Guest post by Tina Hanson, Partner-to-Partner Lead for the Microsoft U.S. Partner Team
Thank you for the warm reception to my first installment of this blog series in February. Many of your reached out to me through email, Facebook, and LinkedIn to let me know that you found the introduction to partner-to-partner networking helpful. Now that you know some of the reasons and scenarios for partners to come together, it’s time talk about the next step: finding and joining a partner community that is a good fit for both you and your company.
In my opinion, formed after working with a few communities and chatting with their members, the key to finding the right community is doing some preparation. First, I suggest deciding what your goals are with joining and participating in a partner community. Do you want to:
- Connect with like-minded partners to share best practices or business challenges?
- Recruit and grow your channel to increase your reach with customers?
- Share leads and new opportunities?
- Add a new specialization to your existing practice by finding another partner with a specific skillset?
- Compete more effectively against larger partners?
- Extend your reach into a vertical market or your brand into a new market?
Next, consider what kind of time investment you want to make. How much time do you have available to participate and contribute to the community? Some communities believe in holding regular, in-person meetings to maintain an active and vital community, while others meet virtually. You may be required to participate in planning activities and meetings as part of your membership. Other considerations are financial: several communities have membership fees that support their infrastructure, and some ask you to travel to a central location for annual or semi-annual meetings, which may be an incremental cost.
With both your goals and your participation commitment in mind, use my list below to get started exploring your options. It’s ok to try out a few and see if there’s chemistry—relationships of any kind need that to be successful—and whether you feel the goals you decided were most important to you will be met. Use your “potential recruit” status to ask questions of other members and find out why they think their community is worth the time and effort.
I wish you the best of luck in finding your partner community fit. I will be back here soon with a few more community recommendations. In the meantime, drop me a line at partnerQ@microsoft.com, or post a note for me on the U.S. Partner Community Facebook discussion or LinkedIn discussion. Tell me about your favorite partner community, and I may feature it in my next list!
Microsoft U.S. Partner Team
5 Communities to Explore, and 1 Shameless Plug
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) – July 10-14; Los Angeles, CA
At WPC, you’ll hear from Microsoft executives like Steve Ballmer and Jon Roskill, get insight into the future with technology roadmap and product launch information, build your business plan for the next 12-18 months, and more. But the top reason partners come? The networking! Thousands of partners from around the world as well as Microsoft executives and product, program, and marketing managers attend the Conference. Register for an All Access Event Pass before April 25 and take advantage of the Early Bird Discount ($300 savings).
The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP US)
This not-for-profit association has a long-standing relationship with Microsoft and has an active group of 1,000-plus U.S. members, as well as an international presence. The IAMCP charter centers around their acronym, PACE, which stands for Partner-to-Partner, Advocacy, Community, and Education. There are over 30 chapters in the U.S. that meet regularly. Some work closely with their local Microsoft field teams. Consider joining the IAMCP if you are seeking regular face-to-face interaction with other partners and interested in sharing leads between members as well as building a stronger connection to local Microsoft teams.
Heartland Technology Group (HTG) (HTG Peer Groups)
HTG is a closed group community, and membership to this group is by invitation only. That isn’t a bad thing. The HTG Peer Group experience is a unique forum for leading solution providers, but only those that are serious about implementing a model for success in their businesses through sharing best practices, member accountability, process improvement, quarterly business reviews, and benchmarking between members which helps drive higher performance of the group. Being part of HTG means that you are highly accountable and execution is everything. Their mission is “Business and Personal Growth Driven by Execution”, but Arlin Sorensen, founder and CEO of HTG, can often be heard quoting the words “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
PartnerPoint has two aspects to their business. The most relevant aspect to Microsoft partners who are seeking to meet other partners is the online community engagement and discussions that are facilitated through Linked In. The online community is a good place to become more involved in partner discussion and hear what other partners are thinking and can also be a good resource for partners to find information they may not otherwise find on their own. Consider joining PartnerPoint if you are looking for an other partners online who want to in conversation and that lets you participate from in front of your PC.
ISV Channel Development Toolkit
Jen Sieger, my colleague on the U.S. ISV partner team, created this online resource site to provide solution partners with best practices to help you launch your partner channel, recruit new members to your channel, and support your channel once it is up and running. Through online resources, videos, a customizable partner recruitment kit, and extensive documentation, you are equipped to start partnering with systems integrators, Value-Added Resellers, and complementary solution providers. You may also have heard of the Channel Development Meet & Greet Events we have been holding in cities across the U.S. in partnership with IAMCP US chapters, which give local partners a formal networking event.
This online community brings Microsoft partners together in a virtual forum to help group members build stronger businesses by tapping into collective wisdom and significant years of experience. They target CEOs and executives of technology companies who want to take their business to the next level. While I have never had first-hand experience in participating in a PowerCircles forum, I do provide Microsoft content to PowerCircles on a regular basis and am always open to hearing from PowerCircles’ members on how Microsoft can support this community. Consider joining PowerCircles if you are looking to add years of experience to your team without adding them to your payroll.