Fifty Five and Five

9 lessons to take to Microsoft Inspire: a partner perspective

  • After 13 years of WPC, the conference is rebranded Microsoft Inspire
  • Chris Wright shares 9 tips for Microsoft Partner conference preparation
Are you prepping for the biggest Microsoft Partner conference of the year? After attending WPC 2016 in Toronto, here’s what I learnt from our first visit, and what you should be doing in advance if you’re making the trip to Washington D.C. this June.

Chances are, you’ve heard about Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). First thing’s first – you need to forget all that. After 13 years of WPC, Microsoft has decided to rename their biggest event of the year, the aptly titled ‘Microsoft Inspire’ Conference, as Chris Capossela explained in the tech giant’s event lineup for 2017:

“This new name reflects how Microsoft and our partner community inspire each other to innovate and deliver powerful new solutions to customers.”

The team and I have seen first-hand how this Microsoft Partner conference provides a massive amount of value for attendees and even those that join from afar. Many partners are in the same position we were in this time last year: looking to grow, we knew WPC 2016 was looming large and wondered if taking on a bigger presence at the event would be a good idea. Of course, it didn’t take us too long to see the benefits we could get from attending the event. So, we jetted off to Toronto and have nothing but positive things to say about the experience.

During our time at WPC 2016, we learned some valuable lessons that other partners can benefit from. So, in the remainder of this post, I’ll be sharing our most important learnings to ensure that you are more than prepared for Inspire 2017.

microsoft partner conference

1. Know your demographic

Before deciding the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of your company’s presence at Inspire, it’s useful to take a good look at the attendee demographic of past shows. Microsoft provide detailed data on the subject, including:

  • Attendee figures
  • Sector and industry breakdown
  • Job role breakdown
  • Areas of interest breakdown

Be sure to look out for this information when Sponsor and Exhibition sales go live this year. As a digital marketing agency dedicated to Microsoft Partners, everyone at Inspire has the potential to be a customer, lead, or useful connection for a partner like us. But even so, it was important for us to take time to study exactly who was attending. ‘Doing your research’ ahead of the event—and rather, any event in general—pays huge dividends.

2. Add value

While you’re probably looking to grow your client base (and, ultimately, your revenue) through attendance at Inspire, it’s important to think about the visitor perspective. Those visitors are bombarded with hundreds of stands, thousands of leaflets and endless competition for their attention.

To provide value to our customers, we produced an annual review celebrating the marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners: our Inbound Marketing Excellence report. It contains interesting features, guides and how-to pieces to help partners improve their own marketing. We launched the 2016 edition from our stand at WPC, giving away free copies to visitors to our stand. Our pitch was simple: “Would you like a free guide to improve your online marketing efforts?” It was that kind of value that helped arrest people’s attention while initiating further conversations for those who took a particular interest.

3. Get organised

If you’re considering attending Inspire 2017, first of all, great! I hope to see you there. Before the excitement can truly start to set in, you need to get ready for this Microsoft Partner conference. The team learned not to underestimate the amount of work involved in preparing for the event itself.

  • Set a budget. Include all your costs and, most importantly, stick to them. Resist the temptation to get another 10,000 leaflets or cards printed at extra expense unless you believe it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Decide who is attending. Ideally, this needs to be done well ahead of time. Not only is this a cost and logistical issue (think flights, accommodation etc.) but keep in mind who will be tasked with getting the daily business done during the event.
  • Pinpoint collateral and your USP. What are you taking to the show? How is it being produced, collated, and rehearsed? Do this planning now, so your experience at Inspire is more strategic and prepared.

4. Define roles and responsibilities

Once at Inspire 2017, you need to be very clear about who is doing what, and when. Consider the following:

  • How many people will be promoting your company and services at any given time, and where?
  • Who will be networking at other stands, speaker events and social functions?
  • How will people cover ongoing work or check in with the office while at the conference?

In our case, we had four people at our stand at any given time to promote Fifty Five and Five—speaking to leads and sharing copies of the report. The rest of the team was split between networking on the floor and attending useful talks and presentations. Having a clear definition of roles and responsibilities helped keep us all on track and get as much out of the event as possible.

5. Have a target list

Everyone at the stand should have a customer ‘target list’ with information such as:

  • Named leads that you really want to connect with, along with background information so people recognise them.
  • Named companies that you also want to connect with.
  • Exhibiting companies you want to visit.
  • Existing clients that are attending that you should say hello to.
  • Relevant Microsoft employees that you want to meet at the show.

We prepared a printed datasheet so everyone knew who was important to talk to and why. It was extremely helpful during the conference.

6. Get the right data

While WPC employs the latest RFIP badge scanner technology which records details from visitors who swipe their badges, this system won’t capture the most important data of all—your conversations with them.

That’s why we learned it was important for everyone at our stand to also have the more ‘traditional’ clipboards, paper and pens. Not only was everyone scanned, but after conversations had finished, notes were immediately written up with as much detail as possible. Contacting these people afterwards was then a very natural case of “Hi, you spoke to my colleague X about Y, and wanted to know a little about Z…”. If you plan to host an event where your attendees’ badges will be scanned, don’t rely on that alone—this sort of personal, authentic email is so much more effective than an automated mailer, and we would not have had the information without collecting it ourselves.

7. Follow up with leads

When following up with your leads and new contacts from WPC, be sure to keep track of the following:

  • Who was contacted?
  • When were they contacted?
  • Who in your business should contact them?
  • When should you follow up again?

You can use a good CRM system to automate this process like we do. But a simple spreadsheet can sometimes be just as effective. You also need to be both patient and persistent to see real results. It takes time but is well worth it in the end.

8. Maximise your investment

You want to showcase that you are the kind of company deserving of a presence at a conference as big as WPC. To make the most of the experience, we invested time in writing blogs and sharing collateral from the show. We were also very active on Twitter during and after the show, and have continued to share videos and pictures from the week—along with the video of my talk at the Microsoft Partner Network stand.

9. Calculate your ROI

Ultimately, any company attending Inspire is doing so to grow their company. That requires revisiting your experience of the event soon after its conclusion.

  • Calculate every cost you incurred in attending Inspire. Don’t forget all the incidental costs while you were away.
  • Look at the work you have won since returning. It is very likely you need to take a long-term view that incorporates the length of your typical sales cycle or longer as leads from a trade show will typically take longer to result in sales.
  • Remember to note a return for the connection you made with Microsoft. While harder to put a number to, often this is the most valuable reason to be at WPC.
Do you need more help to planning your show and trip?
Get in touch
Chris Wright

Chris Wright

Chris founded Fifty Five and Five back in 2014, after a long career working for a number of global Microsoft Partners.

Add comment