logic and clear-cut guidance to the process of marketing. The 11-minute "How does the cloud customer buy?" video sets the stage with a practical, partner-centric perspective of the buying process. The video, created with IDC and based on real partner experiences, offers specific steps that a partner should take at each stage of the buyer's journey.

Next stop is "Check your marketing readiness" which presents five questions that guide you to recommendations appropriate for your business model. You'll be sent to one of three resource pages -- Practical, Progressive and Sophisticated -- that includes suggestions for your next marketing steps. Instructional videos provide specific guidance to build a plan and execute your marketing activities.      

It's definitely worth the time to watch the partner videos at all three levels. Each partner approaches prospecting a little differently and shares lessons learned through experience. The overriding message is that there is no secret formula. Successful marketing requires consistent execution and tenacity.

Already a valuable resource, the Smart Partner Marketing site is apparently just getting started. "This month, we begin to market the pages to partners as part of their overall journey with [the Microsoft Partner Network] in our Cloud SureStep program," Price said. "In addition, the team will be releasing a version of the Smart Partner Marketing experience that will specifically provide guidance for IP partners, partners whose business model is based on having internally created products, services or business processes. Partners will find content specific to their needs, which is more focused on helping them develop their unique value proposition to customers, as well as market in modern ways to reach customers at scale."

Future content includes guidance to help partners generate customer demand through Microsoft's marketplaces. In addition, expect marketing stories from partners who are making a market for their IP and vertical solutions.

The Smart Partner Marketing site really does have something for every level of marketer, with videos that cover topics from the basics of marketing planning to tips for online events. All paths from the site lead to the Ready-to-Go (RtG) site and the ModernBiz marketing assets. The wealth of content on RtG will save you time and money spent on the basic building blocks of your marketing so that you can focus on creating your own personalized messaging.

There was a time when Microsoft's marketing advice did not appear to be based on partner experience. The partner-facing marketing teams deserve credit for turning that around over the past several years. The advice on the Smart Partner Marketing site is practical, usable guidance that can help you build a solid marketing program that will grow your business. No more excuses.

How are you using Microsoft's marketing resources? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 23, 2015 at 3:24 PM0 comments

Partner's Events Shine at Microsoft Executive Briefing Center

The Executive Briefing Center (EBC) on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus was designed to host high-level executives, showcasing the latest technology to enterprise clients.

Six years ago, when Michelle Follman, global alliance manager at Sogeti, learned about the EBC, she saw the potential to host a broader event, bringing multiple clients together in a unique and inspiring environment.

After convincing Microsoft's EBC staff to allow a multi-client event, Follman had to overcome some internal skepticism that clients would actually be willing to spend the time and money to travel to Redmond for an event. "It took a few times for the event to really take hold," Follman said. "But once the word got out, they became really popular. Today's briefings almost always sell out. We host two to three each year, with 15 to 20 clients at each event."

The events have been especially popular with mid-market companies that wouldn't be invited to the Microsoft-led enterprise executive briefings. "We invite the decision makers who may not be C-level, but provide guidance for their company's IT strategy. These people are key to our client relationships," Follman said. "Coming to the Microsoft campus is a big deal for them and we introduce them to people that they wouldn't normally see."

Even for enterprise clients, Follman has found the smaller-group events to be valuable. Instead of attending a Microsoft-led CXO event that may have 300 people in the room, Sogeti clients get more attention and better access to Microsoft experts. "The people who attend feel like they are getting more face time and a front-row seat to what's coming next," Follman said.

The impressive facility is matched by comprehensive event planning from the professional staff at EBC, according to Follman. Logistics and scheduling are handled through Sogeti's partner account manager and an EBC coordinator. A list of session topics and Microsoft speakers is provided to build an agenda that fits the audience. Sogeti experts co-present on some of the sessions, but Microsoft presents 90 percent of the content.

Follman has found that an agenda that covers a variety of topics, rather than a theme, has been more attractive to attendees. A broad agenda gives clients exposure to solutions that they may not be using, but would be valuable to their business. If attendees share an interest in a specific topic, like security or an industry challenge, Sogeti may add a day to dig deeper on the subject. Side meetings with Microsoft specialists can also be arranged for individual companies through the EBC.

Based on her six years of holding events at Microsoft's EBC, Follman shared best practices that have made the events more successful:

  1. The events are normally two full days, unless extended for international clients or for industry-specific topics.  
  2. Sogeti does not charge a fee to attend the events, but clients pay their own travel and lodging.
  3. A tour of the Microsoft campus and EBC technology demos break up the day and are popular with attendees.
  4. A dinner or outing for the entire group at the end of the first day adds a social element and helps build personal relationships.  
  5. Sogeti account executives (AEs) are invited to attend the event with their clients. Clients appreciate having someone they know at the event and AEs get two days of their buyers' undivided face-to-face attention.
  6. The EBC is a very busy place; work through your partner account manager to book a year in advance.

As for the return-on-investment from the events, which require a significant investment of time and money, Follman said, "It's one of the only on-site events where we can really demonstrate the return. Since your group of attendees is known and relatively small, you can track the opportunities that result in CRM." Sogeti's commitment to hold three or four events each year is evidence of its success.

Sogeti's executive briefing program is a testament to the additive value of Microsoft and the partner channel. Microsoft's has made big investments in facilities that demonstrate its technology. Follman brought a different perspective to extend the reach of those assets.

There are ten EBCs located around the world, plus hundreds of regional offices and retail stores. Taking a unique approach, partners can leverage Microsoft locations to host distinctive events that educate and build relationships with clients.

How are you making the most of Microsoft resources? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 09, 2015 at 11:44 AM0 comments

Microsoft ISV Invests in Community with User Conference

As independent software vendors (ISVs) look for ways to sustain growth in a changing market, building a strong community of partners and customers should be at the top of the list.

By investing in experiences beyond software, ISVs can create customer advocates and a deeply committed channel. Getting people together face-to-face for learning and a bit of fun is a proven way to build those connections and community.   

Over the three years that Solver Inc., a Microsoft gold business intelligence ISV, has been holding its annual user conference, attendance has continued to build. "Last year we had 170 attendees and this year we're expecting 200," said Matt Felzke, communications and event marketing manager for Solver. "We have a combination of partners and customers -- about 70 percent are customers."

Initially launched as a customer event, Solver's BI360 Focus conference has evolved to include both customers and Solver's reselling partners.

"We take a lot of pride in our partner ecosystem," Felzke said. "We added a full day of partner training last year. This year we are adding a consulting team track to the sales/marketing and developer tracks that we offered last year."

Sponsorships have also evolved over the tenure of the event. Originally, sponsors were selected based on how their solutions complemented Solver's BI360 business intelligence add-on for leading ERP solutions. When additional ISVs expressed interest in gaining exposure to partners, it was a concept that the Solver team had not considered. That interest led to a second level of sponsorships.

Based on his experience, Felzke recommends being highly adaptable as you plan and organize a complex event like a user conference. "Don't get locked into anything. Be ready to adjust to new ideas like the new sponsor level. Be open to expanding the experience based on ideas from customers, partners and vendors," he said.

Planning for the next year's event starts immediately after the conference. Dates are set and a venue selected so that people can put the conference on their calendars. Registration fees are set to approximately break-even with Solver's out-of-pocket expenses for the two-day event.

To plan educational content, Solver's executive team meets soon after the conference ends to brainstorm. A top goal is to offer unique content that will keep attendees coming back each year. While popular events are repeated, keeping the content fresh is important to give attendees a reason to return. Session evaluations help Solver to continuously improve the quality of content and presentations.

Sessions are taught by Solver's consulting team and internal experts, including developers and the support team. Combining classroom presentations with hands-on labs gives attendees a choice in learning methods. Solver employees feel they learn as much as attendees through the added insight they gain from face-to-face interactions with customers and partners.

When planning a user conference, Felzke recommends that you balance education with fun. "Make sure that the conference you are putting together has a good balance of learning and socializing. The networking and social function of the event is very important," he added. "Our event includes beach volleyball and an amazing race. It's important for your attendees to feel like they got out of the office for more than just hard work."

Committing the resources to support an event of this caliber requires management that sees past immediate returns. "While the return on investment for the event is hard to quantify, the benefit to all involved is clear," Felzke said. "Helping our customers use our solution more effectively is very important. We see more revenue from our participating partners. But the event really builds the energy and momentum of our community -- that's the biggest win."

Personal relationships go a long way in building a strong user community. There's no better way to establish and strengthen those relationships than in person, outside of the office, sharing experiences with professionals who have common interests and goals. For those partners willing to make the investment in sizable customer and partner events, the payoffs appear to make it all worthwhile.

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

Posted by Barb Levisay on August 12, 2015 at 10:55 AM0 comments

How To Capitalize on Windows 10 To Fuel Partner Marketing

Microsoft's global Windows 10 advertising campaign launched on July 20. While most of your clients are unlikely to be early adopters, that doesn't mean they aren't interested. Windows 10 will impact their businesses over the coming years, and you should be the one to help them understand what that means.

As you have been testing Windows 10 with your solutions, participating in the Windows Insider program and attending training sessions, you've gained insight that your clients would like to hear about. This is a great time to share those experiences and educate your customers about the next wave of technology and how it will affect their businesses. As you develop your messages, focus on the outcomes that Windows 10 and your solution sets will enable, instead of new features.

Marketing Tactics and Resources
Microsoft continues to improve the marketing resources available to partners. With just a little digging, you can find content to provide a foundation for most any business problem you want to address. Take the content that Microsoft has created and add your own messaging on the value that you bring.

Blog posts and newsletter articles should focus on how Windows 10 plus your solutions will address a business problem. Examples include mobile security, connecting to customers through social channels, and supply-chain management. A good source of ideas for posts are on the Microsoft blog sites, including Windows, Office 365, Dynamics, Business Intelligence and Server/Tools.

E-mail campaigns should always include a strong call to action like an e-book, infographic or event. Here are some ideas. The ModernBiz campaigns on Microsoft's Ready-to-Go site include e-mail templates that you can customize to add your own message and offer.

In-person events are just as important as always, maybe more so. Many partners are finding that customers appreciate a reason to get out of the office. Microsoft's Community Connections program is an excellent service to help you connect with local organizations. If you have a Microsoft store in your town, book it for your event.

Webinars are still worth a try, though pick a specific topic that is top-of-mind for your customers. Windows 10 should be an added value to the main topic. There is plenty of content on Ready-to-Go to help you build a professional-looking presentation.

No matter how you take your message to prospects and customers, focus on the business value. How is Windows 10 going to improve the way your customers do business? How can the solutions that you offer get them there faster? Your customers look to you to help them keep pace with changing technology. The Windows 10 release is a perfect opportunity for you to translate features and functionality into the business value they deliver.

How are you marketing next-gen technology to your customers? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on July 23, 2015 at 8:03 AM0 comments

Microsoft Pinpoint Best Practices: Play to Your Strengths

As promised, Microsoft has improved the Pinpoint search tool to help more visitors to the worldwide sites find their way to qualified partners. The updated Pinpoint platform is driving qualified leads to partners who invest the time to create strong, focused messaging and keep their profiles fresh.

Erik Frantzen, president and partner of Nurture Marketing, recently shared his experiences working with partners to build effective Pinpoint profiles.

"With the new platform and changes that Microsoft has made, we're seeing more qualified prospects come through Pinpoint," Frantzen said. "More of the right type of opportunities are getting to the right partners."

Prospects Who Are Ready To Buy
According to Microsoft research, up to 45 percent of the visitors to Pinpoint are in the decision phase of their purchase process. That means those potential customers have a clear understanding of the solution that they need and are looking for the right partner to work with. Not many other sources of leads delivers prospects so far along in the buying process.

Frantzen suggests that the buyer stage is an important factor to guide your Pinpoint listings. Many partners cut and paste text from their Web sites into the Pinpoint overview and solution pages. "While your Web sites represents your entire organization, Pinpoint is all about the Microsoft practice," Frantzen said. "Since visitors are farther along in the buying process, the message on Pinpoint should be very specific to their pains."

For marketers, creating messaging appropriate to the decision phase requires a different mindset than for most of their content. Frantzen suggests tapping into the experience of your sales team to help. "When we work with partners to fine-tune their messaging, we often ask the sales team to describe the conversations they have had during the last three won opportunities," Frantzen said. "Their perspective helps us hone in on the final differentiators that turned a prospect into a customer."

The Challenge of Focus
For most partners, choosing a limited number of solution sets to focus on is challenging. As with marketing in general, partners who serve a horizontal market struggle to limit their focus. Fear of losing an opportunity leads to a muddy message and trying to be all things to all people.

"We recommend that you focus on three solutions or three applications. You don't want to look like a jack-of-all-trades and master of none," Frantzen said. "It's often a tough choice, but it really is more effective to focus on a few core competencies."

One of the benefits of that focus is in the quality of leads that you will get from Pinpoint. While a general message may get a higher quantity of leads, they are less likely to be a good fit. Leads that don't fit your business may look good on paper, but are a huge waste of your sales team's time.

In addition to focus, Frantzen recommends that partners weave their organizational personality into the Pinpoint message. "In the end it's still human-to-human marketing. It's not easy, but it's important to let the ethics and spirit of your business show through," Frantzen said. "You want to build trust." 

References and partner awards can help to validate that trust factor. To build your bank of references, Microsoft provides guidance, including verbiage to ask your customers for the review, in Top Ten Tips to Harness the Power of Reviews.     

Another key part of Pinpoint success is in understanding the search algorithm. While keywords and competencies are obvious drivers, response rate to Pinpoint leads and profile freshness are two factors that are important to note. "The New Pinpoint: Understanding Search" provides Microsoft's guidance on profile visibility and is a must-read for partners. 

For more pointers on Pinpoint, visit Microsoft's Ready-to-Go site and search for Pinpoint. If you are attending the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July, there is a Pinpoint session called "MKT01 - Winning with words – how to capture customers online and convert them with Pinpoint" for insights from experts.  

Microsoft's investment in Pinpoint appears to be paying off for partners who invest time and thought into their profiles. As well as the potential for qualified leads, Pinpoint is an excellent place for other partners and Microsoft employees to find your expertise when they need a hand. As a part of your membership in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), Pinpoint is a benefit that can pay big rewards.

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 17, 2015 at 11:49 AM0 comments

Does Your Customer Experience Pass the Test?

How irritating is it to send an e-mail to the address listed on a Web site and get no response? Could it happen to someone visiting your Web site? You may think that you have the systems in place that make it easy for prospects and your existing customers to reach you, but when was the last time that you tested it?

In managing the day-to-day challenges of acquiring new customers and delivering services, it's easy to assume that all systems are working. If you haven't heard of any problems, it's probably OK. Until you get the irate call from a customer who has been trying to reach someone for days. Going proactive can help you avoid that call and the turmoil that would follow. 

Stand in Their Shoes
There are a number of ways to test your customer experience. It's an exercise that should be scheduled regularly and completed by someone who will be objective about the experience. Stand in your customers' shoes by:

  • Taking a walk through the Web site. Visit your Web site as if you were a new employee working for one of your customers. Is it easy to find a contact number and e-mail? Is there a differentiation between a sales contact and a support contact? It's not hard to imagine that a new employee might be told to call the IT provider about an issue: "Just call the number on their Web site."

  • Performing a realistic test of your customer response process. Engage one of your customers to help you by sending an e-mail or placing a call to customer support and providing you with a report on the results. Or you can call a sample of customers with recent support calls and ask how the process could be improved.

  • Testing your referral sites, like Microsoft Pinpoint. While you should update referral sites regularly, a specific check on the response process is easy to overlook. If inquiries route to a general marketing e-mail, multiple people should receive them.

  • Making a call to your office. Listen to the options on your automated answering system. Is it easy to understand what to do? Does it route you quickly? Can you get to a real person?

As your business grows with more solution sets and service options, you want to keep the lines open and simple. To make sure that you are covering all the bases, create a list of contact scenarios for both prospects and existing customers. Those scenarios could include:

  • A department manager for one of your existing clients who is interested in a new offering.
  • An e-mail received through the Web site that was a referral from a current client.  
  • A response to blog post, asking for someone to contact them.
  • A call from a journalist looking for a spokesperson.

Define the best routing that directs inquiries to someone who can handle the issue or get answers quickly. People expect fast response. If your automated response states that you will have a real person reply quickly, make sure that happens. If multiple people receive an alert, is it clear who will respond and in what timeframe? If others expect someone else to take care of it, responses could fall through the cracks.

Good customer service needs constant attention. To create a great impression from the moment that a prospect or customer hits the "send" button, you need to take a proactive approach -- and test often.

How do you make sure you provide a great customer experience? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 28, 2015 at 7:57 AM0 comments

9 Ways To Include Microsoft's Sway App in Partner Marketing

Office Sway, Microsoft's new presentation app, is going prime time, rolling out to Office 365 customers over the coming months. That makes this a great time to test out some new marketing approaches using a fun, flexible tool.

Currently in preview, Sway is part Web site, part presentation app -- and the possibilities are endless. Sway is an insanely easy way to build a Web page that looks professional without the help of a designer. There are a couple of caveats to taking design into your own hands, however. Some of the templates were definitely not intended for business, so keep in mind that simple is always better. And your viewers are busy, so keep your content short and to the point.

Be warned: Your plan to spend a few minutes with Sway can easily turn into hours of adding one more graphic and trying one more remix!

The Sway team is setting a brisk pace of updates. In January, Microsoft added the ability to embed Excel Online charts and graphs, then soon added interactivity so readers can engage with data that you present. Through the new collaboration functionality, you can make your Web page a group project.

As Sway matures, it will undoubtedly become a mainstay for marketers. For now, the slate is blank and it will be great fun to see how people apply their creativity to the platform. To get you started, here are nine ways you could incorporate Sway into your marketing:

  1. Tell a story. Follow an employee around for a day or use Sway for your case studies. Combine lots of photos with your text to bring the story to life.

  2. Create an infographic. The ability to include some interactivity with the data adds a dimension of engagement that you don't get with static infographics. Infographics can address a specific industry, summarize your company credentials or explain a complex process.

  3. Build excitement for an event. An invitation to an event is a great place to start, but what if you create a site for the event that builds over time? Speaker bios, pictures of the setup, event photos and presentations for download will keep attendees coming back.

  4. Hold a contest. During its recent Ignite conference, Microsoft sponsored a "Trip Report Challenge" to promote Sway engagement. You could hold a contest for your customers or employees to see how they would use Sway.

  5. Explain a process. By its nature, Sway appears to be an excellent way to illustrate the flow of a process. Whether it's your project implementation methodology or how a new business process will flow through your customer's business, Sway could be very effective.

  6. Put user documentation online. As a follow-up to No. 5, you could add a lot of depth to user documentation by presenting it through a Sway. You can combine demo videos, screenshots and text to appeal to any kind of learner.

  7. Build your newsletter. Early on in the Sway beta, we talked to one partner who created their newsletter in the app. While there doesn't appear to be a way yet to easily transform your Sway into an e-mail, you can start with links. Build out your articles on Sway and then include a few teaser lines and the link in your regular newsletter. Help your customers and prospects envision all the ways that they can use Sway.

  8. Up the ante on prospect presentations. Are your sales people sending an intro document or PowerPoint to prospects after the first call? Sharing a link while they are still on the phone could be much more powerful. A Sway presentation can easily be customized to each client. 

  9. Add your marketing materials. You can import both .PDF and Word docs, which makes the process easy. As you translate documents from print to Web, think big and bold. Break up text with lots of graphics.

As Sway reaches a broader audience through its Office 365 launch, take the lead to show your customers what it is and how they can use it. Sway has tremendous potential to add value across your customers' organizations, so use it in different departments in your own business. There's no telling what service opportunities you may stir up as you explore the possibilities with this new platform.

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

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 13, 2015 at 3:54 PM0 comments

Partners: Take Down the Barriers to Your Content

How many times have you clicked on a link to download a document that caught your eye, been met with a form, thought, "Never mind, not worth it" and left the page?

Since the dawn of content marketing, there has been an ongoing debate about when, if ever, you should put a form between marketing content and the person with an interest in reading it. A form will obviously reduce the number of downloads, but without a form there is no way to measure your marketing success.

As the technology that supports inbound marketing matures, there are methods that you can use to achieve the best of both worlds.  

Use the Full Power of E-Mail
Last week, I received an e-mail from a partner offering an e-book on a topic of interest to me. I clicked on the link and was taken to a landing page with a form. Why? The most basic e-mail services deliver a report listing the e-mail addresses of the people who clicked on each link. Could it be so important to know that I actually downloaded the e-book to risk losing me?

One explanation could be that the partner only has one landing page for the e-book, which includes the form regardless of the where the visitor comes from. To improve and expand your landing page options, there are several low-cost tools, including Unbounce and LeadPages, that make it easy to set up unique pages.

If you are investing in content development, it may be time to look at a marketing automation platform. Connecting your e-mail and your Web site, plus automating responses to prospect activity, can simplify your marketing efforts. The cost of automation can pay off in both time savings and results.

Use Retargeting To Stay Connected
One alternative to using forms is to use retargeting ads to keep the engagement going. Retargeting is a paid search marketing service that identifies visitors to your Web site and displays ads to them as they visit other sites. We're all familiar with the practice -- look at a pair of shoes on Zappos.com and they follow you around for days. There is no reason that you can't do the same thing.

"Partners are absolutely finding success with retargeting campaigns, but like everything else it takes a strategy. The most successful partners are offering content that follows up an initial download," explained Barb Pfeiffer, senior consultant at The Partner Marketing Group. "The highest ROI is also going to partners who invest in creative imagery and copy in their ads to help them stand out from the clutter. One successful retargeting campaign created a series of ads -- each with an offer addressing a different stage of the sales cycle." 

Pfeiffer recommends working with a reputable SEO/SEM firm to help you build a retargeting strategy that will work to achieve your goals and work within your budget. For a more detailed explanation of retargeting, check out this post on HubSpot.

As to requiring a form to download the content you offer through a retargeting campaign, Pfeiffer said, "It's hard to justify using forms with a retargeting campaign. You're paying to bring people to your site, so setting up a form that decreases the likelihood they will engage has a hard cost."    

Creating your marketing content is just the beginning. Getting that content in the hands of your prospects means staying in front of the latest marketing tactics and technology. If you don't have the internal resources, find an inbound marketing firm to help. There are service providers listed on Microsoft Ready-to-Go to get you started. Summer is coming up, which is a great time of year for partners to work on the block and tackle for your business.

How are you making the most of your marketing content? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.  

Posted by Barb Levisay on April 30, 2015 at 7:54 AM0 comments