Presented by Ben Ravani (General Manager) at the Convergence 2014 event.


Cloud computing is the hot topic of the moment, reduction in IT costs and increased agility responding to market demands are among the touted benefits of the cloud; but what are the downsides? How can they be addressed?


A demystification of the cloud is required, think about yourself for a second, what are YOUR concerns?


Personally, I worry about my personal data, my companies data and my customers data.


When considering a cloud service, certain questions should always be asked of the vendor:

  • Where is my data stored?
  • How secure is my data?
  • Who has access to my data?
  • What other purpose other than serving me is my data used for?
  • How reliable is the service I am entrusting with my data and how is it managed?


Microsoft have 6 data centres to support Dynamics 2013, they are split into pairs in the USA, Europe and Asia.  The data centres have a number of features to address the fears of cloud services:

  • Physical security including parameter, multi-factor authentication, constant monitoring and locked racks.
  • Critical services are also hosted including Office365, MSN and Skype adding a level of assurance.
  • Dynamic scaling and capacity management.


Reliability is obviously a paramount consideration, Active-Active high availability including near real-time replication as well as business continuity are all provided in the data centre.


Two copies of your data is written to storage in the primary DC with 2 further copies written to the secondary, sister DC.  As well as this, a fully encrypted backup is securely stored at an off-site location.  Switch-over between DC’s is as straight-forward as ‘the push of a button’.


Privacy is assured by initially ensuring that each customer has their own database.  Further safeguards are also in place to provide additional privacy and manage the centre:

  • Data Centre employees have no access to data, only hardware.
  • Failed storage devices are securely stored and shredded.
  • Automated workflows provide self-healing to reduce resolution time and remove human intervention in certain scenarios.
  • Microsoft Operations Centre (MOC) provides 24×7 first response to all monitoring and alerts, escalating to service engineers as appropriate.
  • Service engineers are fully background checked and are located in Redmond and Ireland only; these individuals are highly trusted as they have high-levels of access to both hardware and data in order to resolve issues.


Microsoft are dedicated to security and privacy, fully details are available at but at a high-level:

  • Integrity – Microsoft have been entrusted with your data and take this very seriously.
  • Principles – Security, Privacy and Transparency.
  • Compliance – ISO 27001, HIPAA, EU Model Clauses etc.


To summarise the webinar, let me present a screenshot from Ben’s presentation:

Webinar hosted by Francois Ruf, Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft during the Convergence 2014 event in Atlanta.


The presentation was focussed on the Microsoft Social Listening product set which will be available from Q2 2014 in Dynamics 2013 and forms part of the ‘Social Stack’.  Francois discussed the high-level strategy for organisations to develop a social platform utilising the technology stack provided by Dynamics 2013.


Everyone is becoming more aware of the connected world, vast amounts of data is generated online every day and the growing challenge for any organisation is how to process the relevant data.  This truly is the age of the customer, with 1.2 billion posts per day on Facebook and Twitter alone!


Many potential customers are 57% (according to some statistics) through the buying cycle before they even reach out to an organisation, these interactions happen on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter among other online places, if you are not actively interacting at these touch points the potential buyers may not even be aware of your organisation.


Consumers also expect much more agile organisations with 20% expecting a response to a query within 1 hour via social media.  44% of consumers now complain via social media.


In a social age, organisations must be aware of and be able to address:

  • Trust – People trust people, not organisations.
  • Transparency – People are able to know everything about your product, the good and the bad.  They also know all your competitors.
  • Access – People are able to easily get recommendations from friends, their network and the global community.


It will be no surprise that conversations in social media have become more influential to the buying process than the traditional sales and marketing tactics.


This has a BIG IMPACT on the sales, marketing and customer care processes in your organisation!


So what can organisations do to better engage online and better leverage the potential of social?


The biggest opportunities will cover:

  • Customer Experience – Understanding the consumer, learning from competitors, engaging with the customer socially.
  • Social Media Marketing – Brand reputation and presence, lead generation, etc.
  • Risk Management – Discover marketing and customer risks in real-time, an early warning system.
  • HR – communication and spotting top talents.
  • Analytics and Big Data – Understand your data by including social data and trends.
  • Collaboration – Internal to maximise network and knowledge within the organisation.


How do you get started with a social strategy?

  • Start with listening.  What are your opportunities, where are the touch points with customers?  Do most of your potential customers interact on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a combination?
  • Listen to competitors.  How are they approaching social?  Can you learn from what they are doing?
  • The Business Case.  Align your goals with your core business KPI’s.  How would you measure success?  The number of followings on Twitter may not indicate success for your organisations strategy.
  • Evaluate tools and vendors.
  • Build a roadmap.  Start simple but have a complete end to end scenario.
  • Assess the knowledge already in the organisation and assess education and training requirements.
  • Get Executive sponsorship.  You have your opportunities, competitor information, a business case, an understanding of your organisation and a roadmap.


Organisations must be careful about some pitfalls; the social strategy must be organisation wide and not just part of a small silo (such as marketing for example).  Not aligning the strategy with business goals is another common issue, what are you trying to achieve?


With Microsoft Dynamics, the entire social stack is seamlessly integrate into Dynamics 2013 giving you the power to unlock social for your organisation.


This is a summary of Tom Belle’s talk at the Microsoft Dynamics 2014 Conference ‘Content Marketing: What’s real & What’s next?‘. Tom Belle is the President and CEO of Gage. In his talk, he provided priceless insight into today’s state of content marketing, and proposed a concise content marketing strategy that is very simple – but not very easy.

Tom’s formula for a successful content marketing is as follows:


Relevant content + right time + right channel.

This means, companies should provide content that matters to their target market, at a time they’re likely to get a positive response, and via a channel their target audience is happy with.

If you’ve already done some content marketing, you probably know that in practice, this is not as easy as it sounds. The problem in today’s organisations is that every employee is unique and works differently from everybody else, and in effect whole departments work differently than other departments.

This can sometimes result in a common problem – everybody is working hard but the effort is not necessarily coordinated. In case of content marketing, the organisation ends up with numerous ‘silos’ of content from Sales, Social, PR, Digital Marketing, Marketing Communications and so on.

Sounds familiar?

The term Tom Belle used for this kind of ‘strategy’ is ‘Random Acts of Content’, which stands for content that is being pushed out via irrelevant channels, at the wrong time and/or isn’t consistent with the overall content strategy of the organisation as a whole.

And this is where the secret lies – in organisation as a whole. To successfully execute a content strategy, the organisation must be taken as a whole as opposed to being divided into departments – sales, marketing, support etc. Otherwise the company ends up with overly expensive and inconsistent ‘strategy’ that yields much worse results than a single, overarching one.


Making it work

So how to make sure your efforts are consistent? If you spend time on social media, you’re likely to have read something about technology being crucial to content marketing. By technology, we mean CRM, Sales Force Automation, Content Management Systems, email marketing, lead generation & management etc. This is of course true – as Tom Belle explains, anything that can be automated should be automated, otherwise you’re wasting your time – but technology can’t create strategy – it can just help you execute it.

So let’s start at the beginning: what should content marketing be used for?

Tom Belle listed a few purposes:

  • Building brand affinity
  • Enlarging the company’s network (getting traffic from more channels)
  • Getting the product out there
  • Generating new leads
  • Cross-selling & up-selling
  • Building a social community

And how should we achieve this? The simple answer is: By reaching out and providing a reason to your target market to also reach out and engage with you.

The more complex answer is, by combining:

  • Technology – as means of getting information in and pushing content out
  • Content – as the main attraction for the audience
  • Marketing – as the methodology for delivering your strategy


Where to start?

Start with your company.

As with every other project, define your objectives. What do you want to achieve with your content marketing? Next, capture the value your organisation delivers in a few short sentences. Look at how your brand is viewed by your target audience.

Continue by focusing on your customer.

Find out what your customers’ needs, questions and interests are, and which channel you’re likely to reach them through. From these, create very specific personas.

Next, create customer journeys.

For each individual persona, map out the journey you want them to take during their lifecycle. Create a matrix for every persona: at each stage of the customer journey (awareness, consideration, trial, use & loyalty, advocacy), define the activities, motivations and key information sources they should have or do. Base your content strategy on these matrices.

For example, if your persona is not happy with an aspect of your competitor’s service and if they’re spending time on LinkedIn, engage with them on LinkedIn and talk to them about how your service will not irritate them in the same way. As the lead is moving through the customer journey, keep sending them messages tailored to every journey stage. Remember, relevant content, right timing and right channel are crucial – and these will change as the lead is advancing in the journey.


Creating great content

The first thing you need to do in order to create great content is to create robust brand content pillars. These will serve you as a sturdy foundation and will keep your content creators from steering off track.

Brand content pillars are the essence of what your audience should think about the value your brand delivers. For example, Nike delivers ‘authentic athletic experience.’ Naturally, in B2B marketing, what we market is often not as exciting as that. However, the value you say you deliver still needs to be relevant to the customer, and if you can find a unique niche and present your brand that way, all the better for your brand.

In his presentation, Tom Belle talked about 3M and their digital display screens. During this campaign, they managed to create 4 times more conversion than from anything they’d ever done before. How? By switching from communicating their products’ features to communicating the experience (value) they delivered to the customer. So instead of talking about the technical specifications of their screens, they focused on talking about the great customer experience. Whatever they did, they made sure they kept their messaging consistent by only creating new content around their brand content pillars (amazing screens, great experience) – which is also why their strategy was so successful.


9 mistakes to avoid

Finally, Tom talked about the most common mistakes to avoid in content marketing:

  1. Not knowing your customers. You can always know your customers better. Invest effort into tailoring your marketing personas and follow through with the messaging you’re sending them.
  2. Not keeping the content unique, borrowing content from everyone else and not adding your own spin on it. Always make sure you’re contributing to the debate.
  3. Not clarifying your objectives and/or strategy and posting ‘Random Acts of Content’.
  4. Not respecting the channels. Always find out what’s appropriate to do on each channel and what people do on these channels, and make your content relevant.
  5. Talking about yourself – always talk about the experience your customer is going to get before talking about your brand.
  6. Chasing ‘that shiny object’ – always make sure what you’re about to do is consistent with your marketing strategy. If it’s not and it’s still enticing, think twice before doing it.
  7. Not effectively multiplying content. Make use of your most popular content by recreating it in a different form. This way you can use the same message in various media and get it through to more personas.
  8. Always striving to write a lot. Sometimes less is more – don’t try to stretch what can be written in a few sentences. Sometimes a shorter piece of content has more impact than a longer one.
  9. Not perfecting the whole customer journey. Especially at the end of the customer lifecycle, it’s crucial that your leads feel catered for and relevant. Make sure every touchpoint through their journey is designed to move them on to the next one – by confirming your positive brand image.


What did Tom Belle recommend at the end of his talk? Start simple and follow through. The positive results will come.

This talk was hosted by Barbara Giamanco, CEO of Social Centred Selling and recognised social selling thought leader at the 2014 Microsoft Convergence event.

From a sales and marketing perspective, social selling is becoming more and more critical to organisations both in the UK and internationally. Never before have prospects, buyers and influencers had such control over the B2B buying process. It is not easy to get in front of buyers and prospects, indeed these individuals are no longer dependant on the ‘sales person’ and most will start the buying process online without any sales person interaction at all.

Some interesting statistics from the talk that lend weight to this include:

  • 92% of buyers ignore unsolicited phone and email contacts.
  • 70% of buyers start researching options without sales contact.

It is apparent that if buyers are being educated online, this is where your organisation needs to be in order to become involved in the buyers education.

What would you personally do before you meet someone face-to-face or over the phone for the first time? Check out the person online? Perhaps look at LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to better understand the person you are about to meet with? What would happen if you opened up their LinkedIn page and the profile is blank?

So, if buyers can block sellers and have no need to engage at the earlier stages of research, what options are available to the buyer?

Social Media is playing a more and more important role in this area, however it is important to understand that these new channels do not replace traditional processes! At the end of the day you are still selling, or buying from a real person and that involves face-to-face meetings, telephone calls etc.

Buyers blocking sellers! So now what?

Social Media can be used effectively for many things:

  • Researching Prospects.
  • Establishing credibility.
  • Participating in relevant social groups to remain visible online, add value and become a ‘go to’ person in your field.
  • Establish relationships with multiple players in the buying process; reports show that on average 12-14 people can be involved in a B2B buying decision.

Research as show that sellers that are actively involved online outperform colleagues that are not. 72% report achieving their quota more often and 23% report exceeding their quota more often. More than 1/2 the respondents could directly track back social media to closed deals!

The research also showed that over 60% of the activity was through LinkedIn with smaller percentages through Twitter, Facebook and Blogging.

This is a brave new world, but mistakes can be made at an organisation and individual level. Having no social guidelines, not providing training and adding no value are common mistakes. Using the channels for broadcasting pitches (“Spray and Pray”) is also a very easy way to loose prospects and damage brand – targeted messaging is paramount.

All this information is available online through social channels. Most of this information is generated by individuals though, do they always tell the truth on profiles? Do they post financials and budgets? This is one piece of the puzzle and to truly be an informed seller, Business Intelligence must be leveraged to provide a full picture of the contact/prospect.

InsideView is now build directly into Microsoft Dynamics 2013 and can infuse company and contact data with real-time social insights and relevant news. Alerts can be triggered for example should a change in leadership occur within an organisation or a prospect wins an award; these triggers can be used to reach out to the prospect.

Social is not going away, how can you take best advantage to drive your sales?