Q&A with Microsoft’s Noël Reilly: Data, discovery, customer-first mindset
Noël Reilly, Strategic Account Director at Microsoft, discusses her upcoming session at The Transformation of Search Summit, which will take place on October 25 here in New York.
As a prelude to the event, we’re doing a series of Q&As with speakers and panelists. First up, we have Noël, who will be on the panel, “Embarking on a search transformation project.”
Tell us a bit about your role at Microsoft?
Noël Reilly: As a Strategic Account Director for Microsoft Advertising, it’s my responsibility to partner with our top global clients and ensure they understand our Microsoft value proposition and how to best leverage Microsoft Advertising products to reach their customers.
My main goal is to help build client relationships and partner with them on digital strategies which empower and grow their business.
What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?
NR: Our Microsoft Advertising offering is evolving quickly — we’ve come out with a ton of solutions, particularly in the audience, automation, and ecommerce space.
My first key priority is of course educating our clients on how best to utilize these tools to drive their goals.
We’re also looking at ways in which to bring a single voice from Microsoft to our clients — I’ve been partnering heavily with the enterprise side of our business to learn more about and deepen the relationship across top clients.
What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?
NR: Like all digital advertising, search in particular generates a ton of data, and we as marketers can get overwhelmed by it!
While all of this data we have access to has opened a ton of new possibilities for brands to respond, we also have to make sure we are respecting the people behind that data.
So much is changing in this space right now — with GDPR in Europe to now California following suit, there’s a lot out there to be knowledgeable of.
Microsoft has taken a people-first approach to all of this. We sometimes get questions from marketers on when we’re coming out with this targeting or that data cut.
And while we are committed to client success, we have taken an industry-leading approach to brand safety and privacy standards and creating solutions that provide value while keeping customer data secure.
What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?
NR: Ask questions! If you’re working with a partner who isn’t transparent about where their data comes from, or where your ads are showing up, you should ask why that is.
Automation is a hugely powerful tool for marketers. It can reduce a ton of bandwidth and be a key driver of your digital transformation journey.
Microsoft has tons of new products that can make personalization and automation easier, from product audiences which supercharge your ecommerce remarketing across our network, to automated bidding, to even our handy recommendations tab.
They all use the power of the Microsoft graph which can help you save time and work the way you want to work, but also offer that industry leading transparency and trust I mentioned earlier.
What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?
NR: We have a tendency to focus on the tools: voice search, targeting, and audiences — but those things themselves are not the disruptors.
It’s things like conversational AI, and the new consumer experience, which are what’s interesting.
If you think about search and what it fundamentally has always been: it’s a place to discover and get answers.
This has not changed, but the way consumers engage with it has. And I think marketers are working to figure out the best way to tap into this new ecosystem.
How do you expect it will change in the next 6-12 months?
NR: I think the focus on designing for every customer experience is what will start to take the spotlight in the next 12 months.
We at Microsoft give you a ton of ways to tap into your consumer. For example, if you want to understand what voice search looks like for your brand, you could run a search query report and look for indicators of voice queries in the intent.
If you want to personalize your message, you can leverage responsive search ads.
But, just using the tools does not guarantee success. The brands who know their customer journeys and are investing in unifying their data are the ones who we see improving their marketing performance.
Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?
NR: My goal is of course to inspire you to not be overwhelmed by all of the changes in the world of search but inspired to put it at the forefront of your marketing strategy — there’s no better way to understand the journey of your consumer.
What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?
NR: I’m obsessed with our clients — I’m really looking forward to hearing from the folks at Walt Disney, Volvo, and Conde Nast.
As someone whose biggest responsibility above all is client satisfaction, I have to know and stay in touch with what is top of mind for clients.
What’s one of your favorite search technologies and why?
NR: You’re talking to someone who has worked in Search for the last 12 years, so I pretty much nerd out on all of them.
If I have to pick a favorite though, it would definitely be our newly created Audience Ads on the Microsoft Audience Network.
It leverages search and web activity as well as demographic and professional targeting to really allow the advertiser a ton of cool options for targeting, and we’re seeing really great success from our clients who are investing time into this product.
What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?
NR: I am an avid yogi and teach fitness classes outside of work, so this has always been an important part of my life.
I recently moved about an hour and a half outside of the city, so I’ve had to do a lot of adjusting on my time table.
I make sure every morning I use the commute time to answer emails and create my working agenda for the day, so by the time I arrive at the office, I’m ready to hit the ground running.
Things always come up, but I have found that rising early and taking advantage of the quietness of the morning has given me time back to still get things done I need to do while keeping my time in the evenings personal for myself, my family, or my students.
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