Microsoft Business Solutions Launches to Offer Potential Customers More Relevant Information

REDMOND, Wash., June 9, 2003 — Today, having too much information is a fact of life in the business world. While some of that information is relevant, some is not.

When businesses receive too much irrelevant information, frustrations are sure to follow. Listen to conversations in restaurants, airports and just about anywhere else, and it doesn’t take long for a theme to emerge: Barraging potential customers with information about products and services they may not be interested in isn’t merely annoying it’s ineffective.

To address these frustrations by delivering more relevant information, Microsoft Business Solutions recently launched, an initiative that allows potential Microsoft Business Solutions customers to self-profile via a survey. The answers in the survey will help ensure that Microsoft Business Solutions sends respondents information that is relevant to their business.

“Businesses get hit from all angles with promotional materials that often have nothing to do with their particular situation,”
says Will Knight, the marketing manager with Microsoft Business Solutions who developed and now oversees the initiative.
“Our goal is to use the data in the profiles to send our potential and existing customers information that is highly relevant and customized to their business needs, challenges and goals.”

The worldwide initiative began with Microsoft Business Solutions culling established lists for companies with at least 50 employees.
“We have compelling solutions for small and mid-market companies,”
Knight says.
“The right solution can enable the transformation of a business, and we want to make sure our customers know about the solutions that can benefit them the most.”

The survey, which can be completed in a matter of minutes, consists of three screens of questions about the participant’s role within the organization, the company’s industry and sector, the number of employees and locations, and the size of the technology infrastructure. The survey also asks about the number of desktops and servers, operating systems, applications most commonly used, and plans for future projects.

“In addition to the business-based information, it’s equally important that we determine the best way to communicate with them,”
Knight says. Participants can choose to receive information either via e-mail or postal mail, and they can opt out at any time.

Knight emphasizes the fact that the names and business specifics gathered in the survey are kept confidential. Data gathered in the initiative is used only by Microsoft Business Solutions. Babcock & Jenkins, a premier vendor of Microsoft that provides a variety of services such as list acquisition, creative services and project management, will have access to only the data needed to perform the tasks for which they were hired. Babcock & Jenkins is required to maintain the confidentiality of the information collected during the initiative and is prohibited from using it for any other purpose. All parties involved in the process are required to abide by Microsoft’s privacy policy, which is posted in full on the Web site.

And even when participants say they’re interested in learning more, Knight says they receive a follow-up call before they’re referred to a Microsoft Business Solutions partner.
“We believe it’s important to talk one-on-one,”
Knight says.

More Useful Information — and a Chance for Prizes

Participants will benefit in a number of ways, says Knight.

First, they’ll receive mail that’s based on their company’s unique circumstances.
“People who make decisions about technology for a business are like everyone else in that they don’t want to waste lots of time opening unwanted, irrelevant mail,”
Knight says.
“The self-profiling initiative will help us uncover potential pain points, and then, with targeted information, show businesses how they can reduce their total cost of ownership by using Microsoft technologies.”

After completing the survey, businesses are given access to a library of reference materials, including case studies and white papers that are selected based on their responses in the survey. They also receive product-specific materials from Microsoft Business Solutions via the avenue of their choice.

Last but not least, Knight says, participants have a shot at prizes.

Every 150th visitor who completes a company profile at receives a free copy of “Revival of the Fittest: Why Good Companies Go Bad and How Great Managers Remake Them,” written by Donald Sull and published by the Harvard Business School Press. All participants, Knight says, can download the first chapter of the book free of charge. The full book is limited to the first 1,000 recipients.

And, when the initiative wraps up at the end of June, Microsoft Business Solutions will donate US$10,000 each to the charity of five randomly chosen winners’ choice.

The decision to make a donation to a charitable organization was based on several factors. “Considering the times we’re living in, rather than give away some sort of cool technology gadget, we thought a charitable donation was a more appropriate prize,” says Knight. Off to a Good Start

Knight says he hopes to contact more than 1 million business decision makers at 300,000 companies by the end of June either via the Web site or telephone. And, to service customers on a global basis, he plans to have approximately 20 centers around the world.
“Soon, at any time of the day or night, at least one will be open somewhere in the world,”
he says.

In terms of geographical or cultural trends in the responses received to date, Knight says there haven’t been a lot of surprises. Some companies are more thorough, while others are more direct and highly participative. He notes that in the U.K. and the U.S., e-mail and phone fatigue runs high.
“That makes our job challenging,”
he says.
“But once people realize we’re trying to offer them more targeted, useful information, they’re very appreciative of what we’re doing.”

With most of the centers already open, he says that 250,000 phone calls have been made so far. And so far, Knight says, the profiling initiative has been very well received.
“People appreciate the fact that we’re taking the time to really learn about their businesses in order to offer them information targeted to their needs, and, ultimately, to serve them better,”
Knight says.

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