Software Marketing Review: Microsoft

See how other companies market their software. This is part of a series of reviews looking at examples of software product marketing: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

Microsoft

Everyone knows who Microsoft are. Can a 35 year old, massive software corporation with thousands of software products really teach modern, nimble software startups about software marketing? Absolutely. See for yourself…

Below is a screenshot from Microsoft’s home page. This is the first image in a rotating banner. Let’s look at what works well and what doesn’t.

I have marked up

  • The Good
  • The Bad
  • The Ugly

Microsoft Home Page (1)

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Good. Great examples of software product marketing best practice

  • 1. Like a lot of software companies, Microsoft has two primary audiences: consumer(B2C) and business (B2B). “Forking” website visitors to two different paths allows visitors (and Microsoft) to focus on:
    • Specific needs e.g. IT need to worry about deploying software to thousands of PCs
    • Appropriate products e.g. computer games
    • Distribution channels e.g. directing consumers to retail outlets vs. enterprise-wide licensing for major customers

     

    Internally, Microsoft probably refer to these audiences as consumer and business. Instead they described these from the customer’s perspective “For home” and “For work”. Not only are these easier to understand for both audiences, but the “for” gets people thinking what this is going to be used for.

    A simple wording change like this can make a material difference to your customers. Testing small changes like this often increases traffic, understanding, and a positive attitude. Measure this by analysing how many people complete your desired objective e.g. providing an email address, downloading or buying software.

  • 2. Well-written, engaging enticing text. Upgrading a browser is not exciting but framing this as “I want to.. see… fast… beautiful” encourages a positive response. It would be even better if Microsoft could have avoided the word “browser” like Mozilla did for Firefox.

The Bad. Could be improved

  • 3. “Visit Service Pack Center…” and “… help keep Windows up-to-date” are both instructions for website visitors to do something without obvious compelling benefits.

    Customers are essentially selfish with their time and money. You should always explain clearly what the benefit is for them, e.g. “Enjoy faster safer computing.”

The Ugly. Examples to illustrate what you should not do

  • Nothing ugly here.

This is the second image in the rotating banner.

Microsoft Home Page (2)

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Good. Great examples of software product marketing best practice

  • 4. Getting tools to be creative, organized and efficient. These are all positive, simple terms with a clear implied benefits.

The Bad. Could be improved

  • 5. “The freedom to do it all” is too vague – it’s clearly not literally true. The image and text do not explain what Office does or what the benefits are.

This is the last image in the rotating banner.

Microsoft Home Page (3)

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Good. Great examples of software product marketing best practice

  • 6. Antivirus and related security solutions are difficult to sell. To understand the features you need to have enough technical knowledge to realize what the threats are. But the people who most need security software don’t understand.

    This is a common problem for software vendors? How can I convince people to buy a solution for a problem when they don’t know enough to realize they have the problem.

    The approach Microsoft is using is the right one.

    • First they are being clear what this is about—“protection” and “security” are non-technical terms.
    • Next they are educating customers “free… information about security”
    • Finally they are positioning themselves on the moral high ground: “You can’t put a price on protection.” This is a great example of positioning that undermines the competition. Security software specialists have to charge and say they are technically superior to free, cheap and cheerful solutions.

Best Practice

Microsoft have the problem of massive scale. They’re excellent at keeping their messages simple and focused. They manage to direct 100M+ website visitors to the right place and “sell” technical solutions to non-technical customers.

Join the Discussion

  • Do you agree? What would you do differently?
  • Suggest any examples of best (or worst) practice for software product marketing

Please add a comment below or contact Giles @ Smart

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