Jason Bradwell is a podcast host for B2B Better. He is a full-time B2B marketing director with over a decade of experience and writes a fantastic weekly newsletter called B2B Bite.
In his words, he shares:
- What it’s like running a podcast and newsletter
- Tips to make marketing better
- Why brands should invest in social and community
How long have you been in marketing?
I’ve been in marketing in one form or another for the last 10 or 11 years. Very much fell into the career by accident. I went to uni and studied drama with every intention of working in the arts. Within about three weeks of graduating, I realized it wasn’t life for me.
I just didn’t have the strength to be sleeping on friends’ sofas and eating instant Ramen for too long, so I ended up getting a sales job. From there, I started writing for their blog, took on a PR role, and became a marketing manager, and marketing director.
Now, I run my podcast and the newsletter on the side.
What does it take to be a newsletter writer and a podcast host?
It’s a lot of fun and it all really started at the beginning of the pandemic; like many people, I was stuck at home and missing a little bit of community. I was in my day job as an enterprise B2B marketing director and thought, I want to get more active on social media and try and find that community I’m missing in the real world – online. Started having some amazing conversations with other experts across the world and thought, I should just hit record on these and publish it as a podcast.
I think that is the origin story of a lot of podcasts, particularly ones born out of the pandemic. I’m still a full-time marketing director in-house at a B2B company, so that takes up my nine to five. And then in the evenings and weekends, when I’m not looking after my daughter or spending time with my wife, I’m continuing to dive head first into modern-day B2B marketing strategies and create all this content.
It’s tough, sometimes, to keep up that cadence and make sure that you’re still delivering quality without falling into the trap of just getting stuff out there without really thinking about what value it’s going to provide. But I haven’t cracked the formula. Every week that goes by, I learn something new and I would encourage anyone who wants to accelerate their career and the rate of their learning to start something up like this on the side because this has been one of the single most, greatest learning experiences of my life over the last two and a half years.
What would you say is your biggest challenge right now?
My biggest challenge is probably distribution. I’m very aware of the fact that I spend a lot of time on the kind of creative side of things and not nearly enough time on the distribution side of things, which is really doing myself and my guests a disservice – because we’re all collectively spending time on producing these materials. And not as many people who should be seeing them are seeing them. That’s something I’m trying to get better at.
By distribution, I mean how I’m reformatting and repackaging audio and video assets for all of the channels that I’m currently operating on in a way that makes sense – natively – for that platform.
It all boils down to bandwidth. As I said, I’ve got a full-time job. I’ve got a young daughter. I’ve got a family. I’m doing the podcast. I’m doing the newsletter. And I just find myself at the end of the week with not enough time to do that repackaging piece to the fullest extent it should be done. But that’s something I’m trying to get better at.
One of the learnings I’m coming around to is you can’t do it all on your own. If you want to do it right, you need to look at tools or people that can help you pull it off.
Distribution is easier set than done – and it is a challenge for a lot of other marketers out there. Not just podcasters – people who are writing blogs, creating white papers, etc. The distribution piece is a whole other monster that we have to tackle.
Yeah, absolutely. You can’t do it all on your own, nor should you expect to do it all on your own. It is a way to feel quite demoralized.
I think if you go into content creation with the expectation that you will be able to do it solo in perpetuity, or forever as you grow – and you increase the number of channels you wanna be active on; you increase the number of content types you wanna put out there; you increase the frequency of content that you’re publishing – something, at some point, has to give.
I’m coming around to the realization that doing it all on my own, the newsletter, the podcast, the day job, and the family is just not sustainable. So maybe I need to start dialing back on something – family can’t be one of those, clearly – to refocus on the things that I really enjoy and offers me the most value. And right now that’s the podcast.
I really enjoy doing the podcast. I enjoy speaking to people and gaining more insights that way. The newsletter is a great way for me to almost take what’s on my mind and put it down on paper and share that with people – but it’s a big drain on my time.
So right now, I’m considering, okay, how do I double down on the podcast? Better reuse that content for the newsletter. And then in the future, when I can onboard a team or resources, come back to the newsletter, B2B Bite, at the cadence that I’ve been getting it out over the last two and a half years.
I’m fine with that because if I keep going at the pace that I’m going now (I’m sure a lot of content creators feel the same way), you’re just gonna burn out and then you’re not doing anyone any favors.
I noticed in some of your newsletters you’ll promote just the podcast – is this why you started doing it?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to build up a database over the last two and a half years. And it’s currently netting out around 2,000 B2B marketers and B2B professionals that I can reach out to directly. I take that as a great responsibility because these are people who have entrusted me with their contact information in exchange for value.
I want to make sure that I can continue to deliver value on a consistent basis and help them do their jobs better – and do B2B marketing better. But as I said, as a solo creator, my time is limited, and in the interest of keeping up with some degree of cadence – instead of looking at the newsletter as a unique channel for which I need to create specific content; I can just take all of that amazing value that I’m creating in partnership with other creators and marketing experts on the podcast side of things, and just make sure that the 2,000 people in my database are seeing that too.
Where do you tend to get your insights and your news?
I spend an unhealthy amount of time on Twitter. I’m a little bit scared to open up that setting in my iPhone that tells you how much time you’re spending on each of the individual apps because I feel like the Twitter bar would like almost fly out of my phone.
In terms of getting real-time information on industry trends and developments, there is no better place than Twitter. There is a fantastic marketing community there. It does have some drawbacks and I have noticed some exaggerated drama within the community, which I feel is unneeded and unwarranted. But generally speaking, there is a fantastic set of marketers active over there who are just giving away amazing information, insights, and breakdowns around what is happening in the world of marketing.
And if you’re starting out, or trying to get up to speed with what’s happening in the B2B space, B2C space, or D2C space, Twitter is an excellent place to go.
What’s something interesting or surprising that you have learned over the last couple of months?
I mentioned I run a podcast, B2B better, and at the end of every episode I ask my guests: What do you think is gonna be the biggest change in terms of how B2B companies market themselves over the next three to five years?
I’ve done that during every interview – 50 or so now. I realized the other day that I’ve never actually gone back and looked at those answers holistically to see if there are any patterns or trends that are emerging – because I’m talking to everybody; I’m talking to content marketers, community managers, product marketers, PR communication professionals, all sorts of different levels of seniority from people on the frontlines executing the work all the way up to your CMO level/strategic thinkers.
I did a very quick bit of napkin math across the episodes and what I realized was that 50 to 60% (or more) of the people who have answered this question have said something along the lines of employee advocacy, social selling, or brands basically equipping their teams with the tools to position themselves as thought leaders.
I’ve always intuitively felt that that is where we are going in the B2B space, but I’d never kind of seen it in black and white across a data set that I had pulled together myself. For me, that was perhaps not surprising, but a great point of validation of where I think the space is going – where I think the opportunity lies – and is felt by a lot of my peers and contemporaries.
What is something that you feel people in the social media or just marketing space in general need to stop doing?
Working in the B2B space, particularly the enterprise B2B space, I am still shocked to see so many brands investing 5, 6, and 7 figures in trade shows. I just don’t get it in 2022. It used to be the right playbook when the internet didn’t exist and the only way to get in front of your target buyers was to physically meet them – and the best way to do that was at one place where you knew a lot of them were going be in the same room, so you would get a big booth (and a lot of visibility) at a trade show.
With the internet, it doesn’t make sense – a 5, 6, 7 figure spend would be far better utilized, in my opinion, on digital, social, community, employee advocacy, social selling – channels [that may have more impact] on revenue results, growing pipeline, and things of that nature; rather than taking a big space at an event where you’re not really in control of the experience or the output – or you have less control over getting a bigger return of investment.
There are some cases where it makes sense. If you’re breaking into a new vertical or new industry where you have no brand visibility and there is a cornerstone event that everyone goes to, then maybe there. But if you’ve been going to the same event for three or five years and you’re still getting a huge booth that’s costing you an absolute arm and a leg – and people still don’t really know about you – you’ve got bigger problems on your hands.
Is there something that you feel marketers should start doing?
There is a shocking amount of customer research not being [conducted] – particularly in the enterprise B2B space. You see companies running marketing programs all the time that are based on nothing other than intuition, instinct, gut feeling, and possibly something that the sales team told us that ultimately pivots and directs our entire strategy.
But it’s missing a core piece.
It’s really 101 and you feel a bit embarrassed to say it, but if you’re not actually talking to your customers – and figuring out what their specific problems are, where they are spending their time online and in person, how they actually want to evaluate and buy products from their vendors – then, your strategy is broken before it even starts.
If you’re a marketer and you’re reliant on getting information directly from customers through a third party – be that your salespeople, your account manager, just scraping what you can from the internet – and you’re not having those direct conversations then, you need to find a way to fix that because you’ll never be able to achieve the best results unless you’ve got that core piece of information.
To be clear, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be talking to your sales team and your customer service team to try and figure out what insights they can give you to help you define a marketing strategy because it is important. I’m saying that I see time and time again, that marketers are left on the sidelines, unable to jump onto the field and actually talk to prospects or real-life customers to try and piece together a puzzle of information that’s coming from secondary sources – that’s a really hard job you’re giving yourself there.
In terms of maximizing your efforts, referring to the channels that are available to us, there is nothing stopping marketers from connecting with their target customers or their existing customers on social media – like sending a connection request and trying to develop a personal relationship, following their customers on social, engaging with them in online communities, asking them questions on those platforms, or replying to their posts and trying to develop a relationship that way.
It’s almost like you need to give yourself permission to get this research rather than waiting for someone to basically tell you, oh, now’s the right time for you to reach out to them because the project’s not on.
Why do you think user-generated content and/or employee-generated content are so valuable for brands? Why is this new era of influence so important?
For me, it kind of breaks down into two buckets. The first one is that you can look at your users, customers, and employees as an extension of your marketing team.
My experience is predominantly working in organizations with either no – or at the very beginnings – of a marketing function, which means that there really hasn’t been or isn’t a team in place. There isn’t a huge amount of budget or resource to play around with. You are really bootstrapping your marketing strategy and trying to deliver results that will give you that business case to go to the executive team and say, “We’ve started the fire. We really need some gasoline.”
And when you’re in those kinds of contexts, you should be leveraging any and every piece of help you can in order to get the word out there and scale your visibility, and employees, users, and clients are a great way of doing that.
If you’re in a company of 500 people and you’re the sole marketer, you’ve got 499 people within your organization who could be posting on your behalf basically and growing your brand in your sector or in your space.
So that’s the first thing it’s really kind of like scalability of your marketing efforts.
The second, and I’m sure your guests have talked about this many times before in the past, but it’s an authenticity piece. And particularly in B2B, there is a lot on the line for buyers when it comes to making a decision that could ultimately affect their livelihood.
For example, if I buy a pair of jeans and I don’t like them, I return them to the store, no harm, no foul. If I’m buying a piece of million-dollar enterprise software that will ultimately be used by a thousand people within my organization and I get it wrong… then, I may not have a job next quarter.
So as a B2B marketer, you’ve really gotta take that extra effort to give your buyers confidence that you are the right vendor or company to help them solve their particular problem. And employee- and user-generated content is a phenomenal way of doing that.
I saw a stat the other day, which said 76% of individuals are more likely to trust content, or B2B individuals are more likely to trust the content that is shared by an actual person versus a brand. Intuitively that feels right to me (as I’m sure it does to you).
Authenticity – that’s the name of the game.
What else do you feel most marketers tend to struggle with?
In B2B, I think a lot of marketers struggle in justifying their existence within the organization – particularly organizations like non-SaaS organizations. Companies that aren’t selling software or have been born in the digital internet era.
There are [many] companies out there that have been operating for many years quite successfully. I might add with a predominantly sales-led commercial strategy and new business strategy. That is to say, they have sales teams going to big events, hitting the cold calls, hitting the cold emails, and just trying to make sure they’re in front of the buyers at the right time.
And in those kinds of contexts, marketing is really relegated to the department that just makes things look pretty or sends out a press release or just makes sure the website’s up and running – but it’s really not seen because it’s seen as a cost center. It’s not seen as a revenue driver for the organization… but the world is changing. B2B buyers are changing. The way they evaluate and select products is changing and it is changing in a way that better favors the work of marketing teams.
By that, I mean B2B buyers are on social media; they’re in communities, they’re attending virtual events, speaking to colleagues and peers that maybe they’ve never met in person before, asking them questions about who they should be working with across dark social channels – a lot of B2B organizations just aren’t thinking about how do we play in that space.
As marketers, we need to find ways to convince our leadership teams that there is a new status quo and we need to be adapting to it. Otherwise, we’re gonna get left behind.
What does the future marketing look like to you? Where do you think we’re heading?
There will be two buckets of companies.
There will be companies who continue to run the same, outdated playbooks – new business, go-to-market, commercial strategy playbooks – they’ve been running for many years. And they will continue to see results because it’s like a brute force strategy; if you throw enough sales reps out there and they’re hitting the phones enough, you’re going to eventually hit gold and you’re going to win some business. They’ll keep getting those results, but I believe they will be diminishing results over periods of time. And depending on your organization type, it’ll either be a short period of time or a long period of time.
Then there will be a second bucket of organizations who do lean into this idea around demand creation and demand generation, who do lean into the concept of dark social, dark funnel, and optimizing their strategy to meet the new status quo. We need to rid ourselves of this idea, that marketing is there to make things look pretty and it’s just like a checklist function in the organization.
There is an opportunity for us to position this function, to drive new business drive revenue, drive pipeline, drive profits, and if you and I speak again in 10 years time on this podcast, which I hope we do, I think we’ll have witnessed at that point, a kind of a shift, a tipping point where that latter group, the ones who are investing in this new way of working regarding B2B marketing outweigh the ones who are continuing to run the same outdated playbooks.
What is a book, podcast, person, or event that helps shape your career? What was the turning point for you?
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint a specific book or podcast or piece of content that made an immediate and monumental kind of impact on my career. I feel like coming into this world by chance at random, as a result of not being able to make it as an artist, I’ve kind of had to learn things as I’ve gone along.
I would say the person that’s really helped shape my career – and it’s going to sound a bit cringy – but really, my wife. She’s been a huge source of support as I’ve tried to build a career in something I knew nothing about, and I think you need someone like that in your life. You need someone who’s in your corner, who’s pushing you to take risks and believe that you are good enough. And who can just help you “see the wood from the trees,” as we like to say.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Well, Twitter as we’ve already talked about, but you know, one thing I’ve started doing recently is… there are a couple of core individuals that you follow, on social media, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, you think, you know what? They’re always hitting home runs – like Chris Walker’s a great example of that. I don’t think he publishes a piece of content I haven’t read. And I thought that’s given me something to think about and I think he may be onto something there.
April Dunford is another person. I’m really into her podcast. Historically, I’ve always just kind of let my podcast consumption be led by the most up-to-date, most recent episodes that are being published on my Spotify app – hitting new episodes and just listening to them in order. What I started doing recently is I’ve been searching for those individuals I admire in the Spotify app and listening to their “back-catalog” of content in big batches. So I listen to like… a dozen or so April Dunford podcasts in succession.
And that really helped me. You understand April’s concepts at a high level, but when you really just immerse yourself for that concentrated piece of time – by consuming all this back-catalog of content – it really helps kind of solidify those ideas in your mind.
What advice do you have for marketers and creatives who look up to you?
Well, first, I would question why you’re looking up to me in the first place, but I would say – and this sounds like a Hallmark card – life is short and the amount of time you spend at work in any given week, month, year, or whatever is significant.
Again, we are seeing a shift in terms of how buyers buy new products and it requires a new go-to-market commercial strategy. If you believe that to be true, and you are communicating that to your business and you are not seeing any response, positive response, then you should move on.
If you can move on – and I appreciate that it’s a privileged thing to say because not everyone can move on – but if you can, do it because you could find yourself wasting many years of your life in a situation that makes you unhappy, leaves you feeling unfulfilled, or doesn’t contribute to your ongoing development. And you can’t get that time back.
I worked at a company for a few years and it wasn’t a great environment. Me and a friend who worked there together, we’d always complain about it; I moved on to a new role. They’re still there. 10 years later and it’s the same.
You can’t help wanting to say to them, change something because this isn’t working for you and you’re upset. You’re unfulfilled. You’re not going anywhere.
So yeah, my advice would be not to waste time.
How do you wind down from a long day of work?
I could say something like… I hang out with my daughter and we play dress-up and hide and seek and things of that nature. And we do that, but it’s interspersed with trying to get her to eat dinner and trying to get her to have a bath. And any parents listening to this will understand that that’s frustrating.
My favorite way to unwind is I’ve got the house to myself. I pull myself a glass of whiskey and I watch This Is 40, the movie with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. I don’t know why I like that particular movie, but I don’t think I’ve ever watched it, and not laughed at something new.
My wife has come home on a number of occasions and I’m just sitting there a little bit spaced out on the sofa in my third glass of whiskey watching This Is 40… I just think they’re a cool comedy duo and it just does it for me.
What are you excited about or looking forward to?
I’m very fortunate that the better half of my family, my wife’s family, are French and they live in France and we are imminently about to go out and spend a month with them for the summer at their house. And that’s great for a number of reasons.
One: I will be in the nice French sunshine and I’ll be able to drink a lot of wine and eat a lot of pastry.
And two: they’ll look after my daughter a lot, which means that I can actually get some rest and relaxation – like true rest and relaxation – and just reset over the summer to tackle whatever comes in Q3 and Q4 because like many, I’m starting to hit the “mid-year blues.” I’m just really looking forward to getting a break.