Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program – New Brand Advocacy program

Learn how Microsoft rolls out it’s largest brand advocacy program ever, the Windows Insider Program. I’ll be sharing lessons from their launch of this new brand advocacy program.

The Announcement

First the announcement itself, it’s a pre-sell:

Microsoft is launching the Windows Insider Program tomorrow.

The Windows Insider Program, where PC experts and IT Pros can get access to a technical preview of Windows 10 for desktops and laptops. Soon after, we’ll also be releasing technical previews of Windows Server and our management tools.

With the Insider program, we’re inviting our most enthusiastic Windows customers to shape Windows 10 with us. We know they’re a vocal bunch – and we’re looking forward to hearing from them.

The Windows Insider Program is intended for PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality. Insiders will receive a steady stream of early builds from us with the latest features we’re experimenting with.

– Source blogs.windows.com

The barrier

They’ve clearly demarcated the target customers:

For PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality.

 

Learn about why you need barriers for a successful brand advocacy program.

The introduction to the program

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-coming-soon

The Introductory Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84NI5fjTfpQ

In-depth

Let me quickly run you through the main points of the upcoming insider program. I’ve included below a small transcript of the video on the page http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-coming-soon (Words in maroon are my comments.)

Windows Insider Program

We’ve designed the Tech Preview so you can see what we’re building as we’re building it and tell us what you think.

(Here they’re telling the potential brand advocates what they are going to get: A ring side view to how they are building the next version of their software.)

We hope to involve tech enthusiasts like you in our software development process over the next several months so that your feedback becomes part of the next version of Windows.

(You get a chance to see your feedback incorporated into the product, they’re Empowering you and enabling you to co-create with them.)

The tech preview is meant for PC experts who are comfortable downloading unfinished software.

(The are putting in place the requisite barriers to entry to ensure they have appropriate brand advocates.)

The first step which you might have already done is to download and install the Tech Preview…. (abbreviated)

But we’ll be updating it regularly.

As a Windows Insider, you’ll get two benefits.

  • You’ll get more frequent updates with earlier but less polished software and
  • You’ll have access to the Windows Feedback app from which you can send us comments directly.

(Clearly articulated benefits, early access and a way to communicate with the team.)

……… (abbreviated)

But one thing’s for sure: by signing up, you’ll be the first to take all of the new features out for a test drive.

—- followed by demo

And one of the areas where we’re looking for feedback in the Tech Preview is multitasking.

(Specific guidance as to where they need help from brand advocates.)

—- Followed by demo of multitasking features.

Sign up for the Tech preview at http://preview.windows.com

(Distinct microsite for this brand advocacy program which is separate from their other brand advocacy programs. A.k.a. Segmentation.)

Analysis and Comments

This is a perfect example of the RIDE framework in place to create a brand advocacy program.

First the Big O: They’ve identified their objectives:

Business Objective

1. To get early participation from target customers,

2. Get product tested

3. Enable massive word of mouth marketing even before the product is launched.

Rewards and Recognition:

Recognition and Reward

1. They’ve promised early and frequent product updates to the brand advocates.

2. Providing early access ensures their partners and advocates have a lead over the rest of the market. That in itself is a huge reward as they get hands on with the product and a chance to be experts before others.

3. The program name itself is a recognition, if you’re selected you’re in the Windows Insider Program. For some this in itself is a reward and recognition.

Impact

Impact Measurement

The direct impact from this program is going to be multi-fold.

1. Innovation and Testing – Ideas from the field, their very customers giving direct feedback.

2. Word of Mouth Marketing – This brand advocacy program is going to lead to massive amount of word of mouth marketing for Microsoft, with customers speaking on social media, forums, blogs, articles, video demos etc. Each brand advocate in some way or the other whether in person or online is going to be speaking about this to someone else.

Discover  – Identification of Brand Advocates

Discover Brand Advocates

1. PC experts who are comfortable downloading unfinished software

The 3 E’s – Evangelize, Empower and Engage

Engagement

1. They are empowering their brand advocates by promising them early access.

2. They are giving access to the Windows Feedback app from which you can send comments directly to them, thereby empowering and engaging with them.

They’ve beautifully ensured empowering and engaging, and I’m sure they have a plan to evangelize their brand advocates too.

The above is a good example of putting in place the RIDE framework.

You can learn more about it in my brand advocacy book which covers how software product companies can implement a brand advocacy program using RIDE, the 5 step brand advocacy framework.

RIDE Framework - 5 steps to building a brand advocacy program

What do you think about how they are rolling this out?

Do you think they will have a large number of participants?

Do share in the comments below.

The big mistake in Starting a branded community (and how to fix it)

When you’re starting out with building a corporate community there is an important step you need to take, that of defining business objectives. Without being clear on your objectives it’s kind of difficult to achieve much. However, this is just one half of the equation.

Typical business objectives

Company ObjectivesMost business driven branded community initiatives pursue objectives like increasing business or maybe reducing costs, or enabling word of mouth marketing.

Typical Community objectives

Community Objectives

Most communities are focused around getting help, access to expert advice, learning more about the product/service, it’s about helping one another, stepping up and being there, and networking.

 

The challenge with community programs

Isolated Objectives

How do you match business objectives with community objectives? You need to create and evolve shared objectives as starting your community with only your business objectives is not going to go too far.

You need to evolve shared objectives

Shared Objectives

Examples of Shared Objectives

1. You want to reach potential new customers via free word of mouth marketing – Empower them – Make the community members feel special, provide them first and exclusive access to your products and services. Heck announce it via them, make them a part of your product or service launches. Example Microsoft often launches new software products along with key speakers being from their communities, their MVP’s and RD’s or community leaders. Leverage Influencer and Partner Networks

Making them a part of your programs, empowers them, compelling them to share with their networks. This gives your messages massive reach, enabling word of mouth marketing, the most convincing method for enabling a sale.

2. You want to reduce support costs – Most community members often pay it forward. They want to help others and they do like the gratification of being seen as experts. Everybody likes to be recognized and rewarded. You need to evangelize the key contributions made by your key community members. Microsoft MVP’s answered more than 10 million questions a year. Can you even begin to calculate the ROI of that.

3. Innovation – We all want our products to be better, matching the exact requirements of our clients, we want them to provide feedback on our products and services. It obviously helps to reduce the R&D and the testing costs. Provide the community the opportunity to  Engage with you. They often know your product better than your internal employees as they are using it day in and day out. Enable them to tell you what they want the product to do, encourage engagement and feedback. Let them know how their feedback is changing the way you are evolving the product.

Business Objectives Community Objectives
You want free word of mouth marketing Empower them – They want first, exclusive access, make them feel special.
You want to reduce support costs They want to help others and be seen as experts, They want to be recognized and rewarded – Evangelize the advocates.
You want to innovate and want feedback on your product Engage – They want the product to do more specific things which help your product innovate. They test it, helping you iron out the bugs. It helps if they get first access.

Shared Objectives

You need to evolve the specific shared objectives between your business goals and your community members goals.

Summary:

Most corporate communities anyways run the risk of becoming online ghost towns. Beginning with shared objectives enables you to involve your community members upfront and get deeper buy in.

What are the shared objectives you’ve defined for your community. Drop me a note in the comments below.

How to solve the content creation and reach problem?

This is crazy, he said. I could see the frustration on his face, that one thick vein which pulsated especially when he was stressed – How do we keep generating so much content, how do we make sure we’re on top of Google searches, how do we ensure that our content is relevant and is reaching the right audiences? Oh! One other thing, how do we ensure that this content marketing is done globally at low or no cost? He finally breathed after that really long non-stop barrage of questions…

The problem with content marketing is real and getting bigger by the day

There was 1 website in 1991 online and today we’re close to a billion. Note: This is just the number of websites not the content. The Indexed Web contains at least 3.32 billion pages (Thursday, 10 July, 2014).

There is upwards of 1.5 Billion pieces of content created on Facebook daily, Million plus videos added on YouTube daily.

Social media doesn’t make it easier

If you have a Facebook page you’ve got some interesting challenges less than 3% of your content is visible to people who have liked your page (3 percent reach is still better than nothing) and we know how difficult it is to create content which people like.

Summary of the content marketing problem

1. Create loads of relevant content

2. Ensure the content is found

3. Ensure that the content is relevant

4. Ensure it is reaching the right audiences

5. Deliver it at a low or no cost?

 

Is there a magic bullet?

You want it don’t you. Well, yes and no. It’s a technique which was in use from cave man times and is relevant even today. But it’s not a magic bullet, one shot doesn’t solve it. You need to work at it. If you’re willing? All the above five problems are easily solvable.

Yes that includes the low or no cost.

Brand Advocates

Brand advocates are your passionate customers. They are passionate about your brand and it’s products. They typically have a deep commitment to helping others, voluntarily sharing their passion.

Prepare to be amazed at what they can do for you.

Here is an example from Microsoft

imageFigure 1 Source Microsoft MVP Awards Program

The above is just a small snapshot of content created at low or no cost.

Do they do more?

What else do the brand advocates do?

Help improve your products – by participating as early adopters and sharing feedback.

Organizing community events around your products (Nearly 200 MVPs ran almost 10,000 events on SQL Server 2008 and virtualization around the world.)

Online Promotion and Virtual events – Proving the popularity of social media, U.S. MVPs used new social media spaces such as Facebook and Twitter to deliver 22 virtual sessions reaching thousands of people. In a tough economy, MVPs created an online, global version of PDC (Professional Developer Conference), enabling more people to attend virtually.

Customer Support – Together, they answer more than 10 million questions a year!

A variety of forms of relevant content

From content for offline events in terms of presentations, demos, to online events, across social media and directly reaching out and providing answers to other customer problems. Millions of pieces of content are being created by brand advocates.

It’s not just written content. It’s presentations, videos, demos, all possible types of content.

The best part is that the content usually has extremely high relevance. Most brand advocates create content about your product about areas that they might have expertise in, or on areas they find other customers are struggling with etc.

Reaching relevant audiences – The perfect referral engine

clip_image002The most important advantage of working with your brand advocates is the reach they provide. They’re already your customers and they are reaching out via their activities to other customers. It’s the perfect referral engine.

It’s not dependent on Google, or the ways it changes its search algorithms.

It’s not wasteful advertising.

 

Multiply your reach – The Network Effect

Leverage brand advocates networks 2

Each brand advocate who engages with you has their own independent network of connections and followers.

Each brand advocate you add to your network, multiples the reach of your content.

When you involve brand advocates in creating content for you or sharing your content, you have potential access to their networks.

The advantage is that their audiences are typically relevant and share the same interest as that of the brand advocate and helps increases your reach to relevant audiences.

Well these are big brand tactics it’s not relevant for the small biz, or is it?

Brand advocates are leveraged by not just big corporations but even small ones. You don’t have to have thousands of brand advocates, begin with one. Yes I’m serious, that’s how most of these large corporate brand advocacy programs began.

They didn’t at the outset have 1000s of brand advocates. For e.g. I remember when Microsoft started their Cloud offering of Azure, they initially had less than 50 brand advocates who were interested in it.

You could begin with just one. That one brand advocate can help reach out to their network thereby multiplying your reach tremendously.

What about the cost?

The benefits of content created and promoted by brand advocates far outweighs the costs of managing a brand advocacy program. As the above examples showed, brand advocate contributions benefit the organization in a lot of ways – Content creation, helping it reach relevant customers, helping support other customers etc. The low cost high benefit of having a brand advocacy program is just phenomenal.

The stress on his brow had reduced. He could now see how leveraging brand advocates could help in his content marketing goals. He smiled and was breathing easily, he did have more questions… about how to setup a brand advocacy program etc. (That might just be another article).

To Summarize

Content marketing is tough, you need to create a lot of content and ensure it reaches relevant audiences and this can be expensive. Brand advocates, your most passionate customers are the best way to enhance your content marketing efforts at low or no cost.

Get and Retain More Customers with Low or Shrinking Budgets – via Brand Advocates | Using Digital, Social Media, Communities, Technology and Visual Thinking