Meet the Enterprise Innovator: Michael Brenner of SAP

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Michael Brenner is the Vice President of Global Marketing and Content Strategy for SAP. Michael developed an award-winning inbound marketing content destination site for SAP called Business Innovation. He is the author of the B2B Marketing Insider blog, a contributor to Forbes, and a frequent speaker at many industry events. Michael started his career nearly 20 years ago in sales and then held field, product, and corporate marketing positions at the Nielsen Company. He then led marketing for two companies prior to joining SAP.

Q: Michael, we’ve provided our readers with a quick bio, but can you tease that out a bit? Would you mind elaborating on your career path?

I am the VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP. In this role, I am the managing editor of our Business Innovation “content hub” and also provide strategic content services to various stakeholders around the organization. I started my career in sales with the Nielsen Company, and after five years as a top salesperson, I moved into field, product, and corporate marketing roles. I helped Nielsen launch their first fully web-based software product. I spent a couple of years as the head of marketing for two small companies before joining SAP as Head of Digital Marketing for the North American region. That role was all about lead generation. My team managed paid search, email marketing, and demand generation media, and we were able to generate real marketing ROI by turning marketing program dollars into revenue.

Q: What’s the role of content marketing at SAP and how is it informed by your direct marketing experience?

The role of content marketing at SAP is still mostly about our products. To some extent, as an enterprise software company, we will always need to produce content that supports the late-stage sales process. But the organization is also evolving to a more social business perspective. No one wants to be sold to. And so the role of content marketing is also evolving to one where we focus more on our customers’ needs than on our own.

Q: How are you innovating at SAP in support of that social business perspective?

We are using our Business Innovation site as an example of how to help the organization make this change and navigate the evolving buyer journey. We don’t allow content that is too promotional; instead, we share content that supports our objective of answering business professionals’ questions on how technology and innovation can help their company grow. This “editorial mindset,” if you will, is a bit of a departure from the traditional enterprise content marketing that starts with the product roadmap.

Q: Are there other current projects that you are especially proud of?

I’m proud of the fact that we’re experimenting, especially with some of the newer forms of “native advertising.” Of course, we continue testing sponsored tweets and Facebook ads. But we were one of the earliest members of the Forbes AdVoice program, where our own thought leaders have the privilege of writing on the Forbes platform. We helped The New York Times pilot a native service called Ricochet that allowed us to wrap our advertising around New York Times articles that were contextually relevant for our audience. And we have sponsored sites such as the Future of Business at Business Insider.

Not all of the experiments have been a huge success, but we are learning a great deal about how content is much more important in the future of advertising.

Q: We’ve noticed that a proclivity to test and experiment is crucial for success in digital marketing. It take confidence and a bit of inspiration to try new things. Would you mind closing the interview by sharing an example of where you source inspiration in work and in life?

The first thing that came to mind was this story about my son. This was about three years ago and I was still relatively hesitant about sharing anything on Facebook. He was just about three years old and told me he learned yoga in daycare. He asked if he could show me one of his moves. Impressed, I said “of course.” He reached back with his right leg and then nailed me pretty hard in the shin. After the color returned to my face, I posted the story on Facebook. And I was amazed at the reaction. Old friends, work colleagues, my boss, professional connections, and, of course, family members all started liking and commenting. For me, this was a moment when I truly understood that as a marketer, our job is to tell stories — stories that transcend “what we do” or what we’re trying to accomplish; stories that help us connect with others in a personal, or even funny, way.

Michael blogs on his own site — B2B Marketing InsiderForbes, and SAP’s Business Innovation site. This year, he has spoken at BMA and Confab. You can still catch him at Social Media Strategies Summit and also at Content Marketing World in the fall. And be sure to follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael), LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.

If you or someone you know would like to be highlighted in this innovator series please send me an email.

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