With the Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 event in Houston rapidly approaching, my team’s partner strategies are in full swing, and meetings are being schedules, timing of the ground team coordinated, and phone calls being made. This is my 4th WPC, and I’d like to think that I’ve figured out some ways of maximizing the value of my time when attending — and I thought I’d share my best practices:
Have a Microsoft leadership strategy
One of he benefits of attending WPC is getting face-time with leaders across every product group and business area at Microsoft. My advice? Figure out who you want/need to meet with prior to landing in Houston, and if possible, share via email correspondence some of what you would like to cover in person. While most Microsoft leaders are happy to just get to know the partners, the purpose of these meetings (or this event) is not just about building social ties. They would much rather use this time productively to discuss product roadmaps and strategies, understand business and technical issues, and work with partners to solve customer issues. Be clear on your intent and where you need their input, and you will be more likely to land that meeting.
Identify your target partners by territory
At last year’s WPC event in Toronto, my team was very successful in our efforts by outlining, by territory, each of the partners we wanted to meet with. It helped keep us focused on the needs of the entire business, and helped us to understand whether our meetings were balanced across all territories. This requires planning and discussions with your sales organization — but is a healthy opportunity to dig in and better understand where there may be gaps within your partner ecosystem.
Use the tools, and schedule meetings
Do not wait until the last minute to schedule your meetings. Microsoft leadership calendars fill up quickly, as do partner schedules. I was amazed at how many last minute invitations I received last year, but unfortunately my schedule had already been filled. You can also utilize the new online social tools to connect with vendors and partners virtually, as well as in person — but take every advantage to meet in person, as you just can’t replace face-to-face interaction. And while I’m not advocating you skip the sessions, the real value in WPC comes not from the content, but from the networking.
Spend some time in the IAMCP booth
The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) is the best resource available to your company for extending the discussions started at WPC. IAMCP is all about peer-to-peer networking. WPC is a great opportunity to learn more about the IAMCP chapter within your own area, or to find out how to get a local chapter established. You can also meet members from around the world and learn how each of them has found success and closed deals because of connections made through IAMCP.
Connect with the Social Squad
Something new at WPC this year is a small team of hand-picked partners who have consistently offered their help and insights to the partner community through networking, blogging, webinars, social, and live events. These are some of the most connected people within the partner community — and you definitely want to meet them and add them to your Twitter feed and LinkedIn connections. I’m proudly a member of this team, and will be spending as much time as I am able within the Social Squad area at the center of the exhibit hall.
Find out where the parties are being held
That’s right, WPC is as much about the parties as it is about Microsoft content and partner networking. These events are focused on product areas and business regions, with many vendors holding their own private parties. These are amazing opportunities to network with key partners and vendors, so reach out to your personal and professional networks, and ask which parties people plan to attend. Many are invitation-only, so the networking begins now!
Follow up after the event
And finally, after all the business cards you’ve handed out, all of the formal and impromptu meetings, and all of the vendor parties, be sure to sit down once you’re home and go through all of your cards and notes — and get back to people. Send a quick note, say thank you, send an invitation to follow, link, or meet. Try to go beyond the generic connection email — be sincere (mention something about your interaction), be specific (outline your partnership ideas), and be actionable (suggest a call, a meeting, or a detailed set of next steps). The longer you take to respond, the less likely they are to engage, so schedule the time as soon as you get back to the home office.