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Lee Odden

Secrets of Content Marketing World: Agent Michael Brenner, SAP

By Lee Odden     B2B, Content Marketing, Interviews, Marketing PR Conferences, Online Marketing

Michael BrennerThey say three’s a charm and that’s certainly true with the third installment of our series investigating the top content marketing “secret agents” that will be presenting at Content Marketing World next week. “Mums the word” might be tricky with this one, since the data is coming from secret agent Michael Brenner, Senior Director of Integrated Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP. Michael is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, the co-founder of Business 2 Community and the founding editor for the SAP Business Innovation blog.

This highly decorated content marketing secret agent will now share his take on all the content marketing hype, his session on one of the most pressing issues facing many marketing organizations “Content Marketing: How to Transform Your Organization/Culture for Content Success”, top content marketing tools and his tips on managing long term creation of quality content.

You have substantial experience in sales and marketing and with your current role as the Sr. Director of Global Integrated Marketing for SAP, how has your work with content as a marketing asset evolved? What do you think about all the recent buzz about content?

I like to tell people that I have always done content marketing. I have always believed that, more than any other tactic, content can be used to create awareness, affinity, trust, conversion and retention. But it comes down to the philosophy of truly being helpful. The evolution has been that people now are talking much more about content as a strategy to reach buyers. But marketing has always been about content. What it really comes down to is the mindset to stop promoting products and services and start helping your buyers.

How would you define content marketing to someone that is new to the idea?

Simple: content marketing is about identifying the content your audience is looking for, and distributing it to all the places they look for it. Content is bigger than marketing because it gets created, distributed and used by everyone in an organization.

Your session “Content Marketing: How to Transform Your Organization/Culture for Content Success” is focused on creating marketing content to meet customer needs.  What are 3 of the primary takeaways from your Content Marketing World presentation that you think are most important? 

The 3 main take-aways from my presentation are these:

  1. The World has changed (Buyers are no longer looking to vendors for the information they need to make a purchase.)
  2. Most marketing really stinks and is highly ineffective
  3. Brand need to think and act like publishers

Where do you see content fitting in with the overall digital marketing mix?

Digital marketing is Content. So it is pervasive throughout the entire marketing strategy. What is important for marketing leaders is to ensure that content strategy has a seat at the planning table so that it can be managed and measured as a key asset.

Many companies are challenged to create new content on an extended basis. Can you provide 3 tips for managing long term, effective content creation for marketing?

  1. Companies have to inspire their existing experts to start building their personal brands and becoming content creators.
  2. Businesses need to build dynamic content destinations. Become like a publisher and think like a digital news site.
  3. You eventually realize that using your own resources is not enough. You don’t know everything and will never have enough budget to create all the content your audience seeks. So content curation is a core component of effective marketing and content strategy.

Content is both art and science with high demands on time and resources, especially for small businesses owners that wear many hats. What tools, software or services can you recommend for marketers that want to be more efficient and effective at using content to drive new business and engage customers? Can you share 3 or 4 tools that are essential?

First you need a content strategy and a content strategist who is empowered and accountable for finding the resources required. In a small company that may be the job of the CMO. But he or she must identify what objectives they are trying to reach first and then the tools become more evident. First question is if you want to create owned or earned content destinations. For example, do you build a content destination as a sub-domain or do you “syndicate” your content to other established web properties. At SAP, we are taking both approaches but a small company may want to rely on others.

Second, if you decide you want to own your content destinations, you will need a good content management system (CMS) like WordPress.

Third, you need to look into content curation services that can help you find content and authors to support your objectives. Those resources would provide a good start for any business.

Content Marketing Institute’s study earlier this year mentions that most B2B companies are using content marketing tactics to grow their business. While content marketing has a high adoption rate with B2B companies, many are still having difficulty earning internal support. What advice can you offer on winning upstream executive approval for content marketing initiatives?

It’s important to look at search traffic on your web properties to determine how much traffic you get from early-stage searches. For example, we get almost all our searches from product and brand-related keywords like “SAP Business Intelligence” but we were not getting many from the more generic and unbranded category terms like “business intelligence.” Next, you can identify the size of the audience (based on volume of monthly searches) to show that there are, in many cases tens of thousands more searches for unbranded keywords. Ultimately, this is a content problem. Another analysis we did was to look at the % of leads we get from inbound sources in general and then we compared that to some peer benchmarks. We were behind and this, again, is a content problem. You need to have the content that people are looking for in order to pull them in.

What’s one content marketing secret that you would like to share with Content Marketing World attendees?

OK, here’s my secret: this is really not that hard or expensive. The biggest shift required is in changing your business’ marketing approach to one of attracting new customers with great content vs. trying to promote your products and buy new customers with purely outbound marketing techniques. You simply need to put your customers’ interests first!

There is still a place for outbound tactics, but when you combine an attraction-based mentality with great content, not only do you begin to see more new customers for less money per acquisition, but your outbound marketing tactics will work better (better content) and your customers will be more satisfied with being associated with a company that appears to put their customers’ interests ahead of its own. So everyone wins!

Outstanding, agent Brenner. 

It is with smarts and content marketing secrets like this that we’ll all improve our content marketing effectiveness. You can see Michael present next at Content Marketing World next week, Sept 6th at 11:05am “Content Marketing: How to Transform Your Organization/Culture for Content Success”.

Also be sure to check out the TopRank session on the future of optimization: “Optimize and Socialize for Better Content Marketing” – Sept 6 – 3:05-3:50pm (Content Creation & Optimization Track).

What’s your best content marketing secret?
Share in the comments and we’ll pick 3 winners this week to receive a free copy of “Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing”.

Up next on our tour of Content Marketing secrets is the NO B.S. man himself, Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer.


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