By Joe Pulizzi published November 9, 2013

Marketers’ True Competition, and Why You Need Epic Content

guy in fox suit-internet competitionOf the principles of epic content marketing that I’ve previously outlined, it’s the sixth one that I get the most push back on — namely, that our content needs to be “best of breed.” This means that it must be the most helpful, most interesting, and most entertaining of all content that is available in our field.

The core idea behind this principle is that if our content isn’t truly the best, why should our customers care? With all the information out there in our content niche, our customers have every right to ignore us if it doesn’t truly stand out and make a difference in their lives.

But is this even enough? Do we need to raise the bar even more?

We just might, because when it comes right down to it, your competition for creating epic content might not mean what you think it means.

Your spouse’s content

We just finished our Content Marketing Master Class in San Francisco, run by the one and only Robert Rose, CMI’s Chief Strategist. Since then, one of the key points that has been resonating with me is the question of what our true content marketing competition is.

Robert shared an example of two key competitors in the manufacturing field. Both of the lead marketers at these companies did what they were programmed and taught to do — put together a content audit of the landscape to check for content gaps. Basically, this meant analyzing the content coming from their No. 1 competitors.

In the past, this may have worked well enough; but today, it’s short sighted.

In his Content Marketing World 2013 keynote presentation, Jay Baer talked about breaking through the clutter on social media. In answer to the question, “How do you really stand out?” Jay proclaimed that if you want to get his attention on Facebook (or whatever channel you’re focusing on), your content had better be more interesting than what his wife is talking about at that particular time.

The point is this: You are not just competing with all the other how-to posts, white papers, eBooks, webinars, magazines, etc., in your niche — you’re competing with content like this:

Your true competition includes all the information and content your audience persona is engaging with at that particular hour of that particular day. Your competition is not just your three to five business competitors, it’s Gangnam Style, Candy Crush, and The Walking Dead.

Just think about that for a second. I don’t know about you, but it makes me nauseous. It’s hard enough to create and distribute engaging content that is better than what your competitor is putting out. Now, we have to be more interesting than anything else in our customers’ inbox, Facebook, and Twitter stream.

What to do?

It’s almost enough to make you want to give up. Heck, advertising is so much easier, right?  Let’s just plaster our message around all that content and see what sticks.

But I think there is a way to truly be the “must-see TV” for our customers and prospects.


I presented at the Integrated Marketing Forum 2013 last week (great event, by the way). Of the 200 people in attendance, every one was producing some kind of content marketing; yet, less than 10 people had any kind of documented content marketing strategy. No wonder there is so much content clutter out there!

Start with two key questions:

  1. What would we like to see change in the next 12 months? Are we looking for revenue increases, cost savings, or happier customers? How can we, as the business, create better customers in some way by using content?
  2. What is the outcome we want our audience to aspire to? This is where you need to think outside the box. Something like “… so XYZ customer can be more efficient” simply won’t cut through the clutter. We have to go deeper, and explore ideas for how we can positively impact our customers so that they live better lives, or get better jobs, or think differently about life in general.

Get in a room with your marketing team and really go to town on these two concepts. Remember, “good enough” is not good enough. Your idea has to get past the latest viral video on YouTube.

Wants, not needs

More and more, I’m finding that the best content marketing programs revolve around aspirations, not needs. I’ve been guilty of telling marketers to “focus on customer pain points” since, well, forever. Focusing on pain points just gets you to the front door.

To get to the heart of your customer, you need to focus on what they want to be. How can you help customers get where they really want to go? Instead of basic features like “saving the company money” and “being a low-cost solution,” let’s raise the bar to things like “giving our customers more free time to live the lives they want to” or “being a person that can make a difference in the world.”

It sounds corny, but it’s so critical. To become that one resource for our customers that cuts through the clutter, we need our audience to believe that our content can change their stars (from the movie A Knight’s Tale).

So, before your next planning meeting, disregard what your competition is creating and distributing to your customers. You are better than that. Be what they want to engage with over everything else. It’s that kind of aspiration that will give you the vision to put a plan and team together that will truly make a difference.

Want more insight on how to help your content stand above the competition? Read Joe Pulizzi’s new book, “Epic Content Marketing.” 

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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  • Scott Frangos

    Joe… I watched the entire “What Da Fox Say” video, and I’m really not sure I can compete with that — but, If I understand the thrust of your article, you are saying that “pain points” are backwards looking and what we need to do is think ahead. Pain points are about something the people we serve have already encountered, while aspirations are looking to what people really envision themselves doing in the future. Dat what da fox say?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      YES!!! That’s it. I think we need both, but we should focusing on wants more than needs. Thanks Scott.

  • Max Traylor

    Hey Joe. I have heard you talk a lot about the lack of “planning” in content marketing today. Have you come across any tools or processes to help marketers (or agencies for that matter) come up with content plans?

    Thanks Joe

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Max…that’s exactly why we wrote the book (Epic Content Marketing). But the best tool is the least technology focused – talk to customers. Really opens your eyes. I’ve found more marketers never actually talk to customers.

  • Ben Jacobson

    Awesome “wakeup call” post, Joe. You did an amazing job of describing new ways of looking at the challenge, and you gave some solid pointers for at least starting to think about solutions. I’m going to need to digest this one for a few days.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Ben…it’s something CMI has been struggling with as well. There is no silver bullet here, but there is something here…

  • William holland

    I’d really like to see the authorities here at C.M.I take head-on the dominant reality of why marketing as a discipline is “failing”. Don’t think so? Ask IBM. Ask the numerous other marketing companies. In fact, I could list dozens of multinationals that no longer subscribe to the positive climate that underwrites much of what is presented here.

    Any answers?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hey William…I’d like to understand more of what you are saying. Do you have a link to a post or something so I can understand?

      • William holland

        My apology for tardiness here. First,you’re putting out a superior product here at CMI, absolutely no one can hold up to the extraordinary clear effort & attitude that animates CMI. Regarding your question. The arrival of digital technology effectively disrupted and fragmented a highly literate discipline. Until marketers understand the sheer limits of linear didactic stress that encapsulates most marketing, we’re doomed.

  • makode36

    my Aunty Chloe got an almost new yellow BMW 1 Series Coupe just by part time work from a home pc. my sources ­j­o­b­s­6­4­.­c­o­m

  • Alexandra Petean-Nicola

    I consider that in the end this article puts content marketing in the right perspective. You have to respect your audience and understand if you want their time it has to be worth it. That is why your competitors are all content creators that might interest that particular person, not just the ones in your niche.