Ep. 98 – Interview w/ Eric Fulwiler

How to Build a Media Company Around Your B2B Brand

In a market that’s constantly changing and inundated with noise, B2B brands need to focus on how to grow strategically. How can your company effectively win the attention of your target market? How can you do that meaningfully and for the long term? 

Join us as we unpack what it takes for B2B firms to build a media company around their brand with marketing expert Eric Fulwiler (Co-Founder & CEO, Rival). During our conversation, Eric explains the importance of B2B firms being brand-led instead of sales-led, what mistakes marketers should avoid, and what content pieces, as well as experiences, generate the best results. He also provides some tips that marketers can immediately implement and what metrics they should be paying attention to as they build their media company.

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Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Eric explains how firms can build a media company around a B2B brand [1:09]
  • Some of the mistakes that marketers make when it comes to building a media company around their B2B brands, and what can be done to address these [18:12]
  • Some actionable tips for B2B marketers to immediately implement. [32:39]
  • Eric talks about some top level metrics that marketers should focus on to show an indication of progress [34:56]
  • Eric shares a status quo in his area of expertise that he passionately disagrees with [38:15]

Companies & links mentioned:



Christian Klepp, Eric Fulwiler

Christian Klepp  00:00

Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for B2B marketers that helps you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry, and take your marketing to new heights. Each week, we talk to B2B marketing experts who share inspirational stories, discuss our thoughts and trending topics, and provide useful marketing tips and recommendations. And now, here’s your host and co-founder of EINBLICK Consulting, Christian Klepp. All right, folks, welcome everyone to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast where you get your weekly dose of B2B marketing insights. I’m your host, Christian Klepp. And today, I’m joined by someone on a mission to build challenger brands, strategies and capabilities to disrupt categories. So Mr. Eric Fulwiler Welcome to the show, sir.

Eric Fulwiler  00:46

Thanks so much for having me. 

Christian Klepp  00:48

Okay. So Eric, you’re an expert when it comes to growing businesses through modern marketing and management practices. But for this conversation, let’s focus on something we discussed in the previous call, which was to build a media company around your B2B brand. So talk to us about what you meant by that exactly, and why you feel it’s so important.

Eric Fulwiler  01:09

So at the end of the day, where I’ll get to, but I’ll explain a bit of context around it as well is it’s essentially content marketing 2.0, or the future of what I think B2B brands need to be focused on to grow in a way that is brand-led, and not only sales-led, because of course, so many businesses in this industry, are so sales-led when it comes to growth. So, you know, for the people listening, everybody’s aware of these trends that I’m about to say. But I think, again, it’s important to understand the thinking behind the model of building a media company around your brand. So, so many of the trends that have led to the difficulty for many B2B businesses to break through and drive brand-led growth, our why I think this model actually works. So there’s so much noise in any industry, any B2B industry, there’s so much more noise out there than there used to be, there’s so much more choice for consumers to solve the same problem. And there’s so much competition for attention as marketers, we spend so much time talking about, you know, what’s the message that we want to put in front of people, but actually, before you can put any message in front of anyone, you need their attention. And so actually, first and foremost, as marketers, we’re in the attention game. And so when it comes to the media company model, if you think about, okay, attention is the scarcest and most valuable commodity for the modern marketer, what is a business model that is focused on collecting and retaining, and actually eventually monetizing attention that… those are media companies. And so it is kind of like content marketing, which obviously has been around for a while.  inbound marketing, but it really takes it to the next level. And I think in my experience, both as a CMO as a consultant, working with a lot of B2B businesses out there, it kind of helps people wrap their head around it a little bit more. And so what that actually means to build a media company around what you stand for is fundamentally and I’m going to oversimplify here. The traditional approach to B2B marketing is to extract value from your audience, whether that’s a sales-led approach, or anything that you do in marketing, traditional B2B marketers are saying, Hey, there’s this audience out there, how can I take value from them? Content marketing,  1.0 was focused on hey, I’m gonna add a little bit of value so that I can extract value from this audience. Media company model, building a media company around what you stand for focuses on how can I add the most value possible to the audience I’m trying to reach, like a media company would, how can I get into the business of attention? First and foremost, by putting out content, experiences, events, whatever it is, that’s going to add value with no immediate expectation of anything in return. And the understanding that if you do that, well, consistently, because attention is the commodity that everybody is fighting for, but doing it so poorly, then you’re going to build a brand. And you’re going to build a business, where the market actually comes to you. And so what that actually looks like on the outside is you’re producing a high quantity of high quality content that your audience find valuable, what it looks like on the inside. And this is what I did in my last CMO job before starting Rival, is you actually and you know, for a lot of people listening, you might not have a 30 person marketing team, it might be you, or it might be three people. And so the actual roles matter less than having somebody who’s owning these responsibilities, but you need to think about who within your marketing team. And again, it might be you wearing this hat, who is the quote-unquote, “CEO” of the media company around your brand. And that person needs to be focused on how can I produce content that is going to attract and retain the attention of this audience that I’m trying to reach. Now, quick sidenote, which I think is an interesting broader conversation around marketing is when I was CMO, this last firm this FinTech business, we actually turned marketing into a profit center instead of a cost center because we monetize the attention that we collected in the media company model, i.e. we sponsored the content and events that we did. And so that’s super interesting, because, in theory, if you do it well, if you focus on building a media company, media companies make money. And so you could actually generate revenue, doing the things you’re looking to do to drive the growth of your core business anyway. Now, I wouldn’t focus on that I’m not putting that out there to distract people from the core. You know, if you’re just getting started with this, you want to focus on content experiences that add value, don’t worry about monetization. But I do think it’s an interesting conversation to be had. If you do this, well. Marketing can potentially be a profit center, not just a cost center for your business.

Christian Klepp  05:36

Just give me a second here. This is a really great point, Eric, and thanks so much for sharing that. I wanted to go back to something that you said twice, right. So you were talking about putting out high quality content out there, creating content experiences, and that’s how you add value. And you start, you start throwing in that pool of, you know, like business that that the company is targeting. Could you give us just some maybe top-level examples of like, you know, something you’ve seen work in the past, you know, if you’re talking about high quality content or content experiences.

Eric Fulwiler  06:13

Yeah. So a couple examples from my own experience. So the last company I worked at was called 11:FS. So that’s 1 1 F S and if you’re in the FinTech world, maybe you would have heard of it. It’s pretty well known in large part through a lot of the branded content that we did. But basically, the business of 11:FS, was focused on building digital propositions for incumbent FSIs, banks, insurance companies, etc. So our audience was, you know, Chief Digital Officers, Chief Innovation Officer, CEOs at big banks. And so what we focused on doing was actually producing content for that audience that we thought they would find valuable. So we had, I think, by the time I left, we had four or five podcasts, the biggest one got, I believe, it was about 10,000 downloads a week. So it really got to scale. And they were doing this before I got there, but we really, we really ramped it up. And then of course, brought in the whole media company model to it. We had a recurring event series that was kind of a community meetup for people that were in FinTech, mostly in London. But we also did that in New York and other cities that we were at, we had a steady stream of kind of white papers, I guess you would call it, but and something else that maybe we can come on to is I believe good marketing needs to really be two things in order to be effective, it needs to be relevant, but it also needs to be differentiated. So much B2B content out there. And so many B2B marketers out there are too focused on being relevant and not focused enough on being differentiated. So when I talk about white papers, I don’t mean hey, here’s a seven or eight page, text PDF that you can download and looks like something you could get anywhere else. I mean, gifs, I mean, highly designed, still PDFs or potentially, you know, we did some that were like, multimedia, interactive website experiences, a little bit of differentiation actually goes a long way. What else did we do? We had a few, a few different YouTube series, we actually did a feature length documentary at one point. So those are some of the tactical examples. It all came back from what is our audience can find valuable, that we can actually speak to with authority? And where and in what shape? Can we actually produce a content or experience that’s going to be relevant and differentiated, I would definitely recommend people go check that out. Because that, you know, having been the CMO there, that brand and the content that they’re still doing, and there’s a new CMO who actually I hired before I left who’s fantastic. They’re probably the best example of what I’m talking about. For people listening, you might have heard of Gary Vaynerchuk, who’s an entrepreneur and a, you know, big agency owner in the US, I worked for him for seven years directly. And he a little bit different, because he didn’t build a media company around VaynerMedia. He built the media company around his own brands. But if you check him out, you can see, you know, he’s a massive, massive influencer now through building a media company around his personal brand. And then on a much, much smaller scale, because we’re just getting started. At Rival. We’re, of course, eating our own dog food, and building this model around our own brand. So you know, much like you, we’ve got kind of a CMO, one on one type of podcasts. We have a news podcast, we do a CMO thought leadership roundtable. We have probably like every six weeks, we put out a playbook we also have a research partnership with Imperial College. So there’s a ton of stuff that we’re doing in this vein as well. And actually, we’re hiring a full time producer now to take it over and run it as kind of a business unit within our company.

Christian Klepp  09:34

That’s incredible. And I mean, great examples. Thanks again for sharing those. And I love that point that you brought up about differentiation, because I think we all know that B2B marketing just as notorious for having this. Well, it’s like you said, it’s this rank and file approach to everything right, let’s just play it safe and just do what everybody else is doing. Right? Thankfully, that’s changing to a certain degree. But I think to your point, it’s not changing fast enough, I believe from what I see,

Eric Fulwiler  10:01

Yeah, one of the, you know, before we press record. I really like their conversation on, hey, how can we make this as actionable as possible for people? So one of the things that throughout there’s a prompt, yeah, and this is a, you know, this is a North Star holy grail prompt, this is an everything you do needs to hit this, right. But one of the things I used to say to the team and 11:FS was, if you took our logo off of anything we did, could it be one of our competitors, you know, we, our competitors, were like Accenture and Deloitte and then like a lot of the big consulting firms. And so, and this is one of the reasons I get excited about B2B marketing, oftentimes, the bar is low. Those brands have a lot of brand awareness and brand equity, but they actually don’t do a lot on the marketing front, at least not a lot that is differentiated. And so the prompt was, hey, if you took the 11:FS logo off of this thing that we did, could it be one of those other companies? And if the answer is yes, it’s probably not differentiated enough. And so that is a hopefully helpful, but definitely actionable thing that I think people should start doing when and where it’s appropriate. You know, don’t kill yourself trying to do it. But if you took your logo off of your marketing material, your event your sponsorship, your email newsletter, could it be one of your competitors, and I think that’ll push you in the right direction with this type of thing.

Christian Klepp  11:19

Yeah, you know what, you brought up, that made me remember, an exercise I did with the team with a team in a previous company, couple of years ago, when we were going through a brand workshop and the guy that was leading or facilitating the workshop, basically. Yeah, in that same vein, he put up like these slides on the on the screen and basically said, Okay, I’m just gonna give you some words that describe this brand. And you tell me which brand it is. Right? And it didn’t take long for us to figure out who they are. Right? So Swedish company, furniture, right? California company, smart devices. So of course, you know, people IKEA and Apple, and it just kept going. Right? And it’s to your point, right? There were no logo on screen. It was just the description of what they do. Full stop.

Eric Fulwiler  12:14

Were any of those examples B2B brands?

Christian Klepp  12:17

There were not. Yeah, they were not. 

Eric Fulwiler  12:19

And that’s interesting. 

Christian Klepp  12:20

And that’s interesting. 

Eric Fulwiler  12:21

Yeah, that’s it. Yeah, that’s part of why you have your podcasts and part of why I think there’s so much opportunity in this space, because fundamentally, you know, the traditional playbook, if you will, for B2B growth is you focus on sales, to the point that sometimes oftentimes, marketing is a support function of sales, either and strategically, what they’re focused on, sometimes it even rolls up into sales. And there’s not one way to grow a company, I’m not saying that every company has to do it this way, or has to do it differently. But if you think about it for a second, marketing and sales are two sides of the growth coin, they’re two cylinders in the growth engine, but they serve different purposes. Sales is to convert existing demand, marketing is to generate new demand through brand. Marketing is long-term cash flow, not short-term cash flow. And so if you have marketing focused on short term cash flow, demand, conversion, along with sales, you’re missing out on a whole opportunity. There’s no piece of research that I always quote, but there’s so much of it out there now, in terms of the actual, you know, purchase behavior for B2B businesses. And of course, it differs depending on your business and your category and all that stuff. But on average, LinkedIn put out this research, might have been earlier this year, even last year, at this point, 95% of B2B buyers, on average, are not in a buying cycle at the time you’re trying to reach them. And so if you’re, going to market exclusively, or even primarily, with a sales approach, and a sales message of, hey buy this thing, you know, you’re not going to resonate, or you’re just going to be completely ignored by 95% of the market that you’re actually trying to reach. And so the media company model that focus on content experiences that add value is meant to address the 95%. So that when they do switch into being the 5%, when they do start looking to buy, you have the awareness and the equity and the relationship, you know, to win to win that deal. And you know, another piece of research that’s out there, I can’t forget the percentage of something in the 70s or 80s. And this was done by Forrester, that said that, you know, that percentage of B2B buyers have made up their mind of who they’re gonna go with before they even start the sales conversations. It’s a brand job to be done. It is a brand new job to be done. Now, I will say, I don’t know you mentioned this before, for a lot of the listeners, you know, kind of everybody struggles with well, how do you convince the CEO? How do you convince the CFO? And yes, you know, you don’t operate in a vacuum. You are not the CEO, if you’re the CMO, and if you’re in the marketing, you don’t get to make the decision exclusively. But I think there is a strategic case to be made. You know, there’s all this data out there, there’s all these examples of challenge of B2B brands that have done it this way and that are winning. However, I think any change comes top down and bottom up, top down would be the, hey, I want to go with this model, I want to spend more on brands, I want, you know, this media company thing or this 95/5 rule from LinkedIn, whatever you can try to chip away at that, chances are, you know, it’s not going to convert somebody like a light switch from on to off or off to on, I think the other piece of it being bottom up is you need to lead by example, you need to show something that actually works. Now, a lot of the stuff that I’m talking about, particularly when it comes to like, as I’m sure you know, you know, podcasts are real top of the funnel stuff. That takes time. In my mind with Rival you know, we’re eight months in, I’m not even expecting our podcast to deliver leads for our business for two years. Now, quick sidenote, the way I justify that is one, we don’t spend a lot of money on production. And two, it’s just documenting, documenting conversations I would be having anyway, I would happily spend an hour talking to you about marketing, talking to the CMO of MasterCard, who we had on the podcast, the CMO of GE, the CEO of Shell brand. I’m doing it anyway. So why not document and put it out there. But it is more of a longer term investment. Now there are ways to do this, where you actually can show a bit more of a short term return or opportunity. Now, yes, it’s not the point of the model. But if you need to kind of take baby steps to get people along the journey to get there. What if you do your own event, as opposed to sponsoring a big event? What if your white paper, you ask for an extra 20% on that budget, to go get a designer to make it look like something your competitors would not do? There are ways to kind of hack at this model to prove pilot, you know, pilot things, pilot results, you don’t have to go whole hog, even if that’s what you want to do, of like, Hey, we’ve gotten sales-led, and now we’re 100% brand-led. That’s not how people change. That’s not how people evolve. So I think there are ways to do it, and that top down, you know, chip away at the strategy, data, you know, use the data that’s out there, for sure. But then also find ways to go bottom up and start kind of coming up with proof points of how this works.

Christian Klepp  17:19

Absolutely, absolutely. I love what you’ve touched on some of these immediate steps that marketers can take. And we’re gonna go back to that in a second. You brought up some of these in the past couple of minutes. But you’ve probably seen a lot out there. But talk to us about some of the mistakes that you’ve seen marketers make when it comes to like building your own media company, around the B2B brands, and what you think can be done to address these. So some, you know, some top level mistakes.

Eric Fulwiler  17:45

Yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot, I kind of just go with what’s off top my head, and I’m probably going to move around a little bit on it. And some of that may or may not have been mistakes that I made as well. But that’s where you learn, right? So I think one is… what’s the right way to say this. I think getting too frustrated at having to convince people that this is what you should do. The CEO, in my experience, I’m sure a lot of people listed the CFO, everybody’s doing their job, the CFOs job is not to let you go spend whatever you want on brand marketing, the CFOs job is actually much more closely tied to sales. And this quarter this year, how can you actually quantify the return on investment, that’s great. If you didn’t have somebody doing that job, it would be a real problem. I think people need to recognize and I’m speaking to my younger self as well. You know, part of the job, particularly as you get more senior is actually the work around the work, aka it’s the people how do you get people bought in and aligned to what you want to do, to the vision that you have, the strategy that you want to roll out, the tactics that you want to implement? And so I think that’s a big thing is there are so many amazing marketers that I think, could have done amazing things, who just got chewed up and spit out and got too frustrated and quit or got pushed out or got demotivated because I think they probably didn’t go about things the right way, or didn’t set their expectations right, when it comes to how do you actually drive change within an organization, especially a big organization. So I think that’s one I like a very high level. More tactically, and more actionably, I think the design, one is a really good one. So you know, people do amazing content, and they get it 90% of the way there. And then it’s just a PDF with text, you know, or it’s just a dinner that they invited 20 people to. How can you push it a little bit further with design or some type of differentiation? A little one of the things I’d say is a little bit design goes a long way in the B2B space. So I think that’s another one paid media, I think is a tremendously you know, again, I’m very much generalizing but a very underutilized lever for not just growth overall, but also growth of the media company model, like content distribution within B2B businesses, again, because they don’t think this way there may be hesitant to make that type of investment. But there’s tremendous opportunity to use paid too. And this is sometimes a way that’s helpful to frame it up to CFOs, or people internally that maybe aren’t fully bought in on the model yet. Paid, you know, organic distribution is always going to be a fraction of the total addressable market for something that you’re doing. Paid helps you unlock that at scale. If marketing is about adding value to the audience, such that it brings the market to you, paid lets you bring it to as much of that market as possible. So I think that’s the other one, and it’s not easy, you know, and LinkedIn is expensive and all that stuff. But I think having some type of budget for paid around the content that you do, you know, for if people have worked in B2C, you know, I spent a long time in the agency world and even at Rival, we do a good amount of work in B2C, and consumer packaged goods, and retail and all this stuff. All of those businesses, when they’re at scale, they have some type of ratio of what they call working to non working dollars. And if people aren’t familiar with that term working budget, is what goes into the production of an asset and non working is what goes into the distribution, roughly. So really, what it means is that they need to make sure that they are spending the vast, vast majority 80% 70% of their budget overall on distribution. And I think within a B2B business, it’s going to be completely flipped. And so, you know, a B2B business should not just take a B2C model or playbook and try to apply that. But there’s something to be learned there, because B2C businesses tend to be more mature, more advanced more at scale marketing organizations. So putting a little bit more into distribution, figuring out how you can use paid media to unlock more of the TAM, the total addressable market for the content or experiences that you’re producing. I think that’s another good one. I’ll pause there, and I’ll see if any, others bubble up for me, but let me know if you want me to unpack any of those further. 

Eric Fulwiler  22:07

Oh, I thought those are some really, really good ones. And I mean, I’ve experienced a couple of these myself, um, you know, in the past, like, I think one that really resonated with me was the design bit. Yeah, that’s just the ad guy in me coming out, right. But I’ve worked with a couple of companies in the past, I’m not going to tell you what they are. But they, they tend to be the larger organizations. At times, at least in my experience, they are their own worst enemy. Because they’ve got all these very stringent brand guidelines. And they’ve got a brand team, that police’s everything, and you’ve got, you’re working with one head of a business unit that says, okay, Chris, or Eric, we need to push the pencil on be a little bit more creative. And let’s come up with something that’s a bit more interesting and original. Then the agency goes back with the brief and comes up with something creative. And then the brand team kills it. Because it’s, you know, it violates the brand guidelines, or it’s or it’s too creative. Right? I’ve heard that I’ve heard that comment being thrown at us in the meeting rooms as well. Right. So I suppose it depends on the organization. But I tend to agree with you that, again, there’s so much room for opportunity in that department when it comes to B2B.

Eric Fulwiler  23:19

I’ll throw on another one that actually made me think of with that story. I think another mistake that a lot of B2B marketers make is they focus too much on what I would call the baseline activity, the stuff that you do every day, every week, rinse and repeat, you know, the email newsletter, the blog post, the sponsorship event, whatever it is kind of the normal everyday, every week stuff, and not enough on what I would call the breakthrough opportunities, which are typically, you know, they could be the big campaign that you’re gonna make around a new market or a new product. But actually, I think it’s more about how can you bring a little bit of creativity to your marketing. So one of the things that we used to do at 11FS is we had this actually ended up being an OKR for a couple quarters. But we had this ritual and this concept around 11:FS data thing ideas. And what we did is every month we’d sit down and we had a brief, like a brief about our business, who are we, who, you know, the whole… How do we get this audience to think this way about our brands? And so we would sit down and be like, alright, brainstorms. Big ideas. You know, what can we do? What can we do differently? And so that would lead to silly things. Like we did an NFT drop. And we did you know, Challenger bank branded beer as a joke. We talked about getting an ice cream truck to go down to Canary Wharf, which is like the big financial services neighborhood in London and kind of drive around and hand out ice cream to bankers with 11:FS branding on the side. Like, we didn’t actually do that. But one it’s interesting how engaged the team was and how excited they were because oftentimes, you know, the job of B2B marketers can be, can get, you know, pretty, pretty consistent, let’s say, and bringing a little bit of creativity. So that I think goes a long way for the team. But also, again, so few businesses are doing this type of thing. So few businesses are thinking creatively about marketing and brand activation. So a little bit goes a long way. So I think that’s the other mistake is focusing too much on the baseline and not thinking about and activating breakthrough ideas.

Christian Klepp  24:46

100% agree with that, I’ve experienced some of that myself. And I think at least in my experience, it’s also coming out of, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this, some of this is coming out of the fear that marketers have of rocking the boat, right? They’re trying to initiate that change, but in order to enact that change, they might have to, I wouldn’t say run up against a brick wall. But oftentimes, they sometimes, you know, like, they, they might, but it’s about, okay, if we’re going to try to do something new, they would have to get the buy-in, they would have to deal with the pushback, they would have to justify ROI, etc., etc., 

Eric Fulwiler  26:06

Yeah, it’s, I’ve definitely seen that I’m thinking over a couple examples that I’ve been in, I think it’s, I think that’s probably more of like a personality thing. You know, it’s like you’re gonna have to. So I think one other piece of advice that I give to marketers is, organizations take on the DNA of their CEO, and their leadership team, right. And so if you’re a marketer, in a B2B industry, you know, I remember when I took the job at 11:FS, I’m gonna be like, why would you take a CMO job at a B2B company. And I’m like, because I think there’s so much opportunity, everything that we just talked about the bar is low, etc. But also, because the CEO is very bought in to the type of model that I want to execute and the type of build that I want to do. And so I think, so much of what we talked about, we can talk strategically about marketing all day, we can talk about tactics, we can talk about tips, mistakes, made all that stuff, where the rubber meets the road on creating opportunity or challenges comes down to the people, it comes down to who you work for, who the CEO is, who is the team around you, who you are, as an individual. And so I think a lot of that stuff of like, are you willing to fight the battles that need to get fought like it’s a, you know, you get to make that decision. And I’m not saying that everybody needs to be fighting battles. 24/7, and to what I was saying before, about people getting chewed up and spit out, and not approaching things the right way, and the work around the work when it comes to changing people’s perceptions and behavior internally. You know, that’s a, it’s a personal decision that you need to make, and it’s fine if maybe you don’t want to do that. But one, you’re probably not listening to this podcast, if you don’t want to change things. And two, a lot of that is the personality thing. Like, one of the things I don’t talk about a lot is, I actually, it’s funny, I fell into this world, like, I think I mentioned you before I went to university in Canada, at McGill. And I was going to be a professional musician. I was like, that’s what I was going to do. Yeah, I didn’t tell you that before. Completely on the other end of the spectrum. And you can say like creativity, all that said, No, I was not, I am not a creative marketer. And I was not a creative musician. I actually liked the science of it much more. And then I was like, forget this, I don’t want to try to make a career as a professional musician. And I got into nonprofit, I worked in HIV AIDS in Latin America for a while and I ended up… I got frustrated by that, because I felt like I couldn’t actually make a difference. And I ended up in New York, and I sat down, you know, with this time as CEO of forbes.com when .com was a separate business from Forbes shows you how long ago that was. And he was like, Yeah, we need somebody to figure out this social media thing. Alright, I’ll give it a shot. And then you know, whatever it is, 15 years later, here, I am still doing digital marketing. But I tell that story because I actually, I’m… there’s so many people in this world that actually love marketing, and great more power to them, especially being in the agency world, a lot of people that like just love marketing, they love the art of marketing. I love the science of building businesses. I am fascinated by how do you change people’s perceptions and behavior. How do you get them to believe in something that wasn’t there before? How do you get people to actually pay money for something because of what it stands for? Not just what it does. That is so fascinating to me. But so much of that where the rubber meets the road where the sausage actually gets made, comes down to how can you do that internally. And it used to be really frustrating to me, because I was like, I just want to do the work. I just want to build the brand. I just want to grow the business. But actually, this is the work. And so you know, maybe not what we had on the list of questions or what we thought we’re going to talk about today. But I think it’s really interesting. And I think about it a lot and I think that your question of like, what are the mistakes that people made? That’s where my head went and, you know, immediately was like, the biggest mistake is people don’t focus enough on, don’t appreciate enough, and don’t do enough to actually change perception and behavior of the people internally, particularly the stakeholder In decision makers, to create an environment to actually do the right kind of work.

Christian Klepp  30:05

Absolutely, absolutely. You know, I love where this conversation is headed. Because with that last anecdote, I thought of yours that actually made me think of, of something else, which is, if I can add on to your point, a lot of marketers don’t spend enough time with what, what they used to call internal customer service, getting internal buy-in, right, because as a marketer, focusing not only on the external target audience, but the internal one is just as crucial, because in many regards, and this, this is probably a conversation for a separate podcast interview, but it’s, in many ways. marketing’s job is to be, is to be a gatekeeper. Because a lot of this work is it’s a collective effort, right? It’s not, it’s not siloed, or it used to be at least, but not anymore, right? And it’s marketing’s job to help to get everybody in the organization aligned, in many ways, right? And if they don’t spend enough time doing that, and you know, going back to our point, which I’m sure you’ve heard, more often than not, is working in some organizations, people don’t actually know what marketing is doing. And that, for me, is a telltale sign. 

Eric Fulwiler  31:19

Yeah, I think a lot of it is education, I think that will definitely resonate with people. So much of the job is educating people on, you know, what needs to get done, why it needs to get done, how it needs to get done. And I think people need to embrace that. And, you know, unless they’re in a small unless they’re in their own business, or unless they’re in a small business, where they don’t, but particularly any business of scale, which is often where the biggest opportunity lies to do interesting, good, impactful work. I think you got to embrace it.

Christian Klepp  31:48

Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. You’ve given us plenty of tips so far, Eric, but like, talk to us about something like, you know, if there’s somebody out there listening to this conversation, what is it that they can do, after listening to this interview, that they can immediately implement in terms of building a media company for their B2B brand? What are some small steps they can take? What should they be focusing on?

Eric Fulwiler  32:12

Maybe another one that kind of wraps everything up a little bit, I think, you know, if you buy into this media company model, then of course, you know, if you’re in a situation like I was where, you know, we ended up building a 15 person Media Team. And again, we were able to do that, because we actually generated revenue on it. And so it ran at breakeven. So it wasn’t an investment from the business. But, you know, if you’re not there, or small marketing team, marketing team of one, I think you need to make sure that someone is wearing the hat of the quote, unquote, “media company CEO”, someone is thinking about how do I create content and experiences that adds value to the audience I’m trying to reach? And I think that’s probably the, you know, as you know, those quotes of like, so much opportunity is lost through inaction, and then wrong action. I think it’s about getting started to getting started. So actually, there’s so many downstream tactics and actions, design, paid media, pilots, all that stuff. But the upstream one that I think will actually make the biggest difference is to sit down and say, Okay, 1) do I believe in this? And if you don’t, that’s totally fine, 2) if you do, how are you going to get started getting started moving in this direction. And that starts with accountability. It starts with saying, okay, part of my job now is to think about, what is the media company that I’m going to build around my brand, and it might be tiny, it might be one media property, that’s how we would think about it a podcast is a media property, a content, or sorry, an event, a dinner event series is content property, don’t even go there yet. Just wrap your head around. Okay, if I’m going to be the CEO of this media company, how much time do I need to put aside to it to actually get started? How much budget do I need sign the people on my team that I can actually allocate this to? But somebody needs to wear that hat of being the CEO. And so that’s the place that I would start, and I think everything flows out from that.

Christian Klepp  34:07

Yeah, no, no, absolutely. Absolutely. And I know, there’s probably a lot of moving parts, and there’s a lot of like, things to take into consideration. But what are some top level metrics that you would say, marketers should focus on to just, I suppose, have some kind of indication of progress? Or that what they’re implementing is working?

Eric Fulwiler  34:29

Yeah. So I think I would work up the funnel. So the bottom of the marketing funnel would be depending on the business that you’re in marketing qualified lead, or maybe sales qualified lead if you’re stretching across the aisle, and then I think you need to work up the funnel and literally sit down and be like, Okay, what are all the touch points that actually lead people to becoming a marketing qualified lead, especially if they’re in that 95% that is not actively looking to buy your services or products right now. And so really what that ends up looking like and what I would encourage people to go study What are the metrics that media companies care about? They care about attracting and retaining and eventually monetizing. But you probably won’t do that right away attention. So you need attention metrics. You need how many people? And how many people have consumed this content or come to this event? How much time have they spent, what’s the quality of the attention that’s actually there. So it’s gonna depend on the channel that you’re at the type of business that you’re at the type of content that you’re doing, etc. But I think that’s probably what you’re looking at is, ideally, it’s not necessarily reach, because I think that that is a very lightweight metric. But if you need something that can kind of, you know, you can at least benchmark and start tracking, you could start there. Certainly engagement. If you have properties, where people are actually coming to them as a destination, like downloading a podcast, like showing up at an event, then that’s a good place to start as well. So I would say, if you can come up with a metric for the media company overall, what’s the total attention within your media properties? Or you could just focus on the primary properties that you’re building out. So for us, it’s the two podcasts, it’s the email newsletter, it’s kind of attendance and conversion to our our small group event series that we do. We also have a virtual workshop as well. So we’re, you know, the metrics actually differ. But there are certainly metrics for all of it. And then media company metrics that the types of metrics that a media company would care about.

Christian Klepp  36:21

Yeah, no, definitely. Those are really interesting. I want to go back to something you said earlier, Eric, what’s your thought on engagement? Right, like you keep hearing people talking about how important engagement is. And when you talk about the media model, I will hazard a guess that it is important, but like, to what extent?

Eric Fulwiler  36:39

Yeah, I mean, engagement is quality of attention. Whereas reach is quantity of attention. And actually, at the end of the day, it’s the quality of the attention that actually makes a difference, because what are you trying to do, you’re trying to add value to an audience, you can only add value to the audience, if you actually have their attention, the more time they spend with you, as long as your content is good, the more of an impression you’re going to be able to have. So a lot of the top level breath of attention metrics, like reach, like for use, depending on the platform, they’re not actually measuring quality of attention. And so engagement really is everything. Reach is an opportunity to to get people’s attention, ie engagement. But that’s the thing that really matters. So that’s probably the main media company metric that I would focus on. The only exception being if there are property specific ones that matter more like how many people showed up at an event, for example.

Christian Klepp  37:34

Okay, that’s fair enough. That’s fair enough. Yeah, for this next question, what is the status quo in your area of expertise that you passionately disagree with? And why?

Eric Fulwiler  37:48

Well, my mind immediately goes to kind of what I was ranting about before, you know, treating marketing as a short term cashflow driver for the business and losing out on the opportunity of it doing its job, which is to build long term cash flow, i.e. brand, for the company. I’m trying to think of there’s another one that I haven’t talked about yet. I think the other one would be what I call marketing for the sake of marketing, which is marketing that is not in service… that is so interesting, actually bringing this up in the context of this conversation, because you know, maybe there’s some people listening are like, if you’re focused on adding value to the audience, how is that growing your business? I am the most focused on and committed to and religious about the role of marketing is to drive growth of the business, it is all about a commercial or how have you defined growth because I think it’s much more fast, much more multifaceted than strictly commercial or strictly profit in today’s day and age if you’re doing it right. But at the end of the day, the role of marketing is to drive growth of the business, it is a means to an end. And so I just believe that the media company model for a B2B company is the best way to do that. It’s kind of a short term, long term type of dynamic. Sales-oriented is more short term. You know, media company model is more long term. But I think there’s so much of this industry that is focused on marketing, because they think it’s cool, or because someone internally wanted to do it. Or you know, I had a call earlier talking to someone about sponsorships, and oh my god, how many of those deals are done because this person likes golf, or that person, you know, thinks that sports team is cool. It just it. I really don’t like it. And I think it is the status quo. I would say that it is status quo, obviously not everybody. But so much of this industry is marketing for the sake of marketing and not marketing for the sake of delivering whatever the business results are that marketing is committed to serving.

Christian Klepp  39:44

Absolutely, absolutely. Or I do remember a meeting with board of directors like many years ago where one of the board members just throws out this random story about how he saw the competitor initiating a certain campaign and what have you. And the first thing he says is, so what is marketing doing about it? Like, Why are we doing this? Alright, and falling into that, first of all falling into the reactive mode. And secondly, well, if the competitors doing it, then we must be doing it too. Without any due diligence, just do it because we said so. Right. Yeah. Yep. Yeah, absolutely. Eric, this has been an amazing conversation. I mean, we could have gone on for a couple more hours. But thanks. Thanks for coming on. And, you know, for sharing your expertise with the listeners, and hopefully, they walk away from this with some something that they can, you know, immediately take action on. And please, quick introduce yourself, and how folks out there can get in touch with you.

Eric Fulwiler  40:43

Yeah, I love you do the intro of the end. I’ve definitely never been on a podcast where they do it this way. But it makes total sense, you know, get to the meat of why people are actually interested. Well, I told a bit of my like, long, long ago, personal history, but the more current one, so yeah, it’s been 10 years in advertising agencies, kind of full service brands, creative content, paid media, analytics, production, etc. And then got into the FinTech world. And my first CMO role at 11:FS, obviously, what I’ve been talking about a lot, and then started Rival late last year with two co-founders that worked with me at VaynerMedia. And what we’re trying to do is, like you said, at the very beginning, we’re trying to build challenger brands, strategies and capabilities to change categories. So that can be an often is a lot of startups and scale ups. But actually, we get excited about businesses that are, you know, more at scale that are looking to adopt a bit more of a challenge of mindset model. So we do brand development, go to market planning,  capability building within the marketing function, that’s kind of our remit. And yeah, we do a lot in B2B, a lot in financial services, a lot of B2B a lot in financial services B2B. And then some consumer packaged goods, retail, a little bit in the web3 space as well.

Christian Klepp  41:53

Fantastic. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Eric Fulwiler  41:56

Here you go or for the future depending on how you look at it. 

Christian Klepp  42:01

Eric, thanks again for your time. So take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Eric Fulwiler  42:06

Thanks so much. Really enjoyed it. 

Christian Klepp  42:08

Thanks. Bye for now.


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