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Microsoft in Business Blogs

We’ve established that content must be valuable, relevant, and entertaining to be successful. The first step then is to understand what your audience considers valuable, relevant, and entertaining. Not all audiences are created equal.

Consumers actively filter out content they don’t want to see or hear, and cherry-pick what interests or benefits them most. This selective attention has led to the proliferation of more valuable content. Showing your audience that you “get” them creates a deeper level of trust. Think of your own circle of friends. Who do you confide in? It’s most likely those who actively listen, have empathy for you, and share the same ideals. The same goes for your brand’s audience. Show them that you’re actively listening, that you care, and want to make a difference, and you’ll increase your odds of building a trusting, loyal relationship with them. That loyalty, while hard won, pays off. Consider these statistics:

  • 43% of U.S. consumers spend more with the brands and companies to whom they are loyal.1
  • Loyal customers spend 67% more than new ones.2
  • Customers who are actively engaged with brands make 90% more frequent purchases, spend 60% more per transaction and are five times more likely to choose the brand in the future.3

Creating content with a purpose is critical to reaching your goals. Successful content begins with knowing who your audience is, why they might want to engage with your content, and what knowledge they are seeking. Before you can determine “what” the content will be, you must understand why you want to create it.

Your brand’s “why”

Asking “why?” you want to create content forms a foundation for your strategy and helps align your content to your business goals. Beyond increasing sales, think about what other goals along the customer journey that you might be able to reach through effective content. Professional coaches recommend that an athlete envision the end result they want. See the ball rolling into the hole, watch your feet cross the finish line, or kick the game-winning field goal. If you can do the same for your content, you’ll have a clearer answer to exactly what your brand will achieve with its content: what do you want your audience to feel while reading your content? What do you want them to do immediately after reading? How do you want them to see your brand?

The answer to each of these questions will help you create memorable content that delivers thought leadership, brand recognition, and customer loyalty.

To help IT professionals understand the value of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform we set out to create content to which they could relate on a professional and emotional level. To better understand their current pain points and interests, we dug into their pasts to find out what makes them tick. The DIY Guide to Building a Modern IT Infrastructure spoke directly to our audience’s innate desire to take things apart and put them back together to see how they can be made better. Secondary content spoke to their love of building and experimentation, drawing them in with retro imagery and clear, simple instructions. Through this content, we created a culture around Azure that helped build our credibility and trust with our core audience. That audience developed a preference for the Azure cloud platform, and is likely more open to other Azure product offerings, such as IoT, as the industry evolves.

Your audience’s “why”

Knowing your brand’s “why” is just half the battle. Your next step is determining why your audience might want to engage with your content. To do this, think outside the parameters of your industry. The most memorable content elicits strong emotions from readers. Creating a memorable experience between your audience and your content means understanding how to connect with them on an emotional level. Create a content brief that forces you to answer the most important questions: what interests them? What drives them? Where do they spend their “off” time? Where are they in the sales funnel? What are their greatest challenges? What pain points are they struggling with right now? Active social listening and insights from subject matter experts can help you glean this information.

Strategy in action

A holistic approach to content strategy can provide you with a broader view of your audience, what challenges they are working to overcome, how your products or services can help them achieve their goals, and how you might better serve them in the future. It also allows you to continue gathering data that can tell you more about your audience over time.

Developing a solid content strategy will help you set obtainable objectives, discover deeper insights about your audience, and create content that is as valuable as it is relevant and entertaining. Stay tuned as we explore the execution of content marketing and how the right content can help you create customer experiences that lead to greater engagement, loyalty, and, eventually, a stronger bottom line.

For more insight into how Microsoft uses content marketing, read Creating content with purpose: Focus and Structure.