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“Marketing is the best job,” declares Valerie Beaulieu, Chief Marketing Officer, Microsoft US, Microsoft Corporation. Despite challenging times for Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), Valerie Beaulieu’s excitement for marketing’s leadership role in digital transformation is contagious. Julie Schwartz recently sat down with Beaulieu to discuss her experience and explore the key pillars for Microsoft’s transformation. In this candid conversation, Beaulieu acknowledged the challenges her team faced in transforming marketing at Microsoft.
Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
ITSMA: Expectations for performance are high and escalating for marketers. What do you see as top challenges facing CMOs?
Valerie Beaulieu: As marketers, we play a key role in defining the digital transformation for our companies. It is an exciting profession, but also one filled with challenges. I see three primary challenges for CMOs:
- Balancing personalization and privacy. B2B buyers expect relevant, personalized engagement that goes beyond superficial distinctions based on job roles. How do we build that balance between being intensely personalized and relevant while also guaranteeing data privacy and building trust?
- Driving growth and life-time value. Marketing today are under pressure to drive growth by supporting our sales team and creating demand and pipeline. Marketing also must be on the outlook for new trends.
- Having the right marketing team. Marketing is changing and therefore the CMO needs to assemble a team of people who can thrive in the modern marketing environment. This translates into both the right- and left-brain capabilities, not necessarily in the same person, but on the same team.
ITSMA: How are you approaching marketing transformation at Microsoft?
Beaulieu: There are three big pillars on which we are anchoring our transformation: culture, capability, and technology:
- Culture. When Satya Nadella joined Microsoft as CEO in 2014, he immediately rallied his leadership team around culture. A well-articulated culture is critical because it builds trust through consistency. The first step was to define our mission and then we determined the attributes needed to live the culture. Next, we introduced a growth mindset. We shifted from the arrogant, know-it-all attitude that Microsoft was known for with a learn-it-all mindset. We now go to the customers to learn about them, not to tell them about us. We need to make sure that we are customer-obsessed and that we consistently approach the customer as “one Microsoft” with a well-orchestrated engagement plan.
- Capability. The new Microsoft culture changed the way I think about capabilities in the marketing organization. In the past, I looked for people with high technology marketing experience. But now I prioritize marketers who come from my customers’ industries. I’m also recruiting software developers who can put marketing technology to work for us. And, of course, data scientists. Capability does not refer only to people, but also organizational capability. We’ve been thinking about how we can benefit from a more solid marketing infrastructure in the US by tapping into the power of Microsoft’s global organization. Traditionally, regional groups don’t like global centralization because it symbolizes a shift in power from the subsidiary to the global organization. However, we’ve learned that the benefits of centralization outweigh the drawbacks.
- Technology. We start by using technology to listen to our customers to understand their industry, who they are, what they do, and what is top-of-mind. Data and technology are a mean to an end, and in a world where our competitors—Amazon, Google, Salesforce, et cetera—are digital natives, I need to have the best data to compete. But at the end of the day, even if I have the best data, it won’t matter if I don’t know how to create a memorable experience. Make no mistake, technology is a tool to drive excellent marketing, yet it is still the experience that will make the difference.
To get the details on how Microsoft is transforming marketing, read the ITSMA Viewpoint Marketing Transformation: The Case of Microsoft.