Microsoft BizSpark proposal for startups is undoubtedly great. Software provided by this program is huge help for a company working with Microsoft development stack. It is for sure.
But I'd like to ask about the marketing benefits of participating in BizSpark program. Does the visibility provided by letting everybody know of membership in this program give the real marketing advantages? Is marketing exposure of this kind always have positive effect?
Please, don't take me wrong. I have nothing against MS. I just wanted to ask your opinion.
I have been a BizSpark member with two different companies, as well as the Empower program prior to that. I have also worked for companies that are certified resellers. Although I am currently not using the MS stack, I have made my living in that stack for over 15 years.
BizSpark is most definitely something where you decide how involved you want to be and benefits will come based on that. Signing up gets you limited time licenses and you can choose to be listed in a directory. I don't know who actually reads this directory.
However, MS makes available partners and help and advisors on just about everything, if you want to take advantage. It will still, of course require effort on your part to follow up on the advice.
The program is not (nor could it be) designed such that you sign up and they do marketing for you. There would no way to know what direction to take.
If you are selling software that requires installation inside an organization, including purchasing MS licenses for servers, SQL, etc., MS can provide lots of support to move those products in the form of marketing materials, training and demo products. Their interest here is enabling you to be their affiliate program and move their software for them.
If you are using the program to work on web-based software, MS will help you technically make it happen, but the marketing side is pretty thin. In this case, their interest lies more in keeping developers on the platform instead of leaking to other alternatives.
I think it's one of those "you get what you put into it" things. I have been in a startup that was a member of the BizSpark program, and I believe we were listed in a public BizSpark directory somewhere. However, we didn't push the Microsoft angle at all, we simply used their software stack on our servers. Predictably we got good server software, but no marketing benefit.
I think if you're looking for marketing benefit, you should seek out Microsoft Certified Partner status as well. And market yourself as a Microsoft tech specialist, write up some good case studies, blog about the solutions you implement, etc.
Note that there could be a disconnect between BizSpark and Microsoft Certified Partner. AFAIK BizSpark is not for services companies, i.e. it's not for resellers / implementors as Certified Partner is.