Yesler helps Microsoft Surface build customer advocacy to pivot quickly during global crisis

When Product Marketing Manager Sonia Dara joined the Microsoft Surface team, Yesler had already worked with Microsoft for many years on customer advocacy programs. Dara wanted to expand her team’s B2B storytelling capacity and drew on a longstanding relationship on Yesler’s advocacy experts to collaborate on references, written and visual content, and social media support. Yesler helped her team streamline the end-to-end advocacy process and tell authentic stories from a variety of perspectives.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Surface devices took on a new relevance. As companies shifted how they worked and dealt with the pandemic, Yesler pivoted quickly to support the Surface marketing team with a focus on safety, sensitivity, and enabling remote work.

Background 

Microsoft Surface is a versatile device that converts from laptop to tablet and helps people work from anywhere—school, home, or the office. The Microsoft Surface marketing team focused on marketing devices for both the commercial and consumer side—but its consumer marketing was more established. As Surface expanded quickly into enterprise and small business markets, the team needed help telling stories about why commercial customers selected Surface devices, and how they deployed, used, and managed them. The team also needed to develop a snappy end-to-end workstream around written and video case studies.

“We hadn’t built a good muscle around storytelling,” says Sonia Dara, Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft Surface. “We called on Yesler for their knowledge and experience of how to run an efficient customer advocacy program and how to integrate our Surface stories with other cross–business groups like Microsoft 365 and Teams. We knew Yesler could help tell the broader story of how our customers are empowered by using Surface devices.”

“We knew Yesler could help tell the broader story of how our customers are empowered by using Surface devices.”

SONIA DARA

Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft Surface

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Strategy 

Yesler started by building out an end-to-end process. First, we established how to intake a customer nomination efficiently. We made recommendations on how to ensure balanced content, taking a variety of industries and story types into account. Then, we helped create a customer evidence tracker to effectively manage the customer stories, ensure all team members were aware of existing stories, and encourage sellers to use them in the field. We also encouraged Dara’s team to tell a broad range of stories to boost content volume instead of only doing deep dives with each customer.

“We used to feature one or two customers in a very intense full story, with a lot of bandwidth taken up by a few stories,” says Dara. “Now we focus on more of a breadth, talking about more customers and telling their stories in a more lightweight fashion.”

How we did it

Creative & Content Development

Creative & Content Development

Customer Advocacy

Customer Advocacy

Social Media

Social Media

Solution 

Yesler and Dara’s team worked closely to produce case studies with support from our account managers, customer advocacy experts, project managers, writers, designers, social media experts, and video producers. Together we developed a smooth, efficient process and encouraged getting as much life out of each piece of content as possible. We created about 275 assets, including case studies, localized stories, internal announcements, newsletters, and formatted “win” emails.

Since customers are generous about telling their stories, we want to make sure to maximize their time. For example, we know that IT decision makers (ITDMs) and business decision makers (BDMs) need different content that is relevant to their roles. When conducting interviews, we made a point of asking questions that would relate to both audiences so we could capture a variety of content on the same call. “Yesler helped us get creative in how we ask questions and find new ways to tell stories,” says Dara. “For BDMs we would focus more on a financial question, and for ITDMs we’d ask about deployment and manageability and the end user.”

Continues Dara, “If we created a longer video, Yesler was already thinking about where the smaller social cuts were so that we could use them for each of those audiences. Yesler is great about ensuring we can easily use small pieces for different audiences or for social.”

We produced content that the Surface marketing team could use throughout the year to support its top executives, customers, sellers, and partners. Along the way, we were committed to trying to create content that was thoughtful and diverse. “When it came to the actual storytelling, Yesler made sure to cover it from multiple angles,” says Dara. “They were conscientious about being diverse in who we’re representing in our stories, such as varying the audience or featuring more women in the story—which helped us grow and become more inclusive in our storytelling.”

“They were conscientious about being diverse in who we're representing in our stories, such as varying the audience or featuring more women in the story—which helped us grow and become more inclusive in our storytelling.”

SONIA DARA

Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft Surface

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Results 

Ultimately, we wanted to help Dara generate outstanding content that would differentiate the case studies in her team’s product groups so executives would choose to share the stories with enormous conference audiences.

Creating efficiency and cost savings

We understood that our client had to work within a certain budget and we used creative approaches to maximize story impact, such as localizing stories into different languages or collaborating with other teams. “Yesler was smart about offering suggestions for how to make our dollar go further and get more life out of more assets,” says Dara. “It really helped us reduce some of the costs and improve our efficiencies within our limited budget.”

Yesler added efficiencies to Dara’s team by streamlining work, such as taking over the monthly newsletter and inputting stories into the evidence tracker. “Our account manager is doing at least four people’s worth of work in the workstream he covers,” says Dara. “The huge workload they take on as a small team is really impressive and helped us save time, accelerate story tracking, and keep everything on a good timeline.”

Agility during COVID-19

When the COVID-19 crisis happened, the team had to respond quickly to the changing business landscape. Many customers needed to fast track their digital transformation and jump into a remote working scenario for the first time. Customers that use desktops in the office suddenly needed to provide employees with Surface devices to work from anywhere.

“A flood of emails came in from the field for different customer sales, and it was very overwhelming,” says Dara. “Yesler helped us sift through at least 500 emails to find the critical data we needed to quickly create relevant content about new Surface customers.”

With economic factors shifting so suddenly, we wanted to be sensitive in how we talked about the crisis. “We have to rethink storytelling now during COVID-19,” says Dara. “Yesler was incredibly agile and brainstormed about how we could reach customers appropriately at a time when many companies are facing challenges and focusing inward. Yesler was delicate with those conversations and helped us improve our communications with the field.”

Yesler and the Surface team have continued to work together closely, responding to changes while never wavering in creating relatable, thoughtful stories. Dara claims, “I definitely consider Yesler a trusted partner. Probably 95% of the time, I forget that the account manager is a vendor—we’re so in sync working on all the programs.”

“Yesler was smart about offering suggestions for how to make our dollars go further and get more life out of more assets. It really helped us reduce some of the costs and improve our efficiencies within our limited budget.”

SONIA DARA

Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft Surface

275

assets produced

500

emails sorted

400%

productivity on workload

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