By Joe Pulizzi published February 6, 2008

Putting the “Marketing” in Content Marketing: Six Key Principles to Content Promotion

mar·ket·ing
[mahr-ki-ting]

1. The act of buying or selling in a market (Dictionary.com)

Content marketing, taken at face value, is simple terminology for a complex process.  Content, as in creating information that meets your customers’ needs, and marketing, as in distributing and promoting it to a targeted group of people, inherently makes sense.

Go back to the definition of marketing at the top of this page. Marketing is all about behavior. It’s an action. It’s not about generating buzz, or web site traffic, or press mentions – unless those things lead to a profitable customer behavior.

Don and Heidi Schultz, in their book IMC: The Next Generation, state that “for all the complexity of marketing and communication plans, firms want only four outcomes from them.” Those four outcomes include:

  • To acquire new customers.
  • To retain and maintain present customers.
  • To retain and grow sales volume or profit from existing customers.
  • To migrate existing customers through the firm’s product or service portfolio.

What this means is that every bit of your content marketing focus must affect customer or prospect behavior. If this becomes the cornerstone of your content, the distribution and promotion of that content takes on a different meaning than just creating traffic or buzz. Every word and every page you create has a purpose – to drive the ultimate customer action.

As you prepare to drive your customers to do one of the four outcomes above, remember these six basic principles of content promotion. Some are simple and often overlooked. Keep these handy as you launch your content marketing initiatives.

Six Key Principles to Content Promotion

1. Segmentation is Key

Almost all businesses have different kinds and levels of customers. To be most effective, the ultimate distribution of your content should NOT be one size fits all.  Group your customers into different buying groups (also called buyer personas), and treat both the content and marketing to them as separate.

2. Permission Marketing

Anything that you deliver to your customers or prospects that is not specifically requested could be considered spam. That is why it is imperative, for both your print and email content programs, that you have your customers opt-in to your programs. Opt-in means that they have specifically requested your print magazine, enewsletter, eBook, etc.

According to CAN-SPAM law, you have a right to use email correspondence to communicate with your customer, as long as you have some kind of working relationship with them. But that doesn’t mean that you can send them unsolicited information on
an ongoing basis. Use email information to get their permission to send them your content. Use new offers to get them to sign up for your content. You must also give your customers the option to “opt-out” or unsubscribe to anything you send them as well.

3. Content without Promotion is Nothing

Lee Odden, one of the leading marketing bloggers in the country, posted this about the content vs. promotion debate:

“If you create great content and no one knows about it to link to it, you’re spinning your wheels. A combination of content as well as social networking, link networking, public relations and gaining editorial visibility as well as viral and individual link solicitations
will all work together synergistically. Building a community of consumers of your content as well as relationships with the media in your industry is the distribution network necessary to gain the most link value out of creating great content.”

Almost all organizations believe they create, or can create, great content on a continual basis. All too often, a brand will engage in a content project, not see positive results, and halt the initiative, thinking that the content didn’t meet customer needs. The majority of time, the problem was not necessarily in the content, but in the marketing of the content.

4. Meet Your Customers Where They Are Plus One

Your choice in media depends on your customers. You wouldn’t necessarily roll out an iPhone Digital Magazine version if none of your customers had iPhones. That said, you need to help your customers take the next step. Yes, give them content in media they already use, but also, you need to be cutting edge.

Just because your research indicates that a small percentage of your customers engage in online video, doesn’t mean you can’t get them there. It’s not like the iPhone example where they have to have one. If you create a valuable video on a topic your customers need to hear about, they have the PCs and internet connection to get them there. As long as the content is truly important, you have the opportunity to be seen as an innovator just by the type of media you are using to distribute your content.

5. Consistency in Communication

The old rule of thumb when it came to print advertising impressions was seven impressions. It took seven impressions of an ad per year to make an awareness impact on a decision-maker. This is much the same with content marketing. Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight. Content must be delivered on a consistent basis in all media. That means one white paper should be a white paper series. One video should be a video series. One magazine issue does not a magazine make. Whatever you decide, send it frequently to your customers and stay on schedule. If you can’t commit to a schedule, don’t do the project. While great content can make a difference, going dark or inconsistent delivery will damage the perception of your brand.

6. Let Your Content Go

If you love your content, you must learn to let it go. In the past, brands had complete control over their content message and the medium. This is still basically true with custom magazines and newsletters. But the rise of the internet and social media has changed the rules forever. Once our content goes online, it could end up anywhere. Let it. Regardless of where it ends up, the goal is to get that message out to the right kinds of people. If that happens and you see action, you’ve accomplished your goal…whether they engaged in the content on your site or someone else’s.

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Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • http://www.buyerpersona.com Adele Revella

    Hi Joe:
    I’m happy to find your blog — good stuff. Marketing is all about what the quality of the content you publish, yet too many marketers tell me that they are too busy to develop good content. So thanks for getting the word out, and for highlighting the importance of focusing on the buyer persona as the critical measure of what is, and what isn’t, quality content.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi, Junta42

    Thanks Adele…well, those marketers that are too busy should either outsource it, get it done, or look for new jobs. Over the next few years, I’m not sure how companies can survive that aren’t creating great content across the board.
    Love your blog!
    Best
    Joe

  • http://marketinginteractions.typepad.com Ardath Albee

    Excellent article, Joe! And I agree with Adele. Using personas to segment your audience for more personalized content delivery is critical.
    Likewise, consistency is necessary. Not only for frequency of delivery, but also for theme. Delivering one-off communications that seem to come out of the blue isn’t going to have the impact you want, no matter how consistent. It’s important to think about your customers’ expectations and then deliver on the promise that set them.
    Thanks again. Great stuff!
    Ardath

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi, Junta42

    Thanks Ardath…consistency is so often overlooked. I see a lot of try and give up out there. That’s why blogging has such an ongoing impact.
    Thanks for taking the time.
    Joe

  • http://www.bizlift.com/blog sterling | bizlift blog

    Hi Joe. Thank you for the informative article. All 6 points are good, especially the last one.
    It reminds me of Leo Babauta’s http://www.ZenHabits.net blog. Awhile back he relinquished all copyright claims on his content and now his subscribers have climbed to almost 40k. He has also secured a book publishing deal. Letting go of control has been great for his blog’s growth.

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi, Junta42

    Sterling…thanks so much for the info on Leo. What a wonderful idea. I have the same policy, but have never communicated it. It’s time I do.