Meet your marketer: Doug Kessler

Yeah, I know. I put an end on the Meet your Marketer and Meet your SEO series. But as you should know by now, I like to change idea often, and so here I am with a new Meet your Marketer interview.

I was approached by BBC and SkyNews because they wanted a hint about this brand new episode, but I declined their interview because I want you guys know first who is the protagonist, the main actor today.

Today I have the immense pleasure to have a quick chat with Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, a B2B content marketing agency based in London, UK.

I was lucky to meet Stan when I was in London for Confab, and we had a beer in a typical English pub, sharing ideas and our thoughts on marketing. Stan invited me to meet all the Velocity family, and in that occasion I met Doug as well, and I had a nice lunch with him talking about a lot of interesting content marketing and content strategy stuff.

OK, enough about me. Let’s have this chat with Doug!

Doug Kessler

Introduce yourself to a 6yo kid who wants to know who you are and what you do for living.

Don’t talk to strangers, Billy.
Especially strangers who spend their lives trying to help B2B companies grow, through remarkable content.

I had the great chance to visit Velocity Partners HQ and I had the feeling it was a good place to work, with a lot of room for creative ideas. How do you keep and assure a good environment in your company?

It’s a top priority. We hire really, really carefully so we have a FANTASTIC team of super-smart, talented and nice people.
We’re all here to do great work, so we choose our clients and projects carefully to ensure we can do that – and spot mismatches early so we can focus on clients that have the same idea of what great marketing is.

Creative people want to do great work and keep learning. We try really hard to make this a place where these things happen.
(Also an open tab at the Red Cow on Fridays.)

I got to know Velocity and you after reading the “Crap” presentation. I was stunned by the design first, and content second. How do you combine design and content in your daily work? Why is so important to have both?

First, we’re fans and students of great design and great writing.
To a trainspotter degree.

We’re a bit unusual in trying to get design involved in the process really early – at the ideas stage – instead of throwing the text over the wall and hoping the designers can ‘pretty it up’. We don’t always succeed at this ideal way of working but we do try.

Finally, both the writing and the design have to be slaves to the story and the idea.
They’re job is to deliver the idea not to say, “Look at me!”

I have weird feeling about “content marketing”. I explain: I love the ideas behind it and what you can do with it, but at the same time there is the word “marketing” that sucks some light from the word “content”, putting some shadows on it. What’s your take on it?

As a principle, adding the word ‘marketing’ to anything is a great way to spoil it.

But it’s funny — it’s always been the word ‘content’ that bothered me. It’s so… non-specific.

But I do know what you mean. There’s an unspoken tension in content marketing and that is: even though we all talk about ‘just being helpful and forgetting about selling’ we’re actually there to sell something. In bad content, the sales agenda is poorly disguised, as if the brand is ashamed of marketing and selling.

Now everyone is talking about content, and I guess it’s good. I mean, I think: “are you really happy to have a shitty site experience even if you rank first for something? don’t you feel you are cheating the user?”. But I also think now marketers are using content just because it’s hype. Do you think the same?

Yeah, it’s a bandwagon riding on a juggernaut towed by a runaway train called Hype. But in this case all the hype is based in something real: content marketing is what works – certainly in B2B marketing.

Of course, when markters do something because ‘it’s the thing to do’ the result will tend to be mediocre.

But content really is something that every marketer needs to get good at. So I’m glad we’re all on this learning curve together as an industry. It’s fun.

You are in the B2B world. I guess it’s really hard to talk about creative ideas with B2B companies. How do you approach mind-closed people to open their eyes on creative stuff?

That used to be a lot more of a problem in B2B than it is today.
Somehow, social media and digital marketing and some great pioneer B2B companies have changed the landscape a lot.
We’re finding our clients MUCH more open to great ideas these days – in fact they’re often demanding them, not just ‘giving in’ to them.

This really is the most exciting time ever to be a B2B marketer.

You have a friend running a beauty clinic specialized in face treatments in London, and she’s asking you one and only one content idea to bring visit to her site (with the aim of creating a bit of buzz in social media so to increase brand awareness). What you’re going to suggest to her, considering she has a small budget?

Do a series of retouched photos where you beautify famously ugly people. Hitler. Osama Bin Laden. Dick Cheney. Turn them into beautiful women.

Name 5 music bands you suggest to listen to because they are amazing.

Gillian Welch
Rickie Lee Jones
Solomon Burke
Thunderclap Newman

For learning more about B2B marketing, who are you suggesting to follow? (note from the author: I added a FREE link to everyone on this list. How awesome is that?)

Ann Handley
Joe Pulizzi
Joe Chernov
Tim Washer
Michael Brenner
Adele Revella
Jason Miller
Barry Feldman
Ardath Albee

What’s your take on SEO?

SEO was a discipline practiced in the early 2000s, that grew up to exploit perceived weaknesses in the Google algorithm.
It died in 2012 when everyone realised that Google spends peta-billions more on delivering relevance to users than a handful of geeks in Brighton can ever spend trying to reverse engineer it.

Today, we serve the human audience and let the spiders fend for themselves.

Ask yourself a question and give an answer. Favourite ice cream, cut of beef, sashimi and potato crisp?

Pistacchio, Porterhouse, Maguro, Kettle (Salted).