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Learning Partners Energize P2P, Part 2: The Power of MECs

Microsoft Experience Centers (MECs), the immersive, hands-on sessions that allow customers to experience upgraded software and its impact on their daily tasks, are opening up to a wider group of partners.

Certified learning partners are setting up MECs to promote collaboration with system integrators (SIs), value-added resellers (VARs) and large account resellers (LARs) taking the popular program to a broader audience.

"MECs allow partners to work together to increase customer engagement and give customers an end-to-end experience," noted Jenni Flinders, Microsoft's U.S. vice president of Partner Strategy and Programs.

An Obvious Solution to Limited MECs
The MEC concept began with partner-led events hosted in outfitted classrooms located in Microsoft technology centers. There were also a number of mobile MECs that could be shipped to partners. Success put pressure on the limited number of MECs, making it challenging for many partners to schedule sessions. Learning partners offered an obvious solution.

Since learning partners already have classrooms set up that could support the MEC environment, Microsoft's Partner Enablement and Learning Channel team encourages them to get certified and work with other partners on delivery.

"MECs are perfect for the learning partners," said Scott Akin, director of Partner Enablement and Learning Channel. "The learning partners can host the MECs and engage other partners such as LARs and SIs to provide an additional demand-gen engine."

Tiffany Wallace, director of partner alliances for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, has embraced the concept fully. "We invested in the MEC certification and have one classroom in each of our facilities," Wallace said. "And, since MECs require a very consultative delivery, we engage with a system integrator, LAR or VAR to deliver the experience."

While New Horizons, like most learning partners, has historically had stronger relationships with LARs, the company sees the MECs as an opportunity to work more closely with SIs and VARs. Wallace sees an especially rich opportunity to partner with regional VARs, building on shared customers in the small and medium business market.

Typically, a MEC includes 10 computers plus the server, providing a very personalized customer experience. "LARs usually get 10 people from one company while the VAR will bring four from a couple of companies," Wallace said. "The MEC is just as impactful for each type of business."

Encourage Hesitant Upgraders
Especially appropriate for a customer who is hesitant to upgrade their organization to the next version, MECs can drive revenue for all partners involved. "In a typical scenario, we'd bring in the director of marketing, director of IT, CFO -- all the roles that really influence the purchase," Wallace explained. "Each workstation is configured based on their role for a hands-on experience."

During this year of refresh opportunities, MECs are an effective tool to educate customers on the value of upgrading. MECs allow them to see the possibilities from their personal perspective, which is a powerful motivator. If you are an SI or VAR, you have a new opportunity to work with a learning partner and give your customers a hands-on experience.

How are you making P2P relationships work? Add a comment below, or send me a note and let's share your story. 

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Posted by Barb Levisay on April 04, 2013


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