434 | Developing a Content Strategy with Michael Brenner

Developing a content strategy is often overlooked. Either we become reactive and create content when we feel like it. Or we fail to create content that aligns with our goals and leads people through the customer journey. I generate a ton of content. Over the years, I have discovered the power of developing a content strategy. Today’s guest is Michael Brenner, who is an expert in content strategy for B2B companies. Tune-in to today’s interview where Michael shares his wisdom on developing a content strategy.

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Target Audience: Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes.



Michael Brenner: The Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

This is Leaders in the trenches and your host today is Gene Hammett.

Gene Hammett: [00:04]
Hi, this is Gene Hammett. I am the host of leaders in the trenches. My question for you today is how do you promote the content that you have in your business? How do you promote the podcast or how do you promote the blog post or the article that you’re writing weekend, week out, or maybe it’s every month. If you have a marketing strategy to create content for your customers to generate leads for your business, then you want to understand the promotion strategies of that. Today I have Michael Brenner. Michael’s group marketing insider group really has some depth of knowledge across many big companies, but he’s going to share with you some things that you can do, not only for big companies and small companies. We talk about the Hollywood strategy and what that means to your content promotion.

Gene Hammett: [00:49]
We talk about the bet on the winner strategy. I’m smiling when I say it because it really is a smart thing to do and not many people doing it. And I’ll even raise my hand. I’m haven’t been doing this one. And even, I know it’s the right thing to do, but we tell you exactly what it is inside today’s interview. So if you want to grow your business, you want to have a great content strategy, you’ve got to have the right promotion strategy that goes with it. So here is Michael Brenner.

Gene Hammett: [01:16]
Hi Michael, how are you?

Michael Brenner: [01:18]
I’m good, how are you?

Gene Hammett: [01:19]
I’m fantastic. Happy to have you read leaders in the trenches.

Michael Brenner: [01:22]
Yeah, it’s my pleasure to be here.

Gene Hammett: [01:24]
Michael, I’ve already introduced our audience about you and some of the work that you’ve done, some of the accomplishments that you have, but I’d love to hear from you. So tell us about what you’re up to and who you serve.

Michael Brenner: [01:36]
Yeah, I mean, I serve, I’m fortunate 500 companies, startup founders, companies, public sector, private sector, you know, you name it. Just about every industry that, that has an audience that wants to get educated is pretty much my only filter with a content marketing strategies, employee activation strategies and even recently doing some kind of cultural leadership, organizational change initiatives as well.

Gene Hammett: [02:03]
Fantastic. You know, you’re known throughout the world, you’ve got a recent honor brand 24?

Michael Brenner: [02:09]

Gene Hammett: [02:09]
They recognize you. What? on the top 20?

Michael Brenner: [02:14]
I think so.

Gene Hammett: [02:15]
I have it on my hard drive, but I didn’t want to switch over. So you were recognized as one of the top minds in marketing along with Gary Vee and John Hall and a lot of other people too. So, you know, what do you think contributed to that other than just you have a lot of falling?

Michael Brenner: [02:37]
Yeah, I mean it’s, you know, Mike, I joked with my kids that I’m like Clist celebrity in you know, in a sea of people that aren’t really celebrities at all. Yeah, I think there’s Gary and you know, there’s Ann Handley who I love and respect and there are a few folks that just, you know, everyone knows. And then I think there’s a few of us that have some niche, sort of notoriety, I guess. I’ve just been at it for a while. I started, I think sharing, blogging and tweeting, and all that good stuff. You know about 10 years ago and when I started trying to figure out the world of digital and the impact it was having marketing, I just didn’t feel like there were enough internal marketing corporate folks that were sharing their stories and trials and tribulations.

Michael Brenner: [03:20]
So I made that commitment back then and I think that’s really just what’s contributed to it. I continue to give away more consulting than I’ve ever been paid for on my blog and in my book you know and hope to continue to do so because they just believe in giving back and believe in the positive Karma that comes, comes from doing that. And you know, so I’m honored to see, you know, my name and list like that. I joke with my kids about it because it really isn’t a big deal. I don’t think I get more projects or get paid more because of it, but it’s always, you know, it’s nice to be recognized in our fields for adding thought leadership to the conversations that matter

Gene Hammett: [03:53]
It reminds me of one time my son who was I think about eight years old at the time, uh, they said, does anyone’s parents famous? And he raised his hand and said, my dad is, and she’s like, what is the end use? He’s a podcaster. And she goes, he’s on the broadcast. He goes, no podcaster. He goes, she goes, oh, okay.

Michael Brenner: [04:14]

Gene Hammett: [04:14]
Not really famous. But, and certain circles, we are people look up to us because you’ve been on big stages. You buys a lot of clients to help them with their content strategy. So I want to dive in here with this question. Like, you look at a lot of people, stuff you get to see a breadth and a depth of content marketing strategies. Where do people make mistakes and they don’t even realize they’re making mistakes?

Michael Brenner: [04:40]
Well, the biggest mistake, and it’s, it’s shocking to me how few companies have it, but it’s just a lack of having a strategy documented in the first place. The, you know, content marketing institute, Marketing Profs. A lot of these organizations have done surveys and you know, just about 85, 90% of companies say they have a strategy. But it’s, it’s less than a third of them have actually written it down and shared it with their team, which is kind of insane because it, you know, really it means the strategy probably varies across the organization. It probably isn’t completely understood or not necessarily for sure bought in by stakeholders inside of marketing, let alone outside of marketing. That’s the biggest mistake that I really, you know, and when I do my speaking to marketers, the number one thing I tell them is, listen, use me. Use somebody else internal, external, you’ve got a strategy in your head or someone else’s head. Get it written down, get it shared across the organization. Get buy-in from the sales team or the product folks or the executive team. That’s really the biggest mistake that I see marketers make. And the implications of that mistake are really lost revenue, wasted effort in creating content campaigns that don’t deliver any return on investment. It’s really massive amounts of waste because of just a simple lack of documented strategy.

Gene Hammett: [05:55]
And what we’re really talking about is people who are doing stuff, but there’s really no cohesive plan behind it and people just aren’t aligned together. We just, we doing stuff every week or every month. Right.

Michael Brenner: [06:06]
You know, it’s funny, it’s amazing how many people, and this is true of marketing and it’s true outside of marketing that a lot of employees, I think folks that we might know, you know, friends of yours you see at the barbecue or something, we all think our job sometimes it’s just to do what we’re told. And like you said, just doing stuff. And that’s not our job. Our job is to actually make an impact to the companies that we work for. And hopefully, if you’re really lucky, you might enjoy doing it. And so, you know, to me that’s, I think something, part of what I want to do in life is to teach people that your job is not to do what you’re told. Your job is to make an impact and to hopefully love what you’re doing and the process and so, yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s, I think the large majority of employees at companies, the large majority of marketers inside, you know, brands are, are just doing stuff because somebody asked him to not because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s making an impact and certainly not because they have any passion for it.

Gene Hammett: [06:59]
I seem to think about some of the interviews I’ve had before. I had Frank Blake on, they’re here before a few months ago. He’s a former CEO of the home depot and he was under, Jack Welch and one of the things that he told me, it was like, Jack Love for you to do what we told them to do, but he loved even more for you to actually go against what he thought and be right. That was the key. Bartow, you’re going to go against what Jack Thought, but actually, be right. And I think about that with employees. Like if there was some kind of content strategy out there, it’s fine if they disagree with you, but go prove me wrong by doing something and making an impact. Right?

Michael Brenner: [07:39]
Yeah, exactly. There’s, you know, there are some counterintuitive insights that I’ve learned. Well, one of them, at SAP, I was asked to do, to generate leads for the sales organization. And so somebody liked the senior vice president of sales in the retail industry.

Michael Brenner: [07:55]
We come to me and say, here, here’s a brochure or for our solution to retailers go get leads. And I remember pushing back on these industry salespeople saying, listen, I can get you leads, but I’m not going to get it with this brochure. And because this brochure isn’t really answering the customer’s problem, it’s not really solving a real challenge. And give me the opportunity to go prove, prove that I’m right. You know, kind of to your point. And what I found was that you know, almost in every case, customer focus, content, customer-focused approaches one out over promotion and propaganda. And more importantly, it was fun to be able to go back to the sales team and say, hey, it might seem counterintuitive, but it really does make sense. And if you want the result, if you want the leads, let us, you know, you can’t, the analogy I always used to use as you can’t tell me to bake a cake and also tell me how to bake it. You can give me the ingredients and let me figure it out. Or you can you tell me you want a cake and let me go buy the ingredients and figured out the recipe. But you can’t have it both ways.

Gene Hammett: [08:51]
When you think about mark content marketing strategies and specifically generation, what’s working now? Because I think things are shifting faster than we, they’ve ever shifted before. What do you recommend we look at as B2B companies?

Michael Brenner: [09:05]
Yeah. So you know, I used to the two of the trends that I used to talk a lot about where humanity and visualization, personalization is the third, but that’s almost becoming so it’s table stakes now really that we need to personalize. But what we’re seeing real trends in his visual content that brings the human nature of the expert experts behind the content to life. It’s going now even a step further. And people, friends of mine like Tim Washer and Andrew Davis, these are people, even Ann Handley, John Hall, these are folks that on on stage, and I’m sure you’re doing this as well. We’re finding that if we’re not funny and entertaining, we’re missing an opportunity to deliver a message because it’s, it’s not enough just to be human anymore. We actually have to go and be a little bit more lifelike. We have to be a little funny.

Michael Brenner: [09:54]
We have to be entertaining in a way. And it puts a little more pressure on us as, as speakers, as you and I know. But it also puts a lot of pressure, I think, on brands to not just commit to being human and to being, you know, authentic is the word that a lot of people hate to use. But, but we actually even need to go a bit further. Another word that I love to use is just being, you know, really sort of open and vulnerable. So, you know, part of being funny is that we have to start by being really vulnerable and, and that’s another thing that brands are struggling to do right now is to show their true humanity, you know, through that kind of vulnerability. For example, a great example of this is to tell somebody what didn’t work.

Michael Brenner: [10:34]
Tell somebody what you’ve struggled with. And I’ll give you a quick example. We were both at, at Adobe summit a couple of weeks ago and there was a guide, a quarterback, Drew Brees was giving, was being interviewed and I saw a lot of people on their phones. People weren’t really interested in at the Adobe summit on what your agrees had to say. But as soon as he said, you know, I turned 40 this year and as soon as he said that people went from their phones looking at their phones and typing and they looked up because they thought he was about to say something vulnerable, you know, he’s about to say, Hey, I feel I’m scared that I’m getting old. And Andy, he was able to connect with the audience immediately just by showing that kind of vulnerability,

Gene Hammett: [11:11]
Well, how do we do that? Cause I know I do it from the stage. I really challenged myself a couple of years ago to push the storytelling aspect that would entertain an audience about how do we do that in our own marketing. That is, you know, through content development, you know, through this podcast or through any other types of lead generation strategies.

Michael Brenner: [11:33]
Yeah, there’s a couple of approaches that I teach my clients. The first one is that one or 10 or even 30 pieces of content probably aren’t enough for you to learn what you need to learn in order to develop the content your audience wants. And so I don’t, I like, I actually won’t take a request from a client to do an article or 10 articles. I, you know, I offer only what I call a blog subscription service, but it basically two to four articles every week. And we do that at a really affordable rate with high-quality approaches to trying to solve customer problems. So the first one is consistency. Persistence really does make a difference.

Gene Hammett: [12:10]

Michael Brenner: [12:11]
The second, the second is really just committing to being customer focused. So for example, I tell my clients, let’s write down every question you think your customers have ever asked or every question your sales team gets or you know, the frequently asked questions kind of approach. And then let’s go commit to answering the, answering those questions in the simplest, most basic ways. So, so the first step is consistency. The second is listing out all the questions that you think your audience is asking. Then the third, this is where it gets difficult. Then we have to start, you know, trying to figure out how do we get more human? One of the ways that I love to do that is through what I call an employee activation. And so for example, the people who know the answers to customer questions inside every organization are the experts that sit around the company. They’re usually not in marketing. They’re usually not necessarily in agencies. They’re the engineers and the sales people and the product people that are sitting around the organization. Let’s figure out how to get them to tell their stories. And that’s how we, I think we can start to get companies to be a little bit more human.

Michael Brenner: [13:14]
It’s not just agency created, um, you know, Droga five high sort of you know, costs, types of creative, but real people telling real stories. That’s the best way to attract the customers that we’re trying to reach.

Gene Hammett: [13:28]
Michael, we’ve been talking a lot about the top of funnel stuff. What’s working in any sort of metal funnel and bottom of the funnel as we’re trying to take someone who’s interested in what we have and move them through the sales journey.

Michael Brenner: [13:41]
Yeah. Gardner did some really great research on this. And specifically, they were looking at how do brands help to make the buying process easier for companies. And what they found was that some ridiculous number, like 75, 80% of buyers thought that the process wasn’t good, wasn’t bad, but awful that the buying process that they experienced with the brands they bought from was awful.

Michael Brenner: [14:04]
And that word really kind of stuck with me. 80, 75, 80% of buyers think the buying process is awful. The thing that they said would improve. It was very simple. It was tools, buying tools, things like buyer’s guide, comparison guides, putting pricing on your website. You know, I use the term definitive guides work with, you know, Marketo and companies like that to create the definitive guide to buying marketing automation software. You know, as a great example. Tools, calculators do not case studies necessarily, but profiles, profiles of customers and the journey that they will, that they went through in order to make that buying decision or buying process. Those are the kinds of tools, calculators that I think buyers are looking for and just not enough of the companies out there are producing those pieces of content.

Gene Hammett: [14:52]
We were both at the same conference, the Adobe summit conference and fantastic like 18,000 plate people. At times it felt like too many people, but, um, it was a big conversation was around sales experience. What do you see in, you give us some good examples, but you know, just chime in here a little bit about sales experience and what that means to companies.

Michael Brenner: [15:15]
Well, I mean, the big trend in, and you know, I do this in every speech I give, the world has changed because of digital social, mobile technologies. We’re, we’re seeing brands that have been around for a long time get disrupted by these new players in the market. The new players are disrupting, you know, the Uber’s, the Netflix is the apples and the Starbucks are all doing what they’re doing because they’re focused on customer experiences. Adobe spent a lot of time talking about customer experience. They talked about the sales experience as that last step in the, in the long buyer journey. But the sales team has to be focused more on helping buyers buy and not on selling products. Satya Nadella from Microsoft too I think is a brilliant example of an organization at a leader.

Michael Brenner: [16:01]
He uses the word that I like to use that that I think is overused and makes people’s eyes roll a little bit too much, but it’s empathy. He said that empathy is the key to making organizations feel for their customers and put their buyers ahead of their products are put, you know, customers ahead of product, buyers you know, are looking for that. Salespeople need to start to think that way as well. So customer experience, that’s why I’m getting into an organizational change of getting into leadership development. I’m getting into a, you know, I’ve said that CMO’s need to own culture. All of this is because the customer experience is the driving force for the companies that are winning in today’s environment.

Gene Hammett: [16:39]
Well, Michael, you, I’ve talked about a lot of different things with content strategy, but I know one thing that’s kind of, we haven’t touched on, I want to ask you a content promotion like once you create it, many people just move right on to the next thing. I’ve done that for years with the podcast, but last year, almost a year ago to the day we decided to promote our strategy a lot differently, the content that we create. So what could you share with us about promotion strategies?

Michael Brenner: [17:09]
It’s a really simple approach that I recommend and it’s, um, it’s the Hollywood model and you know, if you pee Hollywood doesn’t make movies and then just like throw the movie on a shelf, they make, they make movies. 50% of the budget. And most people don’t realize this. 50% of the budget numbers we hear about Hollywood movies goes towards the actors and the extras in the food and the sets and the equipment. The other 50% goes to promotion of that great piece of content they’ve invested in. I think brands need to do the same thing. The Hollywood model is 50% of what you spend on creating content should get spent or twice, you know, essentially. You know, if you spend a dollar on a piece of content, you should spend a dollar on promotion. The audiences, people aren’t, you know, buyers aren’t just sitting around waiting for you to, you know, for you to create a piece of a pencil so they can go looking for it. We’ve got to meet people where they are. It takes a budget to do that.

Gene Hammett: [18:00]
Is there any one particular strategy you like that has been paid off lightly with clients?

Michael Brenner: [18:06]
Well, you know, as I said, the one is spending a dollar for every dollar you’re spending on creation. The other one though is only bet on your winners. And what I mean by that is, I do chance a lot of testing. And a couple of years ago I worked with Linkedin on a mutual client and we tested a, they were, they were basically putting paid promotion behind every piece of content. And the theory was what would happen if we put only our paid promotion behind the best pieces of content in any given week or month. And what we found is when we took that approach, it’s called betting on the winners. When we bet on the winners and the winners were defined as the piece of content that generated the most organic social engagement after about three days, once we saw that at the three-day mark, we saw who was performing better than the average or benchmark. We only put the money paid promotion money on those pieces of content. We saw a three x increase in the amount of traffic and engagement we got from that spend. So you know, one, spend a dollar for every dollar you spend on creation to bet on your winners and you’ll see a massive increase in there.

Gene Hammett: [19:11]
I love that Michael, our audience has been tuning into this. How could they get to know more about what you have and what you’re doing, what you’re up to.

Michael Brenner: [19:21]
Yeah. Check your checkout. What we’re doing on marketinginsidergroup.com as I said, we kind of takes our own medicine. We publish a, I write two articles a week. I tried to publish about four to six articles every week on that site of your thought leadership education around marketing strategy, content marketing, employee activation, of all the things that, not just marketers, but I think leaders and organizations need to know. You can check me out on LinkedIn. Just look for Michael Brenner or on Twitter at Brenner Michael, and we’d love to connect with your audience there.

Gene Hammett: [19:49]
Well, thanks for being here at leaders in the trenches.

Michael Brenner: [19:52]
Thanks for having me, Gene.

Gene Hammett: [19:53]
What a great interview. Really love having Michael Talk about some of the things that are working right now and some of the mistakes that are very common across all growth. So if you are creating content for your business and you probably are, if you are not promoting it the way it could be promoted, then hopefully the strategies here, we’ll help you. I be glad to help you with some of the strategies I’ve been using to grow my business. If you’ve been seeing my ads or you’ve been seeing the podcasts all over the place because you visited my website one time, I’ll share with you some of those strategies, some of the things that would help you grow your business. All you have to do is reach out to me at [email protected]. I’d love to just give it away to you. So if you have any questions about growth in that aspect or anything else, just reach out to me anytime you want. [email protected] as always, lead with courage. I’ll see you next time.


Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.



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