Epic Content Marketing With Joe Pulizzi

December 23, 2013

Content Marketing is a very big thing. It’s the way customers want to engage with an organization or brand. We can no longer interrupt customers with mediocre content and sales messages they don’t care about. Now, more than any other time before, customers have as much power and control as marketers do in choosing which messages they engage with. The power may not have shifted completely to the side of the customer but it sure is going there fast.

If you’re talking about content marketing then it pays to talk to the master. I had the fortune of meeting Joe Pulizzi at several marketing conferences and talked to him about his thoughts on the modern marketing process.

Joe Pulizzi is considered to be the ‘father of content marketing’ and has long been an expert on the subject. His latest book Epic Content Marketing delves even deeper into what modern marketers need to understand about the shifting playing field that the Internet, social networks and content marketing have enabled.

So, what is epic content according to Joe Pulizzi?

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

A content marketing strategy can utilize many unique channels (social media, print, video etc.); be employed at all stages of the buying process and include multiple buying groups.

Joe has a less formal definition as well.

Content marketing is owning media as opposed to renting it.

Here’s how my conversation with Joe went.

Andy: What are your two favorite recent examples of epic content marketing? (You can’t use #SFBatkid!)

JP: I love Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub and just about any eBook from Velocity Partners in the UK. Their eBooks are rock solid in both design and content…and they spread. Both represent excellent, practical applications of epic content marketing to very different audiences.

Andy: Can you share some examples of epic content that did not reach its potential due to poor marketing?

‘Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

JP: Here’s one. ManoftheHouse.com by P&G. I actually believe the reason this program didn’t succeed is because they lacked patience. I believe they cut this program after about 18 months. 18 months, for content marketing, is simply not enough time. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Additionally they did not put enough marketing behind this to get it the attention it deserved.

Andy: Why do you think social and content marketing programs and strategies are expected to provide direct, measurable ROI when the majority of other marketing is too infrequently measured in an ROI way?

JP: Well, we should be looking at our return on everything we do…but to answer your question, it’s because it’s new. If we just do the same things we always did, there is not pressure to show the C-level why we need to do something different. And in all things digital there is just so much data to be measured, it cries out to be analyzed.

Andy: What key metrics should marketing pros be focused on when measuring content marketing?

JP: Everything we do should tie into these three things.

  1. Does it generate new business?
  2. Does it save us costs?
  3. Does it create happier customers (thus leading to the first point)?

So our objectives need to roll into one of these three. If not, we are probably measuring the wrong things.

Andy: Is content marketing more about branding or direct revenue generation? You only get to choose one.

JP: Direct revenue generation. In almost all the content marketing programs I’ve been involved with, you can see a tangible difference between those that subscribe to our content versus those that don’t. Content creates better customers. Branding is a secondary benefit. Generating new business, cutting costs or improving customer satisfaction all should lead to incremental revenue.

Andy: Is real time marketing the domain of astute, well-trained marketing pros or automated software? Which is it now, and which should it be?

JP: It’s not one or the other…it’s both. The technology enables us to be smarter with how we create and distribute our content, but the software is dependent on us telling consistent, compelling stories. Tools are tools in the hands of marketing pros. Content creation cannot be automated.

Andy: What advice would you give a marketing director in a large B2B company who has to convince the executives that content marketing combined with social marketing is a compelling way to reach their customers and build their brand?

JP: Switch to a company that already sees the value in content! Okay, if that doesn’t work, do a pilot program. Set agreed upon metrics for you to “try” a program. It’s almost impossible to talk a senior executive into using these types of strategies unless they see it work first. Focus on achievable results tied to a clearly defined and understood target customer.

Andy: You get to give one piece of advice to every marketing pro out there, and they must follow it completely. What is your command?

JP: Focus on and execute a content niche where you can truly be the leading expert in the world. From that, develop a content subscription program. Analyze your subscribers and find out what makes them different from non-subscribers.

My other recommendation would be to look for opportunities to buy a small media company in your industry. There is so much opportunity in this area and most marketers don’t even realize that this could be an option.

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