Empowering Microsoft Partners with 5 tips to get the most out of your co-op funds
The end of the year is approaching and you might have been informed that you as a Microsoft Partner still have some co-op money left on the table! The purpose of co-op is to strategically reinvest back into your Microsoft partner business to accelerate future results and meet key objectives. I hope to offer you an overview of general guidance and 5 tips as ideas on how to utilize these funds strategically.
Allocate and plan the CSP Co-op incentive
Last January Microsoft introduced the cooperative marketing funds (Co-op) as a component of the CSP Direct Bill Partner and CSP Indirect Reseller incentive programs. This means that those who are enrolled in these partner programs will now have their incentive earnings split into rebate and co-op components. Partners can claim funding for particular activities such as demand generation, market development and partner readiness.
A sensible thought would be to evaluate your focus, plan and assign the incentive strategically by involving your human resources, sales and/or marketing team. Don't forget to consider the Go-to-Market programs available to you according to your partner competency.
Tip 1 - Know your Partner Resources!
There are several resources. I offer you a small overview that you can leverage.
Within the Guidebook you can find clear guidance on which activities can be co-funded.
At the Microsoft .docs page you can find guidance on how to step by step manage your incentives and co-op claims → Manage incentives co-op claims - Partner Center. You will also find the latest information on deadlines.
Tip 2 - Microsoft Partner Programs
My dear colleague JW Barkmeijer is collaborating with several partners to build programs that can help you to accelerate your business. At JW's SmartLinks you can find amongst other useful resources the Marketing Services Catalogue with Microsoft related partner programs to Go-To-Market with Microsoft together.
As I learned that partner sales are often struggling with selling Azure, I can highly recommend the partner program of Alinea Partners to get your sellers challenged to truly understand the value Azure can bring to your customers.
Another program I highly recommend is the Digital Selling Coaching Program by Tricycle Europe. I have personally been coached by Eric Haar and Job Thomassen. Their coaching has helped me tremendously to build confidence, tips and tricks on LinkedIn and have build a strong network within a relatively short time frame. In my opinion digital selling is the way to go during these difficult times of social distancing to maintain strong connections with current and potential customers. If you would like to learn about my personal approach you can watch the recording of 'Meet the Masters of Social Selling'.
Tip 3 - Hire an On-sight Champ
In case that you have difficulty finding talent to contribute to your Microsoft Partner business, hiring an On-sight Champ with co-op funds might be an easy way. Consider to hire talent that can support your sales, business development and marketing projects and optimize your customer engagements with 100% Microsoft focus!
Microsoft Netherlands is currently collaborating with both the ITPH Academy and Techionista, who educate diverse talent to become Microsoft Cloud specialists. These programs are intensive with focus on both the hard and soft skills to develop into strong IT professionals.
The ITPH Academy offers six tracks that could contribute to your business:
Microsoft Cloud Engineer
Azure Data Engineer
Azure Data Scientist
Azure DevOps Engineer
Azure AI Engineer
Techionista currently has graduates and students from the Microsoft Azure Certified Data & AI Track (Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900), Implementing an Azure Data Solution (DP-200), Designing an Azure Data Solution (DP-201) and Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI (DA-100). The graduates are ready to start a job as a (junior) data scientist, data engineer, data analist, business intelligence professional or data & AI-consultant.
Tip 4 - Invest in your Microsoft Partnership by attaining Advanced Specializations
Partner readiness as part of the co-op program includes Microsoft exams and tuition, internal training and floor days. Microsoft Learning Partners and distributors can advise and help you set up your organizational skilling plan and capability goals for new and/or enriched solutions and the steps to take to attain advanced specializations.
I often receive questions on how partners can get themselves on the Microsoft map to become managed and how to work more closely together. My answer is: set strategic goals like attaining advanced specializations, shine light on your work with our mutual customers and utilize your co-op to build solid strategic and repeatable solutions that align with the advanced specialization and offer the most value to your customers.
Tip 5 - Collaborate with your Microsoft distributor
Microsoft distributors have deep knowledge to support Partners. Discuss with your distributor how to utilize your co-op funds as part of your Microsoft Partner development plan. Some Dutch examples of distributor partner programs that you could include in your development pan: Copaco has the Cloud Value Academy, Ingram Micro offers Cloud Awesomeness Training and Tech Data has the Tech Data Academy, Arrow with Arrow Eduation. Talk to your distributor to understand how they can help you with skills enablement and marketing programs to leverage your co-op funding.
If you have any questions regarding the funds you can ask these to your distri, publicly at the Microsoft Partner Community or log a ticket in Partner Center. Thank you for your time and consideration.