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Not ‘cracked’ content marketing yet? Don’t despair, neither have the biggest B2B brands

I spent a very enjoyable and highly informative evening last Thursday night at the Hospital Club in London’s Covent Garden with some of the leading thinkers and prime movers and shakers in the world of B2B marketing. The event, entitled ‘Optimising B2B content for lead generation’ was organised by content marketing specialists Raconteur Media and NewsCred, and aimed at pouring more fuel on the fire that is content marketing as a B2B phenomena. The standing room only event demonstrated, once again, that content marketing is THE hot topic in B2B marketing – although the august panel of speakers, trendy venue and (above all) free beer (and wine) certainly didn’t detract from its appeal.

The evening kicked off with two twenty minute keynotes, the first from Anthony Belloir of CEB, who explained the content implications of that organisation’s must-read business tome ‘The Challenger Sale’ – which was news to me at least, having given up on the book half way though, annoyed and faintly disgusted that it didn’t even mention marketing. Anthony explained that thought leadership and insight content just isn’t good enough to make a difference in the content arms race – brands must be aiming for ‘commercial insights’, in other words something that genuinely makes a difference to their business.

Next we heard from James Gill of LinkedIn, who gave us a few insights about how some B2B brands are using LinkedIn, and how the LinkedIn platform is developing to provide new content opportunities. We also heard a bit about the Publisher Update, which is LinkedIn’s much vaunted next big thing, which promises to open the floodgates for a whole new world of content. James spoke well, offered some genuine insights, and kept his pitch short and sweet… but as a publisher, I must confess that hearing LinkedIn wax lyrical about how they are putting the squeeze on our industry is a bitter pill to swallow!

The real meat of the evening, however, was to follow, with Amanda Jobbins, CMO of Sage, and Craig Welch, head of marketing at Bloomberg, taking to the stage for the Q&A, and joining the keynoters.

The discussion that ensued was a lively and candid examination of the evolving role of content in B2B marketing, with lots of anecdotes and insights from the speakers about their experience of content, and some great questions from the audience (who had been relaxed by the warm-up drinks).

Although Sage and Bloomberg are two of the most respected brands in the B2B arena, both admitted that they were ‘still working it out’ when it came to content, and faced significant challenges internally and externally. Amanda Jobbins said Sage had embarked upon a fundamental review of its entire marketing function to better enable content utilisation, whilst Craig Welch explained that the fact that Bloomberg is a content company sometimes makes the process of utilising content for marketing actually more difficult, rather easier, because there is almost too much material to work with.

All in all, my summary of the evening would be that content marketing remains a rapidly evolving world which marketers can’t realistically expect to ‘crack’ any time soon – it will likely always remain a work in progress. But one thing we can be sure of, as Anthony from CEB pointed out, is that excellence in content is fundamental, because there is so much out there, competing for your time.