Microsoft Partner marketing at Inspire 2018: an interview with Microsoft’s Jennifer Tomlinson

Jennifer Tomlinson talks about how the Microsoft Partner Network helps partners improve their marketing and what it has lined up for Inspire.

Martina Greco
4 MIN|July 13, 2018
Microsoft partner marketing

In the run-up to Inspire 2018 – Microsoft’s flagship partner conference – we spoke to Jennifer Tomlinson, Microsoft Senior Manager & Global Channel Marketing Evangelist, to find out how to make the most of the conference. Microsoft will be hosting several sessions dedicated to partner marketing over the four days in Las Vegas.

In this interview, Jennifer explains what the Microsoft Partner Network does to help partners improve their marketing, what it has lined up for Inspire and offer some tips on how to make the most of the conference.

Hi, Jennifer, before we discuss Inspire, can you tell us more about your team and how the Microsoft Partner Network helps partners improve their marketing all year round?

My speciality area is to coach partners to build strong marketing practices and, at the same time, building strong customer experience practices. Our team works with partners, helping to provide insights and research trends about their peers in marketing and the world of marketing at large. For instance, we highlight what’s working and what’s not in the ecosystem, so partners can more quickly get into market and try new things.

Advice and education is an important part of what we offer partners. We connect partners to a lot of content and resources to help them get into market more quickly and engage with customers.  Partners can put together effective campaigns combining their own messages with the Microsoft message. We also offer go-to-market services for partners, where we team them up with marketing agencies to execute their marketing plans.

What do you have planned for Microsoft Inspire this year?

When I think about Inspire this year, our content covers those three buckets:

  • Expertise, training and marketing best practices
  • Helping partners understand resources available from Microsoft partner marketing
  • Helping partners can co-market with Microsoft

We have also brought in some outside speakers to really dive deeper into content marketing, because content is the lynchpin of all marketing. There will also be a deeper focus on social media and social selling.

Part of our goal at Inspire is to put on insightful sessions that add real value to partners looking to improve their marketing. But also, we want to build awareness around what it is that the Microsoft Partner Network can do for them all-year-round.

Through the Microsoft partner website, we offer many self-service marketing resources. We know that there’s always more we can do to make sure everyone is aware that we have these resources available to them – and that is part of what we hope to achieve at Inspire.

The Fifty Five and Five team is gearing up for Inspire this year (you can find us at booth #1622). This is our fourth year at the conference – and it always seems like there is so much it can be hard to get to everything. Do you have any top tips for us and other partners about how to make the most of the conference?

Inspire is a large partner event and add that to Las Vegas and you definitely have a recipe for being overwhelmed. Some partners, especially first-time attendees, can find it overwhelming at first – and for everyone, even the most experienced Inspire attendees, it can be hard to know where to spend your time.

One anchor point that I would point out to partners is the lounges for the different countries and subsidiaries, because at those lounges you know that you can find a friendly face from Microsoft. The regional lounges can be found in the Expo Hall.

Also, in the Expo Hall, there’s an enormous Microsoft Partner Network area – this is another great place to learn about all the resources in the network and to find a friendly face who can help point you in the right direction.

Making the most of sessions

When it comes to making the most of all the sessions available, planning is essential. We have hundreds of sessions this year, so you have to stay organized and figure out what sessions are most important to you and your business and build your schedule around that.

In the Expo Hall there are also lots of great, smaller sessions, where there’s a diverse group of speakers from across the Partner Network with sessions on a lot of interesting topics. Of course, Chris Wright [Fifty Five and Five’s Founder], will be giving three of these sessions, which we are looking forward to.

Don’t forget the networking opportunities

But also, be sure to save time in your schedule for networking. Inspire is a fantastic opportunity to meet other partners, to meet with Microsoft, to meet with people you wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to meet with in the course of the rest of the year.

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

I have been to Inspire 11 times in the 13 years I have been at Microsoft and every time it can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. The logistical challenge of optimizing your schedule, so you can make the most of the conference, is a big challenge. My advice is to spend time on the Inspire site and looking through the sessions catalogue. There is a lot of choices, and you only have three or four days to do everything.

Inspire 2018: Microsoft Partner marketing sessions

Customer powered: building a real customer centric culture across your organization (Monday July 16 2-3pm, MKT01 Room 27 Oceanside Ballroom F) Find out more.

Smart marketing, inside stories from marketing superstars who transformed their businesses (Monday July 16 4-5pm, MKT08 Room 27 Oceanside Ballroom F) Find out more.

Engaging the anonymous web buyer: how to increase online engagement and drive conversion (Tuesday, July 17 4:15-5pm, MKT02 Room 9 South Pacific Ballroom B) Find out more.

Help! My IT messaging doesn’t work anymore: why you need a vertical go-to-market strategy and persona-based marketing (Wednesday July 18 4-5pm, MKT04 Room 11, South Pacific Ballroom D) Find out more.

Co-market with Microsoft Go-to-Market (GTM) Programs (Monday July 16 12:30-1:15pm, MCBB North, Level 0) Find out more.

Scale your business through Partner to Partner engagements (P2P) (Monday July 16 3-3:45 pm, MBCC North Level 0) Find out more.

Jennifer Tomlinson is Channel Marketing Evangelist, Senior Manager, Global Partner Channels and Programs at Microsoft.

Not getting enough leads?

Talk to us about improving your inbound marketing. Get in touch.