From the book: New word of mouth case study on Microsoft

One of the biggest additions to the new edition of the best-selling book, Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, is the five new case studies of brilliant word of mouth marketing from Dell, Potbelly, FreshBooks, Microsoft, and Levenger. We’re highlighting a different case study each day this week, continuing with Microsoft today:

Word of Mouth Case Study: Microsoft’s MVPs — Energizing Talkers

Long before blogs and social media, Microsoft’s MVP program has been an example of how to reach out to your talkers and make them feel fantastic. Sean O’Driscoll has grown it into one of the greatest word of mouth programs in history, and it’s so simple that anyone (with any budget) could do it.

An invitation to the program is now an annual reward that says thank you to the 4,500 talkers in 90 countries. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Find the talkers. Microsoft surfs the message boards, blogs, communities, and offline events to find the most engaged and credible talkers. They look for people who love a particular piece of software and are the kind of personalities who love to help other people.
  2. Surprise them. MVPs get a letter announcing that they have been selected. They also get a keepsake box with the surprise gift of the year, usually something to show off, like a computer bag or a desk set. The gift has become legend, generating tons of anticipation and speculation.
  3. Make them feel special. Microsoft will send a letter to three people on behalf of the MVP program, announcing the prestigious award. MVPs have these letters sent to their bosses, college admissions officers, and spouses. And the MVPs credit these letters for getting them promotions, into college, and a little more peace at home.
  4. Engage them. All year the MVPs get private talks with the product developers, an advance look at software, and behind-the-scenes information. They actually get to meet the people who build the software that they love. Microsoft hosts more than 500 live web meetings, chats, and webcasts each year just for the MVPs, more than one a day.
  5. Have fun. The annual MVP Summit in Redmond has become a must-attend pilgrimage for the MVPs. Microsoft pays for everything, participants just have to get there. MVPs love connecting with fellow MVPs and the product developers. Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer show up, and there are plenty of social events. For those who can’t make the big event, there are local meetings all year long.

The big secret: It’s about finding a way to tap into existing talkers and existing passion. You could do most of this starting tomorrow.

We’re giving away 10 copies of Andy’s book. You can win one by letting a friend know about it! Click here for more details.

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