Doug Kessler, who runs B2B content agency Velocity, will be speaking at next month’s Festival of Marketing.
Here, Doug talks about the content marketing backlash, the importance of quality, and the importance of tone of voice…
Can you tell us a little about your presentation at the Festival of Marketing?
I’ll be talking about Insane Honesty in content marketing (and marketing in general). That means instead of hiding your product’s biggest weaknesses, you actually expose your worst points proudly.
It’s a viscerally counter-intuitive thing to do but there’s a great tradition of it in marketing and there are a lot of really compelling reasons to do it. I’ll tell you them if you come along. But if you don’t… I won’t.
Your ‘Crap’ Slideshare warned of the coming deluge thanks to the popularity of content marketing, do you think this has come to pass? Is it now harder for good content marketing to find its target?
Absolutely. We’re well past those wonderful days when just having non-salesy, customer-focused content was a big differentiator.
Now that everyone’s doing it, you need to move up to the next level: by building a great content brand with all the care and attention that goes into your core product brands.
Our content team strongly believes in quality over quantity, and this approach works well for us. Is this true for you or do you find clients pushing for volume?
A lot of marketers want to play the volume game and I can see why: there’s a lot of evidence that, in content marketing, more is better.
But if that’s at the expense of quality, I’m convinced it will hurt you in the medium and long term.
The ideal is both. You must make sure your content passes the quality test. But once you do that, you might as well do as much as your resources can afford.
Most budgets don’t allow for great quality at scale. So I’d choose a few pieces of the very best content you can produce, then promote them hard.
Econsultancy has built a terrific business on the back of quality content. But you also have always had plenty of quantity!
I’ve prattled on about the value of evergreen content for this blog. Is this something you try to do for your own or clients’ content?
Graham, I’d never say you prattle. Drone sometimes but never prattle.
I do agree on Evergreen content. It’s one of the great things about content marketing: you’re creating assets that can just keep delivering results for years.
Old-school marketing doesn’t do that. Once you’ve pissed an ad budget away, it’s gone.
At Velocity, we’re big believers in what we call ‘home run’ content — the stuff that really resonates and gets shared. And that also tends to be the stuff that keeps on giving year after year.
Do you view content marketing for clients in terms of shorter term campaigns or more of a long term change in strategy?
Content marketing dogma says that ‘campaign’ is a dirty word — but I don’t actually believe that.
Yes, content marketing is a long game and yes you need a continuous program, but I think there’s a place for campaigns too (for instance, around events, product launches and timely opportunities).
When given a choice between two things, I always go for both (if I can get away with it).
You have used Slideshare a lot for your own content marketing, why do you prefer this format?
I love SlideShare because it’s a linear medium that’s great for telling a compelling story; for grabbing the reader by the hand and not letting go till you’re done.
I like that each slide has one main job: to earn the next click.
And I also love that SllideShares are embeddable, so bloggers who like a piece can use it in their blogs.
And I like the bonus audience you get from within SlideShare itself. You can reach people you might not reach any other way.
What’s not to like?
The Velocity blog (and your posts for us) have a distinctive tone of voice (which makes it worth reading) – is this something you try to find when working with clients? Does this produce better results?
Yes. A clear, compelling tone of voice can be a force multiplier in content marketing. It can literally multiply your budget.
And a bland, limp tone of voice can kill a great story stone dead (and halve your budget).
I’m always amazed how much marketers can spend on content and yet settle for ‘good enough’ writing.
A little attitude and energy go a long way. You’re crazy if you don’t use that.
There has been an inevitable backlash against content marketing (here’s an example from Marketing Week), with people objecting to the buzzword or complaining that it’s nothing new. What’s your take on this?
Well content marketing is not new. But one thing has re-invented it completely: the internet.
The principles are the same as they were back when John Deere first published The Plough magazine. But the practice has changed dramatically. The way we research, produce, target, share, promote and measure content have all changed.
Is that new enough for you?
I did a post back in 2013 called What’s So New About Content Marketing? that discusses this. But I still hear it all the time.
People hate bandwagons. I don’t blame them. But that shouldn’t blind us when something powerful comes along.
What are the most effective ways to measure content?
Well revenue is the mother of all metrics.. Everything else is either a vanity metric, an early indicator or both.
Of those, I’m a big believer in shares. Shares by your target audience are the ultimate endorsement and are invariably a leading indicator that wonga is on its way.
What are some of your favourite pieces of B2B content marketing?
- The Volvo Trucks Epic Split video with Jean-Claude van Damme is f-ing brilliant.
- I love GE’s Paths of Flight video and their 6-Second Science Fair.
- IBM’s work on Tumblr makes me envious and puts me in the right kind of bad mood.
- Ling’s Cars for the marketing genius disguised as psychotic anarchy.
- Big Ass Fans for its confidence (it’s now a B2B and B2C brand).
- And Lakey’s Periodic Table of Content Marketing is pretty cool.
To hear more from Doug, come along to Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing in November. It’s a two-day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including Airbnb, LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.