B2B Marketing & Galvanizing Stories: Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners

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From its humble beginnings in 2009, Velocity Partners has grown into one of the leading B2B marketing agencies globally. The B2B Tech agency helps brands to tell galvanizing stories, which helps them to connect their strategy and execution.

The co-founders, Stan Woods, and Doug Kessler also realize the importance of having stakeholders on board which explains why Velocity won The Drum’s B2B Awards Agency of the year 2019. Doug’s ability to tell stories and understand data well makes him one of the most sought out content marketers.

When we reached out to Doug Kessler, Co-founder & Creative Director of Velocity Partners for this interview he was gracious to give us time from his busy schedule. Doug talks about the journey behind Velocity Partners, his perspective on content marketing, and more in this interview.

Tell us a bit more about Velocity Partners; when did the agency start, and has your approach evolved since you started?

Stan Woods and I started Velocity as a consultancy to early-stage tech companies. We approached VC firms to get introduced to their portfolio companies who needed help with positioning, messages, and content. We did that for 6-7 years before actually starting Velocity as a B2B tech agency. It was a great education!

Our approach is still based on our core beliefs about respecting the audience and things like that. But in almost every other way, Velocity has changed dramatically. Today, we do so much more and in ways that weren’t even invented back in 2009. It’s exciting!

How do you see the B2B marketing space evolving? As an agency, how do you address the quality vs. quantity debate when it comes to content creation?

B2B marketing is evolving in all directions, with fast innovation in every little micro-discipline.

Today, content marketing has gone mainstream, but it’s still done pretty poorly. And as the attention has shifted to performance marketing and demand gen (hugely important things that we do too), it’s moved away from the power of brand. In B2B that’s a huge loss, as a strong brand makes all demand gen work much, much harder.

On quantity vs quality, I don’t really see the debate: you can’t go below your company’s quality threshold: that’s non-negotiable. If you can make a thousands of pieces that are above that threshold, it might be a great strategy. If you can only make ten… do that.

Various researches show that marketers are increasingly thinking short-term; what is your take on the whole short vs. long term marketing efforts?

I agree. Short-termism is so seductive. But you need both: a strong brand and effective sales activation. The work by Binet & Fields on this should be required reading for every B2B CMO.

One of the biggest challenges that clients face is attribution when it comes to content marketing? What has your experience been when it comes to attribution, and do you believe that martech tools have solved this problem?

B2B teams are getting better and better at attribution. It’s still hard but that just means try harder!  And it’s still imperfect, but, done right, it will give you enough indicators that should make for confident decision-making.

The martech tools have made big strides here but it’s the data integration that’s key. If you can see across platforms, campaigns and channels then bring that all together, attribution becomes possible.

As an agency, you have been reasonably active in the content marketing space with your Slideshare presentations, articles, etc. Tell us a bit more about the approach you have adopted, and how do you decide which stories to pursue?

We’ve always followed our hearts here, feeling that if we’re having fun, the work will show it.

In a way, Velocity is built on content marketing: it really worked for us and keeps working. Our main strategy has been to target a certain kind of marketer – a psychographic instead of a demographic. We do our best work for a certain kind of person: confident, ambitious marketers who want to do great things. So our content program is designed to send out pheromones to attract them!

If you had to pick three projects/campaigns from your work at Velocity Partners, which ones will you choose and why?

Gosh. I’d struggle to do that!  Our work on 5G for Sprint was super-effective and a really rich program (now mothballed as Sprint got acquired by T-Mobile).

Our stuff for clients like Slack, AWS, and Salesforce have been highlights too.

There’s a good case study of our work for Open Market here. And the PathFactory re-naming, branding, and re-positioning work was fun and effective. Proud of that.

We tend to be most proud of work that tried something new, or crystallized an idea really well, then took that idea to market in new ways.

Has the current pandemic changed your perspective on any aspect of marketing? Do you think we are moving into a contactless future where digital consumption will increase?

The pandemic is teaching us a lot. About how to run an agency and create culture from home… about making online events that are more like shows than webinars… about building client relationships without face-to-face meetings. It’s cliché to say it’s been an accelerant of many things that were coming anyway, but it’s true.

What qualities do you look for in potential hires, and how can prospective job seekers prepare for a role in marketing?

We look for a genuine demonstrated passion for this geeky stuff we do—an interest in business, marketing, content, technology… all of that.

If you love any two of these, Velocity is a great place to work. If you love all of them, it’s the best place in the world.  I’m lucky: I’m into all of them!

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