The Insight Track with Michael Brenner: Marketing Opportunities You’re Missing
March 10, 2019
“Marketing is no longer about handing your marketing budgets to a swanky Madison Avenue ad agency and hoping they create brilliant work,” says Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group. “In order to engage our audience, we need to highlight and share the knowledge and expertise that lives inside our business.”
Brenner knows this firsthand, having seen the insides of many businesses through the course of a career with plenty of different stops along the way. In our new “Insight Track” series, we aim to highlight and share the knowledge and expertise from seasoned marketing minds like his.
In our interview with the keynote speaker and co-author of The Content Formula, he talked about the framework for his “inspiration to action” formula, turning ambitious ideas into reality, and hard-learned marketing lessons that have impacted him along the way.
Read on to learn more about how Brenner uses his experience and passion to fuel action in the industry.
Michael Brenner Gives Us the Insight Scoop
What does your role as CEO of the Marketing Insider Group entail? What’s your vision for the company?
Marketing Insider Group exists to serve brand marketers from the perspective of someone who has lived the challenges of being inside a company marketing department.
I understand the need to justify budgets every year or every quarter. I know sometimes the boss or the sales team asks you to run a campaign you know won't work. And then from that perspective, we help marketers scale content marketing on a small monthly budget, and with a view into measuring ROI.
Why is employee engagement so critical to effective marketing?
We need to activate our smart and passionate employees because they offer the best chance we have of reaching our audience. Because of who they are—real people—and because of what they know. This requires a culture focused on adding value to customers and building an engaged team.
So many companies come up short because of two huge misunderstandings:
- No one cares about your latest ad campaign, that you are the largest provider in the world of widgets, or that you think your company is awesome.
- Your employees are smart people who shouldn't be hired and then just told what to do. They expect to be treated with respect and allowed to explore their passions and grow their knowledge in a way that directly impacts your customers and your company.
We need to activate our smart and passionate employees because they offer the best chance we have of reaching our audience. Because of who they are—real people—and because of what they know. This requires a culture focused on adding value to customers and building an engaged team. — Michael Brenner
What is the “inspiration to action” formula and how can smaller businesses leverage this concept for growth?
We are all in the business of selling change. The best way I have found to do that is to use real life stories of real people who have navigated disruption in the world of marketing and came out on the other side with an example of real, measurable business results. It's not enough to be inspired. When I speak at events, I try to keep it practical and real, so you know what to do when you go back to the office.
Sometimes getting buy-in for a new idea can be one of the biggest challenges for an ambitious marketer. How have you been able to overcome this in the past?
Building the business case for any change starts with understanding some common vision for what everyone wants. Then you have to demonstrate that the world has changed.
And the common belief most people have of how to achieve that vision ain't gonna work. Sometimes you have to show your company that it sucks at marketing! I know that is hard and scary for some people. But from there, it's easy to build the case for the change that’s needed.
From your view, which effective marketing tactic is most overlooked or underutilized in the profession today?
The most overlooked, underestimated and underutilized marketing tactic that drives massive results is simple content consistency. I always love to show people how I publish four to five articles every week with literally zero budget. And because of that, I get more traffic and leads than companies 100 times bigger than me.
That's why I love to help my clients publish customer-focused content on a consistent basis. We get to learn what works, we get to measure ROI over time, we get to test new ideas. It's actually a lot of fun!
The most overlooked, underestimated and underutilized marketing tactic that drives massive results is simple content consistency. I always love to show people how I publish four to five articles every week with literally zero budget. And because of that, I get more traffic and leads than companies 100 times bigger than me. — Brenner
Where should be marketing leaders be primarily focusing their attention and energy right now?
Marketing leaders need to focus on a few areas. First, simply stop wasting your marketing budget on crap that no one wants and that doesn't work. Second, reallocate those funds to an ongoing strategy of testing, learning, creating, and measuring. And third, hire or train-up customer-obsessed, digital-minded, analytical marketers who are willing to be measured on ROI.
Tomorrow's marketing leaders will own culture across the company, and will recruit an army of engaged employees from every function to share their knowledge and expertise on every channel available.
What is a recent marketing campaign that’s caught your attention?
Verizon's TV commercials during this past year's NFL football games here in the U.S. have caused more than one person I know, on separate occasions, to make violent threats against the actors. Last year, it was Chevy.
Brands have to learn that when you annoy your audience, you hurt your brand big time. Studies have now proven that with a barrage of promotional advertising messages (any more than a few per day), your sales actually go down.
You’ve worked with a multitude of different organizations in your career. What are some of the most important lessons you’ve picked up along the way?
I have seen that brands and leaders have an empathy you can feel right away. Some brands (and leaders) really do care about their customers, their employees, and their communities. And then there's the rest—those who blatantly don't care and those who pretend. Ironically, empathy is a pretty good indicator of success. People and brands that actually care tend to make more impact on sales, market share, employee engagement, customer loyalty, and shareholder value.
I have seen that brands and leaders have an empathy you can feel right away. Some brands (and leaders) really do care about their customers, their employees, and their communities. And then there's the rest—those who blatantly don't care and those who pretend. — Brenner
Who’s an up-and-coming marketer to watch, and why?
Joseph Isaac was a client of mine at GE Healthcare and he made an impact on that organization that will be felt for years to come. He did the marketing leadership things that I talked about above. Except he wasn't the CMO. He was just a smart marketer who wanted to make an impact. He has since moved on to a greater role at another company and I expect to see him as a CMO someday.
What’s one hidden talent or fun fact about you that might surprise our readers?
I am a yoga master. I can head-stand and pigeon like nobody else. Namaste!
Turn Insights into Action
Throughout a lengthy career, Brenner has been able to not only keep up with this rapidly changing world of marketing, but stay ahead of the curve. That’s something we all aspire toward, so we appreciate him sharing some of his wisdom with us. Hopefully his insights help inspire you to action in some way.
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