Writing great submissions for Microsoft’s Partner of the Year Awards!

Australian partners are responsible for some of the world’s most exciting and innovative technology. There is much hope and anticipation that we will see many Australian names recognised at this year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Partner Awards in July at Washington DC

If you believe you have a great story that puts you in the running for an award, it’s time to START YOUR SUBMISSION NOW. Don’t leave it to the last minute like so many partners do each and every year.

While the deadline for submissions to be uploaded to the tool is Friday, 11 April at 11.59 Pacific Time, we recommend you set yourself an earlier deadline to avoid any last minute hitches (and trust us, they can happen!).

First thing you should do is read the award guidelines. It’s important that you are clear on the eligibility requirements and the questions for your chosen award. Then once you are certain you are eligible, copy and paste the questions into Word, where we recommend you first write your entire submission. Once you are happy it is ready to go, it’s then you can copy and paste it into the submission tool.

When writing your submission, think about who your audience is. In this case, it’s the judges: possibly up to eight, depending on your category. Like everyone, judges are busy people so you need to make your submission interesting and easy to read.

Judges have told us they love submission that:

· tell a story and entertain them

· have been freshly written and not simply copied and paste from a website

· articulate a credible understanding of the technology of the category they are entered under

· have been written by a person who is passionate about the technology or solution

· real customer stories

· use other story telling techniques like videos and photos

Judges have also told us they don’t like submissions that:

· are sloppy, full of mistakes so it looks like a last minute rush job

· stretch the truth

· use too many words to tell a simple story

How to tell a good story

Sometimes those first words that start your submission can be the hardest to find, so we also recommend you think about this tried and trusted formula for telling a good story.

The hero

At the heart of good stories are strong well-described characters. In your submission you are the hero: the one with all the answers to save the day. That James Bond or Lara Croft character ready to swoop in on your helicopter.

So spend a bit of time understanding what it is that makes you, as the main character, special. Perhaps you only started up business two years ago and have already doubled your customer numbers? Perhaps you have launched the first product of its kind – your secret weapon. Perhaps you have highly talented people working for you? Take the time to really describe who you are and paint that picture of who you are with real evidence such as: where you operate; the number of employees you have; the number of customers; the fact that you are entirely online; the fact that you have customers who are members of the FSTE 500. Whatever it is that makes you special.

The victim

Who are you saving? In most of our cases it’s a customer who is facing some kind of problem. Perhaps it’s a customer struggling to get information quickly and safely to its workforce located in remote regions across the world? Perhaps it’s a company being held back by a slow and unresponsive IT service provider? Or perhaps the victim is a market place suffering from a lack of competitive offerings? Or a bunch of students who are missing out on amazing learning experiences because they don’t have access to the right technology?

And again, paint the picture of your characters with evidence. The amount of money that customer is spending on outsourcing their IT needs. Numbers or statistics that show how inefficient that industry is. Or numbers or statistics that show the opportunity for that industry if only they could work more efficiently. Academic evidence pointing to a change in the way students should be learning?

The villain

But of course, just to makes things even more interesting, enter the villain: the person or thing that could stop the hero in its tracks. This could be: other competitors circling like sharks; tough regulatory red tape that could tie the hero’s hands behind their back; a possible lack of funding; challenging office environment; high security risks; or a last minute technical hitch. What is it that you as the hero must overcome in the inevitable struggle?

But of course, like all good stories, the hero always wins. Somehow through either their brawn or their brain the hero always overcomes the villain to save the day. It might be through sheer passion and determination. It might be through creative thinking. It might be through changing a work process to make you more efficient. It might be bringing a customer closer to you so you can make changes to your product to really meet their needs – a co-designed approach. It could be innovative and robust compliance techniques to overcome regulatory burdens. It could be a great idea that came from one of your employees that you empowered to really make a difference.

Happily ever after…

And finally, there’s the happily ever after. The hero has saved the day! How? Well this is where you need to be very clear. How many new customers did you win as a result? How many new customers did your client win as a result? What was the tangible increase in a customer’s productivity as a result of your solution? How much money is your customer now saving every year? What other customers did you win as a result of this win? How many students are now benefiting from your solutions?

This tangible ‘real information’ is very important. They are the proof points as to why your story is such a success story. Make sure you back up your story with as many of these proof points, these stats and these figures, as possible. This is the stuff that really makes a difference to your story.

Now turn your story upside down

Once you have your story there is one final very important thing you need to do. You need to turn it on its head, so the happily-ever-after-bit becomes your introduction. That summary pitch that makes it an irresistible story for the judges. The hook that reels them in and encourages them to make the time to read the rest of your submission.

Turning a story on its head like this is based on the inverted pyramid method of journalism. It’s important for a number of reasons. Firstly it helps the judge to understand quickly why they should read your submission and give you the time of day. And secondly if for some reason the judge gets distracted during your submission and has to stop reading it, they will still come away with that most important information you want them to know because they’ve read it first in the introduction.

A few practical writing tips

  • Write your words as though you are saying them. Writing as you would speak enables your writing to have a conversational and ‘authentic’ feel – a style that is much easier to read and absorb.
  • Use an active voice, not a passive voice. This is another big rule for writers. Active writing is easier to read as it puts the subject at the front of the sentence. For example, “Fred loves Angela” is active. “Angela is loved by Fred” is passive (and takes the mind a bit longer to work out!).
  • Assume the judge knows nothing. So this means avoiding acronyms and jargon like the plague! What if your judge has only been three weeks in their role? What if your judge really dislikes acronyms?
  • Say it once and say it well. Don’t use slightly different sentences to make the same point over and over again.
  • Edit and edit ruthlessly! Don’t be afraid to get professional help.

And the cherry on the top…

  • Use real customer quotes and testimonials. Just make sure you get their permission first.
  • Point out if you used the tools and benefits within the Microsoft Partner Network and who or what helped you. For example the Partner Learning Centre or Pinpoint. Or if you partnered with another partner make sure you highlight that too. Collaboration is highly valued.

If you missed yesterday’s “How to write a WPC Award Submission Training” you can now View the Recording

Need Help!  Lisa Lintern from a communications strategist and writer is available to help with submissions – be it writing from scratch or editing. If you’re interested in find out her rates, please email me at lisa@lisalintern.com

Good luck with your submissions. Do us proud! And don’t forget there is a wealth of information about the awards at http://www.digitalwpc.com/Awards/