Spontent Marketing

I’m a B2b marketer somewhat by accident.

Graduated with a standard marketing degree, scrapped my way into my first marketing job, then my second, then third, and so on.  And it happened to be that this path took me from educational marketing into a variety of B2b focused roles.

So, like many people I’ve had to learn somewhat on the job.  And more than a decade in I’m still learning.  It’s a fast moving space, and there is a lot to get your head round.

Over the last year or so I’ve become fascinated and obsessed by a missing link in B2b marketing – that of what I’m calling ‘sponsor content’ (spontent? no? sorry)

Like many B2b marketers, I’m also a buyer of services.  A money haemorrhaging cost-centre, some might argue.  Anyway, as part of this bit of my job, I’m often having to source services, compare suppliers, do due diligence and implement various tools.

This is all fine.  I can find excellent content assisting me with solving my problem, helping me to narrow down my supplier choice and advising me on what to do when I’m implementing the service itself.

But in 99% of the cases I’m doing a lot of this work myself, or someone in my team is.  I’ll be the one who understands that we need tool X to solve problem Y.  But it’ll be someone else that I need to get on board with signing the cheque to make it happen.  Often they’ll be happy using tool Z to muddle on with half-solving problem Y.  They won’t know any different.

So why don’t more B2b vendors help me make that case internally.  This isn’t “a sales guy will come in and present to a wider team”, this is more equipping me with tools to sell their service into my organisation.  The guys I need to convince (could be sales, the exec team, the HR team or a combination) don’t want to do your demo with you on the other end – but they’d listen to me.  Possibly.

So, B2b vendors, you’ve got me, you’re on my shortlist, I’ve followed your fancy content (look at you being all helpful and not at all salesy) and I’m sold on it.  I now want to click on a link that gives me a shit load of stuff that helps me make that case internally – without your involvement at this stage.

Let me demo your product to the stakeholders here.  Trust me to do that on your behalf, and equip me to do so.  It’ll be a damn sight easier to get a deal done if you let me be your sponsor internally here, so take some of the road-blocks out of the way.

In my recent work, and recent searches for solutions, I’ve not seen anyone do this well.  If anything, a lot of vendors want more information out of me – who are these other people? Can we get them to sign up for our newsletter? rather than just helping me make the case.

One to add to the ever growing list of ‘new stuff to think about in the wonderful world of B2b’


You’re doing B2b social media wrong, and so am I, mostly.

I’m increasingly convinced that if you’re doing social media in B2b, and you don’t have it tagged to an employee advocacy programme, you’re doing it wrong.

Sure, it works in some cases, and you’ll get  hashtag numbers.  You might even get some hashtag engagement.  And possibly some sales.  That you won’t be able to track, but hey, it’s fine, you know it’s happening.

I think more and more that B2b social should be a middle step, an important island situated somewhere between your content strategy and your employee engagement strategy.  And you really need to do all three for it to work properly.

Regardless of industry or size of company, employees will be socially connected to relevant people who trust them, who are interested in what they have to say and who treat them like information filters.  They’re the ones capable of sharing, contextualising and socialising your content.  Not your crappy corporate account.  Although stick it up there as well, just because.

So stop wasting your time obsessing over the growth of your corporate accounts. Stop jumping from platform to platform, stop following the shiny stuff and start getting your content into the hands of those who can put in front of the real audience.

(if you’re interested in employee advocacy strategy, give Sarah Goodall of Tribal Impact a follow on Twitter, she posts some very good stuff)



It took me ages, but I think I finally get Snapchat.

I didn’t understand the UI for ages, didn’t get how stories worked, didn’t see what else it offered over and above other messaging apps.

But then it clicked.  I think.

It strikes me that Snapchat is the first of the mainstream apps that allows people to have skills (skillz, sklz, sssklllzzzzz, skiiiillszzzzzzzsss etc).  Others, like Vine, have spawned a lot of highly creative high-end users, showcasing some really high quality work.  But that’s always felt highly different to the normal users’ experience of it.

Snapchat, however, has skills (skillz, sklz, sssklllzzzzz, skiiiillszzzzzzzsss etc) baked into the everyday experience.  It’s lowered the bar for creative content, and done it in a (fairly) user-friendly and (increasingly) mass market way.

It allows for people to showcase their own creativity within their own peer groups, and be an app that normal users can “be really good at”, all the while not taking away from the main purpose of one-to-one and one-to-many messaging and retaining the “burn after reading” functionality from which it gained popularity.



Time to rebrand Sunday League football

Owen Gibson in The Guardian recently (ish) described adult’s grassroots football in England as “in crisis”.

Participation is dropping like a stone and saturday and sunday league football is in danger of dying in this country.

As someone who dedicated a massive part of my life to sunday league football, I have a huge problem with this.  But not only do I find it upsetting, I also find it very weird.

Consider the following:

  • Interest in football is possibly at an all time high
  • Adults (both male and female) are absolutely falling over themselves (no pun intended) to put themselves through regular physical challenges, and events like Tough Mudder and The Spartan Race are absolutely flying
  • Social sporting activities such as ParkRun and CrossFit are getting ever more popular
  • People are getting into tough, outdoorsy pursuits like Triathlon at a record rate

So, put all that together and you surely have a recipie for adult football to be a massive success story.

What’s gone wrong?  There is obviously an issue with pitches, and access, and referees and all that stuff.  That’s clear.

But isn’t this simply a marketing challenge?  Sunday League football needs a socially focussed rebrand.

Someone, somewhere, is going to nail a “ParkRun for Football” type thing, I’m sure of it.  After all, parks are for kicking a ball about, not running around.  Everyone knows that……


Character assassination

There has been a lot of talk recently about Twitter’s proposed relaxation of the 140 character limit for tweets.

Well, I say a lot of talk.  More accurately, quite a lot of moaning.

I can’t see what the fuss is about to be honest.  The “point” of Twitter isn’t the 140 character tweet limit.  If that was the point then embedding images, vines, gifs etc wouldn’t be as fundamental part of the experience.

Your timeline isn’t going to become a column of blogs, rather than a column of tweets.  All that’s going to change is that the experience of “read more” is going to keep you on Twitter, rather than send you somewhere else.

Why should “text” have fewer options for engagement than imagery or video?  Doesn’t make that much sense to me to keep the limit.

And if you’re worried about people becoming all verbose and spammy – unfollow them.  You get the timeline you deserve, basically.

And if people get mass unfollowed because they can’t keep it brief, then they will soon sort themselves out.

I guess we’ll see, but if Twitter owns the one-to-many communication space, then more options in how to communicate is a good thing, in my opinion.



If you’re a B2b marketer, you probably have ambitions of marketing a product that people love – one which your customers do your marketing for you.  You probably have ambitions of creating a community of passionate advocates, of sharers, of amplifiers.

And you probably have ambitions of hosting events, big ticket events at which these communities congregate and discuss, debate and extol the virtues of your product.

If that’s case, take a look at this year’s conference from Tableau, the visual analytics software company.  All you have to do is search the hashtag #Data15 on Twitter (sidenote – a ballsy hashtag, no product or tableau focus, and a deliberate attempt to own the space, I imagine).  Or look at the website here http://tc15.tableau.com/

The whole thing is an absolute masterclass in crafting a product that people love to use, then using all of the main B2b techniques (a whole load of which are 1-2-1 and under the radar – the real hard yards) to build a community that builds and develops that passion, creating a whole new load of users, or people with ambitions to be users.

I know Adobe do something similar (and equally brilliantly), but if you have any other examples of this kind of thing, please let me know.

Muddle in the middle

The news that Morrisons is really struggling has hardly come as a surprise.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this, not least the King Canute-esque refusal to follow industry trends (online shopping, convenience shopping over “big” shopping) until everyone else had it pretty much nailed.

But it’s also a failure of positioning, and another blow for those in an industry trying to occupy middle ground.  Premium is an easy sell, as is budget, but if you’re trying to do a bit of both you risk missing everyone.  I think Morrisons has done just this.  A desire to not undersell the quality has made people confused about the value, but a desire to not undersell the value has made people confused about the quality.

People can’t be bothered with that, they’ll just go for something that doesn’t confuse them, largely instinctively.

And this kind of stretching to each end of the spectrum is happening in a lot of industries – sport, movies, video games.  The big ticket stuff is still as big ticket as ever, and the niche stuff forms a long tail of interest, but the bits that try to do a bit of both are either struggling or no longer exist.