Skip to main content
Content MarketingContent StrategyPodcast

Marketing to an Over-Marketed Society with Michael Brenner

By July 26, 2022No Comments
Marketing to an Over-Marketed Society with Michael Brenner

Content marketing is about a lot more than spending money on banner ads and sending out leaflets in the mail. 

For Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, content marketing is a two-way dialogue between a company and its audience. 

With content marketing, you build trust through consistent interaction with customers. And Michael believes that the more credibility you have with customers, the more they’ll be willing to listen to what you have to say. 

Michael spoke with us about the importance of consistency in content marketing, why you shouldn’t be afraid to be basic, and how touchpoints can help you be more efficient with your funding.

Show Topics

  • Define the role of marketing
  • Don’t talk about your product
  • Find new ways to advertise
  • Show up on a regular basis
  • Be basic
  • Pay attention to the customer
  • Fill in blind spots
  • Focus on touchpoints
  • Analyze what doesn’t work
  • Hire curious writers

Show Links 

Listen to the podcast

Watch a video clip

Key Takeaways

7:02 – Define the role of marketing

Marketing is about more than advertising and promotion. It’s a two-way dialogue between a company and its audience.

“Most people think marketing is advertising and promotion. I always say, if you ask your mom what marketing is, she’s going to say super bowl ads or she’s going to say the flyer she got in the mail. And unfortunately, that’s what most people think marketing is, but marketing is so much more than that. In college, we learned four Ps of marketing, not just one, promotion, or two, product and promotion. There’s two other Ps, if the four Ps even matter anymore. But to me, the point is just, it starts with the real definition of marketing is it’s supposed to be a conversation, a two-way dialogue between a company and its audience or customers. And most people just don’t think of it that way. And that’s where I think this really sets the context for content marketing because content marketing is the conversation part of marketing, and it has a job to do. As content marketers, our job, in many ways, is to convince executives. That’s a big, important part of marketing to begin with. It’s not just about banner ads and product brochures, if those things even work. So, to me, I think content marketers need to be able to articulate what marketing really is and what it should be and the role that it plays, and the value it can bring before we start getting into all the nuts and bolts of how to do content marketing.”

16:03 – Don’t talk about your product

Instead of cold-selling your product, use thought leadership content to drive leads and get a return on your investments.

“The insight that I was running around the organization with was when we don’t talk about product, we can get more leads. And people are like, ‘What? That’s stupid. That makes no sense. The only way we’re going to get leads is if we talk about how awesome our product is.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m just telling you, here’s the data, and look at the data. And when we use thought leadership content, we’re driving leads and get return on investment. When we use brochures and we try to drive people to product pages on our website, we get no leads. So maybe we should try this.’ And, slowly, we built out a hundred thousand dollar budget, a million dollar budget. I think by the time I left North America, I had a $3 million budget, and we were getting $7, $8 million in revenue from that budget, which was a massive increase from when I started.”

18:22 – Find new ways to advertise

It’s difficult to advertise to your audience because most consumers of content are actively trying to hide from advertisers and promotions. So you have to find new ways to reach those people.

“I’m a big fan of LinkedIn, but their advertising solutions are super expensive because they know they’re the only game in town where they can really target by title. And unfortunately, we’ve tested it, and what we’ve found is that even when you’re using somewhat thought leadership type content, but targeting people specifically, it doesn’t necessarily generate engagement on the campaign spend. So my theory is that even if we can find the right audience, we, as consumers of content, we hide from advertisers. We hide from promotion. I just think that we’ve become very cynical as a society, and we’re over-marketed to, and we’ve learned how to filter out the stuff we don’t want. And unfortunately, I think when we see the kinds of things that are promotional in nature, I think we run from them. And so, again, it’s a theory. I’m trying to explain data that’s factual, but that’s my theory for explaining it is that as a society, as people, we try to hide from promotion.”

21:30 – Show up on a regular basis

If you want to be a thought leader, you have to work consistently to make your opinions heard by your audience.

“If you have a really strong opinion, that’s great, but it’s like a tree that falls in the woods. It doesn’t make a sound if no one’s around to hear it. So in order to truly be or create thought leadership, you have to show up on a regular basis, and showing up on a regular basis means, the way I describe it is answering all the questions on the minds of a buyer. So, I actually include listicles and basic definitional posts, and certainly opinion and research I think are included, but in a way, I almost equate thought leadership with content marketing, and that, like Marcus Sheridan says, ‘They ask, you answer.’ It’s really identifying and knowing all the questions that an audience is asking and being the one to provide the answer. Being the authoritative source. Because you have to build a relationship in order to then earn the right to share an opinion. And so that’s why I try to shy clients away from thinking thought leadership is just those strong opinions, which are an important part of, I think, a good content strategy.”

24:01 – Be basic

A lot of companies are afraid of being too basic in their marketing tactics, but you’ll reach a wider audience if your content is accessible and easy to understand.

“I think one of the myths that a lot of people have about content marketing is that it shouldn’t be basic. We have a really good retention rate, about 90 percent of our clients just stick with us. The ones that we lose think that we’re too basic in that we’re not reaching the edge of opinion, and pushing the envelope, and speaking to only the most experts in the room. We lose those people because I think they’re overthinking it. They think that the best way to break through is to only do those super-expert, super-opinionated pieces of content. Well, guess what? You’re talking to one person, and that one person’s probably yourself, at the end of the day.”

39:34 – Pay attention to the customer

True content marketing doesn’t just mean using content to market. It means building up a relationship with your customer via content.

“Marketing with content is not the same thing as content marketing, and I still think that a lot of people define content marketing as marketing with content. The Content Marketing Institute does these awards every year. And it makes me crazy that somebody launched a magazine and they call that content marketing. And I’m like, is that? Or like a video is not content marketing. A video should never win a content marketing award because it’s not consistent. It’s not tied to a business result that you can drive over time. And I agree, I think content marketing is performance-based, but it needs to be always on, it needs to be focused on a customer. It needs to live on some sort of owned media platform. And if those things are in place, then it’s a strategic value proposition.”

25:52 – Fill in blind spots

Part of your goal in content marketing is to offer people information that might seem basic to an expert but which can help a CEO or business leader understand the basics of your product.

“Your audience might know the basic things like what is financial planning, but maybe a financial planner works at a company with a CFO who doesn’t really understand what the financial planners do. And the CFO’s going to approve the software purchase. You know what I mean? So there’s always an influencer. In fact, Gartner actually did this research that showed that the biggest gaps in content is what they call validation and consensus content, which is the most basic stuff. It’s the ‘what is this and why do you need it’ stuff, because the target audience needs to go convince people that are not them why they should purchase a piece of software. So, it’s interesting when you look at the whole buyer journey to see how that kind of content I think really plays a role.”

44:51 – Focus on touchpoints

We live in a digital world where it’s easy to see which touchpoints offer the best returns. Focus on those areas to increase your ROI.

“Instead of touting their budgets and touting their ego-driven ad buys, marketing leaders should be pushing their organization to doing performance-based marketing. Now, you’re going to get brand marketers and creatives that are going to push back on that all day long because, ‘Oh, John Wanamaker said that half of my advertising delivers ROI, I just don’t know which.’ Again, we live in a digital world where we know what touchpoints are driving a return, and there are ways to measure every aspect of marketing, even brand. And so yeah, I think you’re right. I think leaders should be pushing an accountability-based, performance-based marketing culture that’s, again, focused on customer-driven outcomes because customer-driven outcomes are what drive the right business outcomes for any company, and then hire the smart people that can put those together.”

47:09 – Analyze what doesn’t work

Don’t be afraid to reevaluate the strategies that aren’t working. That way, you can reallocate that budget to try something new that might offer higher ROI.

“One of the things that I was really shocked at when I went to SAP was I was asked to look at the things that worked, but I was shocked that no one was ever asked to look at the things that didn’t work to make sure that those mistakes weren’t repeated. I called it sun setting. And I was like, ‘Do we ever have a sunset review here at SAP?’ And I remember my boss saying, ‘What’s that?’ I’m like, ‘Well, that’s where you, at the end of a month or a quarter or a year, you look at the programs where you spent money and said what didn’t work and that we should stop doing.’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, no, we would never do that. Because then that would potentially argue for us not getting the budget.’ I’m like, ‘No, that argues for you to get the budget to do something more fun and creative and test out a new approach.’”

52:07 – Hire curious writers

When you’re looking for a content writer, don’t focus on the candidates with the most niche expertise. Hire people who are curious about the world around them.

“We’ve nailed the process of vetting writers. We don’t vet for industry expertise. We vet for curiosity, and the example I always use is, the guy or the gal who did the Netflix documentary I watched on cryptocurrency. Well, that documentarist was not an expert in cryptocurrency. They had the curiosity go to figure out and talk to the right experts to figure out what cryptocurrency is and how to explain it to an idiot like me. And that’s the kind of writer that we want. We want writers that don’t understand the ins and outs of financial planning software, but they have the curiosity to go learn what it is so that they can explain it to somebody who wants, who needs to know what it is. So we figured out the process of scaling the recruitment of those kinds of writers.”


Learn how to grow demand rather than just serve existing searches. “Rather than fighting over the scraps of “vacation rental” SERPs, you could become the “AirBnB” of your space.”

Join us for Office Hours where Rand Fishkin, Co-Founder at SparkToro will give a 30-minute workshop on how to generate demand.

Karissa Barcelo

Karissa is a Content Growth Marketer at Omniscient Digital. She enjoys producing and repurposing content with a killer marketing strategy behind it. She has a diverse background in video production, content strategy, and writing B2B blogs and customer success stories. Karissa has a passion for storytelling and turning complex ideas into relatable material. She lives in Las Vegas with her fiance, Sam.