How to create a great Microsoft Partner of the Year Award submission

Gail’s 15-minute video “How to win a Microsoft Partner of the Year Award” Microsoft Awards Preparation Module Click on this link to register for a free module to gather all the information you need to write a compelling awards submission. [HINT: follow the link to the pricing page and scroll down. The free registration button […]

Microsoft Awards Preparation Module

Click on this link to register for a free module to gather all the information you need to write a compelling awards submission. [HINT: follow the link to the pricing page and scroll down. The free registration button is midway down the page.]

Awards Banner

Microsoft Inspire is around the corner, and the Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards is always one of the highlights. Are you interested in winning an award this year? Think it’s impossible to win? That only the biggest partners have a real shot at it? Every partner has an opportunity to win, raise their profile, and be recognized for their innovation and hard work.

Over the past several years, we worked with multiple Microsoft partners and helped them win or become finalists for a Microsoft award more than two hundred times. Some of these partners were very small – with fewer than 10 people in their organization. Others have been larger partners.

The judging process at Microsoft is very fair. Lobbying judges is not tolerated (it is also almost impossible to figure out who the judges are) and Microsoft really wants the best submissions to be selected. So, how do you become a winner or a finalist?

First. Start by reviewing the Guidance from the Judges document, which includes terrific tips and advice. Know that the key is to tell your story. How did you drive innovation for your customer? How did your customer transform as a result? Tell your story the best way you can.

Second. Start collecting your award submission material early. We’ve learned that most partners don’t gather all the information they need to write a great award submission. And because they leave it too late to get started, their submission is often not as strong as it needs to be to win. On average, each entry you write will take you 40-80 hours to complete. Collecting the information up front will dramatically reduce this effort.

Two years ago, we built a software application to help Microsoft partners market more effectively (we even won an award for best new Azure app in 2021).

While the full software application – daXai – is fee-based, the Microsoft Awards Preparation Module is always free to use. Register for it and then invite others in your company to collaborate with you. If you answer all the questions in the preparation module, you will be 100% ready to write your Microsoft award submission entry. You can use this free tool all year round – it’s a great place to collect customer wins as they happen.

You can register at the link provided above or access it through Microsoft AppSource – we’ve got a short-cut to it here.

daXai Homepage

Telling a great story – what all writers know

Capture the attention of your reader and keep them engaged. Tell a story using the four elements that make for great storytelling. These elements are:

  • A great opening hook
  • A mentor or guide who is wise, innovative and experienced
  • A villain who needs to be vanquished
  • A protagonist or hero who needs the help of a mentor to vanquish the villain

When you pull these elements together, you have a story. Tell a story that will capture the attention of the judges and keep them reading through to the end.

Planning your story – getting the background

Before you begin your story, list all of the qualities and capabilities that you believe are the reasons you should win an award. If you decide to use the free awards preparation module, the tool will ask you a series of questions to identify every element of your unique value-add. These questions are grouped into categories under the headings of:

  • About the customer and the customer engagement – What happened during the engagement that was special? What would the customer say about you to others?
  • About your solution specifically – What makes it unique and scalable?
  • Technology – elements of the Microsoft technology that you used – How did you make Microsoft technology do things that nobody (even Satya Nadella) dreamed it could do?
  • Industry – How is your solution serving or transforming a specific industry? Are you engaging on any of the Microsoft industry clouds?
  • Third-party validation – you say you’re great, but what do others say – Have you won other awards, got a great NPS score, are featured in videos, webinars or trade shows, have testimonials or references from customers, have published case studies?
  • Microsoft relationship – What are you doing to capitalize on your Microsoft relationship? If you are not managed, do you use their portal, their tools? Are your people certified? Have you run specific marketing campaigns to drive demand for Microsoft solutions? If you are managed, what were your scorecard KPIs and did you meet them?
  • P2P – Have you partnered with another partner? If you have a great P2P co-sell story, consider joint-submitting with another partner to increase your chances of winning.
  • Becoming Your Best – How has being a Microsoft partner made you a better company? Are you more resilient? Are you more profitable? Have you transformed as an organization?

While you may not use everything you collect upfront when you ultimately write your entry, you’ll definitely want to capture it on paper (or use the free online awards preparation module) beforehand. Your list will help you build the foundation of what you want to say.

Getting started with the submission – how to tell your story

A great opening hook

With thousands of entries and only a handful of categories, some judges will be reading over 100 submissions. This means that during the first read-through, the judges are looking for a reason to throw out your entry. That’s right. The first pass is about eliminating the ones that are weak or are not up to par. Grab those judges with a strong opening. Try to capture all the highlights of your entry in the opening:

  • Weak opening
    We are a Microsoft partner and we worked really hard this year and we think that this is a great entry because our team skipped vacations to get this solution delivered on time.
  • Strong opening
    When ABC Company needed a better business intelligence engine to improve decision-making for remote location managers, we spearheaded an initiative that saw the implementation of AVD with Microsoft 365, coupled with Microsoft AI tools, which delivered reports at sub-millisecond speed in any location, stopping a Google Analytics project in its tracks.

In the first example, nothing was said except that you forced your employees to skip their vacation. In the second example, you showed leadership (implementing the latest technology), courage (fearless in a competitive situation) and the sales savvy to win against the competition.

A mentor or guide

Every good hero’s journey story needs a mentor. Someone who is humble, modest, and has what it takes to ride in and work with the hero to save the day. In your story, that mentor is you. You and your company are Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi or Professor Dumbledore. You are the company with the answers, the resources, the skills, and the innovation to slay the villain and save the day, in collaboration with your customer.

Everything you have collected in your background information should support all of the elements you need to showcase yourself as a mentor.

The hero

In your story, the hero is your customer. They know that they need to change something (think Luke Skywalker, Frodo/Bilbo Baggins or Harry Potter), but they are facing the unknown. They aren’t sure which direction to go. They are ready to take a risk, but not on their own – they want (and need) the right mentor to guide the way.

A villain

You cannot have a story without a villain. Who is the villain in your story? In your case, the villain is anything that is standing in the way of the hero reaching their goals. Examples of a villain could be:

  • The customer’s pain point (they have terabytes of data but can’t turn it into business intelligence).
  • The competition (it’s an added bonus if you’ve vanquished Google or AWS).
  • The customer’s competition (how are you helping the customer innovate, using Microsoft technology, so that they can be more competitive, introduce new services, improve efficiency?)
  • Customer’s budget (they have limited financial resources but their company has got to take better advantage of technology)
  • Inertia (the customer has a legacy environment and there is push-back at moving to the cloud)
  • Corporate culture (not aligning user buy-in to ensure the adoption of technology was threatening to derail the entire project)

Only you know the insurmountable odds you faced to deliver the results your client needed.

Paint a picture of what it will mean to solve the hero’s problem:

Because the hero is your customer, let’s humanize them. How can you tell a story that the reader can identify with?

  • Ex.: A school board with students who need better access to technology to prepare them for life and 21st-century learning. Try telling your story from the viewpoint of a parent who needs to collaborate with educators to help their child, who struggles with a learning disability.
  • Ex.: A multi-national that is losing market share and closing down locations, causing a ripple effective for employees, suppliers and communities because they have lost control of their data. Tell this story from the point-of-view of a concerned operations manager who wanted to support their small suppliers. With better data, they were able to better forecast product sales so that their small suppliers could meet demand with just-in-time inventory.
  • Ex.: A charitable organization that is trying to increase donations but has not capitalized on the opportunities that collaboration, remote access and social media can introduce. This story can focus on a single individual who was helped because of the mission of the charity. An example of a winning submission was when a food bank was able to triple its output by re-purposing restaurant meals to homeless shelters through sourcing and delivering restaurant food before expiry dates. The story can follow a day in the life of the various people who are part of the donation process.
  • Ex.: A small company trying to keep pace without realizing that the cloud is their answer. This point-of-view could focus on the complete transformation of an SMB such as a small manufacturer trying to compete for business and facing growing costs that threaten their ability to survive until they streamline and modernize.

Understand and portray your customer so that the judges can sympathize, relate to them and understand their situation. There is an old adage in writing: “Show, don’t tell”. It means you want the reader of your submission to feel what your customers were feeling as they read your entry.

Content marketing and other award programs

You have terrific stories. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in business. The only difference between you and the partners who win awards is how you tell your story.

But, no matter how well you tell it, there is no guarantee of a win. That is why you should consider re-purposing your Microsoft Partner of the Year Award content and entry into other award programs, or use this information to create useful digital assets. Consider the following:

Other Awards

  • International business awards (Stevies)
  • Local/regional Microsoft awards programs
  • Vertical industry awards programs
  • Local newspapers or online publications (often looking for great stories from local companies)
  • Local Chamber of Commerce awards

Other Assets

  • Blog
  • Win Wire
  • Case Study
  • Infographic
  • Press Release
  • Webinar

Get your story out there and get recognition. It is a great way to boost your brand. It tells potential clients that you are a leader and an innovator. It tells people that doing business with you is a smart choice.

Tell your story. Tell it well. Good luck!