CMO for Microsoft US Talks about Marketing Digital Transformation at Her Company - Argyle Executive Forum Events
Valerie Beaulieu

Valerie Beaulieu, Chief Marketing Officer for Microsoft US, discussed how Microsoft implemented strategies based on viewing the customer as a consumer.

“Do you know we’re all in danger here?” asked Beaulieu at the outset of her thought leadership presentation at the 2019 Marketing Leadership Forum: The New CMO, Where Performance and Brand Intersect, held on February 26 in Chicago. “The latest research shows that over 50% of us won’t make it in the next three years, and the vast majority of us won’t make it past four years. Why is that? We’re the shortest-lived in the C-suite. The pressure to deliver creative and memorable experiences and the pressure to keep and drive impact are what make it hard to survive as a CMO. I’m going to share with you how we try to cope with that complexity at Microsoft.”

Beaulieu shared three trends she’s seen around the world. “First, even when you’re in the B2B space, your customer expectations are shaped by their consumer experience. Second, board pressure on the CMO to drive transformation is accelerating—not only to drive transformation but to drive the here-and-now, lifetime value of your customers. Third, we have to keep our teams going and transforming themselves to be able to achieve the first two,” she said.

“Let me unpack this. We’re all consumers, and we have certain expectations. That’s what you’ll be compared to if you’re in the B2B space. Your customers expect personalized interaction, a seamless conversation, and value—not just relevance,” Beaulieu explained.

“At Microsoft, there are three transformation pillars—culture, capability, and technology. For Microsoft, culture means empowering every person and every company on the planet to achieve more. When it comes to capabilities, you need to have people who are able to constantly learn—this is the growth mindset that has so much hype at the moment. As you get there, you need to have the right programs. On my team, I have a person dedicated to onboarding all new recruits and developing the program, so they stay at the top of the arc in terms of marketing trends,” she said.

“To make that happen, Microsoft has been doing global advertising and global demand for a long time. How can you build a consistent brand personality and tone of voice when everybody can speak? The first thing we did was regroup into a central organization to clarify our personality. The second thing—which was a lot more controversial—was to build a global demand center. You want to have one, 360 view of your customers. You need to have one, single ID, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve built an infrastructure that enables us to follow all the touchpoints across the customer experience. This would never have happened if we’d kept the demand centers in each of the countries,” Beaulieu noted.

“We also have a customer experience team. We need to make sure we have a team that brings the best experts together to deliver the best experience across digital destinations—but digital isn’t the only answer. In certain markets, billboards and radio still work. We need to make sure we activate the right mix,” she said.

“We have an industry team that’s able to translate your solutions into industry-speak, vertical-speak, which is critical to engaging customers where they need you to be engaged. Our integrated marketing team is talking to our product groups and to engineering and translating all the new functionalities they’re bringing up into a solutions area for our customers. The foundation is our analytics and marketing operations team. They drive all our marketing automation. This is where we have all the analytics, insights, and correlation work we need to drive to make an impact.”

Beaulieu offered these key takeaways:

  • First seek to understand, and then build the layers of the experience to show customers you know them.
  • Engage, listen, and respond—to your customers and your team.
  • Be bold—plan, test, learn, evolve, and repeat.
  • Data and technology are tools—not an end—to drive customer delight and lifetime value.
  • Don’t forget your team. Having the right hiring strategy and building a diverse culture are key.