Joe Pulizzi is a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe is first and foremost a content marketing evangelist, and founded the Content Marketing Institute (a division of Z Squared Media, a 2012 Inc 500 Company), which includes the largest in-person content marketing event, Content Marketing World, as well as Chief Content Officer magazine, the leading magazine for content marketers. Joe is co-author of Get Content Get Customers (McGraw-Hill), recognized as THE handbook for content marketing, as well as Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand.
Joe travels around North America and Europe talking to marketers and business owners about how they are indeed publishers, and what they need to do about it. He also writes one of the most popular content marketing blogs in the world and is overly passionate about the color orange.
Question: “Content marketing” has become one of those buzzwords that everyone talks about but very few people actually understand. How do you define content marketing?
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.
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 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.
Question: What is the biggest content marketing mistake made by small and medium-sized businesses?
No plan. So many SMBs just start creating all kinds of content for blogs, social media and more without a clear idea of who they are writing for and what their story should be. Most SMBs still talk about themselves, which means they don’t understand how to create and develop a relationship with customers through content. If you develop a plan, and find your content marketing mission statement, like a publisher would, then you are half way there.
The second biggest mistake is short-term thinking. Content marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. Content is a promise to customers. In order to build trust, you have to consistently do it over and over until you ARE the expert.
Question: What are some of the most successful content marketing strategies you’ve seen?
So many. I love what Citrix did with workshifting. They named an industry – which is that a small business can function everywhere – and developed content on how to solve the pain points of those kinds of professionals. This is called a platform strategy. American Express Open Forum did the same thing.
Our company, the Content Marketing Institute, built relationships with influencers over years. 95% of the content on our site comes from those influencers, who then share out posts to their network, which drives more traffic back to our site. In two years, we were able to grow to more than 100,000 unique visitors per month and a multi-million dollar business. I’m telling you this example because we spent less than $50,000 making this happen. Any SMB can do this if they have patience and vision.
Question: The use of images in content marketing exploded in 2012 with the emergence of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, while Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin became more focused on imagery. How do you see content marketing evolving in 2013?
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 SMBs, 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.
Question: In 2013, mobile web browsing is expected to overtake desktop web browsing. What can content marketers do to make their content better suited to the mobile lifestyle?
This is easy. Make sure your website has a responsive design – meaning that the design adjusts to the smartphone or tablet format automatically. If SMBs did just that one thing in 2013, it would be huge. Most SMBs don’t do this out of simple ignorance. There is no excuse not to make this happen.
I just read a stat that approximately 50% of all e-newsletter content on Black Friday was opened on a mobile device. We are getting to a point where consumers expect their mobile content to be completely readable on a smartphone. It’s the one device they have with them all day long as well. So be sure your email communications reads well on smartphones. Using a reputable email delivery service will help with that.
If your website renders as the desktop site and not a mobile-ready site, you can pretty much kiss that customer goodbye. Consumers have no patience to pinch and zoom or navigate a website on a smartphone today. Consumers expect more today because we are not competing against our industry competitors. We are competing against Google and Amazon.
Readers, what content marketing strategies are working or not working for you?
Join the discussion 18 Comments
Awesome interview. I love how Joe defines content marketing and sets it apart from blogging and other content creation. This has helped me become more focused on my goals in 2013 and I plan to share this mindset with my readers too. Thanks for asking such great questions Scott.
Thanks, Ileane. I’m glad you found the interview so helpful. I think it’s refreshing and encouraging that the definition of content marketing is rather simple, although too many marketers are stuck in an age when people basically used marketing to talk about themselves. Thanks for reading and sharing – Scott
Thank you for this great interview with Joe. After reading this post, it was like I put on a new pair of gasses. I can see clearer what exactly I need to do when it comes to Content Marketing. I must confess, I was flip-flopping my content and one of my goals for 2013 was to be more consistent on ONE niche! I have chosen that niche but now I am more focused due to this post. How can I ever thank you? Donna
Hi Donna – Great metaphor. Sometimes we see more clearly when an expert confirms our instincts. Sounds like you’re onto a smart strategy. As for how you can thank me, let me give it some thought and I’m sure I’ll come up with something 🙂 Thanks for the kind words – Scott
Excellent Donna…choosing one niche to focus on can be the hardest, and most important, decision.
What a great interview and I appreciate this coming from a content marketing expert. I love his definition and I have a very good friend who is a content marketing specialist as well and I’ve really learned a lot from her too. She basically works with small businesses and writes their content for them.
This is a great example on the direction we all need to be headed this year so thanks for sharing this with us Scott. Now it’s time to buckle down and get to work.
Hi Adrienne – The great thing about getting advice from someone like Joe is that he’s not only an expert, but he’s done it. He built a business through content marketing with minimal investment. Very educational and inspiring. Thanks – Scott
Really, really enjoyed this. Well, I’ve been doing content marketing with my three blogs for a while now, according to Joe’s own definition of it. It makes me feel great.
I can’t imagine myself read a whole blog post on a mobile phone, and I had to get accustomed to the idea that this is coming, and coming fast. As far as I know my blogs are set up for it.
Thanks for this great introduction of such knowledgeable professional and for this interview.
Hi Sylviane – Glad you enjoyed it. I love it when I learn something from the interviewee. As for mobile content consumption, it’s already here. Time for us to catch up, myself included. Thanks – Scott
Hi Scott. Thanks for posting – always good to hear Joe’s view. The fundamental point in there for me is the issue of big companies buying rather than building. I work on the consultancy side, as do many of your readers, and it’s our job to help those organisations BUY the benefits of content marketing. But can you build up a thought-leadership reputation overnight? How much do you invest in building a reputation versus just buying the space. If content marketers are just going to buy platforms and bloggers, aren’t they just advertising? Weren’t we doing that 10 years ago? I think there’s a danger of ignoring the need for a long-term view…
But thanks for posting a great interview – got me thinking!
Hi John – I see what you’re saying, but I think it only becomes advertising if you take existing content marketing platforms and transform them into selling platforms. I agree that you can’t really build thought leadership overnight and that shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, you leverage strong distribution channels and relationships to enhance your brand and expand your reach. Makes sense if you can find the right fit and you have the means. Great points, thanks! Scott
True – it’s not the same thing. But I think a good thought leadership strategy has to strike the right balance of building an online presence for itself and buying in the influence. Ideally, this involves investing more heavily in ‘bought’ influence at the start (especially if the client is a start-up with little brand awareness) and then gradually reducing the investment as the social media presence builds. But this is a long-term game and clients need patience. The principle of earned media is great – but it doesn’t come free. You have to earn it!
(BTW – enjoying the other blog posts. And empathise with the trials of having as toddler daughter!)
Hi John – I agree with everything you said. I also think, for some businesses, purchasing an entity that has already achieved something you strive to achieve isn’t a bad strategy, as long as you leverage that new asset smartly. Facebook could have developed its own mobile photo sharing platform. Instead, it plunked down a cool $1 billion for Instagram. One may question the price tag or what Facebook has done with Instagram since that purchase, but the principle behind it is valid. Leverage an existing success in order to make your business more successful. By the way, I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts! Thanks again for raising important points – Scott
Great point John…yes, there is a chance they could take a great media brand and mess it up…but with the right intentions, it could be a strong play (just like when some media companies buy other ones – some blossom, some die). It will be interesting to watch.
Awesome interview here!
To piggyback on the “purchasing blogger and media platforms” statement – this is hugely incredible insight into a pain point for most SMB’s – too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
What Joe has highlighted here is the golden nugget of problem solving. Regardless of what field you are in, if you can offer a solution to solve problems, jeez – your business will explode – the sky is the limit. Same goes for content – too busy and not enough time to do – hmmm wonder how many other writers picked up on this…
Thanks for sharing the great interview!
Hi Christine – Thanks so much! As a writer, I definitely picked up on this. When I speak with potential clients who want to develop content, the biggest obstacle is a lack of time. They recognize the basic value of good content, but like anything else, they find it difficult to part with money in exchange for the services of a good writer. After all, if you know about your business – and you know how to type – you could do the job yourself, right? 🙂
As a writer, I’m biased, but you can get more mileage from a well-written piece of content than just about any other investment, from repurposing the content five different ways, to SEO, to establishing trust and expertise. Talk about killing 10 birds with one stone. Now please pardon me while I step off my soapbox.
Great point about content going visual. Giving content a heartbeat (the idea, voice, cadence) gives it a personality and people like personality. I agree with you that the ROI of producing good content is going to be reflected by tangible results.
excellent questions and brilliant answers….thanks for sharing!!!