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Recently at Adobe Summit Valerie Beaulieu gave a breakout session highlighting Microsoft’s journey to become a marketing leader in the digital landscape we all live in today. Below are 5 key learnings Valerie uses to frame the Microsoft story.

If you’d like to learn more download the eBook How to demystify data and extract impactful insights by clicking here.

5 Key Learnings

  1. Culture can make you or break you
  2. Start with your team: Have the right hiring strategy and build a diverse culture
  3. First listen, then engage: Build the journey that will show customers you know them
  4. Data & technology are a means to an end: Drive customer delight & lifetime value with the right tools
  5. Have fun in the process!

Leadership and Opportunity

From elevated customer expectations to pressure on driving growth and lifetime value, today’s marketing leaders face new challenges. But with customers and ROI at the center of all decisions, modern marketers have a new opportunity – to lead.

Today, the average marketing organization uses 14 different data sources to build insights. This number is predicted to expand to about 45 sources by 2025!1 Yes, the Digital Revolution is providing marketers with an abundance of tools, from the ability to collect data from social media, loyalty programs, payment systems, mobile devices and more. However, with our customers now engaging from multiple devices across different systems – marketers are faced with the challenge of delivering a seamless, personalized customer experience with minimal disruption to business flow – all while protecting customer data from breaches, and building brand trust.

Industry challenges

In my travels as the CMO of Microsoft US subsidiary I’ve been able to identify 3 main challenges that have resonated with my peers. The first is around customer expectation.

Customer expectation is shaped by their consumer experience. As mentioned above customers are now on various channels and expect the same experience across each. They expect no interruption in the marketing flow, and they always expect their data to be 100% secure. Meeting these expectations consistently is crucial as that builds trust which we believe is the modern marketer’s most valuable currency. Good data is one of the key ways savvy marketeers learn about their customers, which enables them to deliver a consistent experience that will continue to develop a relationship with customers based on trust.

Good data however is about more than the flow of data. The concept of ‘good data’ is about the organization of the data coming in, and how to transform that data into predictive and prescriptive analysis. This requires a strategic approach to marketing data models which leads me to my second key challenge – Boards increased pressure to drive growth and develop the right data set to make the right decisions and gain the right insights.

The third challenge revolves around marketing teams, specifically the question: How do we make sure our teams are really embracing modern marketing? Today marketing teams need to be able to tap into both the left and right side of the brain, or create a balance between art, creativity, science, and technology driven mindsets.

To respond to these industry challenges Microsoft has adopted three major pillars across all subsidiaries and divisions: Culture, Capabilities and Technology


Our culture at Microsoft is built from the top down and from the bottom up. Satya has shifted Microsoft from a ‘know it all’ approach to a ‘learn it all’ mentality. This approach enables us to be able to truly put the customer first. We’ve prioritized workshops with customers and partners to be able to listen more to top of mind issues, understand business needs, and more effectively communicate with our customers using their language. This helps minimize any disruption our touchpoints may cause in the regular flow of business. In addition, a top down and bottom up approach of instilling culture ensures that the brand that I promise will be delivered through interactions I have, but also through any other level of person the customer may interact with within the company. We call this One Microsoft One Voice. This helps to create a certain level of trust with the customer. We believe trust is now the new pillar of success with any customer engagement – above and beyond brand loyalty.

Capability – People

A key question every CMO must ask themselves is: Do I have the right people to carry this strategy and bring it to life? As I’ve grown in my own position as CMO I started to screen for talent within my team differently. In the past I’ve focused my recruiting on high tech marketers. After all, are we not in a high-tech industry? But as we put customer obsession at the center, I started to shift my recruitment to people who are coming from specific industries. So today I have people from banking, from the healthcare industry etc. In this way my team knows how to engage with the customer without creating disruption in their normal flow of business making sure my marketers and the customers they are marketing to are always speaking the same language.

On my team today I also have Developers and Data Scientist who are creating the wiring for all of my MarTech tools and all of the insight I need to effective go to market. My team consists of people who are from the industries that we target, who can lead with customer obsession and also people who have a deep understanding of the data.

Another aspect when you move from ‘know it all’ to ‘learn it all’ is you have to prioritize learning! On my team I have somebody who is focused on just the marketing curriculum and making sure that we’re giving time to our employees as part of their work to learn and make sure they’re updated on the latest and greatest tools.

Last, but absolutely not least, in order to ensure we’re leveraging the power of One Microsoft, we need to make sure that we create the condition for effective collaboration. We are using our own tools for this, specifically Microsoft Teams. Through Teams we’ve been able to capitalize on the diversity of our team who live across the US.

Capability – Organization

We at Microsoft needed to have one brand and one voice – not the clutter of multiple brands. What we’ve done to address this need, and what I think is one of the key pillars of our digital transformation, is the development of one Global Demand Center.

The Global Demand Center is one worldwide infrastructure that can tag all our customers across all of their marketing activities – whether they are online or off. Capturing these data points on customer behavior and feeding it into machine learning and artificial intelligence allows us to understand the behavior of the customer and what their journey should be depending on their specific conditions and their specific goal. Our learnings from Global Advertising and the Global Demand Center allow us to move into our local US subsidiary with more targeted profiles and gives us the ability to engage with our customers on a more personalized level side by side with our sales account teams.

Anchoring all of this, I have local marketing and analytics teams looking at the data, day in and day out, leveraging the intelligence that we are getting from worldwide behaviors. We then compare those behaviors to the data points in our local marketing and customer sales positions to make sure our messaging is effective.


In order to deliver a personalized experience in the B2B space you need to first develop a deep knowledge of your customer. In addition to understanding your customer you must also understand the customer journey. The global platform that I was referring to earlier is based on a profile tag ID system that we have on the Adobe Experience Platform. This is how we’re able to understand where the customer is in their journey in real time.

As we all know the customer journey is far from linear. So, having the ability to understand the one by one journey for each of our customers and contacts within our customers is critical to make sure that we are planning for the right next activity in an effective way.

The rest of our technology stack is more traditional in terms of what it allows us to do. This means making sure we have all the analytics to improve our digital and social engagement. Understanding our share of voice and how we compare to the competition and understanding which are the narratives that are resonating the best so that we place our investments at the right place at the right time.

Through all of this we are looking at precision in our ROI. We are moving away from looking at how many customers came to an event or how many downloaded a whitepaper and instead looking more holistically at all the touchpoints that were required to convert the customer and using that intelligence to drive the design of our marketing strategies.

Microsoft US MarTech Stack

The key anchor for us is the Adobe Experience Platform and our own Power BI along with Adobe Analytics to ensure we surface the best analytics from our data. We also leverage our Microsoft 365 platform and Microsoft Teams to enhance our teams collaboration and power in diversity. In addition, we leverage the Power Platform so that the data is easy to consume and manipulate.

All of this in anchored in our Azure Data Lakes that are managed by our central IT Department from which I layer machine Learning and artificial Intelligence to make sure that we’re able to derive the behavior that we can track through Adobe Experience Platform. This allows us to move from predictive to prescriptive analytics.

Learn more

For more on how to create an edge as a modern marketer download our eBook How to demystify data and extract impactful insights here. In it you’ll learn about:

  • Using data insights to create deeper engagement and generate greater revenue and results
  • Deciphering data in a way that filters out fallacies and false correlations

The future of data and ways of organizing and interpreting, including trends every marketer should keep their eye on