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How to build a marketing services platform: learnings from our Microsoft journey

The exciting frontier of modern marketing calls for fast-paced execution, innovation, and return on investment, while still maintaining privacy, accessibility, and legal compliance. To deliver on that broad promise, most successful CMOs choose to invest in technology platforms to support marketing operations and automation. According to Gartner, marketing technology represents 33% of the average marketing budget.1

Like many of my peers, I’ve been on that journey at Microsoft US. A key enabler for us has been our Global Marketing Service Centers (MSC), which started 10 years ago but continues to evolve every day. This “shared service” capability provides marketing operations support to our international marketing teams—over 2,000 marketers located across 124 countries including the US, of course.

Iterating marketing execution for innovation

As the CMO of Microsoft US and an internal stakeholder of our shared marketing services, I’ve watched our marketing organization iterate on the best approach to managing the many elements that go into a successful campaign. The journey started six years ago with the development of a proprietary tool to manage marketing services requests and workflow. Two years ago, MSC replaced that proprietary tool with a third-party cloud solution internally referred to as Marketing Service Hub or MaSH.

Although MaSH evolved our service intake capabilities, it didn’t fulfill the needs of our accelerating marketing transformation. We needed new capabilities and greater flexibility to customize the system to meet the needs of our marketers, so we began re-imagining. In April 2019, our re-imagination came to life when we platformed MaSH on Microsoft Dynamics 365. Working with MAQ Software, a Microsoft Gold Partner, we developed MaSH on Dynamics 365—using the Customer Services module—to be even more, well, dynamic and much broader in capability than either previous platform.

Fast-tracking marketing operations at enterprise scale

With our service intake on Dynamics 365, we’re empowered to process thousands of marketing requests weekly and drive innovation and improvements across global marketing operations at an enterprise scale.

Whether it’s an email deployment, a list pull of customer targets, a webinar build, or all the above, the workflow capabilities of MaSH on Dynamics 365 allow us full visibility across a marketer’s request. MaSH is the main connection point from strategy to execution through to reporting and even includes privacy and business approval workflows, ensuring each request is executed in a consistent and compliant manner.

Graphic showing the key areas of focus for MaSH on Microsoft Dynamics 365

In addition to managing our marketing service intake process, Dynamics 365 has become the hub for our Marketing Services team, which effectively operates as an inside “agency.” We manage budget, resources, and projects within the Dynamics 365 console. Through Power BI dashboards, we even have access to real-time operational and KPI data to optimize service operations.

Dynamics 365 also provides the development agility we need, allowing for continual platform improvement. This means Marketing Services can keep pace with the needs of our internal stakeholders and Microsoft’s broader marketing transformation.

What’s next?

What I like the most about our new platform is all the new opportunities it has opened. We can integrate MaSH with other systems and improve the connection and data flow across teams. We’ve even seen interest from other groups within Microsoft who want to understand our transformation journey and how they can leverage the power of Dynamics 365 to modernize their own workflows.

As I shared in my previous blog posts, embracing Modern Marketing is a multi-faceted journey that depends on technology. From redefining your company’s culture to social listening, great tech is never far from impactful marketing. Our ability to adopt new tech and drive our team’s capabilities develops the tech intensity we need to undergo the true digital transformation of our marketing practice.

If you’d like to learn more about the power of Dynamics 365, check out Microsoft Learn. Join the conversation:

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For more from Valerie Beaulieu, watch this Learning from Leaders video interview, where she shares her take on what leadership looks like in the digital age.