The Future of Content Marketing | B2B Marketing Insider Author Michael Brenner | AQ’s Blog & Grill

Alan: Hi and welcome to AQ's Blog and Grill. We're really
happy today to have Michael Brenner with us. Michael is the Vice
President of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP. He's also the editor of a
fabulous website called Business Innovation. So welcome Michael to AQ's
Blog and Grill. Michael: My pleasure. Alan: Michael, everywhere we turn these days
we're hearing about, "Content
is king," and, "Content rules." What's all the fuss about? What's all the
drama about content? Michael: Well I think it's always been about
content. I actually
point to the fact that we've been telling stories around
the camp fire from the
beginning. And along the way what has happened is we've
gotten enamored with the latest shiny object.

And so we chase these new
channels and new tools. But it's always been about content. It's always
been about the information that gets exchanged between us
as individuals and the emotions
that they convey and the connections that those pieces of
information and emotions allow us to connect with. So we're re-
awakening to the fact because we just recently I guess, realized
that social media is just
another tool for delivering information. Alan: So how do you define the difference
between good content that's going
to be effective communications and not so effective? So
it's kinda that quantity versus quality aspect. Michael: Yes so for me what is the definition
of a quality piece of content
in the fact that one of the roles that I play within SAP
is kind of an evangelist for storytelling. And the thing that I always
let people know when I start the certain conversations with
them, is that effective content
does two things and two things only.

And the first thing
is that its number one, interesting to the audience. Alan: Right. Michael: Now that sounds so obvious and yet
I love to say behind every
piece of bad content is an executive that ask for it. So
rule number one – create content that someone is actually interested
in. And
the word actually is used with complete sarcasm. And then number two – and this is another
thing that's a tough one I think for businesses to get. We need to make
the customer or the audience the hero of the story. And I love to tell the story – like my mom
asks me all the time, "What does SAP do?" And I always try to find something like really
sort of in her amphibian brain that's going to connect.

And I say well, "You know
mom, you have a job and you really enjoy getting that pay
check every couple of weeks. Right? So well without SAP, that pay check wouldn't
find its way into your
bank account every time that you get paid." And those kinds of things that we help companies
do, we can't get wrong. And so that's really important to
understand that these are really critical systems that
we're helping the businesses do. But the point is I made my mom the hero of
that story. And I told it in a way that was obviously
interesting to her. She likes to get
paid.

So that's the trick. Tell stories that are
interesting, that somebody might actually want, and make them the hero
of the story. Alan: What kind of advice do you have to marketers
who are saying, "I have
to be able to prove ROI on content marketing?" Michael: Yes so a couple of things. The first thing that I always
tell people is that, "Reject any notion or any
individual who tries to defend
the fact that content shouldn't produce ROI." Content
programs absolutely have to create business value. And if they don't, we
should stop them immediately. Now that's a tricky thing though too. Number
one – it's tricky to track and measure all the time. Two – people like to
say, "Hey I created an infographic. I'm not sure what the ROI is." That's like
saying one sentence in a long conversation is the one
that allowed you to connect with
somebody.

It's the totality of the conversations that
we have that allow us
to poise those relationships. And so that's kind of the
first thing. Yes, absolutely you should be able to demonstrate
ROI for a continuous concept
program, not at the individual tactic or piece level. The
trick to doing so I think is pretty simple. Customers need to answer certain
questions as they navigate through the buying process. Our content
should answer those questions and help them move from one
stage to the next.

That's to
me conversion. So if somebody didn't know your company and
you created a piece of content and that allowed them to
now know your company, that's a
conversion. If somebody went from they know your company
but they don't
know what you sell and you created a piece of content that
provided the context around the categories of products
or solutions that you have,
that's a conversion. And you could follow that down the
funnel all the way to the point of creating a customer. So I think content
programs need to be holistic enough to allow the buyers to
navigate through those journeys. Alan: Excellent. What's the difference between being a
thought leader and a content creator? Michael: Some people think that content has
to be perfect or that it has to
be provocative or that it has to be completely unique. And
you know, I would love to hire Albert Einstein and the
most brilliant minds in
the world and have them create content for me.

author

But the
fact is, that's just not possible. So what I tell people is that thought
leadership is a goal, a core component of a larger content program. But as a brand
we should just start by deciding to be simply helpful to
our audience. And so I never
sought out to become a thought leader. I just answer the
questions that people like you are asking. "Should we do this or should
we do that?" "Well
I have an opinion and here's my opinion. You may not like
it, you may like it. I hope you do. But the point is I don't think thought leadership
is a goal in and of itself. I think we can find our way there
if we simply set out to answer our customer questions. We're
going to trip upon being provocative every once in a while and you know
we might get lucky and create some buzz around that. And that's
I think where sort of provocative, unique points of
view sort of sneak out by accident.

And those are
wonderful surprises. Alan: Great. Who are the three thought leaders that you
follow every day? Michael: Well Joe Pulizzi – I have to look
to Joe. He got this
whole content thing before anybody else did. And he had the
right perspective. He
sat inside a publisher, spent his whole career inside a
publisher and he saw the changes that were happening. He was intuitive
enough to look out at the market and try to ask, "Why are those
changes happening?" And then he
founded the Content Marketing Institute. He wrote a couple
of books. He's the godfather of content marketing. We can try to decide what is the right term
for Ann Handley. Godmother – I don't think – or grandmother. But
she's also been obviously a thought leader, a
forerunner in this space. The other one is Jay Baer.

You mentioned I think, he's
either on the show, or been on the show or about to be on
your show. Alan: Yep. Michael: So I remember when social media first
started. There were
a whole bunch of folks that picked it up way earlier
than you and I did and they
learned how to use social media to gain influence and
ultimately to gain customers for their businesses. And there's this whole
crowd of folks that did that and some of them I think their
egos walked in the door before
they did. And Jay's not that guy. Jay achieved sort of celebrity status because
he was smart and intelligent and created great content. But he's just
one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. But I just
love his message. He just wrote the book Youtility. And his whole point is
back to what I said about thought leadership.

Just be
helpful. If you just decide to be helpful, you'll end
up creating content that's so good that people
would actually – maybe not pay for it – but they would
exchange some sort of a business value with you. And it's such a great
message. It takes the
buzzword customer centricity and I think he does a great
job of making it real. Just be helpful and provide utility for your
customers and they'll return the favor. Alan: The future of content marketing, the
future of social media, what
kind of things are you looking to project out there? Michael: So I think in the near term we're
going to see a maturity of the
brand newsroom. And what I mean by that – and we talk
about marketers becoming publishers of brands, publishing
brand publishing. I guess I
can say we have a newsroom but it's not really a newsroom
really crafted in the style of a journalistic type newsroom. I think we're
going to see a maturity in that model where we're going to
see real managing editors, real
journalists, real beat reporters, and those kinds of
things coming out of brands.

And you know I'm not sure
that we're going to hire people away from the Wall
Street Journal. The brand journalists that I see that are
really successful – we use one, her name is Jen Cohen Crompton. And she
writes for us with passion and integrity. Alan: Right. Michael: She's not a classic journalist and
she's extremely successful
creating great content for us. That's the kind of person I
see as being sort of at the core of the future newsroom. Looking out a
little bit further, I look at what's really hard, and
what's really hard for brands to
do is entertaining, funny video. I see in the future for
content is going to be where brands are going to start, instead
of just engaging with
publishers, we're going to working with television studios, we're going to
start working with comedians, we're going to start working
with the writers from Saturday Night Live. I really truly believe
we can start content that can make people laugh and
entertainment them.

But I
think it's the future of content marketing. Alan: Thanks Michael. It's been a real pleasure having you
on the show today and I think we all learned a lot from
your insights and you're
thinking about content marketing and social media in
general. Michael: Thanks Alan. My Pleasure..

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