Content conversation with Zarina Stanford - CMO, SAP

by ACN Editor

Q. From a short-term 'Marketing Wave' to a 'Permanent Discipline', what are your thoughts on Content Marketing evolution?

A. The saying of Content is King was reportedly first appeared in The 1978 Photographer's Market published by Writer's Digest Books and made pervasive by Bill Gates' 1996 Essay titled Content is King. In 2018, content is king has gone beyond Royal in my book. Storytelling isn't an art without content. Consumers aren't browsing just for fun. Marketers can't be relevant without content. So while content marketing is evolving, the need and value of content in every engagement and experience are simply paramount. As a discipline, content marketing plays a critical role in progressing a dialog, an engagement, and for the ultimate experience, brands desire with its customers. As a practice, it is as basic as breathing but as difficult to perfect as meditation.

Content Marketers today have to apply the art of storytelling and the science of placing the content along the omnichannel experience when and where and how our target audience is desiring to engage. Looking ahead, Content Marketing will play an increasing role in driving and delivering explicit outcomes - customer experience, influencers and ecosystem advocacy, revenue and company growth.

Q. What are the pre-requisites of Content Marketing for a brand entering this field?

A. In my opinion, there are two critical pre-requisites for a brand to consider when it comes to content marketing - 1) Relevance. 2) Consumption. In particular, the science of insights-driven content creation for optimal relevance and the art of maximizing ease of consumption (visual, easy to read, etc), waterhole effect (content where the target audience hangs around instead of where brands want them to 'visit', will be key.

Q. Most of the content used today is Marketing Content, what do you think the exact role of content apart from marketing?

A. Content is at the core of why people engage, how like minds and diverse thinkers converge which ultimately leads to innovation and growth. Marketing serving as businesses and organizations' growth drivers, effective and innovative marketing content contributes to the core of what every business does to drive growth. Content - purpose, value proposition, roadmap, products, and solutions etc. - also adds to the intellect and value of a brand to its ecosystem partners, its customers and equally important to its employees and talents.

Q. SAP has long buying cycles and there is a need to keep your potential buyers engaged throughout the process. How do you take advantage of content?

A. This is a great question and a key role content plays. Mapping content along the buyers' journey is particularly crucial in solution sales which span months frequently. Having snackable content and assets - customer stories, webinars, assessments, demos, interactive, free trials, etc. are key to content marketing success in our world particularly. As I discussed during Content Marketing keynote last year, planning and designing contents in sequels and episodes is a great way to keep engagement level high and continuous along the buying cycle.

Q. How is B2B content marketing strategy different from that of B2C brands? What can be learned from each other?

A. I believe that the worlds of B2B and B2C have evolved in recent times as digital transformation and adoption continues to ramp up. With ready and easy and frequently real-time access to information and collaboration and sharing, consumers are now empowered and they are now directing how and when and what businesses engage. Enter the C2B age. All businesses now must understand how best to be relevant to the consumers and ecosystem and the world of Marketing to One has returned in full force just as in the pre-industrial age.

Q. What are your views on 'in-house' vs. 'outsourced' content creation?

A. In my opinion, as long as the assets and content deliverables are on brand and relevant, it doesn't make any difference between in-house vs outsourced creation.

Q. Most of the brands end up creating only digital content meant for digital consumption, how does one strike balance across multiple channels?

A. There is a swing effect when it comes to digital shift. While all of us have to be fluent and savvy about digital, we shouldn't forget that at the end of the day, we are driving engagement with people (and yes some robots who are programmed by people) and that an omnichannel experience will be key. The on and the offline combination is natural for most and there is a lot to be said for the differentiation human touches deliver in today's focus for the ultimate customer experience.

Q. Video content is currently leading the way in content consumption, how long do you think it will last as a trend?

A. When it comes to content consumption, whether it is via print, video, or anywhere in between, marketers must keep in mind that the average human has an attention span of 9 seconds and that visual is still supreme for most.

Q. How do you think B2B brands should measure the effectiveness of content?

A. This is a question that points to why Marketing is an art and a science and thus a CRAFT. The first order of measure should be CONSUMPTION - clicks, views, time on page, registration, downloads, inquiries, chat reply, etc. in the online world for example and very much in the science and math space. The second order of measure is when the art element comes in - what emotion and experience did our content generate? How connected emotionally and psychologically are the consumers engaged with our brand through an orchestrated journey experience with the series of content we've planned out for their omnichannel experience? What form factors/artists are preferred? And the list goes on. The ultimate measure, however, is that of relevance.

Q. How do you foresee the future of content-based marketing?

A. As we started with this dialog, Content is King. Content is the core of why consumers of brands continue to engage and return. Content is what brands stand for: Our brand's purpose. Who we are. And the core to answer the Golden Circle question WHY?