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B2B content marketing

Episode three recap: Marketing Rebels – Don’t fix what isn’t broken (B2B content marketing)

During the Marketing Rebels series, we'll be interviewing B2B leaders who are tearing up traditional marketing playbooks. Best of all, they'll be discussing actionable, real-world insights you can steal for yourself. 

Need to know how to win at Google? Want the lowdown on how to create lead magnets? Struggling to prioritise your metrics? Then you’re in the right place. 


Cognism Group CMO, Alice de Courcy, chats with Juro’s Director of Content, Tom Bangay, about all things B2B content marketing.

Key takeaways

  • eBooks still work as long as you do them right. That means coming up with and executing a compelling idea that resonates with your prospects and customers. To do that, you need to invest time and effort getting to know your audience inside out.
  • With SEO, you get out what you put in. So you can compete with and even outperform big market players by targeting your content output.
  • Matching searcher intent is key to driving relevant traffic to your site. So you shouldn’t just chase hero keywords. Try rank for relevant low-volume, high-intent keywords too.
  • Focus on generating revenue above all else. Metrics can get noisy for startups and a back to basics approach can help keep you grounded.

Keep scrolling for the selected transcript... 👇🏼

Debunking eBook myths

Tom counters eBook slander:

“I love an eBook. Even on LinkedIn today Salesforce, HubSpot and IBM were pushing eBooks to me. And they’re quite successful companies. So I think the big caveat is you should do what works for you and eBooks aren’t gonna be right for every company. You might not have the team to do it or you might have another channel that works way better. But I think a properly executed eBook is still a good idea broadly speaking.

“Most of the objections I see to eBooks is them being done in the wrong way. For example, them taking a long time to produce. To an extent, that’s true but you can look to make your production more efficient? Are you getting maximum yield from it? Do you repurpose it into your blog and make it work for SEO?

“Another complaint is they don’t convert. If that’s the case, you can ask yourself: do you have a good follow up process? Are you writing the right things? Are you talking to the right audience? Have you researched your persona enough to make sure you’re saying the right things to the right people? Or was your eBook not very good? 

“If it’s not compelling and it’s not good content, you’re not going to get people to trust you. Even if they give you their details, when you follow-up and ask their opinion on the eBook, it’s not going be a great conversation starter. 

“I lean on contributor heavy, deep eBooks. But white papers are also important. It should be something chunky enough to get someone through a gate.”

How do you create a successful eBook?

Tom explains how detailed ICP research can help you create that hits the spot.

“If you want to do a ‘Big Rock,’ you need a really compelling idea. To get to that point, you need to do loads of ICP research. There’s no more valuable use of your time than talking to customers and prospects. Doing off the record content discovery with perfect customers, existing customers and prospects. 

“We work hard to make friends with these people so they’re comfortable answering our questions. Doing that content discovery is all about getting inside your customers’ and prospects’ lives. We go pretty deep to get this info. 

“So we’ll ask them what tabs they open when they sit down at their computer. When they have a meeting with their manager, what questions do they ask that they don’t like? What questions don’t they ask they wish they did? Which other teams do you wish you could work with in your business? Which teams don’t you like? All of this is key to understanding what it’s like being them at work.


“Once you have an idea, we tend to use topics as umbrellas to involve because it allows you to get your perfect customers to talk about themselves. Our title, for example, was ‘Legal for Scaleups’.

“You need to build in flexibility to get great contributors on board. So if they have a specific topic they want to discuss, you can accommodate it. Our process for doing this is phone interviews which we transcribe in real time. That saves a lot of time after the conversation. 

“Then we write a draft and send it over to them to review it. Usually people who are thought leaders are too busy to do this kind of thing themselves. In the interview format they have to do very little and it makes them look good, so they’re flattered. And if you get good contributors you get the network effect of them sharing it which is priceless."

Tom also says using content to piggyback can help your brand grow faster.

Ultimately, as a marketer no one cares what you say. You need a byline because people need to know it comes from someone with topic expertise.

“You can obviously build brand recognition and authority organically, but it’s much easier to steal it from other companies. Get other more impressive companies to front your content and then you lean on their brands. That’s much quicker. And it also intermeshes you with their brands, making you more authoritative. 

“To get influencers, start by pitching. It’s a low risk ask. All you’re doing is telling someone that they’re interesting and you want to make them a hero. Of course you'll get ignored, but it’s surprising how many respond. There’s not a big correlation between success and people who are willing to give their time. 

“If we have a rough chapter structure for a book, we’ll wishlist it. That means listing the ten best authors we can think of, contacting them and seeing what happens. 

“You can also use contributions tactically. If you have a prospect you want to close, include them because it’ll bring them closer to the company. If you’ve got a new customer, include them so they feel valued. On the whole, you can aim high. People will be generous if you ask in the right way.”

How to win at Google

Tom outlines how smaller fishes can make a big splash with SEO. 

“We care about getting on page one of Google because everyone you’d ever need is in the platform doing organic searches. 

“It interlinks with startups well because SEO and organic search is predictable. You get out what you put in. It’s not quite objective, but there’s a fairness to it. And as a startup, you have certain advantages over bigger companies. You have agility, focus & freedom. There’s also less supervision and you’re backed to do higher risk projects. 

“So if you put enough effort into search, you can outrank much bigger companies just by doing it better and faster. If you Google ‘legal operations’ in the UK, Juro’s number one and number two is the $13 billion company we used to work for. You can outperform bigger, more successful, richer companies by doing something targeted well. That’s how you jump up the curve with a startup.”

Tom gets into the nitty gritty of how you can win at Google.

“You get a page one ranking by writing good content. The longer version of that is to optimise relevant content and build links to it. Obviously the harder a keyword is the more relevant it is. But if you want to rank for something that has a keyword difficulty of 0-10, you don’t need to do much link building at all. 

“We rank number one for ‘contract management software’. It’s about $40 a click to buy that keyword, which is a lot. So we approached ranking for it by realising our advantage and maxing out on it. In our case, the advantage was guest posting. We had two writers and a CEO who was very comfortable with thought leadership, had a lot of interesting ideas and put a lot of trust in us to pitch and guest post on his behalf. 

“So we took a scorched earth approach and guest posted on all of our customers’ blogs, all of our vendors’ blogs and did case studies with everyone we could. I even posted on my postgraduate University alumni blog because academic backlinks are like gold dust. It took a lot of work to get them to take the posts, but if you put in the work, you get the high quality links. 

“For hard keywords, don’t mess around with poor quality links. That means anything with a domain authority of 50 or less. Go for the big boys and it’ll work for you.”

Low volume, high-intent keywords

Tom tells us how important it is to understand searcher intent when planning keyword projects.

“In general, it’s hard to determine the intent of high volume search traffic. Take something like ‘lead generation’ for Cognism. You might find that everyone searching for it is in the education phase. That’ll mean your page gets loads of traffic but won’t convert. Then you’ve got to work how to get them down the funnel because you didn’t know enough about the intent behind the search. 

“So we came up with a project that meant we didn’t need to worry about intent at all. There’d be no way anyone arriving at these pages would be anything other than people looking to solve the problem we covered. 

“Everyone who’s onboarded by Juro fills out a questionnaire where we ask them why they bought and what they’re trying to achieve. We also asked them what type of contracts they were looking to bring in because Juro tends to be really effective for high volume contracts like NDAs. 

“This left us with two areas of pain. One was verbs. So it might be ‘automate,’ ‘simplify,’ ‘standardise,’ ‘digitise’. That would usually be combined with a noun. For example ‘NDAs,’ ‘offer letters’ etc. We knew at this point that the content would be relevant because this is what people buy the product for. 

“Then your content plan has written itself. You’ve got ‘How to automate an NDA,’ ‘How to negotiate an NDA,’ ‘How to standardise an NDA’. All you have to do is write search-friendly 1,500 word articles about them and publish them on a specialist blog. When we did this we captured the keywords we wanted.”


Finally, Tom gives a word of advice on tracking metrics.

“One thing I’ve learned about working in fast-growth startups is that there’s so much data to the point where it can start to get noisy. And it’s hard to work out what the important numbers are. To tune out the noise, I find it really useful to just focus on revenue. 

“Don’t worry about site traffic, don’t worry about leads, don’t worry about MQLs, don’t worry about SQLs, don’t worry about SAOs. Worry about revenue. Like which activities actually led to money.”

Like what you see? Then don’t miss out on the rest of the series

Growth hacking

Episode two recap: Marketing Rebels – Why growth hacking is BS

During the Marketing Rebels series, we'll be interviewing B2B leaders who are tearing up traditional marketing playbooks. Best of all, they'll be discussing actionable, real-world insights you can steal for yourself. 

Growth hacking. Overused buzzword or actionable marketing strategy? Well, you’re about to find out.


Head of Growth at Userpilot, Aazar Ali Shad and Chief Marketing Officer at Cognism Group, Alice de Courcy, take a deep dive into growth hacking’s origins and development. They answer whether it’s still an effective tactic in today’s B2B marketing landscape, while discussing the emergence of growth marketing, pain point SEO & more. 

Without further ado, let’s jump in! 👇🏼

Key takeaways

  • Growth hacking is BS because there’s no set definition for it. As a result, the term has been appropriated by acquisition departments, who use its tactics to spam and annoy prospects across several channels.
  • Instead, growth marketing is what B2B marketers should be focusing on. That means taking a real interest in the audiences you’re targeting and creating refined customer journeys.
  • Paint point SEO is a great way to serve customers at the bottom of the funnel. By focusing on the specific hurdles your audience is trying to overcome, they’ll trust you more.  
  • Brand-led marketing is more effective than lead generation. That’s because it allows marketers to serve their audiences better and deliver transformational content. 
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) & Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) are three of the most important metrics for B2B marketers.

Keep scrolling for the selected transcript... 👇🏼

Growth hacking

Aazar explains his issues with growth hacking and provides an alternative:  

“The reason why I think growth hacking is BS is because a lot of people define it differently. They take completely different perspectives on it, whether it be Ryan Holiday or Sean Ellis who coined the term. The term was meant to find a specific tactic for online marketing that you can build scalably, learn from your customers and fix the leaky bucket in pirate metrics.

“Whereas people on the acquisition channel have exploited growth hacking. For example, when someone reaches out over cold email there’s a lot of follow-up processes. So you reach out to someone on LinkedIn, then you try to call them and basically try to annoy them as much as possible, which I don’t believe in. 

“What growth hacking should be is when you don’t have enough budget and you’ve figured out a hack to reach out to more customers. It did work with AirBnB. Basically, Dropbox had a referral programme and AirBnB had a Craigslist where they tried to connect API and make more people reach out to them. 

“Now I think it’s really difficult to exploit someone’s API or contact someone on LinkedIn and ask them to buy from us immediately without having a conversation. It annoys me when people connect with me [on LinkedIn] and they immediately send pitches like 'Hey, are you free to chat for 15 minutes?' I don’t believe in that. 

“I believe that you genuinely have to be interested in the person you’re talking to and that you can’t put automation or tools in place to make someone talk to you. When someone reaches out to me by cold email and they don’t even say hi or your name, that makes me raise my eyebrows and say ‘why didn’t this person do their research?’ That’s part of what I really don’t like about growth hacking.

“Instead of growth hacking we should focus on growth marketing where we really think about a journey and a flywheel. We should focus on what our customers are trying to improve, not what we are.” 

Pain point SEO

Aazar speaks about how pain point SEO helps him make a deeper connection with his audience:

“Right now, [Userpilot has] reached a certain revenue milestone. Let’s call that X and we need to reach Y milestone. I was doing my marketing plan for next year and I was trying to figure out the strategies we need to do, the most common things you need to do to go from X to 10 million. So I wrote this thing about growing from X to 10 million. There’s no search volume to it and you can’t go to Ahrefs or an equivalent and find it. 

“But as a Head of Marketing I need to find out how to go from X to 10 million revenue. I need to find out what other people have already been doing and what I can also do to scale that up. I also need to know what I need to stop doing to keep growing my company. So I made the search on Google and the first result that came up was a piece by Jason Lemkin.

“He’s a SaaS guru and he’s been talking about these things and I already trust him. But now I trust him more because he’s helping me with one of the questions I have in my business right now. Maybe there’s no search volume. But I know that because of this article, I’ll go back to him next time and ask him for more information. 

“He actually booked me for Saastr because I answered that specific question. I think you need to answer those pain point questions correctly in your business. These questions people are already asking you in support, in chat, in demo calls, in objections, on Reddit, on Quora, on Slack.


“I’m subscribed to these channels and I subscribe to notifications so when someone asks a question, I can think about answering it. Recently, I was redoing my content marketing plan and I figured out ten questions I can answer right now that nobody else is. I can still deliver to my brand, to my business, to my middle/bottom of the funnel content that I can keep serving.


“This is the thing about pain point SEO. People are asking questions and they’re not on search terms, but as soon as you answer them, they’re going to trust you.”


Aazar tell us about the trio of metrics B2B marketers should focus on:

“I care about marketing qualified leads (MQLs). So leads we provided to the sales team. And also sales qualified leads (SQLs). I do care about the revenue numbers too, so MRR each month [is something I look at]. I have a revenue target to hit with the sales team so their targets are my targets. That’s what I base my entire strategy around.”

Brand marketing vs lead gen

Aazar explains how focusing on brand marketing can help create a loyal customer base.  

“Brand-led marketing is better than lead gen marketing. Because with branded marketing, you give the value first and you get value in return. When I measure brand marketing, it’s not about branded keywords. It’s about how many people talk about us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack channels & elsewhere our audience is hanging out.

“Because I’m a podcaster, I want to use my brand marketing to serve my audience better, to give them transformational content and to do better work in their lives. You need to change the angle of your content and think about [your audience]. Then run your content for them and they’ll love you in return.”

Like what you see? Then don’t miss out on the rest of the series

Marketing rebels

Episode one recap: Marketing Rebels – The eBook is dead

During the Marketing Rebels series, we'll be interviewing B2B leaders who are tearing up traditional marketing playbooks. Best of all, they'll be discussing actionable, real-world insights you can steal for yourself. 

The eBook is dead. 

...Or is it?

In the first episode of Marketing Rebels, Cognism CMO, Alice de Courcy and Refine Labs CEO, Chris Walker, locked horns in a battle for the ages. 

See the key takeaways below. Then choose your fighter 👊🏾👇🏼

Key takeaways

The eBook is dead

  • Chris firmly believes the eBook is dead. That’s because it’s used by marketers as a lead magnet tool. But he doesn’t believe downloading one equates to someone being a lead. Or even remotely interested in your product.
  • Instead, he’d prefer to use other channels including LinkedIn and podcast content to drive inbound leads. This is a key part of how he gets to high intent prospects, before converting them.
  • He also believes that eBooks take too much time to create and don’t provide enough value. That’s why he’s strongly against marketers celebrating metrics for metrics sake, like content downloads.
  • In terms of metrics, he thinks there should be a mindset shift away from volume and towards value. That’s why he doesn’t report on things like web traffic, but he does report on revenue through an inbound sales conversion.

Long live the eBook

  • Alice doesn’t think it’s as simple as that. She successfully uses eBooks as a lead magnet by targeting keywords and mapping out eBook chapters in advance. Her team then produces individual blogs which build SEO juice and are amalgamated at the end of a keyword project to form the eBook. This means eBooks tie up Cognism’s content efforts, rather than forming the sole purpose of them.
  • Cognism also has a dedicated role called the Marketing Development Representative (MDR) whose sole purpose is to take eBook contacts from download to Sales Qualified Opportunity (SQO). This helps decide the intent of the reader and take the right prospects through the pipeline.
  • But Alice agrees that measuring eBooks on content downloads is wrong. This is reflected by how the Cognism measures their marketing team’s success. Instead of targets being solely focused on lead generation, they’re revenue driven.

For a deeper dive into some of these points, carrying on scrolling... 👇🏼

What's the purpose of the eBook?

Chris’s main issue with eBooks is what they’re used for, rather than the format itself. As he explains:  

“The thing that I’m against is the intent of the common execution of the eBook. If you’re building an eBook with the core objective of driving a thousand leads so you can cold call them, I think that’s wrong. And I know the business results aren’t there. 

“Especially if you’re spending money to drive people to download the eBook itself. A lot of people are spending $50 a download on LinkedIn and very few of them close. Basically you just annoy your potential customers.

“If you switched up your intent and your measurement of the eBook download, then fine, put out the eBook. If you measure it against leads, oftentimes you do the wrong things.”

But Alice believes using the eBook like this has value.

“The way that I approach the eBook and content more broadly is as a lead magnet. There’s a good use case for it. I just think you have to go about it smartly. So how we’d run any content magnet at Cognism is to start with an SEO play. 

“We sit down and make a content plan for the year and decide on our keyword strategy. We map out all the pillars within that and they essentially make up the chapters of the end result which will become eBook. We also host that on an SEO page ungated. And we’ll produce the content throughout that six month period. 

“That’s building our SEO equity all along the way until we get to the end result. We’ll also produce gated infographics, mini guides and more along the way, so we’re not waiting a whole six months to then have a huge release. 

“We get SEO juice, a consistent stream of leads and we get something big at the end of it that we can chop and change into lots of different content formats including video and research reports. And every time we’ve tried this approach we have achieved our page one Google ranking for that target keyword. 

“So for me, it’s a mechanism to tie up lot’s of different marketing activities that can generate results. But again we have a dedicated sales role called a Marketing Development Representative (MDR). These guys are commissioned on the conversions from marketing content download to Sales Qualified Opportunity (SQO). 

“We now have a model that’s all backwards-worked, so we know how many SQOs we’ll need from one MDR if we’re going to spend X amount of money to generate X amount of leads in a month. We need five deals a month to make that ROI positive and have a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) we can deal with which has given us huge predictability in our model.”

Is social more effective than SEO?

Chris questions marketers’ tendency to pump too many resources into SEO. And if eBooks are an SEO piece, he wonders whether other tactics could reap greater rewards. 

“Social drives results faster if you do it well. I think you can do social and SEO together but I haven’t focused on SEO since 2014. I can cover high buying intent keywords with positive ROI through Google AdWords and so that’s what I’m going to focus on. 

“I’m going to crush social which is going to drive branded and non-branded traffic which I have covered in Google. At some point we might develop an SEO strategy once we’re really moving, but I think companies spend so much time and resources on SEO that they don’t do a lot of the other things well. 

“I think it’s a mindset shift and a prioritisation shift for companies. Companies love to run SEO to eBook projects because they can measure it. But if you pushed eBook content out to everyone on social, how many more results could you drive? 

“I consider SEO a distribution channel just like social, email and anything like that and SEO is a reactive channel. Somebody needs to go there and do something first and I’d much prefer to go out and get them and be proactive with the information I’m trying to deliver which drives more people into buying decisions.”

Should eBooks be a content priority?

Chris also feels that content creators pump far too much time into eBook creation. He believes that instead, they should focus on improving performance across a range of channels.

“[You can start thinking about eBooks] once you’re pumping out content every day on LinkedIn. Once you have a podcast with 1,000 subscribers. Once you have AdWords working well. Once you have a paid short-form content that’s running on Facebook and LinkedIn and drives business results. Once you have your website 100% optimised. Once you have your lead hand-off process perfectly set up.


“There are so many other things that marketers should be doing before they build eBooks because it takes a tonne of time and it’s hard for people to consume. It’s also hard for you as a marketer to get someone to read all ten pages of an eBook. 

“I know very few people who track anything besides the download. So you’ve got someone’s contact details, but go ahead and track consumption. Go ahead and look at how many people who downloaded it actually open it. Look at how much they spend reading it if they open it. When you look at [these metrics] and consider you’re spending money to drive people to the eBook [the pay-offs are poor]. I know about 10% of people who download it will actually open it.”

And although Alice doesn’t think the eBook is the issue, she finds some common ground with Chris on the time marketers spend to produce them.

“Because of my background in scale-ups and startups, I couldn’t agree more that putting a content writer on an eBook project for six months is a bad idea. Especially when you’re not going to see any value from it until the end of that six months. And at that point you don’t even know if people are still interested in the topic.” 

What metrics should marketers focus on?

Chris reckons a mindset shift in marketing is needed if it truly wants to demonstrate value.

“In terms of the metrics we care about, it’s revenue through an inbound sales conversion. Things like demo requests and live chats. That's the key metric. The second one next to that is the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) of those conversions and then backing into that cost per SQO and cost per demo request. 

“Beyond that, we use all the other marketing metrics and we track them to make marketing decisions. But I’m not reporting on website visits to the board, nor am I reporting it to the people we work with because I just don’t think it’s important. 

“A 100,000 website visitors mean nothing if all of them are irrelevant. The volume metric on its own doesn’t matter. Also people love to think about conversion rate. Like if you have 10,000 people on your site and a 2% conversion rate, people seem to think when you go to 100,000 through paid channels then it’s going to be the same. But it’s just not true.

“We typically get fewer customer leads and our cost per lead is higher, but the conversion rates through the funnel are so much better that our customer acquisition cost is lower.” 

Like what you see? Then don’t miss out on the rest of the series