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Interview with Jason Patterson, Founder, Jewel

1) As a founder of Jewel, can you provide an overview of your role and explain how a content marketing agency assists brands?

Jewel Content Marketing Agency is my baby. And like any parent, my role is whatever my baby needs me to be. And what it needs most is someone to lead our efforts to build a strong brand, deliver for our clients, carry out content marketing for ourselves worthy of a brand that selling it to others, and be Jewel’s brand ambassador.

As to how content marketing agencies can help brands, brands don’t need content marketing suppliers, they need partners. For two reasons.

One, content marketing is complex, requiring many skills, and many businesses simply don’t have all or enough of those skills. A content marketing agency can find those gaps and fill them. 

And two, many businesses don’t know how to apply marketing strategy to their content efforts or execute a content marketing operation based on it (only 40% of B2B businesses have a documented content marketing strategy). Many content people don’t know marketing. Many marketing people have never worked in content.

A content marketing agency’s job should be to have one foot in both. At least that’s what I think its job should be.

2) How can you use data, tools, and creativity effectively to create successful marketing content?

Successful content marketing is part art, part science. Data and tools help bring scientific discipline, rigor, and replicability to what you’re doing, with creativity the prime ingredient. The catalyst that makes it go. You can have all the data and the best tools money can buy, but you won’t achieve much without creativity.

3) In your experience, what are some of the key challenges B2B businesses face in content marketing, and why should they need assistance crafting their content strategy?

You need three things for a B2B content marketing program to work – content quality, content quantity, and content strategy. Quality is essential to winning. Quantity is needed because sometimes quality doesn’t win. And strategy is essential to winning consistently and generating useful outcomes from it. 

4) How do you measure the ROI of growth through content marketing initiatives in B2B, considering a longer sales funnel with multiple touchpoints?

This depends on your goal. Some content marketers focus only on awareness. Others want to lure prospects into and down the funnel until they become MQLs. Let’s assume the latter.

A successful content marketing program should be felt at every funnel stage, whether it’s awareness (reach, social media followers, blog subscribers), consideration (conversions, product content views), or lead-gen (MQL number and quality).

But because most B2B prospects aren’t looking to buy right now, the benefits won’t be felt equally all at once. A successful program will focus most on awareness (i.e., getting more people into your funnel), so that’s where the gains will be greatest first, eventually working their way down the funnel as more of your prospects are ready to buy. 

But there’s a catch. The lower in the funnel you go, the more your product details, key selling points, and core marketing messages affect content success, and those things usually aren’t up to content marketers. They’re decided by product owners, brand owners, marketing leaders, etc. So keep that in mind when evaluating a content marketing program’s success (or failure).

5) How would you align content marketing initiatives with demand generation?

Demand-gen covers the top two layers of the content marketing funnel (awareness and consideration). Awareness content discusses problems or concerns your prospects face, while consideration discusses what you sell, why prospects should buy it, and your advantages as a vendor more generally.

An ideal content marketing funnel is funnel-shaped. Wider at the top, narrower as you go down. That means the top layer of the funnel (i.e., awareness) should have the most content.

You’ll need awareness content for prospects looking to buy now and awareness content for prospects not looking to buy now. The goal for the former should be some type of conversion (i.e., perhaps to click a link to a piece of consideration content). The goal for the latter could be blog subscriptions or social media follows, which will help prospects remember your name (after repeated exposure) when they’re ready to buy.

You should have less consideration content than awareness, but not too much less. Many businesses don’t have enough consideration content, which is bad because it may not meet the needs of different industries, job roles, and levels of expertise regarding what you sell.

It’s also bad because buying cycles are lengthening, with prospects increasingly educating themselves about you (which is what consideration content addresses). So don’t neglect this.

6) How can you create a reliable lead generation funnel through the power of storytelling and brand building in a highly competitive B2B market?

Brand building is absolutely essential. 90% of B2B purchases are won by vendors the prospect already knew before the buyer’s journey began. As for storytelling, a lot of people misunderstand it. Success isn’t about telling your brand’s story, at least not in B2B. Nobody cares about the hero’s journey of your founder from Stanford to Google to the SaaS you’re marketing for now.

What prospects care about is being the hero of their own journey if they buy from you, or at least looking like a hero to their colleagues, boss, and anyone else important to them. In B2B, this can be achieved by making prospects look smart, savvy, visionary, or rich.

7) How do you view AI tools and generative bots when creating business content and copywriting?

As is usually the case with machines, I view the benefits as “more, faster, cheaper, better.” What I’ve seen so far from AI’s writing capabilities hasn’t blown me away yet, but I think the most interesting stuff is yet to come.

I see AI really making itself felt in two areas. One, adaptation of content into different styles (witty, serious, corporate, etc.) or formats (i.e., different social media channels). And two, if AI can really conjure high-quality usable marketing video out of thin air, it’ll be a gamechanger. Let’s face it, a high-quality video costs an order of magnitude to produce today than a high-quality blog post. And AI could make it a lot easier for small businesses to achieve similar video quality as large ones.    

8) What are your thoughts on whether gated content is effective for B2B businesses?

Gating content decreases reach, so if you do use it, you want to use it in instances where reach isn’t the goal. One instance is awareness content where the topic strongly indicates current intent to buy. If you’re an HR software vendor, an e-book titled “How To Select an HR Software Vendor,” might be a good gating candidate.

Another good candidate is awareness content targeting extremely niche audiences (which presumably you’re paying to target), such as a whitepaper called “The Bix Box Retail CMO’s Guide To AI,” since there are only so many big box retail CMOs in the entire world. 

9) What are some exciting milestones or goals that you’re currently working towards?

My competitors watch me closely and I’d rather not share any behind-the-scenes info with them.

10) What are your hobbies? Have you read any good books lately you’d like to share?

My hobbies aren’t special. Movies, Twitter, keeping in shape, spending time with my daughter. Many business books are just overlong blog articles, but if I had to pick a recent book I think everyone in B2B marketing should read, it’s “Bad Blood,” about the rise and fall of Theranos. It’s a fascinating story, one that illustrates the power of a strong brand in the B2B world, what it takes to build one, and how far it can carry you.

Jason Patterson has been resisting the pull of half-assed marketing content since the golden days of advertorials. He is the founder of Jewel Content Marketing Agency, where he blogs about content, social media, B2B marketing, and other related topics. He also shares hard-hitting and often humorous takes on Twitter and LinkedIn

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