When Caitlin Fitzgerald took over customer evidence for the Microsoft First Wave program and a Microsoft 365 evidence and advocacy program, the management role had been vacant for a few months. The program’s focus and lead pipeline shifted, and it was Caitlin’s job to bring the program back into gear. She engaged Yesler customer advocacy experts to help rebuild her evidence pipeline, qualify and recruit engaged and engaging customers, and tell their stories. Within two months, we helped Caitlin expand the pipeline from 20 to 200 leads. In just one year, she published 25 customer success stories, expanded the program portfolio—and landed a big promotion.
Microsoft evidence program skyrockets—20 to 200 leads in 2 months
When Caitlin Fitzgerald took over marketing and customer-evidence for the Microsoft First Wave program and a new evidence and advocacy program for Microsoft 365 in July 2018, she had gaps to fill and imminent deadlines to meet.
The First Wave program helps early enterprise adopters deploy the Microsoft 365 package of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 ProPlus, and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS). First Wave also provided a pipeline of high-quality customer-evidence leads. Before Caitlin took over, the program had been running successfully for five years, managed by a Microsoft Senior Director.
When Caitlin entered her management role, the Microsoft 365 evidence program was brand new, and First Wave management had been vacant for more than eight weeks. The First Wave evidence pipeline had dried up—to fewer than 20 leads—and so had engagement with executive leadership. Caitlin needed to bring her evidence pipelines back to life and put her own stamp on both programs.
Rebuild, recruit, and hit the ground running
Caitlin’s first challenge was to rejuvenate the evidence leads pipeline. Unfortunately, First Wave engagements are typically long and complex, and many First Wave enterprise leads were not mature enough to meet her immediate needs. Deadlines loomed for several key global marketing events, and Caitlin had only a handful of qualified leads to work with. She had to hit the ground running, and she needed help.
Caitlin engaged Yesler’s team of customer advocacy experts—program managers, project managers, writers, designers, and editors—to help her rebuild the pipeline, qualify and recruit scores of engaged and engaging customers, and tell their stories. “Yesler was already part of the extended team, and when I came into the role I was met by lots of smiling faces, eager to help,” says Caitlin. “Yesler’s level of experience and expertise is rare, and their guidance helped us ramp up quickly. They were always ready and able to adapt to unique requests.”
“Yesler’s level of experience and expertise is rare, and their guidance helped us ramp up quickly. They were always ready and able to adapt to unique requests.”
Caitlin and the Yesler team quickly brainstormed a plan to nurture emerging leads for the evidence program and fill gaps in the pipeline with customers not engaged by other evidence groups. “We started to identify midsized enterprise customers that weren’t on anybody else’s radar but who were using Microsoft 365 successfully across their organization and across most of its capabilities,” says Caitlin. “Then we organized and managed an outreach program to more than a thousand accounts.”
Caitlin notes that Yesler’s experience and connections across Microsoft helped build a healthy pipeline, engage account teams, recruit customers for written case studies and videos, and even pass leads to other Microsoft teams where the stories could deliver the most value.
We spent July 2018 working with Caitlin to build the plan and began outreach to account teams in August. By September, we’d built a pipeline of about 200 leads, had started qualifying customers, and began conducting customer interviews and drafting stories.
“Within two months we had a pipeline with two-thirds more customers than the previous year, and we were starting to execute on leads,” says Caitlin. “My boss wanted to broaden the scope and portfolio of the program, and he was very pleased with the effort, the energy, and the fast results.”
While we hammered out the pipeline and qualified leads, we worked with Caitlin to develop and distribute email templates, fact sheets, slide presentations, and other promotional materials to recruit customers. Under Caitlin’s guidance, we produced and distributed a monthly email newsletter to share program results with Microsoft leadership, other marketing groups, and account teams.
“Every time we sent a newsletter, the distribution list grew as more people saw value in it,” says Caitlin.
Caitlin credits the Microsoft First Wave engineering and support teams for nurturing trust with customers to create the foundation for successful, engaging stories. They delivered 100 percent visibility into each use case, so Caitlin could capture the comprehensive, substantive stories she wanted.
Real world stories—and every deadline met
Once we helped Caitlin build a healthy pipeline and a score of qualified leads, she focused us on telling real-world stories about how real IT pros use Windows 10 and Office 365 to solve real problems. “I wasn’t that interested in high-level visionary stories,” says Caitlin. “I wanted before-and-after stories about how people used the products to change lives and organizations, told by real people who are passionate to share their story.”
So, we organized leads, set expectations with stakeholders and customers, managed production processes, and wrote and edited substantive, compelling customer success stories. Caitlin had several deadlines throughout the year—for marquee events. That’s hard enough, but even harder when you’re producing complex stories from multiple perspectives, sometimes with multiple interviews. It took precise project management, flexibility, and commitment, but Caitlin made every one of her event-related deadlines.
“I appreciated the diligence and precision of my Yesler team,” she says. “I always knew where leads were, where stories were, and when we would publish. It gave me and my leadership team confidence that we would have the stories we needed on time, and we never left a marketing or event empty handed.”
We produced multiple stories for Caitlin that were featured at Ignite, Build, Inspire, and other global IT events. With media kits we prepared, Caitlin amplified stories, promoted events, and drove awareness for certain products and markets.
For example, a case study about the City of Corona was featured with a video at Ignite, Build, and Inspire, with city leaders onstage and exhibits on the conference floors. Ultimately the story and video package became one of the program’s most valuable assets and generated more than 12,000 click-throughs. Corona’s story was so effective that Microsoft brought the city’s team back to Ignite in 2019 and gave Caitlin a shout-out in a recap on LinkedIn. The program produced many other stories that became leading Microsoft marketing assets and generated very high engagement.
In the end, Caitlin built a robust evidence pipeline and a process for keeping it vibrant or creating a new one. In one year, the program went from concept and a pipeline with fewer than 20 effective leads to 25 published stories. Now it has a library of modern workplace customer evidence and a bank of references for Microsoft 365 sales opportunities. Caitlin had expanded the scope and the portfolio of the program, while improving processes and discovering new efficiencies. The program has driven market awareness and supported sales teams by highlighting customer success with Microsoft 365.
In Microsoft fiscal year 2020, Caitlin was promoted to be the new Senior Product Marketing Manager for the Microsoft 365 Compliance Marketing program. “The success of the program last year definitely led to my promotion,” she says. “I learned a lot about what works and the rigor needed to make a program succeed. There’s no chance we could have gone from 20 to 200 leads and 25 stories if we had to do it without Yesler. They are a trusted partner.”
“There’s no chance we could have gone from 20 to 200 leads and 25 stories if we had to do it without Yesler. They are a trusted partner.”
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