Let me start by saying I love Microsoft. They manufacture the products that I sell and service in my IT Consulting practice. However, I just don’t think they get it when it comes to marketing to the Small Business Owner.
On a telephone conference at the end of September, 2008, the RP VAR’s were told by Microsoft about a leads generation campaign. The Response Point web site would advertise the giveaway of a few Response Point systems including hardware, software and service.
VAR’s were asked to generate 100 marketing contacts to drive visits to this site. Microsoft would provide the phone systems and collect contact information to be used as leads. These leads would be sent to local area VAR’s and distributed amongst the VAR’s in a round-robin fashion.
The first thing I wondered about was – why would I want to send out 100 postcards to my contacts and have Microsoft give me back a small percentage of the leads from this mailing – and give the rest to my competitors?
After the conference I inquired about this and was told that the leads would be tracked back to my referring web site. This may sound like a good answer but I don’t really think so. Nothing had been communicated in the conference about VAR’s creating more web real estate for this program or how to code a link for track back identification. And not to mention the added complication to the intended customer of having to go to multiple web sites on this journey.
And now to my real criticism
What Microsoft calls a lead and what they do with it. Over the years I have received ‘leads’ through the Microsoft partner program. One time I received a spreadsheet with a half dozen of these so called leads. I was asked to contact them immediately! In examining the information on this spreadsheet I noted that these ‘leads’ were already 90 days stale. It’s hard to imagine anyone with some pride that wouldn’t be embarrassed at this kind of follow up.
Message to Microsoft: Small Business Owners – do not want a free white paper to read in one month when it arrives. They want to have an answer to their question – NOW – so they can make a decision – NOW – and then move on to the business of running their business. This is different than ENTERPRISE with multiple layers of middle management that need to make work to justify their existence.
A business owner client of mine visited the Response Point free phone system web site and filled out the entry information – ON NOVEMBER 1st. It is now NOVEMBER 30th. After about TWO WEEKS Gary received a telephone message in follow-up to his contact information. This was from someone presumably w/ Microsoft and not a local VAR because the call back number was an 800 toll free number. In the last two weeks Gary has called this toll free number and used the extension he was provided and left several messages. Gary’s comment to me was about the announcement message at this extension he called. He said the quality was really bad and surprising coming from a company that is trying to sell a business telephone system. He was also surprised that he hadn’t had his follow up call messages returned.
Gary gave me the telephone number and extension that he had for the call back to Microsoft. I’ve posted the audio of this voice mail announcement for your listening pleasure.
After a month of no real human communication, Gary, as a small business owner is WAY beyond where he would have totally given up on any interest in this product. His only reason for not throwing out his phone notes is that I asked him to keep me posted.
What Microsoft should have done with this lead – when it really was a lead – was to have given it to ANYONE that is a VAR in Gary’s local area – IMMEDIATELY!
And, as a side note, this campaign has been running for 2 months. According to the web site ‘drawings are held twice each month’. There should have been 4 systems given away so far. It seems like it would have been some good idea, if the systems have been given away, to have publicized it. I haven’t heard anything about winners yet.