It’s a known fact that marketers plan to produce more content than ever in 2016. Why? Because engaging content costs 62% less than traditional marketing methods and generates about 3 times as many leads. With results like this it’s no surprise that big brands such as RedBull, Adobe, Hubspot, and IBM have massively increased their content marketing spend to produce strategic storytelling copy.
One brand that’s leading the way when it comes to curating content is cutting-edge software giant, Microsoft. Fueling its US$407 billion business, Simon J. Hughes, Business Planning Manager and Marketing Technologist at Microsoft, claims that creating a culture of content is critical to their success. Regardless of your organisation’s size or budget, content marketing has the potential to greatly increase customer loyalty and ultimately your ROI. Here are some of Microsoft’s key takeaways.
Content is still King
When Bill Gates predicted the rise of content marketing in 1996, only 0.5% of the world’s population used the internet. He claimed that this new approach would level the playing field between SMEs and global businesses. And he was right. Today over 40% of the world is online, and one of the main challenges for marketers is the need to create a buzz around their enterprise content. Microsoft strictly follows the “Golden Content Rule” by creating copy that’s not only fun for the reader but fun for the writer – which is why 99% of Microsoft employees share the company’s content. Hughes claims that Microsoft achieved this by building a strong foundation of editorial rhythm and outcome-focused governance.
At their 2-day Future Decoded conference, Microsoft explored social, economic and technological impacts of the digital revolution and how they will shape people’s lives in the future. The conference website provides Microsoft with an online human touch and acts as a inbound content marketing hub, attracting audiences with its annual business conferences, in-depth customer success stories, eBooks and bonus videos for subscribers.
Make less but increase the quality
Consumers engage with 11.4 peices of content on average before making a purchase, but this doesn’t mean they want the same content reproduced time and time again. Microsoft encourages businesses to find the right mix of staff-driven and outside agency content to keep content on-point, different and fresh. Every piece of content a business produces must serve a purpose – so a focused long-form content article is probably more effective than 5 shorter, but unaligned, articles.
Microsoft put this theory to the test in 2013 when they published “88 Acres: How Microsoft Quietly Built the city of the Future.” Initially dozens of journals rejected the pitch, as they didn’t think the angle was interesting, so Microsoft decided to publish it in-house. Steven Clayton, Creative Director and Microsoft Storyteller, wowed audiences by offering unique insight into how Microsoft engineers used Big Data and the Internet of Things to transform Microsoft’s 125-building headquarters into one of the most efficient corporate campuses in the world. This narrative article, not only drew nearly half a million views in 8 days, but also stimulated significant interest from the Pentagon and a number of Fortune 500 companies.
Write stories not press releases
Customers don’t want to be sold to, they want unique, life-altering branded stories. Scientists discovered that the brain releases oxytocin (a chemical which makes people feel more trusting, compassionate, generous and charitable) when they hear a great story. Therfore, to be a truly great marketer your stories need to have a positive impact on consumers. But don’t overlook the reason we’re all here… Achieving the correct balance between the story and important corporate information is crucial.
Ben Tamblyn, Director of storytelling for Microsoft, wanted to change the way customers perceive the Microsoft brand. “Most people’s perception of a company like Microsoft is kind of confined to things like Windows and Office,” Tamblyn said. “And the simple reality is, almost 120,000 people are working all across the world doing remarkable things.” So in 2013 Microsoft introduced Microsoft Stories to showcase longform internal stories with inspirational branded content that “gets an inside look at the people places and ideas that move us”. Tamblyn stressed the importance for other companies to share their personal stories and cool projects that encourage community togetherness, as this can dramatically increase customer interactions and loyalty.
Harness the power of Video Marketing
Online video is quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and enterainment needs. Recent research shows that businesses that use video grow their company revenue 49% faster year-on-year than organisations that don’t use video.
Microsoft generated greater awareness for its CRM Business Solutions suite, Microsoft Dynamics, by sending a film crew behind the scenes to show how their technology benefited engineers from the Lotus F1 race Team and brewmasters at New Belgium Brewing in Colorado. Their award winning 17 minute YouTube video, “Flavor and Fuel: A Story of Modern Craftsmanship” highlighted how wildly different enterprises like F1 racing teams and specialty brewers apply Microsoft Dynamics solutions into their day to day business. This video insipired other companies to build the same partnerships with Microsoft to help their companies focus on creating amazing customer experiences.
Microsoft has successfully changed customer’s perception of their brand by developing a content marketing strategy that highlights their unique innovations, inspiring colleagues and dynamic customers stories. Take a lesson from one of technology’s most iconic companies and step away from traditional, corporate-focused content to embrace your brand’s narrative. Making real and lasting connections with your audience has never been so important.