SAP Finds Good Content Can Come From a Rival

Content Marketing Case Study: SAP Links to Competitor's White Paper in Company Blog and Wins Big

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ISSUE: Should you use information from a rival in your company blog?

SOLUTION: If you are publishing a blog, you must behave as a publisher, not a marketer.

Using rival information makes sense as long as it meets the following criteria: It must be valuable to your audience and not self-serving to the rival; it should carry your own company's spin or unique point of view; it should be repackaged in a way that is consumable and shareable.
Business-software company SAP, which uses third-party content as an essential part of its content-marketing strategy, increased traffic to its blog site when it linked to a white paper from a major competitor.

The effort initially drew some internal skepticism but ultimately proved that b-to-b marketers can benefit when they're open to using content that is valuable to their target audiences -- even if that content comes from a rival.

Michael Brenner, former VP-marketing and content strategy at SAP.
Michael Brenner, former VP-marketing and content strategy at SAP. 

Beginning in 2011, "Our CMO [Jonathan Becher] challenged the whole marketing organization to publish more than 50% of the content from outside SAP, in order for us to bring in thought leaders and voices of other parties," said Michael Brenner, head of strategy at content-marketing company NewsCred and previously VP-marketing and content strategy at SAP. Two years ago the company launched a site called Business Innovation from SAP, which features blogs and articles from SAP subject-matter experts, customers, partners and industry thought leaders. The site is designed to help business decision-makers get insight on critical business issues, not product information.

"Part of my mission -- with Jonathan's blessing -- was to bring in outside perspective on issues facing our customers -- analytics, big data, cloud computing, etc. It is totally appropriate for thought-leadership blogs, and if we have to mention our competitors, it is OK," Mr. Brenner said. "That is what the audience is expecting, so it's not just SAP's perspective."

He said the first time competitive content really became an issue was shortly after the Business Innovation site launched, when SAP published a blog that linked to a competitor's white paper on how to create effective business intelligence. Mr. Brenner declined to name the competitor.

An SAP senior executive retweeted the article, and Mr. Brenner got a call late on a Friday from someone in the marketing group, requesting that the blog be removed because it contained a link to a competitor's content.

Mr. Brenner said he was confident the post would perform well, and he promised to run analytics on the post to show its effectiveness. "I pleaded for the team's patience in letting me show the value of the approach," he said.

The effort paid off. The blog post received over 2,000 views within four or five days of being published, which was double the average article page view. More than 200 readers clicked through to explore solutions on the SAP site, compared with only a dozen or so who clicked on a registration link in the competitor's white paper.

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