Microsoft Inspire

What to expect at Microsoft Inspire - An interview with Dean Armintrout

  • Interview with Dean Armintrout, Director of Partner Marketing & Events for Microsoft
  • Find out what’s new at this year’s Microsoft Inspire conference
  • Learn how to plan your week to get the most value for your organisation

Microsoft Inspire will be arriving in Washington D.C. this July. It’s the biggest event in the calendar for Microsoft Partners, with tens of thousands of vendors and service providers in attendance. We sat down with Dean Armintrout, Director of Partner Marketing & Events for Microsoft, to get the inside view on what to expect from the event.

The Worldwide Partner Conference was renamed as Microsoft Inspire for 2017. Can you tell us about the name change?

"Our mission was to further align with our corporate flagship event names and rebrand the event with a name that effectively communicates both the value and opportunity of our largest partner conference. As we began developing our new name, we asked partners how they feel after attending our event and the word that came up the most was “inspired”, so ‘Microsoft Inspire’ was the perfect fit. Our flagship events (Microsoft Build, Ignite and Envision) represent a vision for the future, and with this rebrand to Microsoft Inspire, it completes our event portfolio and aligns with our vision as a company".

What should Partners that are attending for the first time expect from the conference?

"Microsoft Inspire is packed with amazing content and experiences for all partners. We have daily inspirational keynotes from our top Microsoft executives and over 600 sessions covering everything from product roadmaps, go-to-market strategies, industry solution maps, and more – including our leadership series of sessions, where we bring in external thought leaders to provide insights on sales, marketing and overall leadership strategies.

"Besides sessions, partners should visit The Commons – the place to be at Microsoft Inspire, where we have over 200 sponsors and exhibitors showcasing their solutions, Microsoft technology areas showcasing the latest innovations, a Community Hub where you can connect with partners and have discussions on key topics of interest – and a Partner Experience area where you can connect with subject matter experts and learn all you need to manage your partnership with Microsoft. We also offer a ton of networking activities – everything from daily happy hours to structured networking sessions to our regional events and, of course, our ultimate Partner Celebration".

What do Partners generally gain from attending the conference?

"Partners attending Microsoft Inspire gain insight into our strategy for the fiscal year and walk away with the knowledge, tools and resources to help them be profitable. Our goal is to show partners how partnering with Microsoft is the best bet to help them grow their business. Further, partners have the chance to connect with each other, enabling them to explore further opportunities to be profitable together".

Do you have any advice for Partners attending and how they can prepare to make the most of the conference?

"Partners should definitely plan ahead! Be sure to check out the session schedule to begin deciding what sessions are right for you. And, when the session scheduler opens early June, begin building your schedule so you can maximize your time at Microsoft Inspire. Be sure to set up your Connect profile (also live early June) and you can search for partners you are most interested in meeting with and schedule meetings during the event. Many partners say they get more business done the week of Microsoft Inspire than they do the entire year, so be sure to plan ahead to ensure you participate in the best sessions and make the most connections".

What are you most looking forward to about the conference?

"We have a lot of innovation to showcase this year and I can’t wait for our partners to see what’s coming! Our keynote lineup (to be announced end of May) is great this year and we have some fun surprises in store. Aside from all the great content, I of course am looking forward to our Partner Celebration. We’re taking over Nationals Park for a fun-filled night of networking, games and excitement, including an exclusive performance by seven time Grammy award winner, Carrie Underwood – all just for our partners!"

Is there anything particularly exciting expected to happen at this year’s partner event?

"Every year is new and exciting! We keep what we know works, like our inspirational keynotes and engaging sessions and workshops, but we also build upon the experiences based on feedback from our partners. New this year, we’re offering more of a variety of session types and lengths, so that partners can attend sessions that are right for them, including our new 20-minute Power sessions. We’ve also changed our approach to the Community Hub and will have Hot Topic discussion areas for partners to have informal discussions on topics they are most interested in. We’re also bringing LinkedIn to Microsoft Inspire in a variety of ways, including a Rock Your Profile experience, where partners can get help on improving their LinkedIn profile.

"Every year at Microsoft Inspire, we pride ourselves on giving back to the community and this year is no different. In addition to the various donations we make throughout the event, we are partnering with Code.org this year and bringing an Hour of Code to Microsoft Inspire – where we’ll have partner volunteers helping children learn how to code – right at the event!"

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Thanks again to Dean for filling us in on what to look forward to at Microsoft Inspire. Want to learn more about Microsoft Inspire? Read our recent guest post from Channel Marketing Evangelist and Senior Manager for Global Partner Channels and Programs for the Microsoft Partner Network, Jennifer Tomlinson, here

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Ready to jet off to Microsoft Inspire this July?

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The ultimate 5-step beginner's guide to PPC ads

  • Post #1 in new five-part series on PPC ads success
  • Learn best practice to start building a PPC ads campaign
  • The top 5 elements to consider when creating your ads

You have seen them when you search on Google, or when you’re cruising Twitter, getting distracted by Facebook, or looking up a potential client on LinkedIn. You might have even clicked on one or two. The reason your competitors are creating “pay per click” (PPC) ads is to drive traffic to their websites, to create leads, and to produce more revenue for their business. PPC ads are now a mainstay of any well thought-out marketing campaign.

And this is why we are putting together a series on how you can get the most from your organisation’s PPC ad investment. Our series will focus on each of the five most important aspects of running a PPC ad campaign. Today’s article will give you a strong foundation in the basics of PPC ad best practice, and forms the introduction of our series—so look out for future posts where we will go into further detail on everything discussed here.

If you are unsure of where to begin, or are anxious about blowing your budget on ads that don’t return on your investment, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. But be warned, it takes much more than simply sticking just any type of ad online and watching the numbers role in. The evolution of ad-blocking, combined with increased competition mean you need to be more savvy, more creative and more determined than ever to make your PPC ads do what you want them to do. This is our exclusive guide to giving your brand content, product, or service the best chance to be seen by as many of the right people as possible.

Let's look at how to get started with PPC ads in our 5-step guide:

1. Know your medium?

One of the first questions you should ask yourself is where do you intend to run your PPC ads? The most popular mediums for your ads are Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Where you choose to place the ads will depend on a number of specifics for your business and industry. For example, Twitter and Facebook are popular in consumer markets, whereas LinkedIn is useful for B2B organisations. However, B2B businesses should ideally have a mix of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google AdWords for the best possible return in terms of traffic, impressions, and those all-important clicks.

Once you have decided what platforms you are going to run ads on, it’s important to have the format and specs for the different kinds of ads you’re looking to create. For example, if you are creating LinkedIn Text Ads, you should be aware that:

  • Your headline cannot exceed 25 characters (including spaces)
  • Your description cannot exceed 75 characters (including spaces)

A neat example of three LinkedIn Text Ads:

PPC ads

2. Support your PPC ads with images

From our above example, you can see that even the smallest of ads are supported by images. That’s because images are extremely important to the conversion rate of almost any kind of PPC ads (you don’t need to worry about images for Google AdWords, FYI). The most important things to think about when it comes to images for your ads are:

  • Different mediums will accommodate different image specs. That means a LinkedIn text ad (as in the above example) won’t have the same image size capacity that a Twitter website card will have…see the specs here.
  • Images (and videos) will eat into your character count. Twitter has relatively recently changed in this respect, but it’s worth making sure how multimedia affects the other ad mediums.

Here’s a handy guide to consult if you get a little confused as to what images can go where, in what size and in what focus.

You will also probably want to understand how videos are viewed differently depending on your chosen medium. For example, videos on Facebook will begin playing automatically and thus up your impressions/view count (and eat into your budget), but may not give you the same click-through rate as say, a YouTube video with the same views. So, remember, context is key.

3. Use persuasive copy

Persuasive copy is important. Creating a connection with your target audience is the name of the game. Part of that is making choices about how you present your information. Should you use a question in your PPC ad? Should it be a statement? Maybe a quote from the report, or a statistic about the product you’re promoting will be so juicy and tantalising that your audience can’t help but click to find out more. The point here is that you need to give this some thought. There is no right answer. But it does bring us on nicely to our next point…

4. Analyse your data

Possibly one of the most important aspect of any marketing campaign, whether it’s a direct mail, a newsletter or an email blast, is to mark your progress. Benchmark what you’re doing, see your results, make changes, see their effect, tweak again, see the effect and continue. When you create PPC ads, you already get access to some great analytical tools:

  • Use UTM codes to track where your clicks are coming from
  • Check the industry standard that is shown on your PPC ad dashboard
  • A/B test your images and videos – different people respond to a different combination of multimedia and content, etc.

5. Know your goal

This sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many organisations want PPC  ads because they have heard it’s an essential aspect of any marketing arm they should do. Well, PPC ads only work if they have quality content to hold them up. For example, it’s no use having well-crafted ads without the proper landing page behind them. In fact, if you don’t have a relevant destination behind your ad, Google will penalise you and you’ll be wasting your money on ads that aren’t going to connect with your audience. You could think of your standing with Google as a kind of credit history, the more you have ads with relevant content the better everything is.

No ad is an island

Some of the best performing PPC ad campaigns are those that are part of a well thought out and smartly executed marketing plan. So, pair you PPC ads with a fine-looking landing page that is promoting something. And follow that up with great content like a series of insightful blogs, which you can tweet about, etc. Support these with well-timed PPC ads for a little extra firepower, and if you take our above advice, you'll receive the clicks you deserve.

Next time....

Look out for the next blog in our ultimate guide to PPC ads series, where we will delve further into the topic of PPC ad mediums; where best to place your ads and what specs you need to be aware of.

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Want more advice on your PPC campaigns?

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