This blog has content for all readers but will probably provide the most benefit to partners with smaller marketing departments – one FTE or less. Have a larger marketing department? Stay tuned!
For the past few blogs, I’ve talked about customers’ cloud purchase journey – the stages customers go through when deciding what cloud solutions to purchase and from whom. Because we know most pre-purchase research is done online and without input from experts, Microsoft and IDC teamed up to talk to successful cloud partners and map out the stages a purchaser goes through. We think the information we discovered will help partners market more effectively – if you know where your customers are, you can align your marketing to attract their attention at the right time and with the right message.
The first thing you need to determine is your own marketing capabilities and business goals. Generally, partners in the “practical marketing” category (one FTE or less) have fewer resources to dedicate to marketing (people, time, budget), so there are important decisions to be made to focus your resources where they’ll have the greatest impact.
Tell your story
The most important marketing tactic for partners in this category is to tell your story: find low-investment, high-impact ways to let customers know who you are and how you can solve their very specific problems. Your expert blogs, webcasts, demos, and trials can drive potential customers to your website, where carefully crafted messaging lets them know your customer segment, verticals, niches, and areas of expertise. For smaller organizations, it’s even more important to differentiate yourself: what are the things you – you specifically – can do better than your competitors can? How are you better able to understand and eliminate your customers’ pain points?
Social media platforms can be a real blessing for partners with a limited budget: having your own blog and commenting on others’ help establish you as a subject matter expert (SME). Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – used correctly – are powerful channels for communicating with prospects and positioning your organization as an industry thought leader.
Best practices on social:
  • Blog, at least weekly, and link your blog to your company website
  • Keep posts content-rich but easily digestible
  • Video is a great way to provide engaging content, so try to include when possible
  • Use graphics and data to break up text and add visual interest
  • Providing good content regularly is a real time commitment, so use your in-house SMEs – let employees blog or post on social media
  • Curate and comment on content on other sites
  • Ask for questions – and answer them!
Leverage Microsoft-provided tools and resources
Small organizations can still have mighty marketing! And your marketer doesn’t need to go it alone. There are lots of resources out there you can maximize. Your first stop should be the Sales and Marketing site on the Microsoft Partner Network. You can access free, branded email templates, marketing campaigns, demos, and more – digital and online marketing is king these days, so don’t pass up these valuable resources.
Every prospect is different, and the cloud customer research isn’t a template that can be placed on top of every customer on the purchase journey. Having a good Customer Relationship Management system like Microsoft Dynamics will help you see what works – and what doesn’t – and iterate and evolve based on results. Other necessary tools include:
  • A basic website with free analytical tools, product information, and ample “contact us” information. Link your website to your blog to gain more credibility and provide more value to prospects.
  • An up-to-date profile in Pinpoint. There are ways to maximize your visibility, so be sure to read my blog on how to “hack” the new Pinpoint.
  • Social platforms for blogs (WordPress is a good option to get you started), plus a company presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. There are other channels, but it’s better to be consistent on a few than to get spread too thin over too many.
  • An email marketing provider (or do it yourself) and Microsoft branded email templates.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs that will address the needs of organizations with larger marketing teams. Next up: Progressive marketing for partners with 2 – 5 marketing FTEs or an agency!
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