I wish Microsoft could innovate more!

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Wow, this new text-editor (Q10) seems nifty and I am thrilled to have found it. Finally, I found something to write on without getting distracted. I just wish this kind of a functionality could be built in MS-Word. This is so handy. I wish people at Microsoft could be more involved with the environment. Microsoft is trying hard to listen to the users but that is the problem, when you are the biggest of all, you often prefer everything organized including customer feedback. However feedback from users is not the only thing they should care about. They should also care about what else their customers are using. Here is a piece of software (Q10) that people are downloading everyday, when they already have its big brother, MS-Word. Doesn’t Microsoft ever bother to find out what other similar softwares people are looking for when they are the leading provider in that software niche. Clearly, people are not looking for a new software as much as they are looking for a feature. When they don’t find that feature, they go on to try new softwares and then they realize that they don’t use that expensive software from Microsoft so much and it’s an ol’ piece of junk lying about in the garage. Frankly, people would be happy to live in the Stone Age if they would only be able to focus on what they wanted to do.

Now, how many times does a writer bother editing font, colour or using the extra formatting features bundled with a word editor? I recall reading on some MVP’s blog that Microsoft spent a lot of dollars in figuring out the needs of law firms and then built the ‘Styles’ feature in Word. This feature is so useful, that I can’t even think of using any other Word editor provided I am an organization in need of standardizing documents. Now, the Ribbon interface is cool, very intuitive but this piece of innovation does not make as great an impact as the ‘Styles’. How many times have you wanted to just throw open the editor and compose a blog post or an essay without thinking about its appearance (formatting). I know there is ‘Live Writer’ but think about it – when you paid for the most powerful Word editor in the whole world, would you really want to download and use a scaled down clone. Why can’t Microsoft just build the functionality of Live Writer in MS-Word and offer it as a free plug-in. This might even help Microsoft marginally increase the sales of MS-Word.

From the unprecedented success of App store, I have learned and now come to believe that people who use technology are not looking for a standalone, do-it-all, multi-functional software but something very objective, you know, something that just works and get things done. They might be kicked into excitement with all the cool features Microsoft built into Word 2010 but when they find out that they can barely use all of its features they won’t be so pleased.

I strongly feel that as users of technology our primary focus is always on getting things done (GTD) rather than being stoked over all the cool features of an application. Can’t Microsoft sense this? The dynamics of this industry have changed. I mean it’s everywhere – take twitter. There could not be a simpler communication tool. And the reason it became so big – it just works. If I have something to say (tweet) to anyone who cares to listen (followers), I have got to use twitter. And now there is probably a hundred companies built around twitter. When did Microsoft last make such a radical product? I have a lot of respect for the company that Mr. Gates has built over last two decades, but as the giant grew, it separated itself from the common masses. And the only approach that I think, can make Microsoft a favorite among us again is listening to what people WANT to use and then building it the way they CAN use it.

That’s all I got to say. What do you think?

P.S – this post was composed in Q10, a text-editor for writers. I did not run spell-checks and use other features to format this post to just see how productive I am when I am focused on writing rather than formatting.

Common Sense In Marketing

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The idea for this post struck me when I saw the CNBC logo flashing and rotating with a narration in the background “CNBC is my religion“. Now, this logo flashing skid is the worst part of the whole marketing clip. The clip starts by flashing people who are successful and in their different ways are always thinking over subjects that could boost their success further. There is a deep voice narrating how they always come up with new ideas and make the right decision every time, it makes me believe that they really have some heightened form of sixth sense. Now, as the clip ends with the flashing logo, the message delivered is “CNBC is my religion“. Nooo… you’ve just showed people who are intelligent and successful biz owners … you’ve just explained in the last 40 seconds how they have been relying on their sixth sense for everything related to their business. Now just capitalize on that… say “CNBC – My sixth sense” or “CNBC – My Inner Voice” or a similar line which is in agreement with the clip’s idea. The cool tag line “CNBC is my religion” goes more with a target audience that is passionate about sport, movie or fashion, but your audience isn’t cricket fans or movie fans or die-hard fashion followers. They are intellectual, smart people who are always counting, always calculating. So give them that image … with a stupid tag line as “… my religion” you spoil that great idea you just planted in my brain. I had just started listening but now I don’t want to ’cause really¬† “CNBC is not my religion” but I would have happily bought “CNBC as my advisor“.

Corporations tend to spend a lot on brand building and marketing campaigns. Money that could have well be used for research and product development or improving customer service is wasted on learning new marketing tactics, devising marketing strategies that attract the public and can create a buzz. Ultimately the product does not sell to your expectations and the whole buzz just fizzes out because what really mattered to the customer was functionality. But still your marketing campaign director would point out that it was only due to the marketing efforts that you were able to break through so many customers. In reality though, if the product was designed for the audience and not the brand, despite a low buzz you’d have achieved significantly higher sales. Brand may pull me into a store and even make me buy the stuff but if I am not able to use it to my needs I might just avoid the brand. On the other side a product that I might buy for cheap and comes from a not so big brand but serves my purpose well, is durable it will automatically build a brand. What I am talking of is repeat sell, which should be the objective of every brand. You want to get new customers but not at the cost of losing you already have. People who have already bought services/ products from us are more likely to buy again than new ones. Apparently, customer acquisition is more expensive than customer retention and the latter is much more rewarding.

I realize what I am talking is archaic and completely out of sync with what the current marketing pundits have to say. But I think the whole marketing part is highly overrated, what one needs is “Common Sense In Marketing” which I am told often is not very common. I worked for Bionicturtle.com for a few months and thought of many ways that could attract more visitors on the site. Not that it was my role, but due to a small exposure to market research I have always been thinking like that. Now, David (founder of Bionicturtle.com) was very sensible with his approach and avoided the many pitfalls with marketing. He always said, you don’t want to do too much logo designing, marketing and branding to promote your product. What you can do is you can improvise with the resources already at hand to improve your customer’s experience and that will matter in the long run. I completely agree to his viewpoint and realize that filling in the gaps in your current solution is much more worthy of spending those dollars than trying to animate logos and focus on aesthetical elements of the site while all your customers really care is for the content (which is the functional element of the whole business). I later realized that there was no marketing technique using SEO, link building or fancy logos that got him customers but it was the word-of-mouth marketing. Slow and steady but rewarding nevertheless. I strongly believe your growth is much more even and consistent if you invest in your customers than in your marketing strategies and that’s what David did.

So, the point is that rather than going out to find the perfect brand image that sells your products or services you can build a brand around what you already have. By this I mean, the assets you already have, the goals you want to achieve and the kind of employees you already have. For example, if you are a research firm or a consultancy you have to bring out the idea of usefulness of your research, the many ways in which it can add value to the clients’ existing knowledge base. What you can also add to the brand is the expertise of your employees. Give them a page on your site, feature their achievements and how they have completed challenging project successfully. This way you wouldn’t have to fit your company into a new image and align your goals in line with it. Instead, the brand would be supporting your business ideas, objectives and products. Rather than customizing your company to fit into a brand image I think it makes more sense to integrate the brand¬† into the overall fabric of your company’s operations so it speaks and promotes what you do, how you do and how well you do it. With this approach in marketing, you will realize that your brand is immensely scalable to envelope the future products and sell them effectively to your target customers.