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:
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.
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.