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As the Chief Marketing Officer of Microsoft in the US, I’ve embarked on a journey of marketing transformation that kicked off as Satya Nadella became our new CEO. As Microsoft “hit refresh”, the way we do marketing has to be re-thought putting the customer first while leveraging all that modern marketing could offer. As I travel the country to gather first-hand feedback from our customers, I realized that regardless of industry or size of company, many of my CMO peers face a similar set of challenges & opportunities.

B2B customers’ expectations are shaped by their consumer experience

As digital becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, we all have common ground in experience as a consumer. Because of this, we bring the same expectations that we have as consumers in our personal life to our professional life, and as such, even as a B2B customer, we expect to be treated with the same principles as B2C companies treat their end consumer, which include:

  • Respect. B2B customers expect to be communicated with in a respectful way, without intrusion and through the channels and times that they are open to – with the right context, with the right intent, and taking care to respect the privacy of personal data with the utmost care.
  • Seamless. Customers expect a seamless customer experience across marketing interactions and sales engagements – messaging, brand, voice, experience – all consistently delivered from “one” organization.
  • Value. Beyond just relevance, customers expect value, which could be anything to make life easier, save time, save money, or to somehow enable an organization to be more efficient. Customers are far too sophisticated to deal with standard sales pitches, as time is a precious commodity for all.

Boards are looking at CMOs to identify the next growth engines and drive customer lifetime value

Many CEOs see CMOs as agents of transformation and growth and this perspective often puts pressure on CMOs to address top CEO concerns, such as:

  • Developing customer loyalty to unlock value and provide competitive edge
  • Keeping pace with customer needs and expectations, especially digital natives, Millennials, GenZ…
  • Ensuring quality of data & insights, that will inform strategic decisions
  • Anticipating disruptive trends to secure competitiveness & relevance

Marketing teams are struggling to adjust to modern marketing imperatives

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, today’s CMOs must straddle the line between creative and scientist, which coincidentally reflects the evolution of modern marketing into a unique blend of art and science. Content marketing, social engagement, and event experientials – these are the functional areas where the artistry lies, while data, reporting, and marketing automation, reside among the core scientific foundations upon which modern marketing is built.

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As the CMO for Microsoft in the US, I share the same challenges. And to address these new imperatives, we are anchoring our transformation on three pillars: culture, capabilities and technology. Today, I believe the unique blend of these three components is enabling us to improve every day the quality and the relevance of our customer experience while driving long lasting trust into our brand.

  • Culture. As part of our cultural transformation we shifted from a “know-it-all” culture to a “learn-it-all” culture. We are a team of learners who are in a constant state of learning from each other, looking for opportunities to share and build upon each other’s work. We are diverse and inclusive, where we invite and benefit from the differences among each other.
  • Capabilities. For us, marketing transformation is also about the capabilities that are enabled by our people and our organization. For example, on the people front, we have invested in a Marketing Excellence Manager, whose principal function is to empower our team with learning, and to help our people develop the technical and inter-personal skills that will allow them to succeed in their current roles and beyond. On the organizational front, we have developed highly customized, highly focused programs that are constructed to deliver meaningful customer experiences across the right channels, content and platforms, regardless of whether the experiences we are delivering are digital or in-person.
  • Technology. Underpinning all of the above is technology — what we consider the key to modern marketing. At Microsoft US, a carefully selected martech stack enables us to better know our customers and understand their journey, all leveraging analytics that enables us to optimize and measure the impact and ROI of our campaigns. Some examples of the innovation that this includes are in:
    • Social engagement. Our best-in-class social engagement program, which in leveraging Azure deep learning, allows our team of real people to work through over 115 million social conversations a year, engaging with prospects, customers and fans at every stage of the buyer’s journey, while Microsoft 365 enables our teams to communicate in real-time to collaborate on conversations.
    • Connected sales & marketing. Bringing together Dynamics 365, Azure Machine Learning and AI, we are able to quickly, efficiently, and intelligently acquire, nurture, score and transfer leads to our sellers through our Global Demand Center and Sales Daily Recommender programs that enable both marketing and sales teams to present more valuable, relevant information to each and every customer.
    • Data-driven decision making. Using a robust set of Power BI dashboards, our teams have evolved from leveraging data to leveraging insights to make smarter, faster decisions. Using Power BI, we are able to visualize volumes of customer and third-party data that can be used by any marketer, in understanding and measuring the business impact of our marketing efforts.

Over the next few months, please join me here on the Microsoft in Business blog, as I go deeper on each of these areas, and share my thoughts and experiences with you. I’d also love to hear what opportunities and challenges your organizations are facing as well as explore other topics that are pertinent to the modern marketing organization of today.

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