C-Suite Marketing: Microsoft Goes Deep with Executive Conversations

Momentum ITSMA Staff

September 4, 2020

Hear how Pradeep moved a two day Services Executive Board meeting online. You’ll also learn how Microsoft orchestrates executive conversations...

C-Suite Marketing: Microsoft Goes Deep with Executive Conversations

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Building successful relationships at the executive level relies above all on creating trusted connections that allow for deep conversations. It’s why C-suite marketing programs so often focus on executive councils and advisory boards: Thought leadership content and larger events can help, but going deep typically requires more intimate environments.

For Pradeep U.N., Director of Field and Customer Experiences at Microsoft Services, it’s all about going deep.

Pradeep leads Microsoft’s award-winning Services Executive Board (PDF), which focuses on bringing together C-level customers to explore the future of digital transformation. To make it work, he spends a great deal of time obsessing about three fundamental questions:

  • How do we have deep conversations with executives?
  • How do we start challenging them to rethink how they want to approach their business?
  • What does it take to really engage successfully at a high level?

Answering these questions, in turn, enables the production of truly engaging experiences that generate deep insights about the customer’s business and help customers lead the transformation discussion instead of just reacting to it. The key, as Pradeep sees it, is balancing two essential roles:

  • Listening actively to what the C-level executives say
  • Personalizing content based on the listening and insight to facilitate deeper conversation

Our recent podcast discussion drilled into how this actually works with the Services Executive Board, especially in the context of COVID-19.

The Board, a global group of 30 CEOs and CIOs representing a variety of industries, helps Microsoft address the challenges it faces and explore the questions ahead of it.

Prior to the pandemic, the Board would convene in a common location for two and a half days. The participating CEOs and CIOs gave Microsoft that much time because they saw the value: they weren’t just discussing technology; they were strategizing about how to transform entire industries.

The meetings were very high touch. As Pradeep pointed out, “Pre-social distancing, high touch is a good thing. You shake hands. You can see somebody’s eyes. You can almost feel the warmth of their smile non-digitally…when you actually get a couple of executives together for a short period of time, decisions happen, relationships move forward.”

With the pandemic and the inability to meet in person, of course, the program had to pivot quickly to virtual.

The first step was listening to the Board members, but tempered with the larger context of what was happening in the world and how Microsoft itself was responding. Like most tech companies, Microsoft reacted quickly and aggressively to the pandemic, and Pradeep and his team viewed the pandemic as a global, societal crisis. This led quickly to a series of high-level, even philosophical questions:

  • What are our customers looking for?
  • What is Microsoft looking for?
  • What do we do now?
  • What do we do in the near future?
  • What do we do in the long-term future?

The Board was already focusing on strategic business issues but now health became the overriding concern, as Pradeep noted: “Health for our clients, our clients’ employees, our clients’ customers, and our clients’ ecosystem. How are we helping our client’s employees? How are we helping their supply chain health? What about mental health?”

Going deep at the executive level begins with understanding what’s really on the minds of the C-suite customers that we’re trying to reach. For Microsoft, and presumably for all of us, the world has changed profoundly. Pradeep, for one, doesn’t think there’s any going back. Now, if they’re going to truly help their customers’ leaders move forward, Microsoft needs to include health in its conversations with C-suite executives to help coordinate information, make faster decisions, and communicate with people across the board. It needs to be a holistic conversation.

To hear more about the mechanics of how Pradeep moved a two and a half day Services Executive Board meeting online, listen to the full episode. You’ll also learn:

  • How Microsoft creates a diverse group for the Board
  • How Microsoft orchestrates executive conversations
  • What it takes to listen before pushing out content
  • The importance of clarity of thought and how to achieve it