Michael Brenner is truly a force to be reckoned with. He is a globally recognized content marketing strategist, author, and keynote speaker. He is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, the bestselling author of “The Content Formula,” and his work has been featured by The Economist, The Guardian, and Entrepreneur Magazine. He is the author of over 1,000 articles and In 2017 he was named a Top Business Speaker by The Huffington Post and a top CMO Influencer by Forbes. As an evangelist on leadership, culture, and marketing, he has helped companies reach, engage, and convert new customers through employee engagement and storytelling for over two decades.
Brenner has delivered countless workshops and keynotes for Fortune 500 brands and tiny startups following his formula of “inspiration to action,” and his keynote speeches have inspired and informed conference attendees across the globe. He is a frequent speaker at Content Marketing World and in 2018 he plans on speaking at over 15 more events, including the UBS Publisher’s Convention in Berlin. Some of the topics he has presented on are, ‘Marketing That Matters,’ ‘How to Launch a Successful Content Marketing Plan in 6 Weeks,’ and ‘Empathy – The Counter-Intuitive Secret to Success.’ Brenner has also led sales and marketing for software companies like Nielsen and FullTilt and as an executive at ICR, SAP, and Newscred, he developed programs that delivered massive growth. Michael Brenner graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English Literature from St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia, PA) and when he is not busy travelling the world, he’s at home with his wife and four kids in West Chester, PA.
Our team was fortunate enough to chat with Michael Brenner about the latest content marketing trends, his thoughts on new technologies and his inspiration behind the Marketing Insider Group. He also offered up some of his best content marketing tips and tricks for both new and experienced marketing professionals. Read on to learn more about the man behind the Marketing Insider Group and get a top influencer’s perspective on industry trends and tactics.
When did you know you wanted to get into content marketing?
Brenner: I think I have always been a content marketer. I started my career in sales before moving to marketing. Even as a sales person, I learned quickly that helpful content out-performed promotional content in the long term. So once I became a marketer, content marketing was sort of inevitable.
You’ve been listed as a top CMO Influencer by Forbes and a Top Business Speaker by the Huffington Post. What influencers, marketing or otherwise, have influenced you over the years?
Brenner: Peter Drucker (“The 2 aims of the business are marketing and innovation. The rest are costs.”) Seth Godin (“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”) Ann Handley and Joe Pulizzi have also been real mentors for me over the years.
What are your favorite content generation and marketing tools?
Can you tell me a little more about the Marketing Insider Group? What inspired you to create this organization?
Brenner: My goal is to help people develop content that connects with real people and converts to real dollars. I was inspired by all the advice from some of the so-called gurus who never spent any real time inside corporate marketing departments. I want to help marketers achieve their potential because I’ve been in the trenches and I know how challenging it can be.
Technology is constantly changing and content marketers are starting to explore new trends like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and voice controlled AI content like Amazon Alexa. Do you think there’s a future for this type of content? What tech trends are you most excited to see in 2018?
Brenner: I definitely think AI is the future of marketing. Storytelling has always been important in marketing so AR and VR and visual content in general are big trends for 2018 because those are emerging and new tools in the storytelling arsenal.
Utilizing tech like AR and VR doesn’t always come cheap. Do you think it will be necessary for content marketers to increase their budgets to stay ahead or are there ways to promote content creatively while on a tight budget?
Brenner: I don’t recommend every brand to chase those shiny objects. I think the potential with AI is really to help us understand what content and marketing will connect with people. Right now 50-60% of the content created by marketers goes completely unseen by their target audience. AI can fix that and the impact on ROI will be awesome.
These days, having active social media channels is necessary for marketing success. What social media channels do you think will be popular amongst marketers in 2018?
Brenner: The most important social media channels are the ones being used by your customers. Brands need to activate their employees to share branded content and personal stories on their accounts. So whether that is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, let your audience (both internal and external) decide which one works best for them. PS – I’m not bullish on Snapchat 😉
We live in a pretty hectic world and it can be hard to find time to sit down and read long form content or watch 10+ minute videos. Do you think short form content will become the new norm?
Brenner: There will always be a need for short and long form content. Sometimes we want to watch an engaging long form video. Sometimes we want to listen to an hour-long podcast while we go for a run. Sometimes we want to read a listicle for some quick tips or do a quiz to find out which Disney Princess we are. Every marketer needs to experiment with both and find creative ways to present a variety of content formats to your audience.
There are millions of pages of content out there and it can be hard to get noticed. What tips can you give to marketers who struggle to get their content seen? What channels work best for content distribution?
Brenner: There are no shortcuts. You have to commit to getting noticed by consistently producing high-quality content. Then you have to measure and optimize into what works. But it takes time. So only the persistent survive and thrive. The best channels for content distribution really depend on the brand. But research shows that email, search,and social are responsible for more than 80% of the content discovery. So you have to earn authority on Google, earn subscribers to your email newsletters, and earn shares of your content on social platforms. Then and only then should you look to test paid promotion across platforms and channels.
There’s so much value in content marketing and your book, ‘The Content Formula,’ is a fantastic resource that gives marketers a way to determine the exact ROI they get from content marketing. What’s one piece of information you really hope sticks with marketers after they’ve read your book?
Brenner: Focus on subscribers. Subscribers are not only a measure of value to your audience (every subscriber is inviting you into their already overcrowded inbox), but they are also the greatest source of value to your business. Email lists convert at a higher rate than any other marketing tactic.
What piece of advice would you give to young professionals who want to get into content marketing?
Brenner: Figure out how to earn attention for other people’s content. Young professionals today know how to create content and get likes and hearts, but they don’t necessarily know how to create content that isn’t about them and still get hearts and likes. Figure that out. Then learn how to measure success. Content creators who understand the science of analytics are foundational skills for today’s marketers.