How Microsoft can earn mind share of the next generation tech buyers

It’s awesome, it’s cool, I love it…these were some of the common phrases students attach to a couple of Microsoft product. But to top it off, these cool, awesome and great Microsoft products are not some glamorous gadgets, but the must have software known as Microsoft Office Excel and PowerPoint!

Spending last two year at a business school campus, I saw folks carrying all kinds of cool electronic gadgets from laptops to smartphones. Some people love their Macs, others love their ThinkPads. People swear by their iPhones and Blackberrys. The funny thing is that everyone has got their reasoning to prefer one over the other, and they are of course right from their perspectives, but if there’s only one product which holds up to true (Microsoft) monopoly status, it’s Microsoft Office.

I believe Microsoft Office is the coolest product Microsoft has got in its arsenal at this time. Replacing Excel and PowerPoint is not an option for anyone anytime soon (some might defer, but I believe realistically it won’t be that easy to get rid of them). The best thing for company to do is use these products to the fullest extent to show Microsoft’s coolness to the future generation.

The point here is for the company to build up on the already proven products which people love and build an ecosystem around them. Excel and PowerPoint should be linked to every productivity tool there possibly is ranging from email to instant messenger. Microsoft should take the lead and proactively market the fully featured office collaborative tools focusing on these two products (the keywords here being “fully featured”). Not doing that is pushing people to use competitive products for collaboration.

All these technologies are already there in the expensive version of the software where you can use Office Live Communicator and SharePoint. But these are not the tools a normal college going person use on a daily basis. They use the ones which are more commonly available and can be used for both work and fun. The only way to captivate their attention is to go where they are.

Talking in terms of numbers, let’s look at the cost of acquisition and map it to the Life Time Value of the customer (very stripped down, simplistic back of the envelope calculations). Consider a business school student who’s going to be there for two years. If Microsoft gives away a fully featured version of Microsoft Office with communicator, SharePoint and what not, it will be equivalent to giving away $500 worth of software per student. Microsoft releases a new version of Office every four years. A b-school graduate will be working in the real world for about 30 years on an average. That’s about seven releases of Microsoft Office software if it keeps up the current pace. If the investment made on the customer during two years at b-school makes him or her a loyal customer, with a 40% loyalty retention, the company can expect a return of $2000 per individual for whom this customer is making a software buying decision.

Microsoft: think of it more as a customer acquisition and retention opportunity than an additional software sale opportunity…it will work because you are earning mind share of the audience that is going to make the buying decision tomorrow!

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