Summer 2020



xecutives think content marketing should promote products,” says best- selling author Michael Brenner. “But

we hate ads and we ignore product promotion.” As the CEO of Marketing Insider Group and the author of multiple books, Brenner has spent the last two decades championing a consumer-centric approach to marketing and sales. A sort of Pied Piper of content marketing, he believes it is much more difficult to show ROI on advertising than it is for content marketing (which he defines as customer- focused content published consistently on a platform that is owned by the brand). “Content marketing is an annuity,” Brenner

explains. “Its value is easy to show, and it continues long after we publish it, due to the nature of the content being online, on our own platform, and ideally creating value for our audience. If you get any ROI from ads, it stops the moment you stop paying for the ad placement.”


FOR CONTENT MARKETING According to eMarketer, 60 percent of marketers create at least one piece of content every day. Still, many executives are adamant that marketing should focus on products, so the biggest challenge with getting permission and a budget to do planned content marketing is that it is counterintuitive. “When we ask for a budget to publish content that doesn’t promote products, executives think we are wasting time and money,” Brenner says. The first step, he believes, is to put the customer at the center of everything you do and honestly ask what is in it for them. A favorite example of Brenner’s is that of consulting and technology services company Capgemini. Their executive team wanted to sponsor a golfer, as many of their competitors were doing. After studying the data, however, one of the company’s executives recognized that the majority of their target audience did

Brenner says that SEO is a pretty good

way to prove the value of your customer-first mindset, but there’s a caveat. “Most brands rank in search engines for their own name, but then you are only showing up for people who already know you,” he says. “When you look at more searched, generic keywords, there is tremendous value in ranking for those. For example, I rank number one for my company name, but I also try to rank on the first page for the search ‘What is marketing?’” His point? There is more value in

answering customers’ questions, because more people are searching for answers than searching for your company name or services. So, how should you and your company

get started mapping content to your customer base? Brenner says the simplest step is to think

Brenner recommends tools such as BuzzSumo and AnswerThePublic, both of which he uses every day to show him what questions his audience is asking and what content it is engaging in.

not watch or care about golf. “She asked the question ‘What’s in it for the customer?’” And as Brenner explained, they found that with golf sponsorships the answer was simple: not much. In many industries, the race to know the most about the customer is a bit of a modern- day space race. A now-famous quote from the Senior VP of Gartner Research, Peter Sondergaard, sums it up perfectly: “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” To put customers at the center of everything you do, you need the oil that runs the engine.

of a keyword or search term that someone in your industry would use when asking a question or trying to solve a problem, then search for that online. What you’ll see is a list of other people who “own” that answer simply because they spent time answering the question for a curious audience. From there, create a list of ways you would like to answer the question. Brenner recommends tools such as BuzzSumo and AnswerThePublic, both of which he uses every day to show him what questions his audience is asking and what content it is engaging in. Brenner says there is really no difference

between the way to build a content marketing strategy for a B2B company and the way to build one for a B2C company. “The content is very different for a bank that is trying to help their customers buy a house or save for retirement than it is for a technology company that has to explain what their technology is and what it can do,” Brenner says. “But the process to define the strategy is the same: define the keywords your customers are using, find the content they are already engaging with, then create a plan that maps frequently published content to those two insights.”

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