If you use Excel, Word or Outlook, Office Online is the Microsoft’s mothership for Office customers, and Office Marketplace is a heavyweight free directory site for large companies to micro-ISVs whose products in some fashion relate to Microsoft Office. (URL: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/marketplace/default.aspx )
I had occasion last week to interview Jeanette Fisher, Business Development Manager, Microsoft Office Online, and she had some interesting information for micro-ISV to pass along.
How heavyweight? 50 million unique visitors a month to Office Online according to Fisher; with 2-3% of that going on to find “Microsoft Partner” software, training and services at Marketplace. The kicker is conversion rates: “We have one of the highest known conversion rates in the history of the Internet at our web site.” Fisher said. “The average conversion rate for internet sales is around .2 %; we see conversion rates of between 1 % and 19 %”
When I look at my traffic logs, our listing at Marketplace is usually in the top 4 referrers.
What’s it take to get your micro-ISV software, web service or product listed for free at Marketplace? “The main criteria are whether or not it is relevant to the customer’s use of Office.” Fisher explained.
“For example, I had an application that came in today for an educational product, but there was nothing in the product or service that related to Office. The customer did not need Office to get this product running, and also there was nothing on their web site that said anything about how they integrate with Excel or Word. The email I sent back to this potential partner was, “I don’t see any relevance for the customer using Office at the same time as your product. That’s really what we are looking for.”
I asked Fisher if Marketplace plays favorites among its partners who list about 1,000 products at Marketplace: “Nope. It is a level playing field. We don’t give preferences – it’s really about free marketing for everybody. The promotion opportunities on the site – for example today there’s a wine cellar template being promoted – we change those every week, and some of the recommended downloads change daily. We try and do a constant rotation” she replied.
Fisher, whose been with Microsoft for 6 years comes from a usability design background had two other bits of advice for micro-ISVs: when potential customers get referred to you, have them arrive at a dedicated landing page; don’t make them hunt around for what they have already searched for. And, trial versions potential customers can try for a reasonable period are the way to go.
As for whether Microsoft looks at Marketplace as an easy way to harvest features to include in the next version of Office, Fisher said: “We try to be very up front with all of our partners, and all our potential partners. We clearly state that you providing this service to Office customers does not preclude Office someday from building a similar feature. And most of the time when that happens, at least in my experience in the last 6 years here, I can honestly say that I have never seen a partner offering being evaluated by the product team and see the product lead say ‘Oh, that’s a great idea. We should build that in directly.’”
So should micro-ISV whose products somehow relate to Office list at Marketplace? “Absolutely! Because if for no other reason its free marketing. And it’s free marketing across several different countries if they are willing to localize their jump pages. And its free marketing that has the potential of hitting 50 million customers on a monthly basis,” Fisher concluded.
A quick note for the suspicious/Microsoft-phobic: I’m a Microsoft-centric developer and computer user, but don’t work for them.
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