Picture the Microsoft Partner Network as a physical marketplace. Every day you carry your wares in a suitcase, stroll into the marketplace, and set up your table. You’re ready to sell your amazing product, or service, to the thousands of people looking to buy exactly what you’re selling.
You look right and a guy unfolds his table. You glance left and a lady unfolds her table. People start setting up tables all around you, so you jump up onto yours and look around. An endless sea of seller’s hustle and bustle stretches out in front of you. The strange thing is that their tables seem to be filled with similar products to yours.
How are people going to find you through the mass of other sellers? You can’t shout; nobody will hear you. So, how can you differentiate yourself from everybody else?
Break through the noise
Engaging customers is the best way to stand out from the crowd. That’s exactly what a good inbound marketing strategy can do.
How to build a successful inbound marketing strategy
Inbound strategies are all about people finding your business organically. Which person do you think is more likely to buy a car? The person who receives an email that says “buy this car” or the person who looked around for a car and found it on their own? That’s the basis of inbound marketing.
Rather than impose marketing on people, which nobody wants, you leverage buying behaviour and drive results with engaging content. This appeals to visitors and converts them once they land on your website.
Let’s touch on the framework you need to build a successful inbound marketing strategy. Because you can’t just write a blog and throw it into the ether—just hoping that somebody reads it.
You need to understand who you’re producing content for, what problems they have, and show how you are the solution.
Paint a picture with personas
A fundamental part to formulating a marketing strategy is the creation of your customer personas. These are semi-fictional characters that match the traits and desires of the people you wish to target with your content. This way, you understand the customers you have, those you want to bring onboard and how you can tailor your approach to capture them as customers. Let’s have a look at how you can start building your own personas.
Build a bio
Open up with a paragraph describing what company your target works for, where they’re based, how many staff they employ and what their aspirations are. Then, move onto the role they play at the company:
- Job title
- What are their business goals?
- Break down their day-to-day tasks
What’s their current situation
Once you’ve built a well-rounded picture of the person you want to target, you need to design a scenario and describe that person’s current workplace situation.
Here are some points to consider, but it depends on the persona you’re creating, so there are certainly other questions you could add. The more precise the better:
- What’s their existing IT set-up?
- Is the business growing?
- How regulated is the industry and does growth create new problems?
- Does the business use legacy applications?
- What’s the remote/office employee balance?
What are their pain points?
We find that the real fruit in the labour of persona building lies in pain point development. This gives you a firm grasp on the problems that potential and current customers face every day. You can then analyse the situations that cause them the most problems and design your inbound marketing strategy to match your technology to the solution.
Here are some common pain points that our clients find among their customer base:
Cost: Small company with a tight budget or unrestricted budget? Big company with a reduced budget?
Reliability: How reliable is their current IT environment? Do they have problems with on-premises software?
Scalability: Most businesses plan to grow. Does their current IT environment enable this or hold them back?
Compliance: How regulated is their industry?
Adoption: Do employees resist the adoption of new technologies?
Why would they resist?
So, you know what your customer gets for their investment and you know why your technology helps to solve their problems. You also need to figure out what reasons this person would give to reject your product or service—despite your technology satisfying their need.
People tend to hesitate when making decisions that require them to invest money from their budgets. It’s likely that you’ll have to grab their hand and walk them over the purchasing line.
Here are a few points of resistance that our clients come up against:
- They’re interested in looking outside the Microsoft ecosystem.
- There are more tried and tested products on the market.
- They’ve been on-premises for so long. The cloud seems risky in their highly regulated industry.
- They prefer to take care of IT in-house?
Once you’ve gathered this information and built the ultimate persona, you can come up with effective sales and marketing messages, and target ‘real’ customers with your content.
What are Microsoft’s key selling points?
The Microsoft Partner Network is a crowded place, but you can stand out by understanding and using Microsoft’s key selling points in your content marketing.
Microsoft 365 & Office 365
Familiarity: Knowledge workers already know about the core applications that Office 365 offers. You have Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and Outlook. This familiarity gives a sense of comfort and boosts employees’ productivity.
Includes SharePoint: Large organisations often adopt SharePoint as their primary intranet. SharePoint facilitates the growing importance of internal comms.
Subscription-based: Office 365 is paid through a monthly subscription fee and you can choose from several different plans. This trims costly fat and saves money.
Storage is included: The cloud provides you with off-premises storage and each company employee receives at least a terabyte—and more if desired. Off-premises storage eliminates infrastructure such as servers and protects your data from the devastating effects of floods, fires, and other natural (and unnatural) disasters.
Install Office 365 on personal devices: Each employee is provided with five installation device options, either multiple PCs, tablets or smartphones.
Maintenance and upgrades happen naturally: Before Office 365, businesses only received updates when the IT department decided to set aside the time and resources. Office 365 upgrades and maintenance releases are provided automatically without service disruptions or additional costs.
Scalability: Office 365 allows you to add and remove as many accounts as you like. As a cloud-service you can engage and support remote workers and customise services for each user.
Azure matches your global reach: Most modern businesses need their data to have a global reach. Centralised datacentres can sometimes inhibit global expansion, but Azure’s features and capabilities aren’t restricted by location.
Safe & Secure: The idea of the cloud can put businesses off because of misconceptions about its security capabilities. Azure Security Centre gives members access to 24/7 unified security management across hybrid cloud networks.
Scalability: When a business scales it requires systems to adapt to the fluctuations in workload or traffic for its applications. A huge benefit of Azure is its flexibility to scale and that it removes the need to build physical infrastructure.
Reduces cost: Azure offers businesses the chance to achieve cost savings of up to 72% when choosing Azure Reservations over the pay-as-you-go model. Organisations can also choose to take the hybrid route and maintain their on-premise data centres to enjoy the benefits of Azure cloud’s backup security.
Stay compliant: Businesses have grappled with the data conundrum for years now. With the emphasis on compliance brought about by increased regulations, the importance of tightening compliance and mitigating risk and cost has never been bigger. Microsoft holds the most comprehensive compliance portfolio of any cloud service provider; including GDPR.
Disaster recovery: Many businesses have a global footprint, which translates into offices all over the world. This can include areas likely to get hit with natural disasters. Azure offers regional and global fail-over options, hot and cold standby models and rolling reboot capabilities.
Content, in general, focuses on educating and possibly entertaining your prospects – but it’s not just about the product or service you sell. It could be an SEO optimised website, a visually engaging infographic or a blog post designed to target a specific audience. Here are some written content types you can use to boost your marketing:
- Cast studies
- White papers
So, we now know how to build personas, that Microsoft is highly sellable, and the basic written types of content you should introduce into your marketing strategy.
Now, let’s take a look at another content type that can really boost your inbound efforts.
So, we now know how to build personas, and that Microsoft is highly sellable. Let’s take look at the content type that can really boost your inbound marketing efforts.
Surprisingly, goldfish outdo humans when it comes to attention spans. With an average of eight seconds, one second behind our wet friends, you need to meaningfully impact your reader fast.
Marketers echoed this sentiment. One-third said that visual images are the most important form of content for their business.
Let’s look at some types of visual content you can introduce into your marketing strategy:
Eye-catching and informative infographics give readers knowledge that highlights your expertise.
The combination of graphic design, content, and data breaks down complex ideas and transforms something potentially boring into something interesting. This then creates an understandable and compelling image.
They offer something a bit more fun than plain old text.
When you’re selling technology, and more specifically, Microsoft products and services, it can be difficult to explain how simple to use it really is. Especially when you consider that some people researching your product may not be the most “tech savvy”.
A short explainer video lets you introduce yourself, explain what you do, and tell them how to solve their problem. It’s a memorable way to make an impact on your audience and gain credibility.
One step further… animation
Bring your concept to life with animated video. We have our own animation department here at Fifty-Five and Five and more and more of our clients are making use of this format in their marketing.
Some concepts are just straight out difficult to explain, and audiences have a penchant for clicking off a page if they feel they’re not getting what they want fast enough.
Animated videos are a perfect combination of entertainment, insight and simplicity – and they work. You can tell your story in the most engaging manner and present your brand in the most compelling and memorable way. Which helps you stand out from the crowd.
Don’t believe us?
If you’re still hesitant about video marketing, then take a minute to absorb these statistics:
- 83% of businesses said that video provides a good return on investment.
- 74% of respondents said that they have been convinced to buy a product or service after watching a brand’s video.
- 98% of users say they’ve watched explainer videos to learn more about a product or service.
- 45% of businesses who use video marketing said that they have an explainer video on their home page.
- Of those businesses, 83% said their homepage explainer video was effective.
Should I invest in inbound marketing?
Yes! The simple reason to concentrate your efforts on inbound marketing campaigns is that they achieve far higher ROI than their outbound counterparts. They cost less and give you higher lead generation, increased traffic, and increased sales revenue.
Prospective customers are likely seeking a solution to a precise issue, and this is where you can set your business apart. Especially in the Microsoft Partner Network, inbound marketing lets you showcase your expertise and gives you credibility in a saturated market.
They’re (in)bound to buy your product
We believe that you can truly harness the power of inbound marketing and create engaging and informative content, targeted at the businesses who need it.
The key to differentiating your business from other Microsoft Partners is to offer people something your competition isn’t.
When you figure out exactly who your audience is and the problems they face on a daily basis, you can tailor your content marketing to suit their needs and answer their questions.