Microsoft just launched a new Web site last week called Office for Business, http://www.microsoft.com/officebusiness. Normally that wouldn’t be an earth shattering event, microsoft.com is the most heavily visited corporate Web sites in the world and comes right after the major search engines in total traffic. What is noteworthy in this launch is how Microsoft is using role-based marketing to reach out to their audiences and understand that customers don’t look at the world from a single perspective. It should be noted that my company, Ascentium, designed and built the site for Microsoft and I led up the customer engagement, so I am open to claims of bias. I really think it’s a good Web site.
The premise of Office for Business is that business people are using the Web as a research tool to find tools to help them with their business. And that not only do different people represent different roles, individuals may wear multiple hats regardless of their role. This is especially prevalent in the small to mid-size business and has become even more important given the cut backs coming from the weak economy. In the case, the roles/hats addressed by this site are; the end user, the business decision maker and the technologist. These roles are captured in the statements, “Office works for Me, Office works for my Business and Office works for my IT.”
But if you dig a little deeper into the content on the site, you begin to understand that it’s not as much about different roles as it is about the multiple hats a single role plays. Microsoft understands that at the end of the day, it is the audience segment they call the Technical Decision Maker that typically has the final say in software purchases, upgrades and renewals and that while that role most likely lives within the IT organization, the person occupying the role may look at the world from other points of view than simply a traditional IT professional. In their recent article, “Role Profile: The CIO” Forrester Research reports that 39% of CIOs come from a non-technical/non-OT background. They say that “a great CIO is a strategic business partner who can innovate, think commercially and show business results.” In other words, they are just the guy in the server room fixing network issues.
We know from behavioral research that people’s first reaction to marketing is very individual. They aren’t thinking, “What can this thing do for my business”, they first think, “what can it do for me”. After that initial reaction, when the rational side takes over, their organizational role takes over and if they are a business person like the VP of Sales of Director of Accounting, they start to look through the lens of their role. In the case of the technical decision maker like the CIO or IT professional, they start thinking not just about the business benefit or solution, but how the software can be deployed and supported in their environment. Now what happens if the same person fills multiple roles or wears multiple hats?
In today’s world of tough economic decisions and ever scarcer corporate resources, the technical decision maker needs to be able to make their case for software investment, not just from their point of view, but from a business perspective to justify the spend and from an end user perspective to ensure adoption. On the new Office for Business Web site, this is exactly what Microsoft is trying to. The site is built around different scenarios, captured under the headings of Work Smarter, Work Better and Work Safer. Then within each scenario, they address the what can Office do for the user, the business and for the IT organization. It is hoped that this multiple perspective approach will build the case for each audience group to want the software.
Time will tell if the approach is successful. But given the increased scrutiny associated with any capital expenditures these days, it’s reassuring that an organization as large as Microsoft understands how their customers are looking at their own business needs.