Microsoft added a Partner Readiness Center this week to its Microsoft Partner Events site, to help partners plan and prepare to take advantage of events before, during and after.
The center includes templates, timelines and checklists to guide VARs through the planning phase.
The full MPE site contains a content library of Microsoft marketing materials, PowerPoint demonstrations, white papers and 50 campaign examples, and a registration tool that allows partners to manage invitations, responses, reminders and follow-ups to event programs.
Many partners neglect planning when organizing events and fail to capitalize on the opportunity, said Michael Moore, program manager of MPE.
"It is designed to take the mystery out of planning so it's not so daunting," Moore said. "The biggest thing is planning up front. Things like targeting an audience topic and getting the word out."
Many companies, Moore said, plan too generic when they market events and fail to draw the right customers or resonate with those who attend.
Afraid to alienate one set of customers over another, they plan plain events that have little appeal.
"Would you be more interested in hearing a seminar about office solutions or about office solutions in the health care industry?" he asked.
"Business owners are more likely to go to events related to industry or job function focused on a particular audience, even if it's not their own. People will attend and relate the experience to their own if they can see real examples."
Since launching two years ago, MPE has assisted 2,800 partners organize and 6,600 events.
The site also serves to alert partners to the Microsoft aid available for events.
Beyond templates and marketing materials, Microsoft provides space at dozens of Microsoft corporate offices nationwide, one-on-one coordination and the Microsoft Across America - Mobile Event Experiencea fleet of 42-foot-long trucks loaded with Microsoft and partner hardware and software, to provide solution demonstrations locally.
The online registration program, which allows partners to manage invitations, registration, reminders and follow-ups through a customer-facing Web site, clicktoattend.com, where customers may register for specific seminars add programs to their outlook calendar.
The application exceeds what partners could produce on their own, Moore said.
"The site is helpful in increasing registration in our classes, because it's so easy for customers to become a part of it," said Rob Lloyd, director of marketing at Synergy Business Solutions, Portland, Ore.
"They don't have to call or e-mail. They can just click on the 'register now' button and enter a little bit of information."
MPE also allows VARs to find and coordinate with complementary VARs to organize and manage events jointly to multiply resources and impact, Moore said.
The site and the program are a boon to VARs, many of whom have little experience with marketing issues, Moore added.
"A lot of partners are truly pure technologists," he said. "Now all of a sudden they have to worry about sales and marketing."