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Microsoft's Strategy for Partner Marketing in the OCP Takes Shape

As the One Commercial Partner (OCP) leadership team continues to refine Microsoft's partner engagement models, the resources and tools that can best support marketing and sales are also undergoing review.

Cheryl Miller, general manager of Worldwide One Commercial Partner Go-to-Market (GTM) at Microsoft, leads a team of 35 building the strategy that will guide through- and with-partner marketing program development. The GTM team takes on a big challenge in developing strategy that can serve an ever more diverse community of partners.

"One thing about Go-to-Market that's funny is the term is used a ton, and it means a bunch of different things depending upon who you ask. And, from our perspective, we really look at it like it's an action plan to drive the partner's success with Microsoft," explained Miller during an interview earlier this month. "And that can be with Microsoft, through our customers and our enterprise customer base, or our SMB segment, or it could be through the partner into their own customer segment. So, just trying to figure out what is the combined value of us plus them, because it's really all about the customer at the end of the day, and the problems that they're trying to solve."

In line with the overall approach of OCP, the GTM strategy is based on matching partner maturity with the appropriate level of Microsoft field support. Working more directly with top-tier partners, Miller's team helps with the development of market plans, as well as delivery of campaigns. "We actually build up these high-touch, go-to-market plans and offers, directly with them. And so, you can think of it along the lines of where we will have a two- or three-day workshop, lock-step with the partners, and really think about the best way for us to create an offering that meets a customer's needs," said Miller.

For the bulk of the partner channel, the GTM strategy is aimed more at equipping Microsoft's advisers in the field, defined as Partner Market Advisors and Partner Channel Marketing Managers in the OCP world.

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To support the field, a portion of the GTM team is focused on developing the resources and programs that will drive scale through partners, including guidance, best practices, templates and workshops. "What we've been trying to foster, and one of the things that keeps me up at night, is how do I reach my partner marketing advisers that are in the field? And, to give you an idea, there's lots of them in the U.S. and in the U.K., and they scale anywhere from one to few, to one to many, depending on the market and the region," said Miller. "But they're looking for guidance, they're looking for leadership, and they're looking for connectivity around the company so that they're not on their own creating things for the partner, but can leverage the whole of Microsoft."

One of the challenges for Microsoft in developing through-partner marketing activities today is the push for specialization. The message to focus on industry and function-specific solutions has been loud and clear for years, but how can Microsoft provide marketing support en masse for partners delivering vertical solutions?

"It's a very challenging thing to solve, and I don't know that we've solved it. I think we have a lot of good approaches," said Miller. "So, it's really giving them this, kind of, stair step process, where they can come in. Once you're in MPN the benefits that you get scale as your investment in Microsoft, and on our platform, does. So, there's self-serve marketing materials, and readiness and training that's available. There's also chats and online help that they can get. And then, as they start to get into silver/gold competencies, the benefits increase and the focus and resources increase. I think that, from our perspective, we are going to get much more focused on industry and vertical solution selling, and this is, kind of, where you kind of see the co-sell motion come into play."

To that end, Microsoft is introducing solution maps that will be managed by the channel managers to provide the go-to vertical solutions for a selection of industries and regions. Inclusion on those coveted maps will likely require partners be high on the maturity continuum, with proven solutions and multiple customer reference sites.

To take full advantage of the marketing resources and programs that Microsoft will be rolling out over the coming year, Miller recommends that partners stay tuned into online resources. "Start with MPN [Microsoft Partner Network] and Partner Center. Those are the two main areas that we're trying to drive people to, and the good thing about OCP and bringing together what was previously DX and the Worldwide Partner Group, I think it's the fact that we're consolidating tools, portals and resources in one location," said Miller. "We want one place for the partners to go, and we want to build up those sites and tools for them. I know we're not fully there yet, but the vision is spot on."

On Microsoft's Partner Network site, the Reach Customers site is the central location for marketing resources, training and campaigns. Keep in touch with community conversations on the Partner Community site.

How is the OCP engagement model impacting your business? Send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

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Posted by Barb Levisay on October 19, 2017 at 11:03 AM


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