Extending Your Partner Footprint at #WPC14

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With the rapid approach of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC14). it feels as if I have become somewhat of a cheerleader for this event – and I’m happy to do it, because I think that its an event that everyone in the Microsoft partner ecosystem should be attending next month. This will be my 5th time attending, and I’m already working with my partner team on a strategy – and you should be developing your strategy, as well.

In a recent Redmond Channel Partner article, Set Your Game Plan for the Worldwide Partner Conference by Barb Levisay (@blevisay), I spoke with Barb about why this event is so important to those looking to build or maintain their channel, providing some advice on how to make the most of the event. I provided some similar advice in 2012, 2013, and  May 2014 articles for the DigitalWPC website in the run-up to those WPC events, and thought I’d once again provide an action item list (with a couple new additions) for those of you still developing your strategies:

  1. Register, book your hotel, and complete your Connect profile.
    First off, you need to attend. If you have not already registered, you can register by going to www.digitalwpc.com and selecting the Register tab at the top. Check with your local Microsoft Rep about any discounts, but I’m sorry to say that most time-based discounts are long gone. Never hurts to ask, of course. Hotels near the Washington DC convention center are filling up fast, and the longer you wait, the more expensive they become. Once registered, be sure to fill out your profile in the Connect tool as completely as you can, so that people can find you, and you can start booking meetings immediately.

  2. Bring business cards.
    It’s not uncommon for people to forget their business cards – but this is one event where you want to have plenty on hand. Set up a reminder in Outlook (in fact, several reminders) to pack extra b-cards. Worst case, go online to FedEx and use one of their simple templates combined with your company logo, and presto! Pick up in a couple hours.

  3. Update your PinPoint company profile.
    Make sure your company profile, competencies, and product or services details are updated on Microsoft’s partner marketplace. Go to http://pinpoint.microsoft.com/ and update before you depart for DC.

  4. 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 DC, 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.

  5. Identify your target partners by territory
    At the WPC event in Toronto 2 years ago, 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.

  6. Use the Connect tool, 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.

  7. Review the event agenda.
    Plan out your content agenda, decide which keynotes to attend, and build them into your calendar so that you are not left scrambling during the event. Be sure to prioritize the content you want to see, as things will often pop up – and its good to know from a quick glance which sessions are must-see versus those you can bump to meet with a prospective partner instead.
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  8. Make plenty of time to walk the exhibit hall.
    Make time to visit the exhibit area and learn more about the partners who are there. After walking the hall each day, my best practice is to go back through the WPC Connect profiles to review Connect profiles for those with whom I have met, and to identify other potential partners, and either schedule them through Connect or contact and set up informal meetings.
  9. 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.

  10. Connect with the Social Squad
    The Social Squad 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 (2nd year!), and will be spending as much time as I am able within the Social Squad area at the center of the exhibit hall.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

I hope this content helps those who are new to WPC or veterans alike. If you plan to attend, please connect with me and let me know you’re going. Always great to see some familiar (and not-so-familiar) faces in the crowd.

Oh, and in case you had not heard, most years the Microsoft party invites a major musician to perform at the end of week party. A few years back it was Duran Duran (unfortunately, before I started attending). While some years the show is lackluster, last year in Houston the Lenny Kravitz performance was fabulous. This year will be a double-header of Paramore and Neon Trees. Very exciting! Should be a fantastic performance.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.