By: Alicia Tan, Managing Editor, ADMA
It’s hard to pin-point when exactly the two functions of sales and marketing in an organisation started to operate as two entities. Timeline aside, the biggest challenge that CMOs of today face is putting the “and” back in “sales and marketing” to ensure that teams are working together to uncover insights and design strategies and tactics that deliver on customer experience and business growth. Pip Arthur, CMO & Communications Director – Central Marketing Organisation at Microsoft, tells us how Microsoft is taking steps to align the business and overcome the challenges to come.
How has Microsoft approached connecting its sales and marketing functions?
We now have access to a wealth of data from many different channels that help us make better decisions; better for our customers and potential customers who get information that is relevant to them and their story, and better for us in terms of establishing and extending our relationships with those organisations. These relationships extend across Microsoft so we need seamless connections between sales and marketing.
This approach has steered a marketing transformation that’s delivered unique outcomes for marketers, customers, and sellers. As a marketing team, we’re always searching for scalable customer insights to enable more targeted marketing programs. In a digitally connected world, our customers expect rich and personalised experiences at every point of interaction. And our sellers expect that marketing will deliver high quality leads based on a variety of demand signals from customers. Technology has allowed us, as marketers, to create a more personalised experience for our customers. We can measure each customer’s engagement at various points and use these insights to define that customer’s future journey. It has improved the marketing and sales connection by helping us to prioritise leads and bring them to the attention of sales. This, together with demand signals and leads scoring, allows sales to have more personal conversations with customers. The result has been a substantial increase in conversion from lead to paying customers.
Why do you think it’s necessary for sales and marketing to align?
As the world becomes increasingly digital and connected, marketing and sales functions are being transformed. We are moving from a world where the purchasing process was driven by our sales cycle to one where customers expect that we will engage with them when, where, and how they need. No two customers are the same and they want – and increasingly expect - personalised engagement.
This is why we can no longer rely on one channel, or one tactic, working in isolation. If sales and marketing are not aligned, the result is a disjointed customer journey where marketing creates leads at the top of the funnel, nurtures those leads, and then sales engages those same leads with repetitive content, events and other tactics because they didn’t know their marketing colleagues were already speaking with the customer. To make sure this doesn’t happen, we need to track every touch and tactic across every channel. And, of course those channels, touches and tactics are growing all the time. Over the last 12 months, for example, we have put a lot of emphasis on our social selling program. Our sellers are using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to connect with customers they have not engaged with before. Marketing is leading the charge by equipping sales with not just technology but also the skills and content that we believe is essential for confident and productive engagement. Historically, selling has been about face to face contact and developing relationships over time. Today, it’s still about relationships but we have the technology to engage with contacts in different ways; the digital realm has brought new opportunities and we are moving on these as fast as we can. The results we have seen from our social selling drive have been incredible. The starting point is to manage our marketing execution as a customer relationship building program that nurtures leads and then connects those leads with the relevant members of the sales team at the right time, with all the accompanying information that will help sales to convert the lead into a transacting customer. Of course they need the right technology but we also need to ensure they have the right content that enables them to engage in conversations with confidence.
How does Microsoft engage its customers based on what interests them vs what the company wants to push to them?
One of the biggest focus areas for me is being customer obsessed. We want to attract customers and create fans, rather than simply making contact.
This means putting the customer first and creating a customer journey that is neither static, nor based on what we think it should be, but rather dynamic, and driven by customer behaviour. This means engaging with customers around the interests they have and responding to their interactions. Every day we learn a little bit more about how to do this better. We are moving from a Microsoft-defined product journey to a customer-centric journey; from a product value proposition to a focus on outcomes that we can help the customer achieve. We can only do this with a data-driven approach that yields scalable yet personal customer insights. We use those insights to help create compelling content. I come from a communications background and I have learnt to never underestimate the importance of great story-telling in getting customers to act. We need to inspire the people we engage with and that requires compelling content that is in line with the conversations our customers want to have, rather than simply pushing the products and solutions we want to sell. We need to have great processes around pipeline and that means we need the best technology but we also to be passionate about great content. That’s a big part of our transformation.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that a CMO faces when it comes to MarTech?
As revenue marketing becomes the new norm, our biggest marketing tech challenge – which is also an opportunity – is a tool or a set of tools that will allow us to measure the impact of our activities across the full customer journey and attribute an ROI back to those activities. Overcoming this challenge – or seizing the opportunity – will bring greater visibility of how channels and/or tactics are performing and help us decide which activities we should use for first touch, as opposed to further along the journey. In the modern marketing world, where we’re continuously asked to deliver a higher ROI, succeeding in this challenge – and making the most of the opportunity – will add immense value to the marketing function and, most importantly, to our customers and shareholders.