By Joe Pulizzi published August 4, 2012

Six Key Considerations to Driving Behavior Change with Content Marketing

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 that information to a targeted group of people, inherently make sense. But, distribute it to do what exactly?

Although this sounds extremely basic, this is one of the dirty little secrets of content marketing – many marketers create a vast amount of content without a clear understanding of why they are doing it. Sad, but true.

Marketing is all about behavior. It’s an action. It’s not about generating buzz, or website traffic, or press mentions — unless those things lead to profitable customer behavior.

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

  • 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 customers’ or prospects’ behavior. If this becomes the cornerstone of your content, the distribution and promotion of that content take on a different meaning from just creating traffic or buzz. Every word and every page you create has a purpose: to drive the ultimate customer action.

Here are six things to consider to make sure that you are getting the most action from your content marketing:


Almost all businesses have different types 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 buying personas), and treat both the content and the marketing to each group as separate. According to our latest B2B content marketing research, less than 40 percent of marketers target customers with content during a particular buying stage.  Obviously, this is a concern.

Do you have permission?

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

According to the CAN-SPAM law, you have a right to use email correspondence to communicate with your customers, 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 more. Use new offers to get them to sign up for your content. You must also give your customers the option of opting out or unsubscribing to anything you send them as well.

Building promotion into your content

Lee Odden posted this about the content vs. promotion debate just a while back:

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 that they create, or can create, great content on a continuous 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 the time, the problem was not necessarily in the content, but in the marketing of the content.

Content consistency

The old rule of thumb in print advertising is that it takes seven impressions of an ad per year to make an awareness impact on a decision maker. The situation is much the same with content marketing.

Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight. Content must be delivered consistently in all the media you use. That means that one white paper should be part of a white paper series. One video should be part of a video series. One magazine issue does not a magazine make. Whatever you decide to use, send it to your customers frequently and stay on schedule. If you can’t commit to a schedule and an editorial calendar, don’t do the project. While great content can make a difference, going dark for a period of time or delivering your content inconsistently will damage the perception of your brand (and probably lead them to generally just ignore you).

Page level calls-to-action (CTA)

So many marketers (including us) have the same call-to-action (CTA) on most every content page. Start thinking that each page of content has an independent job to do…to drive profitable customer behavior in some way (hat tip to Jay Baer).  To do this effectively:

  • As part of your editorial calendar, clearly identify the call-to-action wanted.
  • Create a multitude of page types, each with their own individual CTA per page.
  • Focus on only one CTA per page.

If each individual page does its job, your larger marketing objectives will be accomplished.

Create a culture of testing

Your job as a content marketer is never done.  Be sure that, at any given moment, you have multiple A/B experiments running to test placement, color, content, etc.  Be sure to give testing consideration to:

  • Content length
  • Content type
  • Colors
  • CTAs
  • Headlines
  • Promotional tactics (including social channels)

Driving behavior through content is not easy.  It not only takes compelling and relevant content, but a keen sense for the triggers and pain points that will get your customers to act.  If only creating great content were enough.

Portions of this article were repurposed from Get Content Get Customers.

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate ebook with 100 content marketing examples.

Image via Bigstock

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.

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  • jaybaer

    Great post Joe. Really useful insights. Thanks for the HT. 

  • Roger C. Parker

    In a world of specialists, articles like this stressing the importance of a balanced approach are especially value–an admirably concise overview and guide to “tough questions to ask.”

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Roger…it’s always a balanced approach that wins.  I get turned off by the marketing posts that say you only need to do one thing and forget the rest.