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Unlocking the Power of Content Marketing with SAP’s VP of Global Audience Marketing

Gurdeep-Dhillon-photojpg_rev-150x150While many marketers are looking for new ways to generate leads as quick as possible, Gurdeep Dhillon (@gurdeepd), SAP’s Global VP of Audience Marketing, is taking a different approach.  He is departing from traditional online marketing methods and focusing SAP’s latest initiative on engagement and awareness through content marketing.

In May, SAP launched The Customer Edge, a digital magazine dedicated to providing readers relevant, high-quality information on customer engagement, covering topics such as marketing, sales, customer service and commerce.

“Most B2B companies that put this kind of effort into a content microsite would gear everything towards lead generation,” said Dhillon.  “We’ve taken a different approach, focusing strictly on brand awareness and engagement. The true lead here is a new subscriber.”

Third Party Content Adds Value to Readers

Another departure here from traditional marketing is SAP’s focus on delivering content that is of value to the audience, and not focused on communicating details about SAP’s products and solutions. Dhillon explained that the goal of the site is to address SAP’s audience in a way that is useful to them. He hopes the content on the site will help each reader offer excellent customer experiences in their respective organizations.

To do this, Dhillon ensured that The Customer Edge employs a mix of both created and curated content.  This hybrid created-curated content strategy is in alignment with practices of today’s most effective marketers: According to a recent study conducted by Curata, the most effective content marketers publish 65% created content and 35% curated content. The Customer Edge site uses the latest content marketing technologies such as Curata to complement original articles with curated content from third party websites and other SAP publishing platforms such as SAP Business Innovation and The Future of Commerce.

Curation is a key aspect of our strategy as we recognize that our audience values a balanced set of perspectives on topics related to customer engagement and we do our best to curate the most relevant and insightful content as a service to them,” Dhillon said. “If we want to be the destination for our audience, we need to address all of their needs, not just what SAP has to offer right now.”

A Laser Focus on Customers’ Interests 

The site has a simple, user-friendly design and organizes material by six overarching categories — Customer Engagement, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Commerce and Editor’s Picks. Within each category, readers can further sort by additional, more specific tags such as Omni-channel, Social Customer Service and Data Driven Marketing.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.05.10 AM

“In creating the site, we wanted to walk the walk so to speak and offer our audience an engaging customer experience,” he said. By breaking down the content into an organized taxonomy, readers can hone in on just the topics they care about.  While other microsites offer similar site navigation, The Customer Edge also offers readers the ability to subscribe to select topics via email newsletters.

Sharing is also made easy for the reader, with the ability to share across eight platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

Tracking the Right Metrics to Demonstrate Success and Drive Improvement

Since the objective of the site is to increase engagement and brand awareness, Dhillon said he has set the following metrics to demonstrate success and improve results:

  • Size of contributor network
  • Subscriber base
  • Page views
  • Repeat visits
  • Amount of time spend on site
  • Social engagement

In the first two months, Dhillon has seen growth in page views and in social engagement from influencers and blogs. The top source of traffic to the site has been through LinkedIn — a good example of how highly sharable articles can drive traffic back to a site.

While it may be too soon to track specific results, other companies that have created dedicated sites like The Customer Edge have seen great success. For example, Aternity, an application performance management vendor, created the microsite EndUserExperience2Day, and saw a 130% increase in newsletter subscriptions in one year, as reported in a MarketingSherpa case study.

Looking to the Future – The Expansion of Content Marketing

Dhillon said the ultimate goal of the site is to cultivate a critical mass of readers who can rely on The Customer Edge as a resource. He hopes this approach will help position SAP as a preferred partner for line of business professionals as they seek to better engage their own customers.

Soon, other organizations may start to follow in Dhillon’s footsteps by distancing themselves from traditional lead generation.  But, he predicts even more change for the future of content marketing.  He sees content becoming more visual and sees marketers starting to focus on quality over quantity.

In addition, he believes content will become a much larger part of the business model. “I also think content marketing will stop being just a new marketing initiative and will begin to span across multiple areas – product development, sales, service will all play a role in developing the right content mix for each stage of the buyer’s journey,” Dhillon said.

To see more examples of content marketing and content curation in action, download Curata’s free eBook, Content Curation Look Book.

Read the full interview with Gurdeep Dhillon below.

Why did you decide to create The Customer Edge? How does it fit into SAP’s overall content marketing strategy?

Our strategy was to address our audience in a way that is truly meaningful and helpful to them. We wanted the Customer Edge to be the driving force behind what makes these leaders successful at delivering excellent customer experiences.  Many different teams at SAP are adopting content marketing strategies and we are proud to be at the forefront of this.

While creating this site, what was your highest priority? (i.e. design, organization, building out the right personas, producing enough content)

In creating the site, we wanted to “walk the walk” so to speak and offer our audience an engaging customer experience. We want our content to be as diverse and interesting as our customers so we publish in a variety of formats (blogs, webisodes, videos, etc) on the topics that they have indicated are high priority for their businesses.

The Customer Edge features both original and curated content. What are the benefits of providing curated content to readers of this site?

We frequently curate content from 3rd party and other SAP publishing platforms such as SAP Business Innovation and The Future of Commerce as well as those managed by members of the broader SAP ecosystem. Curation is a key aspect of our strategy as we recognize that our audience values a balanced set of perspectives on topics related to customer engagement and we do our best to curate the most relevant and insightful content as a service to them. If we want to be the destination for our audience, we need to address all of their needs, not just what The Customer Edge has to offer.

 The Customer Edge is sponsored by SAP, but the only call-to-action is to subscribe to the site. Why did you decide to stay away from traditional lead generation?

Most B2B companies that put this kind of effort into a content microsite would gear everything towards lead generation. We’ve taken a different approach, focusing strictly on brand awareness and engagement. The true “lead” here is a new subscriber. And the ultimate goal is to drive a critical mass of readers who can rely on the Customer Edge as a resource.  We believe that this approach helps position SAP as a preferred partner for line of business professionals as they seek to better engage their customers.  That being said, we will have a call-to-action on every piece of content so that our audience has a clear path to finding the right information.

 How do you plan to measure the success of this site? Any early anecdotes of early success that you have seen?

We plan to build both our contributor network and subscriber base.  Also, repeat visitors and the amount of time they spend on the site is very important to us. The more often they stop by and the longer the session durations, the stronger the proof that we are providing relevant content to our audience.

The site has only been live for two months, but we’ve seen tremendous growth in both site visits and subscribers. The social engagement from influencers and brands included in blogs, has been a positive bonus as well.  LinkedIn has been the number one driver of traffic for the first two months, which was somewhat of a surprise to us.  And as we continue to optimize for SEO, we expect organic search traffic to grow at a very fast pace over the next few months.

How do you think content marketing will change in the upcoming year?

In the short term, I think we will see an increased focus on visual content – more infographics and micrographics.

I also think content marketing will stop being just a new “marketing initiative” and will begin to span across multiple areas – product development, sales, service will all play a role in developing the right content mix for each stage of the buyer’s journey.  Finally, the focus will shift dramatically from quantity to quality as vendors look to rise above the noise and create content that truly resonates with their target audience.

Alex Barca

Alex Barca is a Content Marketing Specialist at Curata. Alex serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Content Marketing Forum which has a readership of over 40,000 where she frequently blogs about content strategy and marketing. She also is the community manager for the largest content curation LinkedIn Group. Alex can be found at industry conferences such as the MarketingProfs B2B Forum and Content Marketing World. She earned a B.A. in Public Relations at Penn State University in State College, PA.

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