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New Partner Resource Addresses Vertical Theme

Microsoft could've substituted "Vertical" for the official theme of its Worldwide Partner Conference and it might've been more appropriate than the actual theme, "Velocity."

A search on "vertical" in the various conference breakout sessions returned 24 results, and the term was mentioned in virtually every keynote address. During the keynote on the second day of the show, Orlando Ayala, senior vice president small of the Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partner (SMS&P) Group, said the conference had three underlying themes:

  • Tremendous excitement and innovation
  • Partner enablement and opportunity
  • Determination to be best at understanding customer needs.

To address that third theme, he said, Microsoft and its partners have no choice but to better understand vertical market needs. In almost the same breath, however, he and many other executives made the point that there's nothing wrong with offering horizontal solutions.

Still, the focus on vertical markets was hard to miss. One breakout session in particular homed in on the theme. Dubbed "Go Vertical," it provided a demonstration of Microsoft's new Vertical Partner Resource Center.

Morgan Wheaton, a member of the Worldwide Industry Strategy team within SMS&P, said a vertical strategy can help partners address each of the top five reasons that they lose deals: functionality, solution cost, understanding business needs, knowledge of customer's business and industry experience.

"Any time you lose a deal on price, it's because your solution wasn't perceived as offering a value that was equal to whatever the customer chose," Wheaton said. A vertical focus can help you better explain that value proposition, including the functionality of the solution.

According to Ron Meaux, U.S. partner development manager for Microsoft Business Solutions, the Vertical Partner Resource Center is intended to help partners decide if they want to go vertical, guide them through the process, and ensure Microsoft and others are aware of their solution.

The first section includes customer testimonials that are admittedly pro-vertical, Meaux said. Be he encouraged partners to get in touch with the partners referenced to learn more about their efforts. "They'll give you the good, the bad and the ugly," he said.

The meat of the portal is the section that describes the three-step process of going vertical:

  • Assess your business
  • Develop a strategy
  • Develop and commit to an execution plan

Online forms and charts help you refine your "elevator pitch," and detail average length of sales cycle, deal size, win percentage and more. Other forms guide you through the process of analyzing your customer base and profiling your staff.

More tools help you develop an execution plan, including research from First Research Data -- at a 60 percent discount -- and market sizing aids.

The final section of the site points you back to the main Microsoft Partner Program site where you can profile your solution, so Microsoft, other partners and customers can learn what you've got to offer.

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at paul@pdedit.com.

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