UPDATED FOR INSPIRE 2017: We’ve updated and expanded this post for this year’s Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards, to be announced at Inspire 2017 in July. Click a link below to jump to the relevant section, or read on.
- Find out how to get recognised in the awards
- Best practice for writing your application
- Learn about the new Customer Experience category
To gain that recognition, however, you need an exciting and compelling entry submission to prove your company is deserving of such an award. Entries are limited to 7,000 characters (including spaces) and as such need to be concise and to-the-point. Award judges received over 2,500 submissions in 2016, so competition is fierce. As such, we’ve created this web page to house everything you need to know about the Partner of the Year Awards – from all the details, to submission entry best practice and where to go for help.
Inspire 2017 and the Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards
This year’s entry period for submissions is now open and runs until April 6th. During this time, The Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Partner of the Year Award Submission Tool will be available for submitting your solution entries. After this period, a selection of judges will review all eligible entries and select up to 3 finalists and 1 overall winner for each category, to be announced at the award ceremony at Microsoft Inspire Conference.
Despite well-earned bragging rights, Award recognition means greater visibility for your company and team, which can have a direct impact on creating stronger business opportunities. Whether you’re an award-winner or finalist, Partner of the Year Award benefits include:
- Customised logos and web banners to showcase your company as an esteemed Microsoft Partner.
- Congratulatory letters from key Microsoft executives.
- Photo opportunities with Microsoft executives at Microsoft Inspire Conference.
And the lucky few winners can expect:
- Verbal recognition during keynote presentations at Inspire.
- An invite to an exclusive awards celebration during Inspire. A unique opportunity to network with Microsoft executives and strengthen relationships within Microsoft business groups.
For more information, check out this year’s Partner of the Year Award Guidelines from Microsoft.
Best practice for writing your award
Due to the high-frequency of submissions for all award categories, judges have precise knowledge on what makes an entry stand out and what results in it getting lost in the crowd. Having written many successful award submissions for clients over the years, we offer our 5 top tips for creating the perfect submission.
1. Don’t leave it too late
With a relatively long entry period and small word count, it’s common to take on the ‘I’ll get started tomorrow’ mantra. As this mantra so often proves to be, however, this is a bad idea. Microsoft recommends you spend an average of 10 to 15 hours on your submission, so the more time you can invest, the better. You should be editing, re-editing, reviewing and re-reviewing your submission numerous times before you’re finally ready to submit, so give yourself plenty of time.
2. Use Word wisely
While some may keep putting it off until it’s too late, the extra eager among you may be tempted to get your submission into the Award Submission Tool as soon as the entry period opens on the 22nd Feb. Whilst this is by no means a bad idea, it can turn into an obstacle if you haven’t previously (at least) drafted your solution entry. We suggest completing – to the best possible standard – your submission in Microsoft Word beforehand so you know it’s completely ready to go. Formatting in Word is far easier than fiddling around in the Award Submission tool, so the uploading phase should really be the final step in the process.
3. Detail, not trivial
Last year saw the nomination format change from a series of 5-7 questions to an executive summary style submission. With only 7,000 total characters, it’s vital that you can provide the judges with as much information, detail and reasoning as possible. This means that despite the ‘executive summary’ label, there is absolutely no room for the infamous ‘business waffle’. Don’t try and impress with superlatives and hyperbole, just tell them what they want to hear – describe the challenge specifically, and express how your solution helped in detail. Metrics, numbers and statistics are a vital part of this; concisely define your achievements, emphasising and solidifying it with factual information.
Don’t try and impress with superlatives and hyperbole, just tell them what they want to hear – describe the challenge specifically, and express how your solution helped in detail. Metrics, numbers and statistics are a vital part of this; concisely define your achievements, emphasising and solidifying it with factual information.
4. Don’t rely on a single voice
Some of the strongest evidence of your success is defined by the satisfaction of the customer, and yet many submissions will talk solely from an internal perspective. Gain another voice by talking to your customers and gathering testimonials. It might be a good idea to let them help you tell the story by asking permission for the use of statistics that quantify your success. After all, what good is a narrator if they can’t introduce the characters?
5. Once is enough
As we’ve probably made quite clear, the submission process can be a lengthy and arduous one. Considering that, many are likely to sit back and relax once their solution entry has been submitted. However, we’re sure you’d feel less relaxed knowing you could have won a different award if only you’d applied for it.
Writing more than one entry will, of course, take more time, but it will give you a much better shot at winning an award. There is no limit to the number of entries and the content doesn’t have to be different for each (not that we’d recommend copying&pasting the same submission for different categories). Find the right balance: submit your best one, two or three entries rather than submitting six or seven and end up sacrificing on quality.
Again, for further instructions on preparing to write your award nominations, take a look at the Award Submission Guidelines.
From Modern Marketing to Customer Experience
Last year, the Partner Award for Modern Marketing was highly sought after. But as the name suggests, it’s a field that is constantly changing. This year, Microsoft have altered the Modern Marketing Award to the Customer Experience Award, to reflect the tech giant’s recent focus on the importance of strong customer experience. And the submission guidelines for the award are slightly different compared to others.
For this award, a partner will have to articulate how their own company focus on CX has broadened their appeal to potential customers or helped retain current ones (or both). This comes down to managing the customer lifecycle as effectively as possible, something that continues to grow as the number of touchpoints – mediums and methods that customers interact with your brand – increases.
So, what’s the reason behind Microsoft’s newfound focus on the Customer Experience? And, more specifically, the value of CX for Microsoft Partners?
- Microsoft seeks validation that Microsoft customers are having positive experiences with partners.
- Partners generating a customer-centric experience can use it as a point of differentiation.
- Microsoft can be confident in investing in partners not only for their technical and/or sales expertise but their strength of CX.
- Partners can use the concept of CX best practice in their future work with customers and clients.
What’s in the submission?
- Take the CX maturity self-assessment test
- Download the Partner of the Year CX PowerPoint_deck template from the award site
- Fill out slides 1 to 9
- Choose the primary persona you work with (CEO, CFO, etc.)
- Map your persona across the customer journey for slides 10-15
- Validate this customer joruney with five of your customers using the sample interview questions on slide 16.
- Document CX metrics calculated from the customer interview questions on slide 17.
- Document your top five learnings from customer conversations on slide 18.
- List interviewed customers on slide 19 with contact information so Microsoft can verify them.
View the complete instructions for the Partner of the Year Customer Experience Award, and all other awards, in the Award Guidelines.
We love CX so much, that it’s the focal point of this year’s edition of our annual Inbound Marketing Excellence report. CX is also one of the key metrics analysed in MAYA, our digital benchmarking tool.
Here to help
Don’t have the time?
Microsoft also has its own 3 steps to follow for the submission process:
- Getting started
- Write your entry
- Polish & shine
Writing your entry is no doubt the most important – and therefore most difficult – part of this process. This may make it tempting to skim over the final polishing stage, but doing so could seriously hurt your chances at becoming the next big Microsoft Partner. Microsoft insists on a thorough editing phase and highlights the value to be found in enlisting the help of writing professionals with technical and marketing experience. Acquiring these additional external skills can help ensure your entry reads well, paints your company in the best possible light and can push it out to the right channels to get as much publicity as possible.
With two finalist entries last year, we what to include for a compelling Partner of the Year Award submission. Whether it’s for Customer Experience, application or competency awards, we can help write you a winning entry.