When the Microsoft 365 Customer Advocacy and Evidence team was given a mandate to elevate customer storytelling, they brought fresh perspective and marketing goals with them. They turned to Yesler to help explore new story formats, track their stories better, boost the sales pipeline, and build readership. Our customer advocacy experts helped update their evidence portal and evolve their storytelling approach. Now, the partnership feels like an extension of their own team, and forging this critical relationship caught the eye of executives, who showcased the Microsoft 365 stories at Ignite.
Front and center: Microsoft 365 customer stories achieve high visibility
The Microsoft 365 Advocacy and Evidence team builds a body of customer evidence from its satisfied customers. Field sales teams around the world rely on this evidence to show prospective customers how Microsoft 365 has solved actual business problems for other businesses.
Ann Litton and Derek Britz lead the team with a keen sense of storytelling and a drive to up-level their offerings. They came to Yesler for help streamlining their customer advocacy and evidence, creating impactful stories, and finding new ways to engage their audience. They sought a wide range of marketing support, from capturing leads to project management and content creation to analysis.
“The Yesler team constantly helps us push our storytelling and look for new ways to engage the audience.”
Our team of project managers, writers, editors, and evidence experts explored how we could innovate the approach to advocacy and partner seamlessly with Ann and Derek. We decided to focus on a few key areas:
Evidence portal. The advocacy team had an evidence portal, but we wanted to make it more usable by migrating it to Microsoft Azure and centralizing all the evidence in one place. We reviewed all evidence documents to ensure they were accessible in the portal so that the Microsoft sales and internal field teams can easily find what they need, which aligned to the One Microsoft philosophy.
Innovative new story formats. We had been producing written case studies to tell a customer’s story about their experience with Microsoft, but we decided to expand on how we told those stories to reach a wider audience and deliver more value to customers. Instead of only creating one story per customer, we wrote several stories so we could take a deeper dive into various aspects of the customer’s journey or different products they were using. We also recommended more videos as an engaging way to reach prospects and increase interest in content.
Reference support. We added two full-time staff to support the reference desk to help locate and nurture existing customers to act as references for prospective customers. Many Microsoft customers have a great experience with Microsoft 365, but not all customers necessarily want to participate in a public case study. By expanding the reference program, happy customers can still be advocates in a more private way by doing reference calls directly with potential customers.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, we worked closely with Ann and Derek to develop the new approach.
Evidence portal. Our developers migrated the evidence portal to Microsoft Azure, which made the data more accessible and easier to share across teams. “The portal may sound like a simple thing that just anybody could do, but the tracker that Yesler helped us put together is so good that we are pulling all of the Microsoft 365 evidence teams into the same one,” says Derek. “It serves as a best-in-class single source of truth to see what’s actually in the pipeline and help us coordinate across Microsoft 365. It’s really powerful to prioritize where to focus our budget and curate the most relevant content.”
Innovative new story formats. We encouraged more video content where possible, augmenting written stories with engaging video storytelling. “The Yesler PMs on video projects did a great job of helping us prepare the customer, getting them comfortable over the phone, and in some cases going on the production shoot and providing high-touch care to the customer,” says Derek. “Then we worked seamlessly with the video production team to align the video and written pieces, and we had tremendous collaboration to produce cohesive pieces. Their team did outstanding work that led to high-visibility opportunities, and we got terrific feedback on the end product.”
Reference support. We have two Yesler reference managers who support the Microsoft 365 team, ensuring that customer-to-customer reference requests are closed quickly. “Our reference desk support from Yesler has been fabulous,” says Ann. “We’ve only heard positive feedback from any of the field that use Yesler reference support—they are diligent in supporting our needs with a quick turnaround.”
In mid-2019, we took a leap with the Microsoft 365 advocacy team into trying a more in-depth and chaptered approach to storytelling with a healthcare customer called St. Luke’s. The Yesler team performed 10 distinct interviews to gather information. Then we produced a 10,000-word feature story, topic-specific supporting stories, and a video case study. “There were hundreds of thousands of words in the raw transcripts. Yesler writers and editors distilled it into a high-value, cohesive story that led with the right messages. What came out was crisp and accessible,” says Derek. “To go from concept to all that content gathering to completion in 60 days is the biggest delivery that has ever been done with a customer story at Microsoft.”
“To go from concept to all that content gathering to completion in 60 days is the biggest delivery that has ever been done with a customer story at Microsoft.”
Ann and Derek can now effectively track and engage more customers. “The Yesler team handles a greater pipeline of potential stories than Ann and I could ever give proper attention and curation to,” says Derek. “We literally couldn’t get half of these stories off the ground if it wasn’t for the Yesler PMs constantly reaching out to our leads lists,” adds Ann.
Continually updating how stories are told helps deliver relevant content that keeps readers on the page longer, and social media helps drive readers to the stories. “The Yesler team constantly helps us to push our storytelling and look for new ways to engage the audience,” says Ann. “Our social engagement average month over month has increased by 9%.”
The work has been noticed at Microsoft, too. The Microsoft Ignite conference in November, which draws a huge audience of 23,000 in-person and 7,000 online attendees, showcased several Microsoft 365 stories. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella featured the St. Luke’s story during his keynote address. Each of the Microsoft 365 corporate vice presidents also included a customer story in their keynotes and other later sessions, and customer stories were integrated into the show floor. “To create these stories at such a high bar that colleagues want to use it as the model of how we approach customer stories going forward is an impressive accomplishment,” says Derek. “Yesler was a key partner in making the epic Ignite stories all land on time. They went the extra mile and went deep into every detail with me to make sure that we executed that high-visibility delivery well.”
We are excited to see how the relationship continues to grow to meet the needs of customers. “Yesler is a great partner in strategy, business planning, and helping us keep continuous improvement in motion,” says Derek. “If we suddenly didn’t have the Yesler team, our work would come to a standstill. We rely on them as an extension of our capabilities to be thought partners and highly invested in our success.”
“Yesler was a key partner in making the epic Ignite stories all land on time. They went the extra mile and went deep into every detail with me to make sure that we executed that high-visibility delivery well.”
Stories shared at Ignite event
Increase in social engagement
Days from concept to delivery