Kevan Lee: From VP of Marketing to Founding a Company While Being a B2B Creator

kevan lee

Kevan Lee stands out as a multifaceted professional, excelling in both marketing leadership and B2B content creation.

As the SVP of Marketing, he has driven strategic initiatives, branding, and customer acquisition while also crafting engaging content for B2B audiences since 2018.

His adaptability and talent are evident as he successfully juggles these roles, with his newsletter now reaching over 10,000 marketers and founders keen on insights into leadership, branding, and marketing.

Check out to see how he did it:

TL;DR

1. Successful creators play the long-game

2. Be transparent

3. Focus on one platform and one content

4. Help your audience and it will help you

5. Value driven content.

Who is Kevan Lee?

In the beginning Kevan Lee, was a sports journalist who switched to Vox Media, and then moved to the SaaS tech market as the Director of Marketing at Buffer.

At Buffer he scaled the business through a Product-Led Growth motion that acquired 7 million users and 50,000 business customers, accounting for $30 million in ARR. 

While being at Buffer he started his newsletter which will be an important subject throughout our article, but more on this later.

After almost 7 years, he said goodbye to Buffer to join Polly, and later switched to Oyster where he became Senior Vice President of Marketing.

His impact on Oyster was visible from his first year. He helped the company increase 20x its revenue and build a marketing team comprising over 50 people.

Today, he realized his true potential of advising and coaching people and brands on different aspects such as marketing and management.

That’s why he created his company Bonfire where together with Shannon Deep where they provide creative storytelling for brands and support for the people who build them.

Now let’s see what Kevan Lee does that makes him a B2B content creator and what can we learn from him.

SVP of Marketing by Day and B2B Creator by Night?

After briefly discussing with Kevan and discovering why the newsletter played such an important role in his career, I began to think that every VP of Marketing should have their own personal newsletter. 

In fact, these days it’s so easy to set up a newsletter on ConvertKit, Substack, or Beehive and maintain consistency in your work. You don’t need to start from scratch; just create a personal space to connect more deeply with your audience. 

That’s what Kevan did, and he executed it brilliantly.

How did he do it?

1. The importance of having your audience as a marketer

Kevan started his newsletter as a way to share his thoughts, his ideas, and what he learns throughout the month.

I think that is why he didn’t even search for a name. He wants it to be as authentic as it can be.

To promote his newsletter, he wrote a few times on Twitter about his newsletter to encourage people to subscribe, but he was not aggressive or pushy.

I think that what made people subscribe to his newsletter was his genuine desire to help and share insights with anyone who needed it.

Right from his first newsletters he wrote about remote job offers for those interested and shared insights on how they do things at Buffer.

He even shared exercises he did with Buffer’s marketing based on a framework from Tom Tunguz.

He even wrote a Medium article about it to explain the whole process of creating a solid marketing roadmap for the Buffer marketing team.

Even now, in one of his recent newsletters, he shared a Notion database he created and talked about how he manages OKRs with his teams.

1. Your audience helps you test new concepts and ideas

He was open to share product roadmap ideas from Buffer, showed projects of what they wanted to achieve at Buffer and Oyster.

Below you can see a fully transparent Buffer board with the product’s roadmap back in 2018 that Kevan shared. 

Buffer Transparent Product Roadmap

Why did he share these?

Because he realized the importance of being open to your audience.

Knowing that showing and testing different concepts with his audience will lead to feedback and new project ideas from his subscribers.

Subscribers? No, his community.

His community is there everytime need it because he is there for it too.

2. Audience can bring you the next hire

While he was at Oyster and building up his marketing team he wrote on his newsletter that he’s looking for new employees.

And guess what? He hired five people who were subscribers to his newsletter.

This had a lot of influence on the number of his followers.

He went from 3.000 subscribers to 10.000.

Why? Because his audience knows him. It reads his ideas and opinions whenever he writes. 

He became familiar to his audience, building his subscribers’ confidence and eagerness to come work alongside him.

3. Show your authority

Kevan’s authenticity shines through in his writing and interactions. He shares his thoughts and experiences openly, allowing his audience to connect with him on a deeper level. 

This authenticity builds trust and credibility, making his content more impactful and relatable.

Almost 90% of his newsletters focus on quality marketing and management advice.

As more people saw value in his newsletter, they started sharing it with their fellow marketers and more.

That’s how Kevan’s newsletter is now read by important figures from HubSpot, Shopify, Buffer, Unbounce, Trello, and more.

4. No need for strong social presence

Kevan was consistent with his newsletter, publishing it monthly in the beginning, then switching over to bimonthly at his audience’s request.

Because of his full content and that little CTA at the end telling people to share his newsletter with their colleagues and friends, he did not need to aggressively promote his newsletter on social media.

He indeed has a Twitter, LinkedIn, and an Instagram account, but he prefers not to spend a lot of time on them as they’re very solicitant and your audience depends a lot on the platform’s algorithms.

This just reminded me of the idea of not building your brand on rented land which I read about in Joe Pulizzi’s article so long ago.

Even though this idea was first mentioned by John Battelle back in 2014, it’s still valid today.

Kevan knew about this from the start and focused on his newsletter and on his blog. 

He used to present some of his blog posts in his newsletter from time to time.

5. Kevan gives genuine help

Aside from the free weekly newsletter, he has a paid subscription option where his community has access to more Notion documents, marketing tools and exclusive content.

All the money he received from the paid subscription are donated to the nonprofit IFundWomen.

In these five years since he started to write his newsletter he always tried to help his community. 

From writing job offers, interview questions, talking about marketing, product, and management advice, and giving Trello boards as inspiration – he constantly helps.

While working at Oyster, he shared Oyster’s martech stack with his community hoping his subscribers would also recommend him other amazing tools.

6. Has a collaborative approach

Kevin is a very supportive marketer colleague who goes to different podcasts as guest and conferences as speaker to share his ideas.

  • He was invited to Swipe Files to discuss more about how he and his team leveraged engineering as marketing at Buffer, leadership lessons from growing and managing a team with radical transparency, and his process for finding and evaluating new jobs.
  • At Revenue talks podcast by Drift, Kevan discusses what Oyster’s go-to-market scoreboard looks like, how the team holds each other accountable, and more all while using sport analogies.

Since he focuses on helping others, he obviously shows the same support to other marketers:

  • To his friend Justin Tsang and his team from Clearbit for launching a new tool
  • To Kyle Poyar when he wrote about Product-Led Growth companies

He also wrote a newsletter issue in that same time where he included a link to Kyle Poyar’s article about Product-Led Growth companies.

  • To Stella Garber, VP of Marketing at Trello by interviewing her in one of his newsletters. 

He’s a fan of Trello as he mentions them in a lot of his newsletters and blogs where he shares a lot of Trello boards made over the years.

Throughout his career, Kevan has remained proud of the companies he has worked for and has supported them wholeheartedly. 

This serves as a reminder to stay true to your values and beliefs, and to align yourself with companies and causes that you are passionate about.

Even if he wasn’t such a big fan of social media, he did take his time to share important company news:

What Are the Lessons B2B Creators Can Learn From Kevan Lee?

1. Play the long-game even if you don’t have a specific purpose

Even though Kevan started his own newsletter his newsletter is now read by over 10.000 marketers, founders and professionals in the industry. 

By consistently providing valuable content, he has built a loyal following and established himself as a trusted authority in the field. 

This demonstrates the power of playing the long-game and the potential for unexpected opportunities that may arise from simply sharing your knowledge and insights.

That’s why most of the successful B2B creators continue to play the long-term game. 

Spending years focusing on creating content, shaping your audience and growing a personal brand eventually pays off.

Erika Kullberg spent three and a half years building her audience and becoming a personal finance expert helping millions of people struggling with finances.

Or Mr. Beast who started making videos on YouTube when he was thirteen years perfectioning his videos, creating viral content which eventually made him the most influential YouTuber. 

2. Social media is not for everybody

Today a lot of people venture on social media platforms hoping to have a share of the big pie. But being constantly present on social media, learning the algorithms was not for Kevan, and maybe it’s not for you too.

Kevan recognized that his strengths lie in creating in-depth content and engaging with his subscribers.

Rather than trying to be everywhere at once, he chose to focus his efforts on providing valuable content and building meaningful connections.

This serves as a reminder to prioritize quality over quantity and to play to your strengths.

You don’t have to be on every platform and grow your audience everywhere.

Focus on one platform and invest your time and energy on one platform, but in the meantime don’t forget that you also have a day to day job, a family, or a life.

I love how Alex Lieberman presented the audience pyramid.

A. Rented audience – Where you don’t own the relationship with your audience, such as social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or TikTok

B. Owned audience – A place where you own the relationship: email, podcast, and community

C. Monetized audience – Where people pay you something. It can be digital products or events.

So, think about what you want from your audience and where it’s best for you to create.

3. Offer valuable insights and resources

Kevan’s focus is on writing the content. Even though he is a great speaker, an amazing podcast guest, his main focus is written content due to his background in journalism.

He continuously seeks opportunities to expand his knowledge and skills, demonstrating the importance of being open to continuous learning and personal development by sharing his ideas and engaging with subscribers.

Follow his example and choose the type of content you love the most to create. 

If you like to interview, make interviews. If you love to create videos, choose a YouTube channel. Ensure you have the time and resources to create at 1 / week for an entire year. If not, maybe it’s best to reconsider your options.

Final Thoughts

Kevan Lee is an incredibly influential figure in the B2B marketing and content creation industry. 

His ability to play the long game, his transparency and openness have allowed him to establish himself as a trusted authority and build a loyal following.

I am excited to see what he will do at his newly Bonfire company for which he already created a newsletter called Around the Bonfire hoping to cultivate creativity and community for all the brands seeking it.

And don’t worry, he’ll continue to write his genuine newsletter.