The vast majority of B2b emails I receive are terrible.

The majority of B2b emails I’ve sent throughout my career have been too.

Unsolicited, untargeted and with low open rates and absolutely no chance of contributing to the bottom line.

The ability to contact buyers directly is a privilege, and yet we waste it by poor segmentation, poor personalisation and general disrespect of our audience’s time.

But still, it ticks a box.  It looks like activity is happening in the marketing department, so B2b marketers are happy, and the sales teams they work with at least feel somewhat pacified.  It’s the marketing equivalent of tidying up your bedroom by kicking everything under the bed.

I think we all should be better.  Lets spend more time on each email.  Lets decide that one size does not fit all and if we’re going to interrupt people and infiltrate their inboxes, lets do it with a bit more respect.

Conference Call

I’ve noticed that I’m going to a lot fewer conferences these days.

Granted, I’m a bit busier now than I once was and that is certainly a factor.

But also the choice is different now. It used to be go and hear the insights or stay and wallow in your ignorance. Now the choice is go and hear the insights or stay and follow the insights via the hashtag.

And the second choice also gives you the insights from the audiences as well as the speakers. It isn’t as good as being there but the gap between going and not going has definitely narrowed.

I’ve no real idea how conference organisers can get round this. You can’t *not* have a hashtag you luddite. And the profile that people tweeting from your conference gives you is good, right?

Like a load of things, digital tech has meant that added value has to be found elsewhere. It will be interesting to see what people come up with.

Taking my own advice

I’ve been ignoring my own advice recently.

I often talk to people about social media stuff. I’ve taken enough credit for other people’s work over the last few years that people sometimes mistake me for someone who knows what they’re on about. Fools.

It is very easy to start off with loads of good intentions and then dry up, leaving your blog or Twitter or Instapinterest as a tumbleweed filled wasteland.

And that is exactly what has happened here. I haven’t posted on my own blog for months.

Yeah I’ve been busy, new job and all that, blah blah blah. No excuse, get a grip, make it happen. That’s what I’d tell someone else.

So, I’ve decided to give myself a kick up the arse. And inspired by a couple of my favourite blogs – Unofficial Partner and Seth Godin I’ve decided to take a new approach to this.

So, I’m making a pledge to post here in more bitesize chunks, but more frequently. No more getting stuck on thinking of a big topic. I’ll just come back here whenever something occurs to me.

Let’s see how long that lasts. Worth a try I guess.

You and Kei

I’ve been a frequent attendee at a variety of marketing conferences and industry get-togethers over the last few years. I’ve spoken at some, been on a panel at others and sat and watched intently at the majority of them. Some of them have been focusing on sports marketing, some on B2b marketing and others on more general marketing topics.

So, quite a variety of people banging on about various stuff. And the major central topic that spans everything is content – content marketing, content creation, content amplification, content on chips with a side order of content.

And a lot of that chat about content is about how the majority of people are still doing it pretty badly. As Katie Canton from B2b agency Birddog points out in this excellent post, content has gone from being the next big thing to being *the* thing, and yet only 42% of B2b marketeers think they’re doing it effectively.

So there is something missing. Marketeers left, right and centre talking about content. Not that many people doing it, and even fewer doing it in a way that they are satisfied with.

So, what is missing?

Katie’s post argues that it is content strategy. And I’d go along with that. But for me that’s the second part of getting yourself on the road to plugging the gap.

I think the first thing that is needed is the correct mindset. I think content marketing (no, sorry, good content marketing) comes first and foremost from the correct mindset. After that it is a content strategy, then it is the implementation.

I think if your mind is stuck in the wrong place, your strategy doesn’t even have a chance to be right – you’ll be too inhibited and you’ll look for content in all of the wrong places.

What do I mean? Well, let me focus on the world of football (for a change).

Great content in sport (and probably elsewhere come to think of it) comes from having one (or two, or all) of the following three things – knowledge, connections or access. Knowledge helps you impart wisdom on those who are receptive to your content, connections help you to signpost people around the web so that others can do the same and and access helps you offer an insider’s perspective on something your audience is desperate for a piece of.

I think that insider access is the easiest thing to achieve in sport. If you work for a club or governing body, you have that access in spades. As long as your mindset is correct. If you think about allowing people that access and it makes you nervous, or makes you think that you should be monetising every single bit of that access, you’re in a place where that mindset (either individually or corporately) will stop you creating great content.

An example of what I mean (taken from the club I support, Middlesbrough, and only because that’s the content I follow most closely, not as a singled out criticism – Boro actually do some pretty good stuff….):

Around a year ago, Boro signed a new striker, Kei Kamara. Now this is a big moment in the life of a football club – a new international centre forward coming in to lead the line. It is something to get the fans excited and something that drives them online to find out everything they can.

In the old world, a club would own the access to this information and feed it to the fans in the traditional ways. This would be a news conference and club interviews, as well as the morsels fed to the local media. Fans would lap it up.

And this was followed in the aftermath of the signing of Kamara. A fan would go onto the Boro website and click excitedly onto the interview with the new striker. To be greeted with this:


Fine. The club believe that this content should be monetised. Personally I don’t. I believe that as a fan I have a right to see that content without paying any more than money for match tickets and merchandise (or in the case of Boro, with tears over the last 30 years).

So in the old world there would be a split between the type of fans who are happy to pay and those that believe the club is unfairly denying them access to the best content.

But things are different now.

Kei Kamara himself is a prolific producer of content. He is active on Twitter and Instagram – engaging and well followed. And as part of signing for Boro, he produced better content that club could on their own. All available for free.

For example – check this out – a new signing using Instagram video to document his first ever visit to the stadium:

Now that is great content. Simple, emotive and unique. Not difficult to produce if you have the access and more importantly the right mindset to do so.

I want my club to produce this kind of stuff for me. When I go through official channels to find out how a player is doing in his rehab from injury, I don’t want a boring, anodyne statement, I want to see more stuff like this:

But using this unique access in official channels requires bravery. Some people will question the impact it will have on enhanced digital membership subscriptions. Some people will question the ability to police it, and the impact that bad publicity around your main players could have on the strategy.

There are tons of roadblocks that could be put in the way. All of which may be valid. But if your mindset is one of producing content that brings fans closer and gives them the access that they crave then you’ll find a way to overcome these hurdles.

When Kei was at his previous club, Sporting Kansas City in MLS, the club actively engaged with him to produce this type of non matchday content. It adds vibrancy and life to their YouTube channel, with very little work other than pointing the camera at someone who’ll be doing this kind of stuff anyway:

I guess the big caveat to all of this is that I’ve never worked in a club. This change of mindset and switch to a becoming a micro-publisher of behind the scenes stuff may be simply impossible. I just don’t know whether that is the case or not. And I’ve not reviewed every club’s output (I know, for example, QPR do some good stuff) to possibly make the kind of sweeping statements I’ve made here, but it’s just my opinion as a fan.

And with that, I’ll leave you with Kei:

Candy Crushed

Do you find that you’re downloading and playing far fewer mobile games than you did a couple of years ago?

When the smartphone revolution kicked off, it heralded a brave new era for mobile gaming. No more lugging your PSP around with its brittle and clunky cartridge-disk things. No more losing your wafer thin DS games down the back of the sofa.

You would have your primary mobile gaming device on you at all times, and you’d be able to access a steady stream of new games quickly and easily. Sure, there would be issues around the control methods, but we’d all get used to that in time.

And sure enough, the app store brought with it a ton of brilliant games – some remakes of old favourites but also new, quirky, innovative titles like Gesundheit, Plants vs Zombies, Sword & Poker and many more.

You would buy them, play them, complete them, and then buy something else.

Then we all ballsed it up.

As consumers, we forgot that a great video game takes the skill, graft and experience of talented people. We forget that this endeavour has a value that is worth paying for. So we gravitated towards the free games, or the ones that were 69p. We collectively baulked at paying A WHOLE POUND for something that we’d get tens of hours of entertainment from.

And the market responded to this. To be a success, you needed to be downloaded so that you were seen in the charts. To be downloaded you needed to be free, or super cheap. So, the industry had to find another way to get the money they needed from us to keep creating these games.

And in-app micro purchases are the golden bullet. Originally these were add-ons to the core gaming experience. An optional extra for those who were already fully bought in. But it pretty quickly became apparent that this wasn’t enough.

Now these micropayments are a fundamental part of playing a game. Often they are the thing that will allow you to play the game. Sometimes they’ll give you an advantage, or help you progress more quickly.

So we’re being drip-fed an “experience” over a period of time, and paying for the privilege, in tiny amounts, regularly. And this is working for the publishers. They’ve seen a consumer base that has increasingly lost the concept of value and they are having to effectively trick them into rewarding them for their efforts. And the consumers are buying it, figuratively and literally.

The result is that have a mobile gaming ecosystem that is totally broken. Creativity amongst mobile developers isn’t about crafting the best gaming experience, or the most compelling gaming world. It is chiefly about how to slice, dice and chop the game into the smallest chunks possible and how to monetise those chunks over time – ensuring a steady stream of revenue and keeping the app at the top of the charts to keep it visible and ensure it is downloaded.

So we’re all playing Candy Crush. And we’re accepting that we have to wait another half an hour for those extra lives, or we’re paying 69p for the next 15 levels. We’re accepting the fact that our Jurassic Park doesn’t have a T-Rex without either waiting 6 months or paying another 10 quid.

And the end result is that we’re all downloading fewer games and the revolution in mobile gaming that we were once promised hasn’t transpired.

And it’s our own fault. We were all too willing to let a team of talented people graft for months, then moan that they wanted £2 for their output (split 70/30 with Apple of course).

Building a brand in a world of noughts and ones.

The industry in which I work is a strange one.

Opta and our competitors are essentially selling something completely intangible. Noughts and ones flying down a pipe and ending up on a screen – sometimes a TV, sometimes a laptop or a tablet, maybe even a newspaper.

We collect the data from sport across the world and send it out around the world. Location is largely irrelevant, as long as the final product is accurate and timely. The end users know very little of the process involved between the action occurring and their consumption of it.

This creates an interesting marketing challenge. How do you differentiate yourself in a world where the product can’t be touched, and the differences should, in theory, be negligible between suppliers?

There are ways you can do it with your product, of course – at Opta we believe we collect more interesting and detailed data. We believe that we can deliver it more quickly and in a format that is easy for our clients to use. But I’m sure we’re not the only ones who say that kind of stuff.

We’re a premium supplier. But getting that message across in a way that people understand can be tricky.

This is why, as the guy tasked with addressing this challenge, I try to concentrate on a couple of key things.

Firstly, I massively believe in building trust in your brand through focusing on attention to detail in all areas of your work – the ones that people will see, and the ones people won’t see. The excellent Bryony Thomas calls it “sweating the small stuff“.

You can tell a lot about the final output of a company, or an individual, by the energy, effort and focus they put into other things. This is especially important when you can’t pick up a product and see and feel instantly how well made it is. Attention to detail is reassurance.

The other thing I believe is tremendously important is the power of design. We have two graphic designers within the marketing department at Opta, and I couldn’t imagine running a B2b marketing department without this resource.

Everything we do that is client facing (and a lot of stuff that isn’t) goes through the funnel of our graphic design team. Armed with robust brand guidelines and a fearsome attention to detail, they ensure consistency of output and help us to elevate even the most simple piece of communication into something that helps to reinforce our status as a premium supplier.

Whereas a premium FMCG product can invest in packaging, point of sale or above the line advertising to reinforce their position, we can’t do that. The only thing that really differentiates suppliers of intangible goods (at least at the stage prior to “sampling” the product) is brand.

And I think you can go a long way to addressing this issue by focusing on how you address the other stuff.

It does matter. All of it matters.

Building a brand a series of a million little decisions: take care with each and every one of them.