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Microsoft’s ‘VIP Mix’ to extend customer reach

Microsoft in the Philippines is trying out what looks and sounds like the second-oldest sales strategy in the book.
It’s the soft sell — except that this one has a Web 2.0 twist written all over it.
With some help from social media platforms, blogs, and their users, the strategy intends to generate buzz about its products that will hopefully make its cash registers ring like alarm clocks gone haywire.
It’s simple enough.
Instead of creating a shotgun approach to promote its products, Microsoft Philippines Inc. has decided to target its users, pinning them down by segment, and creating a dialog between software maker and end-user.
Besides possibly leading to product improvement, the dialog could also enhance the company’s ability to spread and heighten awareness about its latest applications, attracting prospective users and customers.
“The move will also grow the scope of [Microsoft’s] reach,” Tim Vergel de Dios, Microsoft Philippines Inc.’s academic developer evangelist told GMANews.TV.
Starting late last year, the Philippine unit of Microsoft launched what it called its exclusive VIP events to which only a hundred or so participants — usually a segment of its wide range of software users — were invited. (These events are completely different and separate from the meetings it holds with local software developers.)
To secure a free VIP invite, a prospective guest needs to comply with certain requirements previously set by the company.
Last December, when it held its first VIP event just for students alone, the software company chose the top 100 students with the most number of friends on Facebook.
Those who emerged on top of the pile had an average of 2,000 Facebook friends, an achievement made possible by their extensive networks, de Dios said.
Although Facebook friends may not be an accurate barometer of popularity — whatever that might mean, especially since Internet metrics have yet to be standardized — these statistics are nothing to scoff at.
Microsoft certainly didn’t ignore it.
During the event, employees told the audience that Microsoft also gave away free software through downloads, prompting students to post URLs on their status updates which, in turn, were accessible to their thousand or so friends.
Microsoft’s download links went viral on Facebook in no time.
The impact was “huge,” de Dios said.
This explains why Microsoft will be holding its VIP events series until March this year.
These events will be extended if “community feedback is good,” de Dios said in an email message.
It already scheduled web designers for February.
And last January 28, Microsoft invited 100 bloggers to join the fun as part of its Blogger’s Night.
As of posting time, blog entries about the event and the beta version of Microsoft Office 2010 suite have already been uploaded.
An unofficial Facebook account of Microsoft friends in the Philippines — known as MSfriends Philippines — has also been created.
Who knows how much buzz that will generate?
No one does, as of yet.
But one thing’s for sure: Bill Gates is smiling.
(This piece can also be accessed on GMANews.TV. Picture on upper right shows sign at company entrance by Derrick Coetzee)

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