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Content Marketing Rock Star Joe Pulizzi Shares His Top Tips For Getting Started With Content Marketing


Joe PulizziI'm a BIG believer in content marketing. And many businesses are believing in it too. While business owners and marketers love the idea of content marketing (CM), many struggle with implementing a content marketing strategy that works.

What to do? Turn to the guy who most consider the top content marketing expert in the world, Joe Pulizzi. Joe is a CM evangelist and founder of the Content Marketing Institute (one of the "must read" CM sites in my opinion). And he's heck of a nice guy too to share his time and tips with the 3Rhino Media Herd. 

* UPDATE: Joe recently joined my Digital Marketing Course via Spreecast. You can watch the interview here.

Q: To make sure we're all starting on the same page, how do you define content marketing?
JOE PULIZZI: Content marketing is the creation of valuable, compelling and relevant content, developed consistently, to create a positive customer action. If it doesn’t maintain or change a behavior, it’s just content. To be content marketing, it has to help drive the business in some way.

"To be content marketing, it has to help drive the business in some way."

So basically, instead of talking about your products and services, which most people don’t care about, you clearly define your target audience – aka, your reader – and develop useful information to give them on a consistent basis. Over time, you position yourself as a true expert resource. And when customers are ready to buy, they buy from you.

Q: How did you get involved in the industry?
JOE PULIZZI: I started working at Penton Media in 2000, where I began as an account manager for Penton Custom Media. Penton is the largest independent business publisher, and Penton Custom Media worked with advertisers who didn't want to advertise. PCM ran custom content programs for big B2B brands like Microsoft, CME Group and PTC in form of custom magazines, newsletters, webinars, online content programs, etc.

I began running the department in 2001 and did so until leaving in 2007 to start the Content Marketing Institute. 2001 was the year I started to kick around the term "content marketing", and felt that term best represented what we did (rather than custom publishing, custom media or branded content).

So, I guess I'm an elder statesmen in the industry, at 13 years strong.

While CM is starting to gain more and more traction, it's still relatively new to many.

Q: Wow! 13 years strong. So you've had a lot of successes and failures along the way I assume. For those interested in content marketing, what are the most common barriers organizations face when adopting CM?
JOE PULIZZI: The biggest barrier is that it's different. Most organizations are resistant to change, and putting out marketing that has nothing specifically about your products or services is definitely change. Organizations have to make the leap that their customers really don't care about their products or services at all. Customers are selfish...they want information that is only going to be helpful or entertaining. That means thinking more like a publisher and less like a sales and marketing organization.

"Customers are selfish...they want information that is only going to be helpful or entertaining"

Once an organization makes that leap, and understands how buying decisions happen (with 60% of the buying process done without contacting a sales rep - Forrester), that changes your perspective on marketing entirely.

Other barriers include the silo structure in organizations (everyone feels they own content), a lack of consistency, a lack of processes to create truly epic content, a lack of focus on customers' informational needs, and a lack of training and education around content marketing. 

"The why must come before the what"

Q: With your experience, you have overcome these barriers before. What advice from the field do you have for helping organizations get past these barriers?
JOE PULIZZI: Start by identifying your content marketing mission statement. I feel it’s critical to set the tone for the idea of content marketing, or any marketing for that matter. Marketing professionals from so many small and large businesses get so fixated on channels such as blogs, Facebook or Pinterest that they honestly have no clue of the underlying content strategy. So, the why must come before the what. This seems obvious, but most marketers have no mission statement or core strategy behind the content they develop.

Think of it this way: What if you were the leading trade magazine for your niche area? What if your goal was not to first sell products and services but to impact your readers with amazing information that would change their lives and behaviors?

So, basically, find and identify the impact you want to make on your customers from a content standpoint. Sadly, most organizations do not have a content marketing mission statement. 

BTW, CMI's is "Developing original helpful and compelling content for enterprise marketers for the purposes of advancing the practice of content marketing"

Q: One of my favorite sayings is "The Proof is in the Pudding". Do you have any favorite case studies you'd like to share to prove CM works?
JOE PULIZZI: Well, here's 100...but besides that, I like American Express Open Forum and their small business content marketing efforts. Red Bull is a favorite, and always say that Red Bull is a media company that just happens to sell energy drinks. They have an amazing digital and print publication, multiple TV and radio stations, a record label, and a content pool where they sell content to media companies. John Deere, simply because their corporate magazine, The Furrow, continues to go strong after over 100 years.

On the small business side, I like Openview Venture Partners and their content hub, Openview Labs and, of course, River Pools & Spas Awesome Pool Blog, led by Marcus Sheridan.

Q: Ok, so we know content marketing is growing and more companies are starting to adopt it. Hopefully some of those companies will be people who read this interview. What are your predictions for content marketing in 2013?
JOE PULIZZI: Most organizations don’t need to be convinced about content marketing anymore. What they really want is a process and a framework for making it happen. I think, in 2013, more companies will start to evolve their content factories and integrate what they are doing with the rest of the organization, especially PR, sales and social media.

My big prediction is that brands, where it makes sense, will start to look at bloggers and media platforms to purchase. In other words, they’ll look at buying versus building. There’s a lot of opportunity in this area right now, in almost every industry.

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