By Joe Pulizzi published February 16, 2012

The Future of Content Marketing – 6 Differences Between Good and Great [Part 2]

In part one of this series – The History of Content Marketing – we covered how the barriers to entry for brands becoming media companies have fallen, and now the differences are all but gone.

But don’t start the party just yet.

In a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, although 90% of all companies employ some form of content marketing, the majority are still struggling with creating content that truly engages their customers and delivers results for the company.

Good to Great Content Marketing

So, what separates the good from the great when it comes to content marketing?  Well, that’s not an easy question to answer.  That said, through all the research (both quantitative and qualitative), we’ve found six differences that are separating good to great content marketers.

1. The Focused, Educational Content Platform

Great content marketers have developed (some for many years) targeted, educational content portals similar to what media companies have been doing for decades.  A best-of-breed example is P&G:

What is key about these sites is a laser-like targeting of a super niche category. Where most average content marketers fall down is by going to broad with their content focus.  A key to P&G’s success is very specific content targeted to a very specific buyer.

2. Opening Up New Content/Media Markets

The best content marketers are helping to shape the story, and the terminology of their respective markets.  Citrix launched years ago as the online answer for those people whose offices are anywhere – the coffee shop, the airport, the home office…anywhere.  The site is chock full of amazing stories to help this buyer, and is perfectly aligned with Citrix products like GoToWebinar and GoToMeeting.

The site and company, through the creation and distribution of compelling and relevant content, have defined the content market for themselves, their customers AND the media.  So much so, that leading media publications such as BusinessWeek use Citrix’s own terminology of workshifting.

3. The Chief Storyteller

We are seeing more brands embrace the role of the Chief Storyteller or Chief Content Officer within the marketing organization (more here on team workflow).

Content is being created and distributed in multiple silos in an organization, including:

  • Social Media
  • Public Relations
  • Marketing
  • Email
  • Mobile
  • Search

In many of our interviews with marketers, the heads of these departments were unaware of the stories being created and distributed in other silos.  This type of content workflow does not set up for a working customer experience, as content often doesn’t align.

Leading organizations are hiring individuals with strong storytelling backgrounds (often journalists and publishers) to help coordinate and fine tune the content marketing process inside and outside the organization.  Examples include:

  • Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing, Eloqua
  • Rob Yoegel, Content Marketing Director, Monetate

4. Leveraging Employees in Content Creation

Best of breed content marketers are looking for ways to engage employees in the content creation process.  Probably no better example exists than Boston-based VC firm OpenView Venture Partners.

OpenView has gone from literally no original content creation just a few years back to becoming a content marketing powerhouse by leveraging their expert employees.  A full 90% of OpenView employees now blog on a regular basis.  That blog is a major part of their content platform – OpenView Labs -built specifically for entrepreneurs looking for early stage funding (their target prospect).

Some of the results of OpenView’s content marketing program include:

  • Over 10,000 opt-in subscribers in 18 months
  • 850% growth in site traffic
  • Significantly shorter sales cycle
  • Direct leads and sales
  • Over 1,000 pieces of original content, including videos, podcasts and blog articles (OpenView has an in-house studio).

5. Removing the Brand from the Story

For top of the funnel, attraction-oriented content, stories are shared at a significantly higher rate when the brand is removed from the story.  That means a removal of sales pitches entirely from the content to engender trust and credibility. Examples include:

6. Building a Community by Leveraging Outside Experts

More and more, leading brands are working to dominate a content niche, not necessarily through internal experts, but by leveraging outside industry experts as the majority of their thought leadership content creation. According to CMI research, over 50% of brands outsource some part of the content creation process (rising from 55% to 58% year-over-year). Great content marketing means that leveraging outside content experts is a must.

Examples of influencer and expert community sites include:

This original presentation was given at Online Marketing Summit 2012, and the slides are below.  Additional details on this presentation can be found at TopRank Online Marketing, who covered the event.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute , Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, including best-selling Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill) and the new book, Content Inc. Check out Joe's two podcasts. If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

Join Over 180,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • Halelly Azulay

    Thanks – great content, very interesting. I’m wondering about #5 above, though… if our goal is marketing, how do we get the end results if we white-label?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Halelly…important question. I should be more specific. The content itself is not branded at all…no mentions of company, but the place would be your blog site or your website, so you would get the traffic and credit. If you look at any one of the four examples, they are the “sponsors” of the article, but the content doesn’t sell or mention products or services (especially important for attraction-stage content). Hope that makes sense. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Matt Smith

    Joe, Your analysis and recommendations of best-practices are spot on! Sharing it with our clients right now to help them see the examples of what content marketing can become for them. By the way, we see overcoming #5 (Removing Brand From the Story) as the biggest challenge for those who came up the ranks through traditional marketing. It seems to be the hardest habit to break! Thanks again sharing. Matt Smith, 3FORWARD

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Excellent Matt…and I hear you on #5.

  • Kevin Cain

    Great post, Joe. Very interesting! Makes me proud to work for OpenView.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Absolutely Kevin…you have one great organization there.

  • Latha

    Great Post!! Removing the brand is a new concept for me.

  • Sarah

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for sharing this helpful article on content management. Valuable content can go a long way in driving traffic to your website, as well as contributing to SEO. A great way to create fresh content is to write a blog, which can be continuously updated. Here is an article that shows the importance of marketing on the web and that good content contributes to higher interest in what you share: I hope this further supports your point in the importance of good content.


  • Stephen Floyd

    Another GREAT article!! I am so glad I found your site!! I do see issues with getting a buy-in from corporate when you remove the brand…it is hard enough to get the buy in WITH the branding…the ROI for social media and marketing can be very difficult to show, especially to aging senior management.

    I AM going to keep trying however!!

    Thanks again for the useful information!!

  • K K

     This is a comment of azerbaijan