Very recently, he joined content marketing technology vendor NewsCred to head strategy for that company. NewsCred is a rapidly growing content marketing technology platform that also offers licensed and original content. Clients include Bank of America, Time Inc. and P&G.
This is a rare moment when an executive from the brand side of content marketing has decamped to the vendor side of the industry. In light of this, I decided to interview him to hear his motives for the move and to look back at his accomplishments at SAP.
What’s the new role?
Head of strategy. Basically, my main area of responsibility is to help each client build out a content marketing model, which obviously then get supported by the technology by the content marketing cloud platform.
This is the first time, to my knowledge, that an executive has moved from the client to the vendor side in content marketing. What prompted the decision?
At SAP, I was building content marketing as a practice, and I had tremendous support from the CMO. We built a blog presence for thought leadership, not only creating an effective platform butdoing so on a very limited budget. It wasn’t a significant investment; if anything, it was a reduction in some other expenditures — for example, on the advertising landing page side.
So when I was looking at what to do next, the options were to continue to mature that model in the brand that I was working with, or to take a leadership/CMO type role within a small company.
I jokingly define content marketing as the gap between what businesses generally do when they market and what customers are actually looking for. So I made the decision to help other brands take the journey to close that gap.
Most marketing sucks — or at least most marketing is highly ineffective. This move will allow me to help other brands be more effective, to reach more customers and generate more sales.
I hear education will be part of the new job?
The first step when I talk to marketing leaders is to explain the value of content marketing — or, more specifically, to arm them with the knowledge to help them obtain buy-in from higher-ups.
CEOs (and even some of the older-school, traditional marketing professionals) still see marketing largely as promotional activity: the email blasts, the ads, the logos all over everything, etc. That’’s why most marketing is still in the stage that it’s in. But as consumers, the digital/social/mobile world has changed the way we expect to interact with brands.
We’re not going to put up with cold calls at dinnertime, or with emails we don’t want, or with banners that interrupt the content experience we’re looking for online. So if we, as marketers, are not going to be doing those things anymore, what do we need to do instead?
That’s the educational part. It took me some time, but I’ve slowly come to realize that ineffective marketing is not really the fault of the majority of marketers — they’re just doing what they’ve been asked to do. So we’re arming them with the information to educate those who are asking them to execute.
Most organizations don’t have infrastructure, roles, or even a documented content strategy.
Where will you start?
After education, the next step is to identify the problem. When I worked at SAP, we helped the organization understand there was a definite content problem.
Part of that process included highlighting all of the customer conversations we weren’t a part of. For example, we looked at our analytics to estimate how much of our website traffic was coming from people who are in the early stages of the buying process — and we realized we weren’t getting any traffic from early-stage search terms.
None of the people who were in the early stages of the buying process for products related to SAP were being exposed to the brand through search. That’s a massive content problem.
We then did an inventory and found that we were already creating content and targeting the people talking to our sales guys. So we identified that budget and that content and asked, “How much of that content is actually being used?”
To this day, I’m shocked. We looked at all the content repositories we had — I think there were 62 — and noted the content that was either viewed or downloaded by the intended recipient. Something like 60 percent of the content uploaded to these repositories was never looked at or downloaded by a single person.
That’s why often I tell people, “You don’t need any more budget. Just look inside your organization at the places that are creating content and see if it’s used at all.”
That’s the most rudimentary type of content audit you can perform.
Exactly. So if we took 40 or 50 percent of this budget, we would have more than we would ever need to build an effective content marketing platform.
So the first step is education. The second step, as you said, is the most rudimentary type of content audit.
Then it’s building the new thing. That starts with understanding search, understanding content requirements by stage. Personas can be helpful here, but only when done correctly. When creating personas, a lot of companies stop short of understanding the types of content each persona is looking for, the channels through which they can be reached, and their stage in the buying process. Yet that’s where a persona actually becomes effective — you can implement an activity against a persona when you know what they’re looking for, where they’re looking, and when they need it.
Once you know that, that’s where the infrastructure, tools and the technology come in.
Looking back at your SAP achievements, what are you proudest of?
In my seven years at SAP, the first three and a half years were specifically online lead generation. An inbound marketing project turned into a content marketing role. My legacy is building the thought leadership blog. I’m proud of it because it was really up against the tide and flow of the organization. I really had to fight every step of the way to get it done.
There were detractors, and it was surprisingly easy to prove them somewhat wrong — and to do so with very little budget. I had to find the resources around the organization… but with 60,000 employees, you’re going to trip over a few smart people who understand the context of online marketing.
A lot of the interaction we had was with external thought leaders. We were looking at Klout scores, we were looking at bloggers we already knew in big data and cloud computing and analytics. We didn’t have the budget to create our own positions, despite the fact that that it was what my boss wanted, so we decided to “curate” the position from thought leaders. I was proud not just that we built it, but that ROI was so clear from Day One.
What are your new success metrics?
We’re going to figure that out as we go. The main objective is to make sure they’re not walking around with a hammer so that every problem looks like a nail. We truly want to help the entire discipline of marketing get better and improve. It’s not just technology that can do that. Our mission is to help marketers evolve to the changing world.
That involves three different things:
One, there’s going to be a services business helping customers build an effective content marketing platform.
Two, we’re going to work on pipeline acceleration — helping customers get onboard quickly and effectively and generate a return from their investment.
Three, we’re going to focus on retention. That means going back to the happy customers and making sure they’re stretching themselves to think about what the next thing is. It also means helping with the product pipeline and make sure the product is staying up to pace with the needs of the marketplace.
Where do you see the content marketing vendor landscape going?
In the last six months, this industry has changed so rapidly. Some early players are starting to relegate themselves to the position of niche players. Folks like Contently and Percolate and NewsCred almost came out of the blue. At SAP, we were talking to Percolate two years ago and thought they were an interesting sort of CMS — it’s unbelievable what they’ve built in such a short period of time. You’re starting to see these new horses in the race.
This conversation was edited for brevity. Originally published in MarketingLand.
The most valuable social media activity usually can’t be seen or tracked. Here’s how your brand can deal with it.
Why a social media crisis could be the best thing that happens to a brand.
All the news and updates at this year’s Modern Marketing Experience conference are all about the unified CX narrative.
Altimeter publishes the first complete maturity model for companies undergoing a digital transformation.
Chatbots announced at today’s Facebook developer conference, F8.
Facebook’s CEO outlines the company’s plans for its family of apps, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Altimeter’s new roadmap for how companies can create and implement a unified content strategy for the entire organization.
New survey results from Altimeter show the powerful effect of employee advocacy, and how companies can use it to drive business results.
The unique challenges faced by the insurance industry when it comes to using customer experience as a differentiator.
Key findings from our upcoming research on Employee Advocacy.
Listen to the recorded webinar from Susan Etlinger.
Taking a page out of Snapchat Stories, Facebook has created a revolutionary ad format for mobile.
The latest research report from Susan Etlinger shows how brands must look at their data not only as a technology issue, but as a strategic asset to be used for competitive advantage.
Ed Terpening takes a look at how employee advocacy could be the next way to promote organic content without paying for reach on Facebook.
A new research brief from Brian Solis talks about how digital strategists can succeed by taking an “OPPOSITE” approach to business as usual.
Lots of changes happening at Twitter, here’s what the latest means for brands that use the platform.
Charlene Li takes a look at what areas of digital transformation companies should invest in as the year begins.
From IBM’s Connect conference in Orlando, Susan Etlinger finds new insights into how employee data can be used to transform organizations.
Lessons from the digital disruption of the music industry.
Analyst Susan Etlinger outlines her research agenda and areas of coverage for 2016.
A new survey from CMO Council and Pega Systems shows that data-driven customer engagement still has a long way to go.
Ed Terpening takes a look at the factors that influence the success employee advocacy programs.
Altimeter’s Susan Etlinger is a guest contributor to a new report from the World Economic Forum, prepared by the Global Agenda Council for Social Media.
An eMarketer report predicts 2016 to be the first year that more money will be spent on display advertising than search.
Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index study identified the Top 50 Relentlessly Relevant Brand. Several digital brands broke into the top 50 — what did they do well to make it into this elite group of brands?
Why companies need to start prepping for the rapidly approaching CX opportunities in virtual/augmented reality technology.
The new areas of focus for Altimeter’s research team in the New Year.
It’s time companies brought HR into the C-Suite.
Watch the recorded webinar and download the slides of Altimeter’s presentation of “The Customer Experience Cloud”
New updates from Oracle Marketing Cloud help brands unite disparate data and business units on a single platform.
Susan Etlinger’s thoughts on the recent TED@IBM event on data.
A new book by Altimeter’s Brian Solis underscores the importance of great design and empathy in creating lasting customer experiences.
A new Altimeter report gives companies a roadmap for unifying their teams and technologies around building a unified customer experience across all brand interactions.
The implications of Facebook’s new range of buttons.
Customer experience is no longer just the responsibility of marketing, martech must be used by the sales and service teams as well.
A new thought leadership study from Altimeter and Cofactor.
Employee advocacy of your brand coupled with divisive political expression can harm both your brand and employee influence in social networks.
What every company needs to consider before organizing for social business.
Companies need to look beyond communication to earn consumer trust.
How Altimeter will continue to do research as a part of Prophet Brand Strategy.
Acquisition underscores the potential of social to deliver results outside the marketing department.
A look at why it is imperative for the IoT industry to invest in, collaborate, and innovate specifically around security and privacy, not just broader IoT verticals.
How much further can we take the “customer profile?”
It’s less about the hardware and more about the interoperability of content, services, use cases, communications across devices.
The implications of connected devices communicating at every moment.
A new report from the CMO Council identifies the biggest barriers to effective lead generation through content.
Key findings from Altimeter’s latest benchmark study on social business
Brian Solis talks about marketing to Generation “C” at the Adobe Summit EMEA in London.
What you need to know about how companies can use your data to discriminate against you.
When it comes to consumer data use, communication isn’t just ethical, it’s an integral part of brand strategy.
A new research report by Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis and Capgemini Consulting
The mixed feelings video creators have about using Facebook instead of YouTube.
What you should keep in mind when evaluating your company’s social business maturity.
How every company should evaluate itself against consumer privacy concerns.
Altimeter’s latest benchmark study on how companies are using social media to further their business results.
A new report from eMarketer predicts that by 2017, Instagram ad sales will cross $2 billion in ad sales.
What both consumers and businesses can learn from the Ashley Madison cheating website data breach.
The start of a new era for Altimeter Group.
A new survey by Econsultancy and Oracle Marketing Cloud highlights the challenges marketers face in using Big Data platforms.
Understanding the full implications of being connected everywhere and anytime.
The way Pinterest discloses its data use practices is a great example for brands.
A new survey by Altimeter Group reveals just how concerned consumers are about connected devices accessing and utilizing their personal data.
Brian Solis speaks with Entrepreneur Magazine’s Jason Ankeny on the future of business.
The essential guidelines all businesses need to follow for the ethical collection, use and sale of data.
New updates to Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder platform now allow users to map customer journeys across sales, service, marketing and custom apps.
How to get your business noticed in a sea of content and media.
Was Twitter wrong for taking down “Politwoops?”
Jessica Groopman’s guest post for the TRUSTe blog.
With “Buyable Pins,” brands can now use Pinterest to directly sell their products to consumers
The Apple CEO delivered a scathing critique of companies misusing customer information.
Altimeter’s resident Internet of Things expert Jessica Groopman talks with UnboundID’s Emeka Obianwu.
Altimeter’s latest consumer survey focuses on privacy in the new age of connected devices.
Why leaders are so hesitant to engage digitally, and what they can do to overcome that fear.
Salesforce is fielding inquiries from potential buyers, one of whom may be its biggest competitor, Oracle.
If customer experience is based upon data, the first step is earning their trust.
How to start crafting optimal customer experiences in the Internet of Things.
The three key benefits sensors can offer retailers for using IoT to drive loyalty.
The implications of Twitter turning off the tap for one of its biggest data partners.
At its annual conference, Marketo launches real-time, automated messaging capabilities for mobile apps, along with new advertising and IoT tools.
Why the competition between the big marketing cloud vendors shouldn’t be the focus of their clients.
In this 1-hour webinar, industry analysts Susan Etlinger and Rebecca Lieb share their latest research on Content Marketing Performance.
Does Facebook’s restriction on its huge data sets serve the public interest?
Oracle announces long-awaited web, data, and commerce integrations for its Marketing Cloud, highlighting its big ambitions for a unified offering of all its enterprise platforms.
The impact of IBM’s partnership with the Weather Company and its mammoth investment in IoT.
A look at the growth of Beacon devices and their impact on consumers.
Facebook is emerging as an even bigger threat to YouTube by announcing some attractive new features for its video platform.
Five definitive use cases illustrating how companies can use sensors to enhance customer experience.
A look at the digital ethics and privacy conversations from this year’s SXSW conference.
How leaders can make the most of the biggest digitally-focused event of the year.
Why won’t Apple focus on the actual use cases for Apple Watch instead of how it looks?
I recently partnered with Genesys to explore the state and future of customer experience (CX).
Sprinklr is taking on the marketing cloud bigwigs with the release of its Content Lifecycle Management platform.
The reasons you need to attend Internet of Things World.
We match up Hillary Clinton’s actions against our social business governance framework.
The CEO of Altimeter Group has a new book out which contains essential guidelines for how leaders can engage employees and customers on digital channels.
What leaders need to do to earn the trust of their employees and consumers in the digital age.
A new law banning the collection of personal information in South Africa could influence legislation in other countries as well.
What social media teams need to do to get tweets showing up in Google search results.
How companies can use the Internet of Things to create experiences that benefit both the brand and its customers.
Customer experience is meant to be evocative, not reactive, and the current state of call centers isn’t helping.
A list of essential do’s and don’t for vendors and their PR teams.
The implications of the Internet of Things is so much more than the immediate value of a shiny gadget that connects to the Internet.
A new startup called Locket is revolutionizing the way we use our mobile lock screens by turning it into a content and messaging playground.
DonorsChoose shows how simple targeted emails can produce great engagement across all digital channels.
A new book by Charlene Li tells today’s leaders how to start engaging their employees on the same digital channels as their customers.
NYT- and WSJ-bestselling author Charlene Li guides business leaders deeper than ever before into the uncomfortable and ever-changing terrain of the digital era.
Here’s the first, crucial step every organization needs to take before formulating its content strategy.
This year’s results have troubling implications for the technology industry.
The Internet of Things is the next big channel of engagement for brands, yet most of them still find it difficult to get on board.
The digital trends and practices that require the most attention from business executives this year.
We answer all the questions we couldn’t get to during our webinar on the mobile-only customer experience.
In this one-hour webinar, Susan Etlinger shares a framework on how to 1) extract insight from data and 2) in a way that engenders trust.
A look at the future of advertising in a world where the channels to view them are rapidly changing.
In this 1-hour webinar, join Jaimy Szymanski and Brian Solis for a discussion on how organizations can approach mobile design strategy through the lens of an evolving connected customer.
If you’re making the trek to Austin in March, we hope you’ll catch up with the Altimeter crew.
A look at what we give up and gain when we allow our lives to be turned into sources for data.
How content marketers can take advantage of the new partnership that allows tweets to show up in Google search results.