Apps for Winning Awards with Gail Mercer-MacKay, Mercer MacKay Solutions

Apps for Winning Awards with Gail Mercer-MacKay, Mercer MacKay Solutions

#92. Join me with Gail Mercer-MacKay, the founder and CEO of Mercer-MacKay. They have a unique position in the Microsoft ecosystem: they help Microsoft partners clarify their marketing message and produce compelling digital content that inspires Microsoft customers to take action. 

Our discussion covers:

  • Why Mercer-MacKay decided to Deploy Microsoft business applications internally.
  • Gail's perspective on choosing a Microsoft business applications partner.
  • The process of building the Minimal Viable Product in just 8 weeks.
  • Hurdles and roadblocks encountered during the development of the tool.


Winning Agile Projects
Winning Agile Projects is a five-week program for 10 partner professionals involved in Dynamics 365 and Power Platform sales, pre-sales, practice leaders, architects and analysts that will help them qualify agile opportunities, pitch the benefits of an agile approach, create compelling agile proposals, estimate agile applications and write agile contracts. Apply today:

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Neil Benson: [00:00:00] Welcome to Amazing Applications. The podcast for Microsoft Business Applications creators who are making amazing applications everyone will love. 

 Hi there. I'm Neil Benson, host of the Amazing Applications podcast, where our goal is to help you slash your project budgets, reduce your delivery timelines, mitigate technical risks and create amazing, agile Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications.

If this is your first time listening, welcome to the show. Please do me a favor and follow the Amazing Applications page on LinkedIn. That's where we post each episode and it would be great if you could follow the page, leave a comment or a question on whatever episodes you enjoy the most. Your engagement with that page helps us reach more people and keeps the show growing. I'd be very grateful for that. Search for Amazing Applications on LinkedIn. 

I've got another amazing guest for you this week, but she's no ordinary application architect or IT leader. She's Gail Mercer-Mackay. She's the founder and CEO of Mercer-MacKay Solutions. And they have a unique position in the Microsoft ecosystem: they help Microsoft partners clarify their marketing message and produce compelling digital content that inspires Microsoft customers to take action. 

And here's a curious fact about Mercer-MacKay Solutions that I learned while speaking to Gail, they helped 40% of the winners and finalists and last year's Microsoft Partner of the Year awards prepare their submissions. Gail's goal is to write a submission that tells such a compelling story that it makes the judges cry. 

Mercer-Mackay has built a new online tool called daXai. DaXai is a digital marketing mentor built on Dynamics 365 by the team at Mercer-Mackay with a little help from one of their Microsoft partners. And Gail joins me on the show to tell us her story and share the CEOs perspective on building amazing applications on Dynamics 365.

You can find out more about daXai at and sign up for a free beta program for a limited period. 

You'll find a link to daXai and all the resources mentioned in this episode at 

Here's Gail Mercer-MacKay, CEO at Mercer-MacKay Solutions.


Gail. Welcome to the Amazing Applications podcast. It's great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:03:01] Oh, Neil, thank you so much for inviting me. I feel really blessed to be here today and fortunate, and I love your podcast. So this is really exciting for me.

Neil Benson: [00:03:09] Thanks so much. So do you want to take a moment just to introduce yourself to our Amazing Applications audience?

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:03:13] Sure. My name is Gail Mercer-MacKay. I have been in the Microsoft ecosystem my entire career. Uh, Worked for SIs and ISVs always on the sales and marketing side. And then about 14 years ago, decided to start my own marketing agency aimed at helping Microsoft partners tell their story better because they, Microsoft partners build these amazing applications, but then they often don't know how to get the message out, how to tell people how to, you know, what it is and how to use them. So that's what we've been doing for the last 14 years. And, uh, and I love it.

Neil Benson: [00:03:46] Great. There's probably quite a few of your clients in our audience. I'm sure there's a lot of overlap there.

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:03:51] There could be, there could be for sure.

Neil Benson: [00:03:54] So do you help all kinds of different Microsoft partners across all the different Microsoft product lines? Or do you specialize in any particular area?

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:04:01] We help all kinds of Microsoft partners. So we uh, from the very smallest uh, uh, MSPs and ISVs right up to some of the biggest names and brands that you hear of every day. We have well over 500 partners that are our clients. And we also are kind of known for helping partners write their Microsoft award submissions.

We do a lot of coaching and education. We write them, but we also teach partners how to do that too.

Neil Benson: [00:04:27] Oh, I wish I'd known that I've written so many and I've never won an award, so

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:04:30] Oh my gosh. We can help you, Neil, Neil, we, we can help you. Let's talk.

Neil Benson: [00:04:36] Could have saved me. Okay.  What we'd like to do is to ask you a couple of little introductory questions, just to get to know you a little bit better. So starting off with a nice, easy one. What do you have for breakfast this morning?

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:04:47] Well, I'm really, I'm tempted to lie, but I'm going to tell you the truth and say, I had a cookie. I had a cookie with a coffee for breakfast. That was, I'd like to say I had my steel-cut oatmeal, but I skipped it and ate a cookie.

Neil Benson: [00:05:00] Yeah, sometimes you just need a sugar hit to give you that boost in the morning.

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:05:05] True. Well, it was just fast and easy. I was jumping on a conference call and there was a cookie there and I, I grabbed it. That was it.

Neil Benson: [00:05:10] Good for you. What was your first role out of school or college? How'd you get that job?

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:05:16] So my first role was teaching customers how to use a word processing application. So I got hired by a small software distributor to, uh, to teach their clients how to use the word processing application. And, and it was only a part-time job, but I said, I want to do more of this. I really like it.

And the president said, 'Well if you can get our customers to buy training, then you can do all the training you want.' and I said, fantastic. So every break, every lunch hour, I was on the phone calling up customers saying, Hey, you've got training credits. Hey, we're running the class. And in 12 months we had gone from me doing it part-time to three full-time trainers. So they moved me into Sales and I said, I don't know anything about selling.  He said, you've been selling for 12 months. And I said, no, I've just been talking about training. I love training. And, uh, and I think that's been the key to my success.

I think it's about doing what you love and then sharing that with people, as opposed to, you know, doing a job that you just go in and punch the clock. So.  ,

Neil Benson: [00:06:17] And your role today? You're the chief executive of Mercer-Mackay Solutions?

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:06:21] I am. Yes. Yes. That is my role. It feels a bit foreign sometimes to say that I'm the CEO, but that's yeah, we've got a hundred people now, so,

Neil Benson: [00:06:29] Wow. That's a big business. Good for you!

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:06:32] It's yeah, it is. It's a big business and we, we really enjoy it. .

Neil Benson: [00:06:36] We invited you onto the show because as well as helping Microsoft partners tell their story, you've also got a really interesting story about deploying Microsoft business applications internally at Mercer-MacKay Solutions. Do you want to tell us about that journey and how that's been for you?

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:06:50] Sure. You know, one of the things that I wanted to see if we could do, because you can only scale so much when you're actually doing professional services helping a Microsoft partner. You know you give them a writer. You give them a graphic designer. You create a campaign. I wanted to see if we could scale that. And I knew the only way to do it was to try and do it with software. And so we looked at, if we could take all of our IP and all of our process and all of our templates and actually build a software application, we could scale and we could help more partners and we could, uh, we could have probably a more resilient business.

And so we did spend probably about a year. And we hired a Microsoft architect who helped us do requirements gathering and define everything. And there is a category for this it's called content marketing platforms or content marketing systems. And so we wanted to do that plus a little bit more by bundling education and training into it as well. 

And we went through and we looked at it and at the end of the day, it was very doable, but it was also going to cost us anywhere from, two to $50 million based on what competitors had spent to build software like this. So 2 million would be, get us to minimum viable product and, 50 million once you get into the big boy club, big girl club.

Yeah, that was not, that was a non-starter for me. I was not going to invest that kind of money into it. But I'm in the Microsoft ecosystem. And so I asked around and I got connected with a group out of Seattle called Women in Cloud. And Women in Cloud is a Microsoft is it's, co-funded most funded, mostly by Microsoft, but I believe, Google Cloud and AWS have a little bit of investment there, but mostly Microsoft they've been really big about helping entrepreneurs.

Accelerate into the cloud and especially for, women and for diversity inclusion and just helping women get into this business. And yeah, it's great.  So I got accepted into the women in cloud accelerator program. And as I shared my challenge that I didn't have the kind of money to develop, they said to me, have you considered developing on the Microsoft Dynamics platform?

As I told you before Neil, before we turn the audio on, I've been in the Microsoft ecosystem my entire career. And I sold version one of Office and one SQL server and version one of SharePoint, which is called Front Page. I also sold version one of CRM. So I went no, no CRM. I said no, I'm not building on that. 

And they said, no, it's a long way. And it's very different. It's a completely rebuilt. And you need to take a serious look at that. So I did, I, we took a serious look at it and we hired a specialist in Dynamics, and we gave them our requirements and we said, 'Do an analysis and let us know, can we build this on Dynamics? And will we be giving up any functionality if we do?' And they came back after four weeks and said, 'No, you can do it.' And then the next question was, 'How can we get to minimum viable product? How quickly?' and they said '12 weeks,' and I said, 'Okay, I want you to do it in eight weeks. So I said, you've got eight weeks to get to minimum viable product.'

And they did it. And that was, it was a year ago. And that was to get us to minimum viable product for the Microsoft awards season a year ago. We built our minimum viable product as the help, the tutorial, the templates, and the wizards, and the process to help partners prepare to write their Microsoft awards submission. And it's free, Neil. You can have it for free.

Neil Benson: [00:10:23] That's good news. I'm shocked Gail, that you asked a Microsoft partner if it's possible to solve your challenge with Dynamics and they took four weeks to say yes, most of them take about four seconds to say yes. But then I liked the way that you threw down the gauntlet and said, Okay, well let's do it in eight weeks, not 12, if you really think it can be done. I like the way that you challenged them to do that. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:10:43] They rose to the occasion. They were a very small partner. They've since been acquired. And now they are a very big partner, global partner. But they were a very small local partner and did a great job for us.

Neil Benson: [00:10:55] I'd love to get a customer's perspective on hiring a Microsoft partner that you've got an unfair advantage because you know the landscape really well. And I imagine you have a roster of Microsoft business applications partners in your client community. Did you pick one of those? Did you limit yourself to that pool or did you go through a beauty parade to select a partner? How did that work? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:11:16] Yeah we actually did not pick one of our customers did a few things. I went to Microsoft first and I got some recommendations from the Dynamics community. And and for me, what I was looking for was I wanted somebody local. I was small. I'm not a big guy. We were small. And we wanted somebody that I could look in the eye and he was going to be physically located near us. I want to see where it was small enough that we mattered to them. We were not going to get lost. Cause we're not because we weren't going to be a big project. This project was an $85,000 project, so this is not a huge development project. I wanted somebody where I knew the president.

And I knew the president of this organization. I could pick up the phone and call him and say, we have a problem. We need this done or that done. And I wanted somebody with a proven track record. I knew some of the engagements that this partner had been engaged in before. And when I say they weren't a customer, they weren't a current customer of ours, but some of the people that work there had been customers, had worked where they'd been customers of ours before. So I did know some of the team. And then even though they were small, the other thing I was looking for was connections into Microsoft. So they were gold partner. They definitely had connections with corp. They had connections with our regional sub.

So if we ran into a big obstacle, they were going to be able to bring in somebody from Microsoft fairly easily or more easily than somebody that is maybe not as connected. So those were all of the things that we looked for and and yeah, they did a great job.

Neil Benson: [00:12:49] That seems to be a really mature set of criteria to, to screen through Microsoft partners. You've obviously done this before. You've got some history here, so that's a really good lesson for any Microsoft customers out there. I love the fact that you're looking for somebody who's the right size. I think that's a really key criteria to apply. Because if you're a big organization choosing a global systems, integrator might be the right answer for you. But if you're a mid-sized company, choosing a mid-sized partner is great. 

I've had quite large customers choose my business. Partly because they, they hoping for an undue influence over my business. There'll be a, a really important customer and able to make sure I deliver the service that they're looking for. They're not going to get lost because they're going to be my biggest 800 pound customer. And so good criteria there. The fact that the gold well-connected into Microsoft, able to escalate issues for you into the Microsoft organizations and other critical lot as well. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:13:42] Okay. Yeah, it was definitely, it definitely worked for us, so it definitely worked for us but I think, your point about matching size to size is really. You almost, you want to do business with somebody who looks, acts, thinks like you and has the same kinds of business problems that you have.

So it's just a little bit easier to to connect that way. Yeah. But if I had known about you, Neil. If I would've, if I'd known about you, but there's going to be more so we can talk afterwards.

Neil Benson: [00:14:10] I'll have to, I'll let them move to Toronto so he can look me in the eye whenever you 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:14:12] I've got you on a video. We're on a podcast, but I can see you on video. So this is good enough for me.

Neil Benson: [00:14:18] Okay. So tell me about that process of building the MVP. It's a really tough set of challenges. You've got to jettison as many of the fancy requirements as you can, and just pare it right back to the bare minimum. How did that feel for you? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:14:32] That was actually pretty easy because we're building. What we are building is a marketing engine that has multiple modules. So the minimum viable product for us was how do you write, how do you prepare to write a great Microsoft award submission? So everything else was extraneous. The main thing we needed was we needed a secure login and I think we went with the Azure B2C security for login.

And then we just needed that path. And we've been doing the Microsoft awards for, at that point 13 years, and I always brought in a fleet of freelance writers who didn't know much about Microsoft to help write these awards. So every year I had to go through a very rigorous training session of teaching them what to do and how to write to this formula, to this template.

And so we really just needed to put that into the first module. And yeah so that part was easy. The hard part is always the look, the, feel, the user experience, when you hit a dead end, what do you do? And you know what it's like to build something in eight weeks.

Neil Benson: [00:15:32] One of the criticisms my customers have had of Microsoft portals, which sounds like that's what you're using. You can only take the user interface customization so far. If you're doing custom website development, you can get a front end web designer to design anything, and you can hire a developer to build a pixel perfect website that looks just like the design. 

With portals there are some constraints. Were you able to live with those constraints? Who did you really push the boundaries of what it can do or how it can look? 

 Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:16:00] I think we push the boundaries of how it can look. We definitely knew there were constraints going in. And so in some respects, those constraints just helped us be more focused because we couldn't go everywhere. We could only go in a certain direction. We do have an amazing design team.  We are going into production with our second beta tonight at midnight.

And I'll give you the login for that. But you'll see the look and feel is absolutely beautiful. To me, this is as custom as it gets. I'm so delighted with it. It's a really nice interface.

Neil Benson: [00:16:33] And that's great. And so you've launched the first version of the beta for the last award season. So that would have been last year. How's the feedback been so far? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:16:43] So we had 300 partners sign up for the first year. We had a really positive feedback from the partners using it. There were a few things that we needed. We took his feedback that we might need to adjust, but for the most part, people really liked it. They used it, they said it was super helpful.

We had maybe five help desk calls, so the software worked. And then we got busy doing a million other things and beginning to work on what we would call phase two. The original plan was to launch a revenue producing phase two this year around the same time as awards.

We did not, we were not ready for that. And so what we ended up doing, we use the software again for awards this year. And this year for awards, we added another 190 partners. We also added free training. So we hadn't done free training before, free live training. So we did free live training.

We had 30% of our partners that signed up to use the program, took the free training and they all stayed on. They all did it right to the end, which was fantastic. The survey that we went out was great. But based on all of the learning. What we ended up doing was the revenue producing portion of this solution will be available in the fall.

We're going to start charging for it in the fall. And what is launching right now is what we call the sales enablement package. The sales enablement package is for Microsoft breadth partners that need to learn how to build their unique value proposition, their battle card, their customer sell sheet and their win wire.

So everything you need to put into a, an OCP catalog or everything that you need for your sales team to sell a solution or your partner team to sell a solution. So the beta is free. We're inviting partners to come into it. We're going to be selective on who comes in and they will get live training on creating all these assets.

And then the second beta will go live in August and that will be a full campaign. So it'll be a full thought leadership campaign, creating everything from your, what we call your lead magnet, your really your thought leadership piece, all your campaign elements, all your ads, your copy, setting up your Google ad-words or your LinkedIn campaign, whatever it is, right to the end, live training with all of the templates and the process. And the reason we're doing that is we really want the feedback. Can you do this? How easy is it? Did it work for you? Did you drive leads? Were you able to engage with people? We want that feedback so that we're really confident when we go with our revenue producing version in the fall that, you know, that it's really good value for the partners.

Neil Benson: [00:19:26] You've mentioned some marketing terms there that I'm slightly familiar with. And I'm wondering if it's just Microsoft marketing jingo - win wires, battle cards - do people in marketing other software solutions talk about those things as well, or are those just Microsoft terms that we pick up in this industry? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:19:45] No, there are other companies use them as well, other technology companies, and we stay in the technology space. When you think about it, every, almost every tech company is a Microsoft partner. There's very few that are not. Maybe Google's not a Microsoft partner. Or AWS, although they use Microsoft software.

But yeah those terms are familiar kind of across the tech landscape.

Neil Benson: [00:20:06] So the next version of your Dynamics application is going to help partners bell from nothing to fully executed marketing campaign and all the steps in between. And how are you leveraging Dynamics behind the scenes? How does your team use the application to help partners? Is it really all self-service for those partners or have you got some users using the application and checking in on the partners and serving them behind the scenes? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:20:30] So you're probably asking me questions that I should have one of my technical people answer, but what I can tell you is. Everything that we do is collected in CRM. So we have all of the data collected it in CRM so that we can see how and when, and if partners are using it. 

We use the Dynamics Marketing element. So that's for all of our marketing. So we go out we do all of our mail and everything else, and we're tracking how people are engaging with us. We're tracking if they come to the landing page. So all our landing pages are built in Dynamics, so that's all of our elements. The actual CMS or content system I think is Dynamics. I don't know. I think it's in Dynamics. I know there's a portal that you come in and then when they come in, then they get videos, they get templates that they can download. They get examples of completed templates. 

 If you think of the Microsoft portal, if you ever go to Microsoft to go to their, go to market portal, they will have assets there that partners can use. What partners have told me and what I experienced myself when I was when I was a partner, is that there are a lot of those templates are prefilled with Microsoft product content that's difficult to change or manage, or doesn't quite fit for the partner. 

But then the other thing that the partner says, we're really not sure how to use it. How do we use this? Where do we use it in our marketing?  And we do think that partners need. Somebody to just talk to on the phone, they need a process, follow this process step by step. They need to say here's one, that's completely empty. Here's one that's filled in. Here's how you modify it for an industry vertical versus just vanilla.

 They need a lot of how to, and they just sometimes want to pick up the phone and say, Is this a good result for an email campaign? Is 18% open rate good? That kind of thing. So that's what we're trying to do for partners. Be that a little bit of light touch as opposed to a zero touch completely self-serve. Yeah, that's what we're doing.

Neil Benson: [00:22:26] I'm thinking about the process of implementing your content marketing system. Was it a big team that you put together both on the Mercer-MacKay side, as well as your Microsoft partner, or it was just a couple of people? Tell us about the team and their approach. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:22:39] Sure, so on the partner side, when we went to MVP, we had a great project manager. We had a fantastic BA and we had a solution architect. So those were our people on the partner side. 

On our side, we had our own web developer,  our Director of IT, who was installing all the software and making sure it worked. We had our content strategists. We had our graphic designer. So our content strategists knows all of our process and templates. Our graphic designer was all about the look and feel. And then we had  a data analyst as well. So it was a pretty small, tight team , that got us into production.

And now that we're doing it ourselves, we hired a developer and he's been really amazing. He's just been fantastic. So he's been doing all the development. We have a BA who does all of the making sure the use cases make sense. And the user experience is good. And she does a lot of the citizen development and citizen programming.

We have QA. And we have the same content, strategist and graphic designer. Putting in the look and feel, and right now we're using a UAT team of about six or seven people from picked from across the company,  who have been doing the UAT testing for the past few weeks.  

Neil Benson: [00:23:56] Did you get any of your Microsoft partner clients involved in UAT? Are there any of them, like really on the inside of the development of this thing? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:24:02] We have not. Which is again why I wanted to go beta. So, we're going to go beta where again, we're inviting a handful of partners in beta one and another handful of partners in beta two. And we'll give it some real rigorous, take it out for a good spin and make sure it works for them.

The one thing I will tell you is that over the years, Microsoft partners will call me up and they'll go, look, I just hired a marketer out of university. She's really great, but she doesn't know anything about our industry. Can you just walk her through, how to market for a tech firm. Or I really need a battle card template, or I really need a great case study template. Can you share one of your templates with me? Can you share your best templates? And that's really what this program is designed to do.

Neil Benson: [00:24:43] That's fabulous.  You've mentioned a new online training content that's in there. I got the impression that was delivered live. Have you considered recording that content, so it's available on demand?

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:24:53] Yeah, it's all. So we've got recordings and the recordings are short. The longest recording, I think is nine minutes, but they're usually more like three to four minutes that walk through, here's your template. Here's how you use it. Here's how you fill it in. And then we go, now here's a filled in version and here's examples of what it looks like and what you would do.

The live we were calling the masterclasses, but I think that's branded. But the live training will be available throughout as well, which will also be recorded. So if you were to download the template, watch the videos and going, I still don't get it. Then you can show up on a live training class and go through and ask specific questions.

And then those live training classes also be recorded and will be available. 

Neil Benson: [00:25:35] Thinking about the challenges that your team have faced, were there any particular hurdles that they ran into in the development of the awards tool and not a new sales enablement capability? Did they come to you with any roadblocks that they hit along the way? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:25:49] Yeah, the biggest challenge was me. So I have a vision that I don't think I always articulate as well as I could. And so the team goes in there, they try to articulate my vision and I will go back and do a pulse check and go, no, that's not what I want. I want it, I want a green and I want it on the left, not yellow on the right.

Yeah, that, that's probably the biggest, that was probably the biggest challenge. And then the second challenge is we are doing this lean. We're doing this very lean. So our BA is dedicated. And our developer is dedicated. Everybody else is on our professional services side of the business. So we're balancing existing client requirements with also developing a product.

 I did not want to go into debt over building this application. I wanted to fund it from ongoing business.  

Neil Benson: [00:26:34] Those are two big challenges. And I really glad to hear you have the self-awareness to realize that sometimes the person with the vision is doing this for the first time. I work with a lot of Microsoft customers and we have a role called a product owner, who's responsible for sharing that vision, prioritizing the requirements. And it's quite often the very first time they've had this responsibility in a project and it can be daunting and they have to do a day job. And look after this project team at the same time. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:27:01] Yeah. The other thing that we've done, which has been helpful because we didn't check in with users, but we checked in with Microsoft a few times on what we were building. And I was fortunate to have a connection with Gariella Schuster. She used to run OCP for Microsoft. And so she gave us quite a bit of feedback along the way. Cause I said, the one thing I don't want to do is I don't want to compete with your portal. You've got a marketing portal. I don't want to do something  that I'm trying to charge for that you're giving away for free. And so she was really good at giving us feedback to help us understand where our value was on top of that. Partners could use both and get value.

And we just recently, just before we went live, we shared it with a senior director at Microsoft marketing just about three weeks ago. And she said, this is amazing. She was blown away by it. So that made me really happy. Yeah.

Neil Benson: [00:27:49] Uh oh, does that mean they're going to pick it up and copy the idea or... 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:27:53] You go to their GTM, their new GTM tool. They actually have some similar elements. So you could go now. It's actually in beta. It's only a handful of partners are using it, but there is a tool now where you can go in and you can say, I want a product sheet for Dynamics 365. And it. Spits out a product sheet and you go, and you can  upload your logo and add, there's areas where you can add your own copy.

And then you can say, okay, now here are the colors for my brand. You can put the pixel colors in and it will print out for you, your product sheet, with your logo on it, a little bit of information about you, and it will be in your brand. And it's in 10 languages. We're only in English right now. 

So it's not bad, but, what I will say is it's the still the same challenge in that it's a lot of Microsoft content about their copy. Our whole goal is teaching partners how to tell their story in the Hero's Journey. If we use the Hero's Journey for almost everything, which is what makes Frodo leave the Shire and, how does he handle the obstacles along the way? And how does he meet the mentor, which is the Microsoft partner? And how does the Microsoft partner help Frodo throw the ring into the fire and beat up Golum and be happily ever after? So that's our process that we're teaching.

Neil Benson: [00:29:08] Are you familiar with Donald Miller's work at StoryBrand? 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:29:11] Yeah. Donald Miller. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He's had a Nashville I think. Yeah. I have not taken his course, but it's really, I know a lot of people that have, 

Neil Benson: [00:29:19] Yeah. I haven't taken the core. So I've got his StoryBrand book. His Marketing Made Simple book. His  Made Simple book. I'd love to take the course. I was planning to take, I was planning to go to Nashville actually. For one of the might, might've been one of the user groups summits was going to be nearby. I thought I could dip into Nashville before or after, but then, the world changed. 

His philosophy is about not telling your own story but about uh, helping spotlight your customer's story, your customer's the hero and we as marketers, we are the guide that helped the customer, throw the ring into the fire. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:29:49] Yup. Yup. A hundred percent. Yep. That's what I've been doing.  The reality for me is I don't know much about technology, but I've sold technology my whole career. And so I couldn't do it by telling people about how tech works. I had to tell a story. I did not know that's what I was doing, 30 years ago, but that's what I was doing.

I was telling stories and and that's really what led me to here and I still love doing it today.

Neil Benson: [00:30:15] So do you look at the Microsoft partner award winners every year and go, oh, that was one of mine. That was one... 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:30:20] Gosh. Yes! Last year we had 40%, 40% of the submissions we wrote. 40% of our partners submissions, and we wrote last year 80, made it as a winner or finalist. Yeah. Yeah. 

We have we have a really big hit rate. Yeah. We have a really strong hit rate. And we had at least two featured by a onstage at Microsoft. We had two of them featured. Yeah. 

Neil Benson: [00:30:41] I was fascinated to hear about the behind the scenes work that goes on with the Academy Awards, the Oscars every year. I didn't realize there's a whole industry supporting filmmakers to try and get them shortlisted and included in the Oscars. It sounds like you were doing the same for the Microsoft awards. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:30:56] It's the same. We don't lobby. We definitely encourage our partners to start now letting your best stories be known to the right people at Microsoft. Seed it. Keep seeding it as you meet with them and make sure they're seeing the win wires. Make sure they're hearing about it and then do a really great submission.

And one of the things we teach is. How to make it beautiful. Look beautiful. Make a graphic design submission because you can tell your story. Most partners go in and just cut and paste their copy into the tool, but you can actually just attach it. You don't have to cut and paste and you can attach your submission as a PDF.

And one of the people in our training sessions said, That seems like an unfair competitive advantage. And I said it's really, we've just learned over time, what works and what seems to work. And definitely, it's nice to have that visual look and feel.  

We always say, if you can make the judges cry, tell a story that makes the judges cry. If we can get the judge to cry, then we can hopefully get you down to that final spot. 

Neil Benson: [00:31:54] That's real proof of the emotional connection that you've made. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:31:57] Yeah. exactly. Exactly.

Neil Benson: [00:31:59] Hopefully from my own Gail, you'll be able to tell Microsoft partners another way to share their story, get the word out there about the great work that they're doing is to come and join us on the Amazing Applications podcast. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:32:07] I will absolutely do that.  I definitely love, love, love talking to you and love your philosophy about educating people on how to use technology better. Your story is amazing and in how you're really helping educate customers and educate partners on how to be better with this technology.

Neil Benson: [00:32:29] Oh, Gail, you're making me blush. I don't know how people can see that on a podcast, but thank you for that. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:32:33] There's a saying that we use at Mercer Mackay. A couple of sayings. One is, give away your best and sell the rest. So that's the marketing philosophy. So this whole idea of content marketing is you just give away your best knowledge. Because there's not really very many secrets left out there. And people that will want to do it themselves will be grateful. Will take that knowledge and use it. But there'll be tons of people that don't want to do it themselves. And they will take that knowledge and go, this guy or girl is pretty smart and I liked their philosophy and they're freely giving you this stuff, I'm going to hire them. So that's our whole thing on giving it away.

And the other north star for us is a Zig Ziglar quote. And I'm not gonna get it quite right, but it is, you will always get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get exactly what they want in life. And that's what we live by. And it just, it's fantastic. It's a great way to live.

Neil Benson: [00:33:27] I hear that quote probably once, at least once a week on the podcasts that I listen to. And now listeners to the Amazing Applications podcast are going to hear that quote this week on our podcast. It's wonderful.

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:33:38] That is so awesome. That's so fantastic. I look forward to seeing you in Nashville or seeing you in Vegas. I never thought I'd want to go back to Vegas in July, but I do. I can hardly wait until there's an Inspire again.

Neil Benson: [00:33:52] We just started doing some local user groups in person here in Brisbane. And it's so good just to see people again and have that face-to-face connection. It's been wonderful. We haven't yet had a big conference we can go to, but looking forward to those days too. 

 Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:34:06] I, maybe one day I'll make it to Brisbane. That's a dream of mine to get it, to get to Australia. So I'll look forward to doing that and hopefully seeing you in person there too.

Neil Benson: [00:34:15] We'd love to have you here.  Gail, thanks so much for joining us on the Amazing Applications show. It's been wonderful. 

Gail Mercer-Mackay: [00:34:19] Thank you, Neil. It's been fantastic. 

 Neil Benson: [00:34:25] Thanks, Gail, for joining us. 

I loved how Gail sold version one of Microsoft CRM 15 years ago. And 15 years later said, "No, no, no, no, no, no," when the mentors in her Women In Cloud group suggested building daXai on Dynamics 365. I think we forget sometimes just how far our platform has come. 

Remember you can get show notes for this episode, including links to sign up for daXai at

It's interesting to hear how Gail as a CEO and business owner finds a Microsoft partner to work with. Did you notice? She asked her friends at Microsoft first. She wanted a partner that wasn't too big or too small compared to her business. She wanted a senior executive that she could pick up the phone and call if things weren't on track. And she wanted a partner with good connections into Microsoft. 

As I try to grow my own applications business in the Microsoft Partner Network. I think Gail's just revealed the key criteria going through my customer's minds when they're selecting a partner to work with. That's pure gold. 

I loved how Gale was able to pare back her requirements to the bare minimum. And it's fascinating to hear CEOs comfortably using terms like 'minimum viable product' and 'beta' to describe their goals. 

Gale’s greatest strength, for me, was recognizing that sometimes the biggest hurdle in a project is the executive sponsoring it. She has recognized the importance of expressing a clear vision, a product goal, for her team to aim for.

I've really enjoyed chatting with so many different guests on this interview season of the Amazing Applications podcast. We've had #NoEstimates author, vasco Duarte; we've had Haniel Croitoru from Protiviti; Bert Wijns from Power Accelerate; CJ Brooks from Mission CRM; Marc Schweigert from Microsoft; It's Our Customer author Britt Damkjaer; MVPs Julian Sharp and Julie Yack join us. We've had Paul Heisterkamp discussing agile Finance and Operations. Mandar Zope from Slalom; Brendan Eger from Partners in Health; Mohsin Khalid from Imperium Dynamics; Stephen Handley from Fin365; and Reza Rad from RADACAD. And now Gail Mercer-MacKay from Mercer-MacKay Solutions.

What a lineup? Thanks to all my guests. 

And thanks to you for joining us. My hope is that you find every episode, spiring, insightful, entertaining. If you think it is, the only price we ask you to pay is to share the episode with someone else. Follow the Amazing Applications page on LinkedIn and leave a comment or review on this episode or any of the others that you enjoyed.

I'll be back with a few more solo shows and listener QA shows. If you've got any questions about creating agile applications, you can leave a voicemail by visiting and clicking on the Send Voicemail button. And I'll do my best to answer your question in an upcoming episode. Until then, keep sprinting!