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Guest Post: How To Become a Top 10 Percent Partner

I'm pleased to offer a guest post in this space today from Anita Penders, a senior consultant at Audienz, a marketing consultantcy based in Bellevue, Wash. Anita's especially well-positioned to provide advice to Microsoft partners on getting attention from Microsoft. As part of her six-plus years at Microsoft, she was involved in recruiting partners for unified communications and in partner marketing strategy.

Anita Penders

My experience in channel management and partner marketing has taught me at least one thing: Not all partners are created equal. I've seen clients that list hundreds of partners on their Web site, representing a broad partner ecosystem, but in reality maybe only 10 percent of those partners make a significant impact on the bottom line of the partner programs they are participating in. It's these partners that get additional resources and funding. 

What do top the 10 percent of partners do differently to warrant the investment?

  1. Get trained. Having skilled people ready to go makes a big difference in whether a partner is brought to the head table or not. Are you willing to take feet off the street and forgo short-term revenue in order to build up a skilled and certified bench? This is an indicator of how serious you are and how capable you will be of delivering as a partner.

  2. Get leads. One of the misconceptions of partner programs is that partners who join the program will be given leads when it's usually the other way around. Be proactive with your marketing to bring your own deals into the program. Quid pro quo has never been as appropriate as it is here: After you show that you're aggressive in generating leads, you'll get the funding via the partner program to help you run with it.

  3. Get connected. You're doing all the right things but you're still not getting the traction you need through the partner program. Are you talking to the right people? You may think you're talking to someone who cares about portals, but they may have a focus only on desktop productivity. Do your business objectives align with theirs? Strategies can change with each fiscal year, and your contacts may have different goals now -- last year it could have been deployment, this year it may be net new revenue. Time to shift your conversation to align with their commitments or find another contact that has the same vision as you do.

  4. Get big. Do you have the right number of technical folks for pre-sales consultation, for architectural design sessions, for deployment, and eventually for support? If not, can you align with other partners that will allow you to scale? You will be asked, "What geographies are you in?" The answer should be, "We're everywhere," and when necessary you must make "everywhere" happen by way of other qualified partners that you can sub out the work to.

  5. Get traction. Develop a Partner Solution Plan or Alliance Agreement. Provide "give/gets" (For example, you'll train X number of folks if the partner program pays for training. You'll run X number of co-marketing events if the partner program provides content/speakers. You'll commit to X number of wins if the partner program provides discounted product.) Present this plan to show you're fully invested and are making a commitment to joint success.

Although there are other factors that will weigh in, such as length of relationship or executive support, these steps should elevate you from the list of generic partners to an absolute named go-to partner within the partner program -- either in the top 10 percent or headed rapidly in that direction -- as well as with external customers.

Anita Penders is an accomplished marketing professional with over 13 years of B2C/B2B marketing experience in the telecommunications and technology industries. Prior to joining Audienz as a senior consultant, she spent more than six years at Microsoft as a senior marketing manager responsible for developing the UC partner recruitment and go-to-market strategy in the United States, growing market share and product revenue by executing innovative demand generation marketing campaigns, and leading product launches to drive customer awareness and adoption of new technologies. Prior to Microsoft, Anita worked for Unisys Corp. and AT&T Broadband in marketing and alliance management roles.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 06, 2012


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