The greatest benefit of effective B2B social media marketing is the tremendous potential you have to develop meaningful relationships with your prospects. And no one understands this more than Michael Brenner, senior director of Global Marketing at SAP. So, I invited Michael to be our featured guest this Friday at #ProfsChat (noon to 1 p.m. ET), our weekly Twitter chat.
We’ll talk about content strategy and social activation, and his upcoming session at MarketingProfs’ SocialTech 2012 in Seattle. In preparation for the chat, I picked his brain on what it is like to work in digital marketing at SAP, his advice for other B2B marketers, and, of course, whether he wants to see Ann Handley swim with sharks in Seattle at SocialTech. Here’s what he had to say.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is certainly when I can see quantifiable contribution to our business with a program I am running, whether that comes in the form of actual revenue, pipeline opportunities for our sales team, or any of those classic demand-generation metrics. I have been fortunate enough to have been trusted by our company with the budget and an amazing team to get those things done with digital content marketing. But I also enjoy my job as much or more when I see us generate marketing content that truly puts our customers first and helps them grow their business. And I find particular joy in seeing our executives put themselves out there in the form of social participation. I think it is our job as professionals to engage with the larger audiences in the topics we are passionate about.
What are some of the most common social media marketing sins marketers commit?
The biggest mistake marketers make is not putting customers first. We try so hard to sell and promote and drive hard “offers” through cold calls and emails and direct mail no one wants. It’s like we’re all fourth graders standing in the school yard at recess saying, “Pick me. Pick me!” for some silly game. I always tell people that it is human nature to want to talk about yourself. It’s so easy to try too hard to sell, and it is also common for business executives to think that active and loud brand promotion is the only way to achieve customer engagement. This is why marketing is hard! It’s counter-intuitive to think about your customers first, to try and help them before you try and sell them.
What are some of the social media and marketing challenges you’re facing at SAP? How have you overcome them?
I think we have actually done a pretty good job with social media. I think we were one of the first to get the value of “community,” and thanks to an amazing team and passionate customers and partners, we are repeatedly recognized as having one of the most active and vibrant communities with almost 3 million members in the SAP Community Network. We also have executive presence in social media with active participation by our CIO, Oliver Bussmann; our CMO, Jonathan Becher; and a whole host of others.
But as much as I am proud of those accomplishments, we are still working to become a more human, social business. Some of the challenges we are facing include getting more social participation from a larger group of our experts and spokespeople. Social selling and active response management are other areas we’re working on. And, of course, content strategy. We produce a ton of content, and we’re working hard to make sure it is all aligned to our customer’s buying patterns. That’s why I love you guys here at MarketingProfs—because I think you do such an amazing job at education and thought leadership. And I am not sure how she feels about this but Ann’s Content Rules goes with me everywhere I go.
What is one piece of advice your have for B2B marketers in the enterprise?
My advice is simply to put your customers first in all your marketing. Once you have that mantra steadily beating in your marketing team’s head, it becomes much easier to decide what you do and how you do it. Because it is no longer about opinions and power plays but simply about doing what’s best for the customer. And when your marketing actually helps people, then they share it willingly. That’s why content strategy is so important. Because all marketing is content: brochures, ads, events—all just content. And since today’s buyer is much more informed and tired of being interrupted, it is the content we create and distribute that I think acts as the new customer battleground.
Do you blog? Why? How has it helped you as a B2B marketer?
Blogging has really become a labor of love for me despite the fact that I got into it relatively late. I started B2B Marketing Insider a year and a half ago, and have been really surprised by the number of great people who stop by each week to read the articles I have written. I started blogging because I thought I could help other B2B marketers with the challenges they were facing. I felt there was room for a B2B marketing insider’s voice. I often use the platform to generate ideas for some of the latest challenges I am facing and sometimes just to vent. But I also wanted to take a more active role in social media with a bigger stake in my online brand. As a digital and social marketing advocate, I wanted to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.”
It’s a little easier for me since I’m not selling anything, but I really approach my blog like a marketing campaign. I analyze my keywords and content to see what is resonating, I try to present human, interesting and sometimes provocative points of view. I work like crazy on my titles because, as you folks know so well, titles are so important. And I test different promotional strategies. Sometimes, I retweet my own articles once and sometimes four times. I test different times and days of the week. I test formats and topics. I tell people it is the most difficult marketing program I have ever run, but it’s all worth it. So for me, it is really helping me to become a better marketer.
BONUS: Would you like to see Ann Handley swim with sharks at SocialTech 2012 in Seattle?
Ready to generate more leads and revenue with better B2B social media marketing? Join us March 29-30 in Seattle, WA for SocialTech 2012. Register by November 21 to grab the kickoff rate of just $595. But hurry! The price increases next week.