B2B Lessons From Content Marketing Heavy Hitters

Photo of David Warner smashing a cricket ball
Nov 2, 2014
Content Marketing

How often do you get to hear content marketing experts talk exclusively about B2B marketing? We are deluged with great examples of consumer content marketing but often come up short on B2B applications. I wasted no time snagging a front-row seat to the Content Marketing at Scale: The Heavy Hitters Panel discussion at the B2B Marketing Forum conference in Boston last month. I wasn’t disappointed.

Chaired by Doug Kessler, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Velocity Partners, the panel consisted of:

The first question focused on the big challenges people face in their content marketing efforts. Joe Pulizzi hammered the importance of a documented strategy saying too many companies focus on channels and not the bigger picture. Jeannine Rossignol reminded marketers to keep the focus on the client and create content for them, not yourself. Perhaps the most insightful answer came from Michael Brenner who said, “Behind every piece of bad content is an executive that asked for it.

Why is a content audit important?

As content marketers grapple with creating enough content, the panel suggested quantity is not a problem. Joe Pulizzi suggested most companies have more content than they realise. He added it’s likely much of your existing content requires nothing more than a little tweaking to make it useful.

Michael Brenner observed content marketers have too much late-stage content and not enough to help people get into your sales funnel, resulting in as much as 50% of all content going unused.

Let that thought sink in for minute. Can you imagine half of all your content marketing investment never turns into a business asset? Jeannine Rossignol agreed, pointing to a big problem with content – sales people creating their own content.

Thoughts on big brand content management

The next question had to do with how large brands manage content. Should it all come under control of corporate headquarters, or does it make sense for each region to have their own content strategy? Joe Pulizzi stressed that the content marketing strategy has to stay central but best practice is to have a collaboration team spanning departments and regions. Doug Kessler observed the biggest obstacle to content marketing is senior marketers who believe what they learned 20 or 30 years ago applies to content marketing.

A solution to thought leadership

Jeannine Rossignol offered her advice about brands focused on thought leadership. She said trying to create corporate thought leaders was incredibly difficult. Xerox found success promoting subject matter experts who proved to be a lot more effective than thought leaders. Her strategy is to create great content portraying salespeople as subject matter experts, which they can then publish on social networks. This made a lot of sense to me; all good salespeople I know understand their subject as well or better than the people they’re selling to.

Big mistakes, big lessons

Michael Brenner was candid about a ‘mistake’ he made when he worked at SAP that garnered discussion about the viability of his employment. He had created a piece of content mentioning competitor products and his management wasn’t happy about it. Because the piece was objective, it actually proved highly successful in terms of conversions.

Jeannine Rossignol cautioned against working in a bubble. “We cannot communicate enough internally about the value we bring. We need to be wide in our reach.” The lesson here is to make sure your content marketing efforts are understood throughout your organisation. I can’t help but think this would make it easier at budget time, as well. The more people realise the value content marketing brings to the organisation, the more funding you’re likely to get.   Supporting the burgeoning idea of quality over quantity, Joe Pulizzi asked content marketers to re-evaluate their channel strategy and scale back to just a handful. If you’re working in six, 10 or even 20 different channels, there’s no way you can be effective. Michael Brenner said the big secret to content marketing is building your subscriber list. In other words, the best place to focus your energy would be email marketing, not social media. Joe Pulizzi concurred and, again, urged content marketers to think like publishers.


It was evident from the discussion, we’re moving from a new discipline into a more mature, more strategic undertaking with content marketing. The early enthusiasm evident for the past five or more years is being replaced with a studied approach to content marketing. Finally, we have large-scale examples of hits and misses. Pulizzi has always been an evangelist and Kessler continues to write some of the smartest stuff about content marketing. Both continue to be a massive influence in the sector. For me, Brenner and Rossignol gave me what I need; unvarnished advice from the trenches to work smarter and learn from their mistakes. It was one of the best sessions I attended and over far too quickly.

For more commentary on the Content Marketing Heavy Hitters panel discussion, make sure to listen to Episode 8 of the Brand Newsroom podcast.


by Sarah Mitchell

Image Credit: DAVID WARNER by NAPARAZZI, on Flickr