Content marketing has evolved over the years. How and where we publish content, the channels available to reach customers, customer behaviours and demands – all of these have changed considerably.
In this blog, we look at the state of content marketing in the Microsoft Partner Network and how it has grown more sophisticated and competitive. We also provide some smart partner marketing tips to improve your content output.
Pioneers of content marketing
Back in 2004, Microsoft was one of the first organisations to launch a corporate blog. Since then it has made blogging a staple of its marketing diet. From internal news and product releases to the latest developments in AI, Microsoft has put storytelling at the forefront of its marketing strategy – successfully engaging, informing and delighting its customers.
It should come as no surprise that Microsoft has been leading the way. Back in 1996, Bill Gates coined the phrase “content is king” in an article originally posted on the Microsoft website. In that blog, he predicted the rise of content marketing in the age of the internet.
Fast forward 20 years and it’s clear to see that his predictions were not only accurate but hugely influential. Today, it’s far more difficult to find a company that doesn’t blog rather than one that does. But, intriguingly, this wasn’t always the case within the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). Organisations in the MPN were initially slow to take up content marketing – today, they’re following Microsoft’s impressive lead.
Microsoft content strategy today
Content marketing is everywhere. If you want to stand out, you need to tell a great story, you need to tell it well, and you need to publish and promote it on the channels your audience prefers.
In 2019, Microsoft is taking content to a whole new level. For a full picture of Microsoft’s content marketing strategy, you need to include its use of social media, both as a publishing platform and as a channel to amplify blog content. You also need to include all the video content created for sites like YouTube.
Here’s a short selection of official Microsoft blogs/vlogs:
Official Microsoft Blog – the official homepage for Microsoft’s numerous blogs
Microsoft News – the place to go for Microsoft news, announcements and product releases
Microsoft On the Issues – Microsoft’s take on the big issues of the day, from technology’s role in society to societies influence on technology
The AI Blog – a deep dive into Microsoft research into artificial intelligence
Transform – a hub of inspiring stories, featuring news about how Microsoft is helping to make a difference globally
Microsoft Unboxed – a fresh and fun take on life inside Microsoft, this vlog goes behind the scenes at Microsoft HQ to showcase all the latest news
Microsoft Partner Network podcast – this podcast brings insider access to unforgettable interviews with Microsoft Partners.
The rise of content marketing in the MPN
The MPN consists of approximately 500,000 organisations, employing over 17 million people worldwide. Microsoft relies on this ever-growing network to help deliver success for its customers.
Yet, for Microsoft Partners, content marketing has often been a challenge. Content marketing requires an upfront investment in time and resources before results can be seen. And for many partners, who are busy perfecting innovative solutions for customers, this simply isn’t possible. For this reason, content marketing hasn’t always been treated as a priority.
Yet, Microsoft Partners who embraced content marketing found a way to reach new audiences – by providing insightful content and value to potential customers.
Five years ago, we launched our first Top 50 Inbound Marketing Excellence Report to showcase which Microsoft Partners had adopted this new approach, and to celebrate their success. Since then, things have certainly improved. Partly because it became hard to ignore the success that early adopters of content marketing were enjoying. Now, most partners embrace inbound marketing, from blogging and social media to SEO.
In fact, Microsoft Partners have raised their game so much that the bar has risen too. Now you need to do a lot more if you want to stand out from the crowd.
Smart partner marketing
Now that more Microsoft partners are writing blogs, eBooks and whitepapers, you need to be more creative with your content. For instance, a generic blog titled ‘10 tips for SharePoint Online’ won’t cut it anymore. Even if your content is well-written and engaging, blogs like this will simply get lost in the crowd.
Fifty Five and Five’s Head of Content Stephen Reilly explains:
The best partners know their customers inside out and can tailor content to meet their target audience’s needs. This might mean creating content that is focused on a vertical, a job role or a highly specific problem a customer faces.
Another key differentiator is content type. Content marketing used to be about blog posts. Now, you need to be creating video, audio and interactive content, alongside the written word.
The Partner Benchmarking Tool
If you need help improving your content marketing, you’re in luck. As a digital marketing agency specialising in working with Microsoft partners, we have combined our marketing expertise and our experience in the MPN (we’re a Microsoft partner too) to build a tool to help partners improve their content marketing.
The Partner Benchmarking Tool runs over 40 tests, quantifying performance across three main metrics: website, blog and social.
This data allows you to diagnose the health of a range of content marketing factors. It quantifies these insights into a simple score, making it easy to see where improvement is needed. You can then access a range of informative, how-to videos and tutorials to learn how to get better results in the future.
Microsoft has made the Partner Benchmarking Tool accessible to all 500,000 partners via the Smart Partner Marketing Portal.
So, what are you waiting for? Smart partner marketing is just a few clicks away.
As a full-service agency for the modern world, we provide a complete suite of specialised marketing services for the technology and IT sector. Find out more about the content marketing services that we provide at Fifty Five and Five.