Solutions Marketing: How to Manage a Successful Thought Leadership Program
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An Interview with Michael Brenner, VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP Solutions, in a B2B context, are typically offerings that are complex, high value and intangible. Using traditional push marketing techniques that are more commonly used for product marketing hasn’t been viewed as very effective. To position solutions that address problems with a customer’s business or technical operations, thought leadership messages and content have proven to be a much better approach.
Michael Brenner, Vice Presidents of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP, has recently taken over responsible for the company’s thought leadership initiatives. I had the opportunity to talk with Michael about what he considers to be the secrets to success in organizing and implementing a successful Thought Leadership program.
For example, on the Business Innovation site, we don’t allow our products or strategy to be the main point of any story. Two recent examples include “Career Advice For My Daughters” and “Why An Executive Leadership Role Isn’t Worth the Sacrifice.” These articles address gender issues in the workplace. On our site, we want to help business executives by giving them non-promotional content. But our brand is associated with that. Do we sell HR software? Yes! But that’s not the point. We want to be viewed as helpful and earn the right to talk about our solutions to complex HR issues.
The second objective is Engagement. We’re very interested in getting those who aren’t already engaged with our company to become engaged through the content. We measure this by looking at how much time they spend reading the content, how much time they spend on our website, and how many “likes” and “shares” we get. By the way, since we launched in March, 2012 with this customer-centric approach we’ve seen a much lower bounce rate on our website than we’d expected.
The third objective is Conversion. We track whether we’re actually converting our readers and website visitors to becoming new SAP customers. In addition to tracking them through our lead generation funnel, we’ll also look at how we drive clicks to our SAP store where we sell some of our apps and training services. We also offer a subscription to a daily newsletter where readers can find our blogs and other cutting edge content. We’re be able to track how many subscribers convert to being customers.
The second challenge is maintaining a consistent level of quality in what we produce. Everyone would agree that high quality is critical. The real challenge, however, is balancing the demands of quality and quantity. An effective thought leadership program needs to have a regular cadence, and a level of volume that ensures we have the right messages in front of our audience no matter where they are in their buying cycle. That means, of course, that quantity matters. I’ve always felt that quality and quantity are equally important, and that deadlines are in fact the greatest source of inspiration!The third challenge is presenting the right thought leadership content at the right time to influence our customers. As I’d mentioned, it’s important to us that we have something that covers all the stages of the buying process. Our solutions-focused thought leadership content will try to address the “who/what/when/where/why" questions that every customer needs answered before they make a purchasing decision. SH: Any final comments about the keys to success in your new thought leadership role?
MB: I’ll be head’s-down every day, sticking to my mantra that our content needs to be about our target audience and their business issues and in no way perceived as promotional. If we can focus on making the customer the hero of our blogs and other content, then we’ll get their attention and ultimately their business.
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