Guest post by Tina Hanson, Partner-to-Partner Lead for the Microsoft U.S. Partner Team.

Tina Hanson (Parkhouse) 2011I hope you enjoyed your summer! It was a real scorcher here in Dallas, TX with several weeks of temperatures in the triple digits, and while I am a fan of hot weather, I have welcomed the “cooler” temps  in the upper 80’s and 90’s recently. After a U.S. Partner Team meeting last week in Chicago where we shared our plans for the coming 12 months, I’m excited to kick off my “Pinpoint Pointers” blog series that I announced here last month.

This Pinpoint Pointers blog series is about the customer-to-partner (C2P) connection: helping partners effectively use Microsoft Pinpoint, our technology marketplace and directory of Microsoft technology IT providers offering professional services and software, so customers can find their solutions and connect with them. But before I get to our first installment of Pinpoint Pointers, I want to mention a couple of upcoming “P2P” (partner-to-partner) activities, since partners collaborating to deliver customer solutions is a critical component of success for both partners and Microsoft. Jenni Flinders, the Microsoft U.S. Vice President for Partner Strategy and Programs, recently devoted a post in her “Partnering with Precision” blog series to The Power of Partner Collaboration.

  • U.S. Channel Development and Meet & Greet Series. This series kicked off last week and events are being held through mid-November in cities across the U.S. We’re teaming up with the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) U.S., one of the premier Microsoft partner communities, and they will be at these events to meet and welcome new partners. You’ll have an opportunity to meet members of your IAMCP local chapter, and chat with them about how partner-to-partner connections can expand your business opportunities.
  • IAMCP U.S. Virtual Meeting on October 5. The U.S. Partner Team is hosting an IAMCP U.S. members-only webcast that will feature my colleague, Sharon Collins, discussing how to maximize your Microsoft Partner Network membership and highlighting some key changes being made to Microsoft competencies in October, in response to partner feedback. I will be providing a deep dive on Microsoft Pinpoint. If you’re not yet an IAMCP U.S. member, visit their site at www.iamcp-us.org to learn how to join.

Q & A About Customer Prospects
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program! In today’s post, we’ll tackle two common partner questions about customer prospects.

Question 1: I have a Microsoft Pinpoint profile, but I have not received any customer prospects through Pinpoint. What does this mean? Do I need to change my profile?
Answer: If your existing Pinpoint profile is not generating customer traffic, it could mean a few different things. To determine the culprit in your company’s situation, the first thing I recommend is to carefully and objectively review your company’s existing Pinpoint profile to determine how well it represents your company. Some potential tweaks to consider:

  • Optimize Pinpoint search. You can use the Pinpoint Dashboard to obtain real-time data analytics to help update your profile based on top search terms customers are using.
  • Use customer-friendly language in your company profile. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and product names, and focus instead on language that explains how your Microsoft-based solutions address customer pain points. I have seen partners lead with accolades and special recognition in their profiles, and often, customers do not understand the value of those to meeting their business needs. Use those accolades and recognition to round out your story and differentiate your company, instead of using them as the basis for your profile.
  • Keep it simple. Prospective customers scan profiles instead of reading them word-for-word. Use short, punchy bullets to highlight your company’s expertise.
  • Ask satisfied customers for a Pinpoint review. Not only does this help your searching ranking results, it also helps potential prospects get a feel for how it is to work with your company. Partners with customer reviews linked to their profile are 10x more likely to receive new customer prospects than those without. We have a customer ready template you can use.
  • Make your profile truly representative of your business. If you have multiple locations in the U.S. or internationally, list them in your profile.
  • Align your profile with the direction of your business with Microsoft. For example, use the Microsoft competencies your company has attained as a way to differentiate yourself from other partners and make your company stand out with customers on your area of expertise.

This in-depth review and refresh of your profile may take some time to accomplish, but I think your investment will help you stand out to customers using Pinpoint and differentiate yourself from the competition. For more tips like those above, the Microsoft Pinpoint team has a very helpful guidelines page online at http://pinpoint.microsoft.com/en-US/Guidelines.

Question 2: I’m not receiving customer prospects from Pinpoint, so is it really working?
Answer: This is an interesting question because most partners think the only way to measure customer interest is through Pinpoint’s “Request for Information” through which a customer can contact a partner. However, there are 14 different customer interaction activities that Microsoft tracks and measures to gauge our success helping customers find you on Pinpoint:

  • Complete contact information in your profile. All partners should list their website in their profile, as well as their phone number(s). Our data indicate that on average, 7,000 business customers each month click through to the websites listed by partners in their profiles. Once a customer locates a potential partner within Pinpoint, they are taking it one step further to find out more about the partner.
  • Profile and website stickiness. Data show that customers spend an average of six minutes on a partner’s profile, and view 3-4 pages during their website visit. If you are an ISV or have an application you want to showcase to customers, make sure you include your product related activities to easily allow customers to demo, trial, and/or download your application. Give them an opportunity to do additional research on your site, like read relevant white papers or identify references. These are all activities through which you can engage a customer who has expressed interest in your application or service offering.

Consider every element of your Pinpoint profile to be an opportunity to help a customer easily reach you to learn more about your company and your solutions that meet their needs. Offer various customer activities that will best represent your company’s capabilities, and make sure to update your Pinpoint profile when you make additions or changes to your site—and vice versa.

I hope these tips will start you on your way to attracting more customer prospects and helping you to increase your profile’s success. If you have a question you’d like me to address in a future Pinpoint Pointers post, email me at partnerQ@microsoft.com.