Fifty Five and Five

Content marketing through the eyes of Microsoft

  • 76% of B2B marketers will produce more content than ever in 2016
  • Introducing Microsoft Stories website showcasing internal stories with branded content
  • Advice for creating a content-drive Microsoft marketing strategy 
What’s the real value of content marketing? Can a piece of copy really impact your revenue? Will that email campaign create interest and generate leads? Will your updated web content catch the eye of your target audience? Do LinkedIn and Twitter actually help with your content strategy?

With 76% of B2B marketers planning to produce more content than ever in 2016 and 67% of B2B buyers relying on the content they read to research a company before making a purchasing decision, content marketing demands energy, demands attention and should be a key focus when putting together your wider Microsoft marketing strategy.

Indeed, many of the world’s biggest companies – both B2B and B2C – understand its value. From Richard Branson and Virgin, to Nike, Red Bull, Innocent and LinkedIn, these individuals and organisations have a dedicated focus on their content marketing objectives and are spending more money than ever on their content marketing strategy – by up to 33% in some case.

The first corporate blog

One company that has led the way from the beginning is Microsoft. For some, hearing the words content marketing and Microsoft together may come as a bit of a surprise, but it was back in 2004 that they launched the first major corporate blog. If we go back even further it was a certain Mr. Bill Gates that coined the phrase “Content is king” in 1996. Fast forward 20 years and you’d have to say he was (and still is) right! Nowadays it’s far more difficult to find a company that doesn’t blog rather than one that does. So why does content resonate so much with all of us?

Simply, we all love a good story. People want to know more about the people working at company X, they want an insight into a brand, they want to know what happened at their favourite event, what the guest speaker had to say, who attended and why.

And the reason Microsoft and so many other companies, both big and small, do it? It’s their chance to reach an ever growing audience, and ultimately entice a consumer to do business with them. It’s their chance to say, “hey, we’re cool, we have personality, we know about the industry, we’re innovative, and while your reading, here’s something great about us and our products/services/people”.

Don’t they just sell word?

While many just think of Microsoft as Office, Windows, Bill Gates, or the the Xbox, Microsoft’s focus on marketing – and content marketing in particular – has helped support, grow and sustain their success in the face of some pretty stiff competition.

And that success is still very much in action today. In June 2015 LinkedIn revealed their top 10 most influential global brands. Scoring their content marketing efforts, Microsoft beat Google, Forbes, hp, IBM and others to claim top spot. Rising from 4th place in 2014, what were the contributing factors that helped them take the number one spot?

  • 99% of employees are actively sharing content
  • 99% of employees are publishing company updates
  • 97% of employees are publishing long-form content

“Stories, stories, stories.,,

2013; the year of the “Harlem Shake”, Edward Snowden and President Obama’s second term, was also the year that Microsoft introduced Microsoft Stories. This beautifully simple website, showcases internal stories with branded content. Its purpose was clear – ‘Get an inside look at the people, places and ideas that move us’. Stories was inspired after rejection from journalists. After pitching an idea that failed to generate any interest, the company decided it was good enough that they’d just use it themselves. As a result, 88 Acres was born.  Steve Wiens, Managing Editor for Microsoft Stories had this to say:

“It sparked an awareness in us that we have a way to tell stories about Microsoft from the inside that is, in some ways, more compelling than the folks on the outside”

The company’s Manager of Storytelling, Ben Tamblyn has a pretty refreshing view:

“Product makes a pretty crappy story. By leading with the story behind the product, you get a far more interesting narrative that people can wrap their arms around.”

With Microsoft Stories, we have another example of Microsoft marketing strategy being just right when it comes to content marketing – it’s valuable, it’s interesting and it’s engaging.

Content Marketing and Microsoft Partners

For many Microsoft Partners, content marketing can quite often be pushed to one side. Not because those companies don’t see the value, but largely due to a lack of resources, a lack of time, or a lack of expertise. Jon Buscall, head of Moondog Marketing, hit the nail on the head:

“Content marketing is a commitment, not a campaign”

Our advice? While we agree with Jon, we also think that this commitment should start with small steps. With 57% of B2B marketers saying producing consistent content will be their biggest struggle, this is far from being an uncommon challenge.

Getting started with your content marketing is often the hardest part. So look to create an internal calendar, create your own deadlines and get that first blog, newsletter or case study written. Once you start, document your ideas and plans, and turn those ideas into a strategy. With a strategy, however small, in place, you can then look 3 – 6 months down the line, and create content marketing campaigns that really work for you.

So whether it’s a product or service you’re offering, good content marketing should provide value and aim to tell a story. As 18-year Microsoft veteran Steve Clayton puts it“We are in the business of good stories, that’s all”. And so should you.

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Aidan Danaher

Aidan Danaher

Aidan was the very first employee at Fifty Five and Five, and now spends his days managing a wide range of our client accounts.

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