Q&A w/ Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at NewsCred and guest speaker for The Secret Ingredient to Killer Content Marketing webinar
Michael Brenner is a legend in the marketing world. Currently the Head of Strategy at NewsCred, Brenner has built a reputation as one of the leading thinkers in content marketing today. He co-founded the popular social news site Business 2 Community and is the author of the blog B2BMarketingInsider.com. Prior to joining NewsCred, Brenner was VP, Marketing & Content Strategy, at SAP, where he created the company’s award-winning Business Innovation blog.
At the 2015 SXSW conference, Brenner will be joining j Nick Stein, SVP of Marketing at Vision Critical, for a session on content marketing. Ahead of his SXSW presentation, Brenner answers our top questions about the role of content strategy in businesses and shares his top prediction for the future of marketing.
You’ve said that the future of content marketing is customer centric. What does customer-centric content marketing look like?
Many marketers spend much of their time creating content that’s specific to their brand. That’s not customer centric, and it’s the wrong approach.
Customer-centric content marketing means creating content that meets the demands of customers. It’s not that brands should never talk about their products. But in my experience, for content marketing to work, you need to appeal to as big of an audience as possible. Marketers need to allocate some budget and time creating content for the top of the sales funnel—and that means creating content that’s not about the brand.
Let me use NewsCred as an example. We have software for content marketers, but we rarely talk about our solution. Instead, we create content that answers questions that matter to potential customers. So we answer questions like “what is content marketing?” or “what are the best practices for content marketing?”
Customer-centric content marketing means talking less about your brand and creating content customers will find useful.
Customer-centric content marketing means creating content that meets the demands of customers. – @BrennerMichael (CLICK TO TWEET)
Which companies do a great job of doing content marketing?
Marketing software company Hubspot has done a great job of achieving volume and quality. The one or two weekly emails that I get from them are really valuable. Although some of the content isn’t applicable to me, I never want to unsubscribe.
Social media scheduling company Buffer has nailed the concept of creating content that answers the questions of potential customers. They create headlines that capture attention. More importantly, Buffer delivers on its content: from their tips to their tools, visuals and templates, they’ve thought of everything. They focus on in-depth and practical tips.
The AMEX Open Forum is a great content hub that provides useful information for entrepreneurs on a daily basis.
Red Bull’s The Red Bulletin shows how B2C companies can take a media publisher mentality. The website features “breathtaking stories” about music, action, sports and celebrities—content that its core audience of pop culture-loving customers find interesting.
What are the top challenges facing content marketers?
Fighting the culture of promotion is the biggest hurdle for content marketers. Executives will always put pressure on marketing to get the brand messaging out; it’s akin to parents who can’t resist constantly talking about their kids. But the role of marketing is no longer about broadcasting. Marketers need to form relationships with customers. They can’t do that without providing value to customers.
Second, content marketers need to rethink the quality-versus-quantity conundrum. When you ask a roomful of content marketers whether quality or quantity is more important, almost 100 percent of people will say quality. Content marketers too easily philosophically agree that quality trumps quantity. But that knee-jerk response isn’t necessarily correct.
Think about media publishers. They create and publish content everyday. Consistency builds an audience—something that’s critical in the content marketing practice. Volume is just as critical as quality. That’s not to say that marketers need to sacrifice quality. But I think marketers should set and follow volume goals to boost their content marketing ROI.
Finally, there’s a constant battle to be more visual in the digital world. From Slideshare to Instagram, from Facebook to Pinterest, the web is becoming more visual. But brands struggle to be authentic in a visual way. Content marketers need to invest more time and money in good design if they want to stand out in the visual web.
In content marketing, consistency builds an audience. Volume is just as critical as quality. – @BrennerMichael (CLICK TO TWEET)
How can a deeper understanding of customers help marketers create better content?
Customer insight can help companies focus on truly helping customers. And when you help your customers, you help the business.
I landed on the content marketing space because I was pursuing content that works. When I was head of Marketing for a startup, I had no budget. But I found out through my work that useful content increases a company’s audience and ultimately its revenue.
In my role at SAP, the marketing department was constantly given promotional materials. But we were able to scientifically prove that creating content that helps our customers can drive revenue. We proved that we didn’t have to talk about our brand all the time. Doing that was critical in getting the company to embrace content marketing.
My advice to marketers is to start with the free tools—social listening, Google Trends, keyword analysis—to begin identifying the questions that their potential customers are asking. And then use software like NewsCred or like Vision Critical’s customer intelligence platform to gain a deeper understanding of their audience and to optimize their efforts.
Customer insight can help content marketers focus on truly helping customers. (CLICK TO TWEET)
How do you see the role of marketing within organizations changing in the next decade?
Marketing is at an important juncture. On one hand, it is possible that marketers will continue to do what they’ve been doing all along: creating ads and broadcasting messages through programmatic ad buying.
But there’s another direction, which I think is more exciting, where marketing gets a more strategic seat at the table and earns the necessary influence to turn the organization around culturally. For marketing to gain the respect of the enterprise, however, it needs to lead the charge in customer-centricity.
For marketing to gain the respect of the enterprise, it needs to lead customer-centricity. (CLICK TO TWEET)
To hear more from Brenner, watch The Secret Ingredient to Killer Content Marketing, a webinar that also features Nick Stein, senior vice president of marketing at Vision Critical.