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Microsoft Pinpoint Heading for a Million Leads?

A recurring theme in any channel program is how many leads a vendor can provide its partners.

In the Microsoft channel, partners have complained for years that the Solution Finder didn't do much for them. They've often said the same of its replacement, Pinpoint, which launched as a beta in July 2008 and in full two years ago. (Microsoft is still in the process of transferring all partner listings from Solution Finder to Pinpoint.)

In a Microsoft Partner Network Interactive Leadership Forum with 500 partners last week, Microsoft executives shared progress numbers that suggest the company's steady focus on Pinpoint is starting to pay dividends for partners.

"This year we set ourselves a fairly aggressive target to generate 700,000 leads for partners through Pinpoint. We're very pleased with the progress. We're expecting to exit our financial year above that," said Karl Noakes, general manager of partner strategy and programs in the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group.

According to a chart that Noakes referred to in the forum, Pinpoint delivered 270,000 prospects to partners in fiscal year 2010 (July 2009-June 2010). So far, the lead-generation directory has produced 642,000 prospects to partners this fiscal year with several months remaining.

Going forward, the projections get more ambitious. Noakes said the projection for fiscal year 2012, which starts this July, will be 1.25 million leads.

"[Where we are is] just a start," Noakes said. "As Pinpoint starts to become more pervasive in our marketing, then we hope to drive more customer traffic to that."

It would be wise to treat the projections with a grain of salt. In discussing the Pinpoint beta at the 2008 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, former Microsoft global channel chief Allison Watson set a goal of 500,000 leads in Microsoft's fiscal 2009. That number is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison with Noakes', given that it may have mixed Solution Finder and Pinpoint numbers, but the ramp-up is unquestionably slower than Microsoft had led partners to hope for. Meanwhile, for context, Microsoft regularly says that its community consists of 640,000 partners, meaning that the leads so far for FY '11 would only average about one per partner per year if all were involved (not even close to all Microsoft partners have solutions listed in Pinpoint).

Nonetheless, Noakes' numbers indicate that the tool may now be building some real traction.

Given that Microsoft is doubling down on its emphasis on Pinpoint, it's starting to make more sense for Microsoft partners to invest the time in improving their listings in the Pinpoint directory. blogger Barb Levisay recently wrote a how-to for making a solution stand out in Pinpoint. Check it out here.

(Ed's Note: For more news from the Microsoft Partner Network Interactive Leadership Forum, click here.)

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 14, 2011