Why All Marketers in the Microsoft Dynamics Channel Must Attend Directions NA

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Directions NA made my marketing heart so happy.

This was the 19th year the event was held in person (it was virtual in 2020), with a peak attendance of a bit more than 1,300. Yet, despite being a Microsoft Dynamics event enthusiast, I was a first-time attendee.

When Directions NA was initially launched, it was focused on Microsoft Dynamics NAV developers, technical leaders, and those in the IT consultant role.

Attendees would come to hear from Microsoft about upcoming developments in the product and workshop-style training.

But now it is so much more.

“What did I learn at my first Directions North America conference?!  I learned about Community. Yes, I learned an absolute ton of information thanks to the amazing keynotes and sessions, too, but I truly learned more from the opportunity to immerse myself in the amazing community of people. Specifically... I learned about shared challenges and insights from some very talented Marketers….  I caught up with recent connections and was introduced to new faces - users, partners, and experts….Meeting, listening, and questioning are important for most of us and critical for Marketers. I learned more in a few short days about this ecosystem and the audiences I attempt to engage with on a daily basis than I could learn via solo research while working remotely at home. Introvert or not, get out there, get into the mix and be amazed at what you learn.”
Danelle Fash, Director Ecosystem and Partner Marketing, Vena Solutions

Something For Every Role in the Partner Organization

What some Microsoft Dynamics Partners still do not know is that in recent years, the focus has evolved to have something for every role in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (formerly NAV) Partner organization. This means it is no longer just a technical event; it is now an event for leadership, sales, and, yes, even marketing people. Directions NA 2024 was a great example of this, with a full lineup of sales and marketing sessions. In fact, the Directions NA team submitted over 90 sales and marketing sessions this year and was only able to accept about 20 of them. A few of the marketing session titles that especially intrigued me this year were:

  • The Keys to Marketing Across Generations in 2024
  • “So, You Want to Build a “Campaign?”: A Playbook for Success
  • Getting Attention and Driving Conversion in a Noisy Digital World
  • Panel Discussion: What’s Working in Marketing Now
  • Content that Converts Workshop: Turning Digital Assets into Leads
  • Elevate Your LinkedIn Game: Strategies to Increase Reach, Engagement and Conversions
  • Technology Marketing Trends You Need to Know
  • Microsoft Presents: Partner Marketing Best Practices

Based on the audience engagement, I am optimistic that Directions NA 2025 in Las Vegas will include even more sessions for marketers. And unlike many other events in our channel, Directions NA has one outstanding difference.

“I really enjoyed attending Directions this year; as this was my first time attending a Dynamics event, it definitely served its purpose of getting partners in front of partners. I had the opportunity to meet with other Partner Marketing Managers in the channel and nurture and develop relationships with partners I had met virtually but now in person. One of the sessions I attended was a panel discussion, “What's Working in Marketing Now?” One of the most valuable takeaways was about ‘Content Syndication,’ the concept of repurposing content amongst different platforms and channels to get the most out of it. This concept is something I have done in my past marketing positions, but now I have a clear vision as to how I can apply it in this industry and channel. I am excited to apply this concept to our current marketing strategy and see how it helps generate traffic and engagement and boost brand awareness. I am also eager to build upon the relationships formed at this event.”
Alana Ashurst, Partner Marketing Manager, DynamicWeb

The Directions NA Difference

Other large Microsoft Dynamics events I have attended have a different feel than Directions NA.

The reason is simple.

There are no customers there. Only Partners.

Marketers at Directions NA - 2This means the conversations can be honest and unfiltered. Not that there is anything bad to say, of course. But everyone knows that you can be more open with your inner circle.

So, Directions NA gives all Partners, especially marketers, a chance to focus on building their skills and relationships.

Directions NA sessions are not recorded or streamed. That is done purposefully. The goal is for Partners to be genuinely open. We want people to be able to ask questions and share. Partners can give real-world examples and not feel like it will wind up on the internet. The whole idea is to create a community of trust.

That means if you want to hear the good stuff, you have to attend Directions NA 2025 in Las Vegas. What can you expect next year?

“Attending directions provides a unique opportunity for marketers to immerse themselves in the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem, and the educational sessions offer a chance to kickstart your marketing strategy by learning the latest best practices directly from the experts.”
Neal Cranna, Vice President Marketing, Binary Stream

Predictions for Directions NA 2025

Mary Miller, a Directions NA board member and senior marketing professional, has some predictions for Directions NA 2025.

  • Longer sessions overall and more workshop-style sessions for technical deeper dives.
  • A division between Sales sessions and Marketing sessions. (along with Leadership and Technical, of course – one can hope!)
  • Marketing sessions that are more use-case-based. Attendees want real-world data!

Mary said, “Of course, people expect to bring the technical team to Directions NA because they need to know what's next for the product and the channel. But if we go deeper with that, the logical prediction would be that we must go deeper from a marketing standpoint, too.

Marketers at Directions NA - 4One of my key predictions is that we could need to have a dedicated sales track because sales now needs to know how to pre-sell, how to handle when a customer or a potential customer has already gone to the website, has already watched videos, has already self-educated, what does that do to change the sales cycle and the sales approach because the buyer journey has changed.

So while it's important to understand from a marketing perspective how to build and support that buyer journey, it's just as important to know from a sales perspective what you need to be doing at each one of those transition points, education points, sales training opportunities, product knowledge opportunities, and opportunities for end users and end clients.

So, I think sales and marketing may be separated into their own tracks. As a result, I think technical may wind up as more deeper dives. And I believe that sales leadership and strategy will remain a very strong track as well because future-to-business strategic planning growth models will always be part of that partner executive leadership mindset and goal.”

“Directions NA is truly a "by Partners, for Partners" event! As a marketer, there is no better way to "feel the market," from industry trends, offering development to product updates and more, you get a full holistic vision of where the market is at. It is an invaluable opportunity to connect and engage with your peers to learn from their experiences as well as create new connections by sharing yours. With the acceleration of our industry, the old adage, stating, "If you are not at Directions, are you even relevant?" is more pertinent than ever.”
Roland Chi, Marketing Manager, Technology Management Concepts

Who Presents the Marketing Sessions at Directions NA

You must be engaged in the community to be selected to present a session at Directions NA.

Marketers at Directions NA - 5While most of the technical tracks are presented by Microsoft or Partners, the sales and marketing sessions also tend to include some service providers. (For example, Directions NA 2024 included sessions from The Partner Marketing Group, Big Room Creative, Enki Consulting, Neural Impact and PropelGrowth)

These are all people who are deeply connected to our community. To be considered, they had to show involvement and commitment to the Microsoft Dynamics community.

Directions NA 2024 featured several sessions where a Partner and ISV, or Partner and Service Provider, presented together.  That's the best of all worlds because you hear different perspectives. The industry expert or service provider can say, this is what you should do, and then a Partner can tell how they did it and the success rate that really gets attendees engaged.  It tells the content story, the partnership story, and the marketing story of how you're getting the word out.

I love marketers who are willing to share their “secret sauce” and the business owners who allow them to do that. Too many people think, “I don’t want to tell my competitors what works” instead of, “How can I help others so our whole channel is stronger?” In the marketing sessions at Directions NA, I heard real statistics, examples and costs from real Partners. You can’t get that anywhere else.

“I hadn’t attended Directions for many years, thinking there wasn’t content geared towards marketers when our President informed me otherwise. I checked out the tracks the following year and was intrigued by the marketing topics to be covered. I’ve attended Directions for the last two years and have learned a lot from my peers on various topics relevant to my marketing roles at ArcherPoint. Based on this, I consider Directions NA a must-attend event for partner marketers in the Dynamics BC industry. The big bonus for me is networking with my peers, meeting new people in marketing, and connecting with partners in person. I will always include attending Directions NA in my budget.
Suzanne Scanlon, Marketing, Archerpoint

Which Marketing Sessions Will Be Selected?

Marketers at Directions NA - 3Next year, watch for the call for speakers announcement and note the deadline. Get on the Directions NA mailing list at https://directionsna.com/contact/

Mary Miller says, “I strongly encourage everybody to submit sessions with as much detailed description and key takeaways as possible. Fun descriptions may seem cool and catchy but that is not what gets the attention of people looking for the meat. You can fluff up a little bit of the description if you want to have some fun with that but don't make the title so fun that people don't know what they're going to get out of that session because then it won’t even make it to the next round of consideration. The title is the first level of review and evaluation.

If your title doesn't catch somebody's eye, unless there's a shortage in that category, they might not even read the description to find out more.”

If you are a marketer submitting a session, you should know that. Nail your title!

"Directions NA is THE event to collaborate with the best and brightest marketing minds in the Microsoft Dynamics industry. The venue and the organization of the event are best in class. I was able to re-connect and meet new partners to help our business continue to grow in the upcoming year."
Steve Dwyer, CRO, WithoutWire

Should New Marketers Attend Directions NA?

Marketers at Directions NA - 6As a brand new marketer in the Microsoft Dynamics channel, you might not be ready to submit a session, but you should absolutely convince your boss that you need to attend.

I think in terms of multi-day sessions and networking, specifically with marketing people, it would be safe to say that Directions NA is the place to be. We used to have the old BBC conferences, which were 100% sales and marketing-focused. We don't have those anymore. Summit doesn't have content for marketers.

I have not yet attended the Partner Marketing Event at DynamicsCon Live, but I look forward to reviewing it in the future.

So, if a company wants to train new marketers and hear what other companies are doing for marketing, you need to send them to Directions NA.

This includes even very new marketers.

This is how they will make connections with senior, seasoned marketers and learn from them, perhaps even being mentored by them.

Sam Bush suggested starting a “marketing buddy” program at Directions NA, where a new marketer in our channel shadows an experienced marketer during an event.

“As a marketing lead, I find it critical to attend Directions NA not only to attend sessions but also to network. I find the content in the Sales and Marketing track on point. As a seasoned marketer, I learned something from every session I attended from peers trying different things in the channel and with a similar market. Bringing your marketers to this event annually should be a no-brainer, especially if they are newer to the channel and looking for mentorship, ideas, and brainstorming. Attending Directions NA gave me the confidence as a marketer to start presenting sessions to help educate the channel. I'll be forever grateful for this event!”
Sam Bush, Senior Partner Marketing Manager, FloQast

Someone could be a very experienced marketer but just new to our Microsoft Dynamics channel and needs help. And let’s face it, there are a few acronyms to figure out, at the very least!

Mary says, “The Dynamics community is unique because Dynamics partners are the only ones customers can buy from. It creates that demand for relationships. In other ecosystems, in many cases, you can choose to buy through a Partner, but you can also go to the website and buy direct. So the fact that you have this kind of “closed community” means it becomes very close-knit. And coming into this community as a newbie, therefore, is challenging because you not only have to learn the lay of the land from a product standpoint, you have to learn who to go to at each of these partners.”

"Directions has proven invaluable to our entire Tangicloud team. Personally, I've found immense value in the marketing training sessions and the opportunity to connect with remarkable professionals in the field, like you, Anya, Candyce Edelen, Jane Olson and Michelle Glennie. While the sessions keep me abreast of trends and offer valuable insights, it's the one-on-one interactions that elevate the experience, fostering a deeper understanding and instilling hope for a successful year ahead. This renewed energy and vision for success are truly inspiring."
Liesa Malik, COO, Tangicloud Technologies, Inc.

We Know Marketing Has Changed

Marketers at Directions NA - 7Let’s face it: Marketing has changed dramatically in our Microsoft Dynamics channel. It’s not just “I'm going to automatically grow my customer base by x percent every year.” Or “I can rely on Microsoft to give me leads and live off existing customers and referrals.”

The market has changed.

Cloud solutions are easier for people to access directly. It's more of a buyer-driven market. That means Partners have to be educated to stay one step ahead.

How can you do that?

By bringing more than just your technical people to Directions NA. Sales and marketing have to be able to tell the story just as much as the technical people need to have knowledge about implementation and training.

“One thing I thoroughly enjoy and find to be highly rewarding is seeing new entrants find a smoother path to becoming active members of the channel while contributing their fresh views to the conversation. I've personally benefitted greatly from the marketing track at Directions and owe much of my success to the insights I gained from others who presented sessions as a part of it.”
Khaled Nassra, Founder, Enki Consulting

How to Get More Marketing Sessions at Directions

I believe it is safe to say that the planning board of Directions is firmly in favor of expanding the sales and marketing tracks and attracting more Dynamics channel members of that audience to the next Directions NA.

Mary Miller says, “I think we're open to expanding to whatever the audience wants because this is quite literally by partners for partners. When we get feedback on something that we should add or expand, we take it seriously. That is how the Executive track came into existence this year. We must still maintain the value of the technical content, but that doesn’t mean we can’t expand and grow in other areas.”

The Directions NA event is “for partner, by partner,” and the selection committee takes community suggestions seriously. So please give feedback at directions@directionsna.com anytime during the year. Tell them what content you want to see.

Personally, I would like to start the movement of #MoreMarketingTracks.

(This will replace #BringBackBBC, as that just hasn’t happened yet).

See you in Las Vegas at Directions NA 2025!

Visit www.directionsna.com

By Anya Ciecierski, ERP Software Blog, www.erpsoftwareblog.com Directions NA 2024 Media Partner

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