Before Microsoft could launch its new XP operating system for sale to the whole world this October, the Company had to convince thousands of software developers to create new applications for it. Peter Horan CEO of DevX, a company that creates informational Web sites for developers and IT pros, explains, "If you're doing a roll-out, you want to get the tool guys on first, then the applications vendors -- the Oracle people -- on, and then really roll out to corporate IT people."
Back in January 2001, David O'Hara, Head of Developer Evangelism for Windows XP, was kicking over ideas to do just that. He already had product reps flying around the world giving in-person demonstrations. But in-person demos are inefficient when you've got to reach a heck of a lot of people in a short time period.He asked Horan to invent a solution.CAMPAIGN
Horan grabbed Microsoft XP's best senior product rep who'd given lots of presentations already and taped his well-polished spiel in a video studio. However Horan decided against simply turning the video into a straightforward webcast.
Horan explains, "You can't trap an IT pro in a chair, tell them to sit down and shut up for two hours, to watch a video walk-through of the product just on the off-chance something interesting will happen." So, with help from the product rep who explained what the mission-critical points were as well as what the most frequent questions tended to be, Horan's team chopped the two and a half hour presentation down to just 30-40 minutes.
But they didn't stop there -- next they clipped it into six different pieces, each devoting two-six minutes to a particular topic. Viewers could choose just the bits of information that were pertinent to them. Horan says, "IT pros will say, 'Oh gee I'm really interested in that -- it's worth three minutes to me'"
Although taping the original presentation took just half a day, the editing process took about half a week. Horan says, "It's just like editing news footage -- here's what really gets the point across."
The canned version of these Webcast pieces were placed on a site specifically built to educate and influence developers about XP. The site also included message boards, informational articles, and a fun space alien game developers could play where they used XP tools to win prizes.
The site itself was promoted through banners and newsletter ads to DevX's popular DevX.com site which 1.1 million IT pros and developers visit monthly. XP site visitors could also sign up for a regular email newsletter, which in turn drove them back to updated content on the XP developer site.
In addition, Microsoft gathered opt-ins for the XP developer site newsletter by running a campaign on newsletter listing site Topica.com; and, at related tradeshows where the Company's booth displayed the space aliens game on extra-large monitors. Attendees could swipe their badges to opt-in to the site newsletter. Horan notes, "They had developers 30-deep to register for the site."
It's worth noting that Microsoft used a double opt-in process to make sure attendees really agreed to receive the newsletter. So the first email people got was a request for them to join the regular newsletter mailing list, "Thank you for agreeing to participate, would you also be interested in receiving other information?" (You never want to just email names collected at a trade show without double checking that they truly agreed to join your list, versus handing you their card or badge on the spur of the moment without truly understanding how you planned to use their name.)
Horan says, "IT pros are a particularly twitchy audience with a low tolerance for spam. Double opt-in is critical. B-to-B marketers have to realize things permissionable in the postal mail world are not permissionable on the Web. There is an economic case for opt-out [because you gather a bigger list], but at the same time you run the risk of alienating a certain portion of your audience. There's a dollar cost associated with that."
The chopped up Webcast proved to be one of the most popular sections of the XP developer site. Since the Webcast was added to the XP developer site in April, the site's 36,829 registered members have viewed more than 50,000 pieces of it.
In comparison, about 2,000 site visitors played the space aliens game, and the message boards garnered 30,311 logins and 22,591 posts.
Main site for Windows XP Developer Center:
URL to view different Microsoft Windows XP Demo sessions: