Microsoft, the technology giant, has transformed its approach to business-to-business marketing in reflection of the greater complexity and need for customisation in reaching its target audience.

Caroline Keene, Microsoft’s interim CMO and senior director/cloud integrated marketing, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) Masters of B2B Marketing Conference, which was held online.

And Microsoft’s business-to-business marketers, she reported, need to understand a broader audience than ever before as the role of technology changes within corporations.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen increased complexity in the B2B decision cycle, with larger buying committees,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: How (and why) Microsoft has transformed its B2B marketing focus from product to people.)

“At Microsoft, we used to engage mainly with the CIO and her department. Now, the CMO, CFO, and HR are all critical in the decision-making process.”

A consequence for brand stewards, Keene said, is that enterprise-focused marketing “now has a larger role to play [and has] to be there throughout the customer journey, even when customers are not engaged with sellers”.

Customers’ professional lives in the digital ecosystem have increasingly paralleled their personal online experiences, and that trend has been accelerated as many people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This means that they expect more customisation, getting the right content at the right time via the right channel, while maintaining high levels of privacy, of course, for their personal data,” Keene said.

For tech vendors, “the need for agility is even greater [in] being able to pick up on customer sentiments and behavior changes,” she added.

As a consequence, “to be able to be in line with customer needs, we’ve had to adjust our marketing plan, moving towards sprint planning, as opposed to annual planning or quarterly planning.”

For Microsoft, the transformation in marketing has covered culture, capabilities, functions and technology – “and it’s not been overnight, but has been happening over the last three to five years,” Keene said.

And this effort, she reported, reflects the fact it is “more important than ever to have the right mix of talents and training to master the art and science of marketing.”

Sourced from WARC