There are plenty of great examples of companies excelling at content marketing, but for my money one of the best B2B examples is SAP. The global business software giant that solves wildly complex problems has carved out a sizable business audience since launching its Business Innovation blog a little over 18 months ago. We got a peak behind the scenes of Business Innovation in this Q&A with Michael Brenner, SAP’s Vice President of Marketing and Content Strategy.
I conducted this brief interview via email, asking Brenner about the evolution of Business Innovation, the goals of the blog and the metrics they track, as well as the strategy’s impact on topline revenue. Thanks to Michael for his participation!
JM: When did you launch the SAP Business Innovations blog, and what has been the evolution? In other words, did it have the full scope, look and feel, etc. at the outset?
Michael Brenner: We started Business Innovation from SAP in March of 2012. Our goal was to meet the information needs of business executives. It was a very utilitarian look and feel and simply tried to answer our audience’s top questions on how technology can drive innovation. We quickly saw the need for a better mobile experience with nearly 50% of our audience coming from a mobile device. So we launched a responsive site in December. We’ve also expanded our topics to include just about anything a business person might ask about innovation, trends, and how to grow in the future of business in general. And then recently we came out with a more dynamic and visual design that also serves up different content depending on how you came to the site. So it has definitely evolved and will; continue to change to better meet our visitors’ needs.
JM: Was it difficult to convince upper management to embrace content marketing? I ask because SAP seems to me (from the outside) to be a very hard-driving sales culture which might not readily embrace a content strategy.
MB: We didn’t need to spend too much effort convincing senior executives. They are aware of the changing buyer. And they’re active in this digital, social, mobile world. We talk about innovation and so we need to demonstrate that we’re innovative as well. Plus, content marketing doesn’t require million-dollar budgets. We started as a little experiment and continue to grow based on results. The biggest challenge is not starting something new. It’s to stop the old techniques that no longer work as well as they once did.
JM: It’s a fairly broad scope that the blog covers, way beyond SAP’s offering – marketing, career advice, etc. What is the rationale? Has the scope evolved over time?
MB: We are (simply?) looking to answer our customers’ questions about innovation and so yes, that takes us in a lot of different directions. We touch every type of business and every function within the business so our customers have broad challenges. We want to be a destination of insights and valuable content for them. We also know that we don’t have all the answers, so much of the content, more than 50 percent in fact, comes from outside our organization.
JM: Perhaps dovetailing with that, what is the goal of the blog? Do you envision it as someone’s 5-6 go-to daily resources?
MB: The goal of the blog is to reach the audience who doesn’t know who we are or maybe they know us but don’t know how broad our solution portfolio is. I’m setting our sites pretty high and believe we can continue to grow the level of engagement and conversion we see with this fast growing audience. Every lead we get is one we wouldn’t have gotten before we started.
JM: What metrics can you share? How has traffic/engagement grown over time?
MB: We’ve grown from nothing to over 200,000 unique visitors per month. Growth has been strong month over month and I see no limit as long as we continue publishing great content.
JM: How rigorous are you when it comes to tracking movement through the sales funnel? Would you consider the strategy to be about ROI and sales, or focused on so-called softer metrics?
MB: We focus on Reach, Engagement and Conversion so yes we track all the way down the funnel. Our goal is to drive business outcomes and real value with this approach.
JM: Is there a mission or vision statement you can share?
“Business Innovation is a content hub for business professionals to answer their top questions on how they can innovate, grow, face their top business challenges and gain a competitive edge.”
JM: How big is the team producing content? How is that team divided between internal SMEs and “reporters?”
MB: We have an editor, a curator and a social media & analytics manager. All of us are required to write for the site. We have one part-time staff writer who helps us fill any coverage gaps that may arise in our topics. But 80% of our content comes from influencers who agree to syndicate their existing blogs to our site.
JM: [Note: Michael moderated a … um … contentious panel discussion earlier this month at Content Marketing World in Cleveland] Taking off on the panel you moderated in Cleveland, what’s more important – quality or quantity?
MB: I believe that in order to make a real business impact, brands have to publish high quality content consistently. You need both. But I think it’s easy to get caught on trying to make “great content” and lose the need for consistency. If a great piece of content falls in the woods and no one is around to read it, it was a waste of money.