Partner of the year

Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards : Creating the perfect entry

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[edsanimate_end]

The title of Microsoft's worldwide partner conference (now dubbed 'Microsoft Inspire') may have changed, but the annual Microsoft Partner Awards are still one of the highlights of the conference. Ranging across 50 different categories, the Awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the solutions partners have built on top of Microsoft technologies, earning recognition for their hard work and dedication.

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.

Why CX?

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?

  1. Take the CX maturity self-assessment test
  2. Download the Partner of the Year CX PowerPoint_deck template from the award site
  3. Fill out slides 1 to 9
  4. Choose the primary persona you work with (CEO, CFO, etc.)
  5. Map your persona across the customer journey for slides 10-15
  6. Validate this customer joruney with five of your customers using the sample interview questions on slide 16.
  7. Document CX metrics calculated from the customer interview questions on slide 17.
  8. Document your top five learnings from customer conversations on slide 18.
  9. 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

Partner Marketing Concierge UK, as part of the MPN, is a dedicated service to enhance your marketing efforts with expert advice, content and campaign materials and approved marketing packages. So don't hesitate to get in contact with them if you need further help or advice with your Partner of the Year Award submission. Drop them an email.

Don't have the time?

Microsoft also has its own 3 steps to follow for the submission process:

  1. Getting started
  2. Write your entry
  3. 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.

Get professional help from us with your award

importance of customer experience

The importance of CX for Microsoft Partners—an interview with Barb Levisay

  • We interviewed Barb Levisay, Contributing Editor for Redmond Channel Partner 
  • Getting in the shoes of your customers is key
  • Improving CX is essential
  • A look at the future of partner marketing

Lately, we’ve been reading about the need for organisations to prioritise Customer Experience (CX) as a primary focus of their marketing strategies. Back in November, Microsoft Partner Network published an interesting piece outlining the ‘Power of Positive Customer Experience,’ adding to the zeitgeist. But what does this rise of CX actually mean for Microsoft Partners?

We spoke with Barb Levisay, Contributing Editor for Redmond Channel Partner, and writer for Microsoft Partners, to hear her thoughts on CX and how it will impact marketers working at Microsoft Partner companies.

Last year, Microsoft published a blog on the importance of customer experience. What do you think has led to the drive in CX for partners?

Barb: It's something that needed to happen:  I’ve worked with Microsoft partners for 20 years, and for so many years Microsoft was too focused on their technology. They were technologists and they weren’t good at looking at the end game, or the challenges partners had in making these solutions come to life for customers. And that’s what CX is about.

The blog post was good in highlighting the importance of understanding your customer. If partners can’t stand in the shoes of customers and think about the challenges they have, then they cannot develop effective marketing programmes.

The first thing any partner marketer needs to do, is to have a good definition of the ideal customer and what they want to experience. When I’m working with partners, the first question I’ll ask them is: 'help put me in your customer’s shoes', and if they can’t do that, then we need to go back to the start. That’s the first step.

Do you find that marketers are doing this? Or they are still at a hurdle getting into the shoes of the customer?

Barb: My advice, especially for new marketers working for a Partner, is it’s more important to get out and interface with customers. I mean it’s something you can’t read about it. Marketers should go out with the sales people on the sales calls, discovery sessions and consulting engagements. It’s incredibly helpful to hear from the customers (face to face is best) to hear their challenges. At least once a month, marketers should be going out to hear the words of their customers, and the Partner organisations should be supporting those connections.

It helps a marketer to get a better understanding of what the experience is, which in turn helps them to build campaigns and an online presence that is meaningful to the customer. I think organisations need to understand that the marketing team needs to be immersed in CX just as much as any other employees.

How do you see CX impacting marketing for Microsoft Partners through the channels that they’re using?

Barb: I think that the actual measurement is the hardest part. As our footprints expand online, we don't have the feedback and the Maya tool that your firm has built helps to do that. And it’s very good to see that Microsoft is getting behind it, because partners need the feedback, and the tools out there only go so far. As much as organisations may think that they understand customer experience, can they be sure that the words they are using are reflecting search terms the customers are using? When you go online, you lose the dimensions of facial expression and immediate feedback, so tools like Maya are a step in the right direction.


How can Partners measure their customer experience strategy?

Barb: They need to talk with their customers, keeping that two-way communication going. I think that one of the ways is, they need to use feedback from tools like Maya and work with other teams. By having that ‘loop’, these marketers can and should be leading the charge in customer experience and paying attention to all that feedback that comes in. They should then be distilling and translating that information to their consulting and sales teams. The problem is, consultants get so tied up in the technical parts, that they forget about the real impact, and how easy it is to get that information. That’s why marketers should be out front, helping the rest of the organisation to keep CX at the front of everything.

Have you seen a change of marketing managers doing that?

Barb: To a certain degree yes, but not as much as we should have. Far too many marketers are living in a vacuum, kept separate in the office because of expectations of partners, and owners that don’t want or see the benefit of them being out in the field. Marketers still have the challenge of communicating that marketing isn’t just a cost center, but can bring real value to the organization. This is why marketers have got to keep working at communicating the value of the work they’re doing."

What does the future look like for marketing for Microsoft Partners in relation to CX?

Barb: This is referring to the [Microsoft Partner CX] blog post: Having Microsoft recognise now that CX is what we need to be talking about is a huge step forward. There was a time when Partner marketers had to make it up themselves. All of the campaigns and content coming out of Microsoft were just technology driven and marketers had to translate that into business benefits. Not only is Microsoft releasing tools like MAYA that are more practical, but the content they are creating is much more benefit driven. That support goes a long way to help Marketers stretch the slim resources that they have. The key thing to remember is that CX is about the marketers getting out of the office and stepping into the customer’s shoes. There’s no replacement for that. Don’t think technology, think about how the solution benefits your customer. That’s how the content that matters is created.

We want to thank Barb for her time discussing the importance of CX and the ways that Microsoft Partner marketers can strengthen their strategy to align with Microsoft. If you're interested in driving CX with your marketing strategy and getting in the shoes of your customers, why not try Maya, the digital benchmarking tools for Microsoft Partners.

Not getting enough leads?

Benchmark your marketing and master the art of CX.

Partner of the year award winner

Microsoft Partner marketing: harness the power of a Microsoft MVP

  • Microsoft MVPs are product technology experts within the community
  • How a Microsoft MVP can help with your marketing
  • Tips on reaching out to and engaging with a Microsoft MVP

Microsoft partner marketing is a tough gig. A good marketing professional is always looking for new and effective ways to reach out to customers. This post is about one such method, using Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) effectively. MVPs are Microsoft product technology experts, with a strong sense of community and a desire to help others. Recipients of the prestigious Microsoft award are known for evangelising and educating users across their various product lines. In total there are over 4,000 MVPs across the globe, covering everything from Word to SharePoint, Xbox and Bing. Many MVPs volunteer their time to contribute to the Microsoft community, but many in the development and IT Pro categories work for Microsoft partners. In this post I am going to show you how you can easily harness the power of the MVP(s) currently sitting in your organisation, for your Microsoft partner marketing plans and campaigns.

What is an MVP?

As I stated above, an MVP is someone recognised by Microsoft as being particularly knowledgeable and helpful towards the community for a specific product or technology. The formal definition:

[mks_pullquote align="centre" width="500px" size="24" bg_color="rgba(96, 188, 226, 0.53)" txt_color="#ffffff"]"Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, or MVPs, are community leaders who’ve demonstrated an exemplary commitment to helping others get the most out of their experience with Microsoft technologies. They share their exceptional passion, real-world knowledge, and technical expertise with the community and with Microsoft."[/mks_pullquote]

Microsoft has recently revamped the award program in an attempt to reduce the number of different MVP categories and align things with the modern Microsoft. Some Microsoft MVP awards are unchanged (like Xbox, Surface and individual Office app awards) but a bunch of new broader categories have been unveiled. These mainly focus on IT Pro and Developer categories.

Each of the above also have specific Contribution Areas. For example, in Office Servers and Services there are things like SharePoint, Yammer, and Skype for Business. You can get full details on the new changes over at the Microsoft MVP website. In this post I am going to focus on how Microsoft partners can harness the more technical and IT Pro focused MVPs working in their organisation. This covers a lot of the categories above, Office 365, Dynamics, SharePoint, and the more development focused disciplines.

What can an MVP do for Microsoft Partner marketing efforts?

So we know what Microsoft MVP is, but how does that help Microsoft partner marketing? Well, you should think of an MVP sitting in your organisation as marketing rocket fuel that you can pour into your campaigns.  Not only are they subject matter experts, able to lend a hand when it comes to the content and targeting of your marketing work, but they are extremely well connected to the wider community. This wider community could themselves be leads or potential customers, but they also tend to be vocal influencers on the web and social media. Think of an MVP as another way to connect with this world. In short, an MVP is an invaluable asset for Microsoft partner marketing.

Here are 5 ways you can make use of an MVP

The MVPs cited below are merely used as examples. Their inclusion in this list does not indicate they are or aren’t involved in any kind of marketing for particular partners. We are merely highlighting them as leading lights in their individual communities. Speak to your own MVP(s) about the items below to see what they are happy and comfortable to get involved with.

#1. Promote MVPs as endorsement of your company

If you have one or more MVPs working at your company, you must be doing something right. MVPs are by their nature bright, committed, technically competent professionals. If they want to be at your company then this speaks volumes about the kind of company you are. So, tell your customers the same! Letting leads and clients know that you can attract this calibre of staff is an awesome way to start many sales and marketing conversations. Easy ways to do this include:

  • Flag them up on your website, in particular staff and 'senior team' pages.
  • Make a noise on LinkedIn when an MVP joins, or share their updates via a company page.
  • Put a 'staff spotlight' in your monthly newsletter.
  • Make sure Microsoft know about your MVPs. Ensure their certifications are registered as part of your partner status.

#2. Leverage the blogging prowess of your MVPs

Here at Fifty Five and Five, we are big fans of quality content marketing: creating content that offers something useful to its readers, that stands on its own merits without being SEO spam or one long sales pitch. MVPs are generally experts at creating this kind of content, in fact it's often what helps them get MVP status in the first place. Microsoft partner marketing can reap huge rewards in this area.

Aileen Gusni is a great example. A long-time Microsoft Dynamics MVP, she maintains a blog of insightful and interesting CRM content. A switched-on Microsoft marketing professional can learn a lot from Aileen and the many other MVPs out there:

  • Cross promote an MVP's existing blog on your company website and social channels.
  • Encourage your MVP to create original content for your own company blog (and cross link from theirs).
  • Ask your MVP to hold 'blogging masterclasses' internally. Like many companies you probably have an army of great bloggers internally, sometimes they just need motivating and inspiring. An MVP is the perfect person to lead this.

#3. Tap into your MVP's social influence

Twitter, like blogging, is another wonderful medium that any modern Microsoft partner marketing campaign can harness. It's a platform where a Microsoft MVP can be an invaluable resource. Take Laura Rogers, otherwise known as @wonderlaura. With over 14,000 followers she has some serious influence when it comes to social. Think about leveraging this sort of following by:

  • Engaging with your MVP's Tweets and followers. Retweet, favourite, and interact as appropriate.
  • Ask your MVP to share company content, but only when it makes sense for their followers.
  • Look at holding an 'Ask the expert' tweetjam, were users can ask your MVP anything via Twitter. Use hashtags to control and promote.

#4. Conferences and community appearances

Another area where MVPs excel is conferences and public speaking. This is also a great opportunity for Microsoft partner marketing. Their involvement in these activities plays a big role in them getting MVP status in the first place. So why not leverage this to help company marketing objectives? Just look at the upcoming speaker roster for the European SharePoint Conference in Stockholm in November. Over 40 of the speakers (nearly two thirds) are MVPs. A conference-bound MVP can help you in a number of ways:

  • Even if they speak as an individual they can raise your company profile.
  • Conferences are all over the world, so why not help them with the logistics of attending and in return ensure they go in an 'official' company capacity.
  • MVP groups are awesome networking clubs. Head out to a show with your MVP(s) and start working some rooms.

#5. Technical and product expertise

And last, but by no means least, your in-house MVP is an expert in what you do or sell. Utilise these skills in the following ways:

  • When putting together a marketing campaign, check with your MVP(s) to see what features or services the potential audience is looking for. They will have the insight into what the market is talking about.
  • MVPs have a close relationship with Microsoft product teams, this intel (even unofficially) can be invaluable to campaign plans.
  • Similarly, MVPs have an insight into future plans for products. It might be under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) or legal binding, but this sort of information can at the very least inform strategy and thinking.
  • Use them to fact-check content and assets before they are used.

Microsoft collaborates with internet giants to tackle terrorist content

  • Microsoft to collaborate with Facebook, YouTube and Google to tackle terrorist content 
  • A shared database of 'digital fingerprints' will be used to hash content 
  • When one company removes a piece of content, the others will follow suit

It was announced this week that Internet giants Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have teamed up to create an information sharing project that aims to tackle and remove extreme terrorist content from their platforms.

We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online.

In their Newsroom release, Facebook outlined how this shared database will work, and unique digital fingerprints called “hashes” which will help to identify and remove any content that it would consider terrorist or extremist. This kind of database is similar to how Facebook deals with child pornography images or copyright protected files. The difference is that the terrorist content will not automatically be removed; it will first be identified and reviewed by each organisation.

Once the material is spotted, the other platforms will be notified using the hash, then reviewed by Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, and if it violates the codes of each company then it will be removed.

There is no place for content that promotes terrorism

The platforms each have different policies on terrorist content, so the initiative will use the hashes for any extreme images, recruitment videos, files and other material that violates these policies.

The databases will constantly be updated to keep up with any newly released content in the hope of reducing its spread. In the future, the Internet giants involved in the collaboration would like this database to be available for many large companies.

Some may argue that these organisations have no place deciding what content and news is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. However, given the influence and user base that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can have on global sharing of content, these organisations can take responsibility for what is shared and seen on their platforms.

We just got back from WPC 2016!

UPDATE 24/01/2017....
We have just signed on to exhibit at WPC (now Inspire) '17, and so will be heading to Washington DC in July. We'd love to see you there.

  • We had our own stand at the show
  • We met so many interesting people and companies
  • We distributed our Inbound Marketing Excellence report

Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 has come to a close, and we had a fantastic time over the course of the four day event. Meeting new faces and making new connections, it was a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience!

Thanks WPC 2016 – we already can't wait until next year!

WPC 2016 was hosted at the Metro Centre in Toronto from 10th-14th July. A multi-national combination of exhibitors, speakers, mentors, volunteers and attendees from within the Microsoft Partner network, the convention housed nearly 17,000 like-minded people for networking opportunities, industry leading keynotes and even a party or two!

WPC 2016 was an especially big event for Fifty Five and Five, as we released the second edition of our Inbound Marketing excellence report. This year, we ranked over 25,000 Microsoft Partners on their Inbound Marketing efforts – ten times more than we did in 2015. From this Microsoft Partner pool, we narrowed it down to the top 250 based on three key areas of inbound marketing: blogging output, social media presence and website capability.

"None of this would be possible without the partners"

To kick off WPC 2016, the week began with a keynote from Satya Nadella. Satya highlighted the success of Office 365, Windows 10 and Dynamics, with a special focus on the importance of digital transformation and the digital workplace.

During the keynote, Satya welcomed a number of guests including Jeff Immelt from GE to announce the partnership for Predix platform and Microsoft Azure. Microsoft have recapped the whole conference on demand, so those that missed it can catch up on the latest info concerning the direction Microsoft is taking.

The conference was filled with speakers, breakout and engagement sessions with influencers, MVPs and attendees. One such speaking slot was held by Fifty Five and Five’s very own Chris Wright, who spoke about the importance of benchmarking your digital marketing efforts with reference to our new tool, Maya.

Maya is a free benchmarking tool for Microsoft partners – it can analyse your blog (in the same way we analysed partner blogs for our Top 50 report) to provide an ongoing and updated score of your marketing. Highlighting areas you’re doing well in and areas for improvement, Maya gives you a better understanding how your blog is performing. Why not test your websites URL and see how you score ?

We also managed to grab a seat at David Meerman-Scott’s ‘Marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead’ with five ideas we can take from the band – point number four being: the power of a selfie …

Over the three expo days, we met a number of partners who featured in our Top 50 Report, including the #1 ranked Sharegate. And yes … we got a Sharegate selfie with Microsoft MVP Benjamin Niaulin amongst many other Inbound Marketing Excellence finalists!

"It's about celebrating what our customers are all doing with technology"

Although we spent most of the week in our fancy green Fifty Five and Five tshirts, we did get to hang them up in the evenings and get dressed to the nines for the Microsoft UK celebration party on the Tuesday. A fully-fledged James Bond black tie theme, complete with make-up stands, black jack tables and cabaret singers – we had a sparkling time with champagne under the chandeliers! A huge thank you to the UK Microsoft Partner team for a fantastic party.

We had a brilliant time at WPC 2016; we met so many inspiring individuals and partners to whom we hope to make lasting relationships with in the future. And a final shout out goes to Douglas Gruehl of Gridstore for his never ending cosmos and invaluable advice on wearing gold-studded footwear to be fabulous!

Ten T’s of Toronto: See you all at WPC 2016!

  • Microsoft's WorldWide Partner Conference 2016 is hosted in July with 15,000 attendees
  • We give you the 10 T's of Toronto to help you prepare for the conference
  • From tux rental right through to travel visas: we've got you covered

Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 begins this Sunday, and we’re lucky enough to be heading to Toronto for the event. If you’re one of the 15,000 attendees who’ll be there too, we thought it best to offer the top ten ‘T’s’ of Toronto to get you fully ready for WPC 2016. From travel visas, tux rentals and Top 50 reports, this quick checklist will grant you access and get you prepared for all the best bits of Microsoft’s biggest Partner event of the year.

#1. Travel visa

Before you can even get to WPC 2016, you need to make sure that you can get into Canada! You need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), which requires your passport (which we should need no input on ensuring you have!) The application process takes about 10 minutes, there’s a $7 charge and it’s roughly a 48-hour wait for it to become finalised. The Visa will be added onto your passport ahead of your trip, so once it’s done, it’s done!

#2. Transfer and taxis

And once you touch down in Toronto, make sure that you plan ahead past the airport! Microsoft have teamed up with UP Express to provide WPC 2016 guests with complementary transport from Pearson International Airport to Union Station in Downtown Toronto. Simply download this letter, take it with you, and show it when travelling. There will also be shuttles running between a number of hotels helpfully outlined in this PDF.

#3. Time zone difference

If, like us, you may have clients and projects to work on during the week, you want to ensure that you’re on the right time zone, should you need to make contact with anyone back at home.  We’ve found this handy world clock (Toronto is on the right hand side of the list), and for anyone in the UK, Toronto are 5 hours behind us (EDT).

#4. Telephone chargers and laptops

An obvious point, but worth pointing out – don’t forget your chargers for phones, laptops, tablets, desktops, and even a charger for your chargers! If you’re live tweeting the event (follow us on Twitter as we’ll be covering the whole thing) you’ll want plenty of phone battery – don’t forget to use the hashtag #WPC16. Portable phone chargers are currently all the rage, and should you forget your own, we’ve got a backup plan for iPhone, Android, and Windows phone.

#5. Tux rental

This year, the Microsoft UK Partner party has the license to thrill, with its own James Bond theme, and it’s going to be Golden(Eye!). Guests are required to dress to impress – a black tie event for your best tuxes and evening gowns. Now, it’s all fun and games when you’re throwing out James Bond puns and having the generational debate on who was the best ‘Bond’, until you realise that in fact, this time it’s better to be overdressed than under (A quick tip for the gents, for those of you in the UK, we’re hiring our tuxedos from Moss Bros.)

Whilst on the topic of clothing and dress code, Microsoft recommend during the day, don’t wear uncomfortable shoes (perhaps a pair of flats in your bag if you’re braving high heels), as you’ll be up and about all day! They also highlight that despite the weather forecast to be 33 degrees outside (we would have added sun-cream to our checklist if it began with a T), the air-con will be cranked up; so when choosing your outfits, consider clothing you can wear into the evening.

#6. Tequila (and other WPC 2016 parties)

There are a number of parties and events organised for WPC over the course of the five days, with plenty of opportunities for networking and celebrating. We’ll be heading over to the Welcome Reception on Sunday, followed by the UK Partner party and the Microsoft Partner Celebration (featuring the incredible Gwen Stefani – we’ve found you a playlist to bring you up to scratch). Just a reminder to not forget your WPC passes to avoid any charges!

#7. Technology

Technology, of course, will play a starring role at WPC’16. Make sure you visit the Microsoft Technology Centre to see the latest and greatest in the Microsoft tech world. Check out the session types, get signed up for the keynote sessions, breakout presentations, panel discussions, workshops and all the rest with the industry experts.

At WPC, there are also a number of special offers for attendees including discount on Surface devices, Lumia phones, and XBOX consoles.

#8. Talks and keynotes

There will be so many exciting keynotes so get yourself organized. Microsoft have also provided a WPC 2016 agenda, so you can plan ahead and make the most of the experience. Microsoft have provided us with an incredible line up of Vision speakers including Satya Nadella, Kevin Turner, Gavriella Schuster and so many more! And if you can’t make WPC this year, don’t worry; the Vision Keynotes will be posted 24 hours after the speakers. There will also be a number of general sessions, and breakout sessions for you to join.

#9. Tourist destinations

Depending how long you’re in Toronto for, you may have the chance to see the sights. With plenty of boat trips, museums, festivals and a trip to Niagara Falls – which is just 2 hours away on the bus from Toronto – there is plenty to do, see, eat and drink!

#10. Top 50

And last but certainly not least, don’t forget to download our Microsoft Top 50 Inbound Marketing Excellence report. Our second edition of the report has seen us rank 250 MS Partners on their Inbound Marketing efforts, with its official release at WPC 2016. With forewords from David Meerman Scott, and interviews from LiveTiles and Nintex, the report provides core inbound marketing insights alongside expert advice for Microsoft Partners looking to give their marketing a real boost. Come along to our stand #1718 (you’ll spot us in the green t-shirts) to see where your company ranks and to gain help and advice on your content marketing strategy.

digital marketing agency

We just got back from Future Decoded 2015

Over ten thousand visitors, 15 keynotes, 280 sessions and more than 50 exhibitors in just 2 days. Future Decoded 2015, Microsoft’s major conference held this week (10-11 November) at the ExCel Centre in London was a unique opportunity to learn about the future of computing in the 21st Century. All too often, the pace of change in technology can be overwhelming; Future Decoded was about taking stock and helping business and tech professionals understand the bigger picture in a world of constant digital change.

And Fifty Five and Five were there! Exhibiting in the main hall, we launched our inaugural Inbound Marketing Excellence report, celebrating the marketing efforts of Office 365 and SharePoint product vendors. We ranked the blogs, websites and social marketing efforts of over 300 Microsoft Partners to highlight best practice and celebrate the hard work partners are doing. The report, which is now available to download for free, includes detailed commentary on the efforts of the top 50 partners (ranked by marketing excellence) as well as additional interviews, thought pieces and case studies from inbound marketing leaders.

After two energetic days on the exhibition floor, it’s good to be back at our desks!

What happened at Future Decoded?

Besides launching our report, we also took the time to visit keynotes by a whole range of speakers, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, IAAF president Lord Coe and phsicist Dr. Brian Cox. We also heard from other Microsoft and technology leaders on the future of technology and learnt about how the Cloud and the Internet of Things are changing businesses (including how technology is helping cows make calves).

We also had the opportunity to try out some pretty amazing technology in the exhibition hall - including robotic arms which make cocktails, virtual reality headsets and saw a lot cutting edge tools in action.

We also had the opportunity to try out some pretty amazing technology in the exhibition hall - including robotic arms which make cocktails, virtual reality headsets and saw a lot cutting edge tools in action.

Meet ‘n’ greet

Exhibiting also meant we got to meet Microsoft Partners from across the network and heard all about the great work they’re doing. From tiny startups to consultancies to global corporations, we got talking to a whole range of partners doing groundbreaking work in their fields. It was great to hear about the initiatives partners are taking and learn about how they approach inbound marketing. We also got to catch up with colleagues from Microsoft, Content and Code and Program Framework who were also attending.

We really enjoyed meeting all the partners, Microsoft colleagues and tech fanatics who came by our stand at Future Decoded and hope to catch up with you more soon.

Following the success of Future Decoded 2015 and the launch of our study, we’re already planning our next, expanded Inbound Marketing Excellence report. Interested in what the next report will include and how you might get involved? Get in touch today![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Microsoft Digital Marketing Excellence report

Inbound Marketing Excellence report – Top 50 Microsoft Partners in 2015

  • The Inbound Marketing Excellence Report is released
  • What is in the report, and why you should care!

The big day is nearly upon us. The day when we unveil the inaugural Inbound marketing excellence report for the Top 50 Microsoft Partners. We wanted to highlight the great work being done by many Microsoft partners when it came to inbound and digital marketing. So we scoured the industry and found those doing some really fantastic work. We analysed their outputs, profiled their marketing, and put together a beautiful report highlighting the top 50 companies. Read on to find out a little more about the report, who is in it, and how you can get your hands on it.

Who is in the report?

The inbound marketing excellence report focuses on a specific bunch of companies. Namely Microsoft product vendors who specialise in Office 365 and SharePoint. Companies are from across the globe. We only included full product companies, those with significant products or offerings (a single webpart for sale isn’t enough I’m afraid). We also didn’t include development or code based tools or products, as this was a niche area (though one we hope to return to soon).

How did we decide on the top 50?

First of all, we compiled  a long list of all eligible companies. We then looked at three very specific areas of their inbound and digital marketing: Website, Blogging and Twitter. We scored each of these three areas, and combined these scores to derive an overall ranking. Scores were determined in the following way:

  • Website – We used a tool called SiteBeam to analyse the websites
  • Blogging – We used our inhouse Blog Analysis tool Maya
  • Twitter – We used Kred to judge reach and influence

Of course we could have broadened our analysis, to look at other aspects of inbound marketing, but we felt keeping it tight and considered benefited the overall report and made for a better comparison between companies. And there are many companies outside of the top 50 doing great things, but the 50 fifty deserve special recognition for their efforts.

What else do I need to know?

A few other facts about the inbound marketing excellence report report are below. If you have any other questions then get in touch and we will answer them for you:

  • It is independent – The report is independent of Microsoft, but they are very much aware of it and excited for us to partner and launch at their Future Decoded event in November.
  • Analysis and insights – As well as profiles for the 50 companies it includes contributions and insights from: HubSpot, the CMOs of Nintex and Sharegate, Christian Buckley MVP, Dropbox and BuzzSumo.
  • Absolutely free – Everyone who registers for a copy will get a beautifully designed and printed copy through the post.
  • Future Decoded – We will be a Future Decoded on the 10th and 11th of November launching and promoting the report to partners.

How do I get a copy?

This is the easy bit. Simply head over here and register your details. We will post you a copy for the 10th of November, the day we launch it at Microsoft Future Decoded. If you are in London on the 10th or 11th then please drop by our stand for a chat. If you don’t have a ticket then email us and we will see what we can do to get you one.