By Joe Pulizzi published August 18, 2014

7 Thoughts That Will Change Your Content Marketing Strategy

image laptop-beside-newspaperThe month before each Content Marketing World event has always been an interesting time for me.

The first reason is because I stay in one place for a large chunk of time. That’s a big deal for me, as throughout the fall, winter, and spring I’m almost always on the road, traveling to all parts of the world. Second, it’s when I work on particular items for the show, like the Content Marketing Awards, the music sequencing, the video intros, or (most likely) keeping our exhibitors happy. And, last but not least, it’s when I get more family time — more time to ponder what’s truly important in life (and more time to question whether or not I’m doing this whole “parenting” thing right).

Long story short, I’m more sentimental during this time of the year. I’m less caught up in the day-to-day and more focused on the big picture.

It’s this shift in focus that’s driven me to write the post you see below. It outlines the main things that keep me up at night as a content marketer — things I hope you will keep in mind, as they have the tremendous potential (if done right) to make a lasting impact on the success of your content marketing strategy. 

1. Take “best of breed” seriously

Ninety-nine percent of companies don’t do this. In my third book, Epic Content Marketing, I talk about six principles that are essential to epic content marketing. The sixth, and perhaps most important, is setting a goal/mission to be the “best of breed” informational provider for your industry niche — i.e., to truly be the leading informational resource for your industry.

This is critical to making content marketing work for you. If your content marketing isn’t eagerly anticipated and truly necessary, at some point, your audience will see through the façade and ignore you.

Ask yourself this: If your content marketing disappeared from the planet, would anyone miss it?

If no one would miss your information, you’ve got work to do. Start by setting your goal, then set up the processes and invest in the people you need to reach that goal. 

2. Go 6 months without mentioning your product

When I was doing research for the book, I compared CMI’s informational/educational posts to posts that mentioned our products and/or services. The posts that talked about us received about 25 percent of the total unique visitors that a regular, educational post did. At the same time, we received virtually no additional subscribers on our sales-related posts, while our regular posts brought in between 35 and 75 subscribers.

The point is this: The more you talk about yourself, the more you’ll negatively impact your content marketing efforts. Keep the offers outside the content, and watch your program flourish. 

3. Follow the “3-legged-stool” model

Almost every successful media company in the world leverages the “3-Legged-Stool” model: creating content for digital, print (print magazine or newsletter), and in-person (customer event or series of customer meetings). I believe that if your brand doesn’t leverage all three channels in a meaningful way, you cannot truly be an industry-leading informational source.

Beyond that, there is a huge opportunity in leveraging print channels, specifically. Just think of it like the value of a trade show where all your customers are in attendance, but none of your competition showed up. That’s the value print content marketing currently represents. I smell opportunity. 

4. Leverage native advertising while you can

In a recent LinkedIn native advertising post, I wrote the following: 

Publishers are using native to survive and grow. Brands are using native to steal audience from the publisher. It’s that simple.

I’m not sure how long publishers in your industry will offer native advertising opportunities. If I’m a brand, I’m going to want to go all-in on leveraging native to steal as much audience as possible. Look into it. 

5. Forget real-time marketing

Some of the real-time marketing examples surrounding the tragic death of Robin Williams will make you sick to your stomach. Brands and publishers alike are tripping over themselves to leverage breaking news for business gain.

The only situation in which you should be considering real-time marketing is if your content marketing strategy is near perfect. Only then will you be well prepared enough to tackle the risks of real-time (and reap the potential rewards).

Focus on consistent, valuable information… become the expert… get the process in place… be patient. 

6. Kill a channel

Here’s a publishing truth: It’s likely that, with each new channel you add to your content marketing plan, the other channels you are already using will take a small hit in quality and focus. I’ve seen this time and again as our concentration goes wider and our relevance gets broader.

I’d like to challenge you to kill a channel (or two) and put a renewed focus on the channels that are most worthy of your time and attention. Be amazing: Be great at distributing content through three channels; use another three to heavily promote that content; and forget the rest… at least for a while. Then check the results. 

7. Begin with the end in mind

If you’ve read Stephen Covey’s long-time best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you’ll recognize this one as the second habit: Begin with the End in Mind. In Covey’s words:

It focuses on what you want to be and do. It is your plan for success. It reaffirms who you are, puts your goals in focus, and moves your ideas into the real world.

If you don’t know what you want to be, in terms of your content marketing, when you grow up, how will you know if you are on the right path?

Things to do:

  • Create your content marketing mission statement.
  • Set a subscriber goal for your content.
  • Decide what you ultimately want subscribers to do.
  • Answer the question, “How Will We Know We Are Succeeding?

Do you have a major issue that is driving your success, or stopping you from succeeding?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Follow our simple, step-by-step plan to integrate unique, impactful, and strategic content marketing into your organization. Download Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program.

Cover image by TheAngryTeddy via Pixabay

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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  • http://davidboozer.com/ David Boozer

    I killed all but three channels over the last year Joe…. I have to say, my reach has gone further and the type of persona reached has been amazing.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Hi David,
      This is great to hear. Would you be willing to chat about how you decided which channels to stop and what you did in the remaining channels to improve reach? If so, drop me an email at michele [at] contentinstitute.com. Thanks!

  • Artin

    I was looking at no.2 and trying to connect with what we are doing and as to what is considered educational post?

    Jo,e I am not sure how you define that but for me an educational post talks about the reader – however being educated in direct response marketing almost all of our content has a call to action.

    80% of our content is educational and 20% promotional – whether articles, videos, or email blasts to our list. So the educational content will have a reference to either one of our paid products (about 10% of the time), and most often ask the reader to get a report, a cheat sheet, watch a video or register for a webinar etc.

    All in all 80% of the content that we consider educational we also consider it sales content since the call to action (CTA) will lead to asking the reader to do something else and ‘raise his hand’ to show his interest and get something else eventhough that ‘something else’ is not to spend money.

    So again how would you define educational vs sales posting?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Artin…I believe for the content to be effective, the call to action falls outside the content. If your call to action is to another piece of relevant content, that’s not what I’m talking about at all. Sounds like you are moving the buyer along the journey without talking about your product, correct?

      • Artin

        If you Don’t consider product a free report, webinar or video that is related to the post, you’re correct!

        Because for us everything is considered a product, even when it is free, since we’ve started building funnels where we take people from an educational post, and pull them to another educational post and maybe to another one which in the end will mention about the product.

        What’s true is that there’s no mention about the paid product until the prospect has kind of qualified himself through the various ‘pull info’ that he has a particular area of interest and then at the final piece of content, usually a webinar, we show how they can get much better results if they buy from us.

        • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

          Sounds like you have a good plan in place Artin! Thanks for the comments.

  • http://www.fisheye.tv John Nycz

    Joe – just finishing your latest book, but I’m hung up on #2: What if your product is “content”? Perhaps transition to talking about “tactics” vs. content?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      I guess I don’t understand John. Take “Inc” magazine for example. Their product is the content, but they don’t talk about their advertising opportunities in the content itself. The point is, if you are educating customers about just your product, that’s not really content marketing. Sounds like good customer service.

  • rogercparker

    The stats in the 2nd point are very provocative, but, I, too, would like to see more detail and discussion in terms of “next steps” and “leading to conversions.”

    For example, should “next steps” appear next to the post, (i.e., below or in the sidebar) rather than in the post itself?

    Very share-worthy post, tho.
    Roger

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Roger…you are right, way too many variables. I think the point is that too many companies talk about themselves in the content…and it usually isn’t a good outcome. Thanks for commenting (as always)

  • idacecilia

    Hi Joe! What a good article!

    I have a question about your point 6 – Kill a channel. I’ve been meaning to kill my company’s Facebook page for a while now. We are a small B2B company and LinkedIn is by far our best channel to reach customers.

    But what should I do with our “killed” Facebook Page? I don’t just want to leave it as it is, because it will look like we just never update it. Should I delete all our posts? Or just add a post that refers visitors to our LinkedIn page? Or should I delete the page completely? But then the risk might be that someone else registers a page in our name?

    What are your thoughts here?

    Thank you!
    Ida

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Ida…hard to say without knowing more…but if you aren’t going to dedicate time to Facebook as a content-first channel, you may just want to shore up your presence and call it a day. It depends on what you use it for, what the goals are, and if you can even accomplish your goals in that channel.
      I probably wouldn’t delete it…just take a good look at all your channels and choose which ones you are going to dedicate resources to and which ones you just need to be there (just in case).

  • Barbara Green

    My question is about the three-legged stool, particularly the print leg. What are you referring to in that “leg”? Whitepapers? Books? Print advertising? I’m not sure what you mean.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Barbara…good question. Something consistent in print, like a mini-magazine, newsletter, educational postcard initiative…something to take advantage of the channel done on a consistent basis.

      • Barbara Green

        Thanks for your response. I do a newsletter/E-zine every month, but that is digital, too. Not sure how I would distribute a print piece, since most of my contacts I only have an email address.

        • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

          Hi Barbara…don’t force it. It should fit within your strategy. Print is usually best for customer retention loyalty, so perhaps something to your current customers to get them to stay longer, buy more, etc.

  • Abhishek Dubey

    Hi Joe, Pardon my ignorance I am new to content marketing…can you please tell me what do you mean by “in person content creation”.

  • Abhishek Dubey

    Hi Joe, Pardon my ignorance I am new to content marketing…can you please tell me what do you mean by “in person content creation”.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi…I need to be more specific. In-person would be a customer event or ongoing customer educational meetings.

  • Bobby Burns

    Great piece, Joe. I just read through the comments previous and also appreciate the questions that came from this. I especially like the simplicity of pursuing a 3-legged stool strategy and the thought of “killing channels” just fills me with joy! (p.s. enjoying your latest book, too!)

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Awesome Bobby (and thanks for buying the book)

  • http://radix-communications.com Emily King

    I heartily agree with point 5. I still can’t believe how some people were able to put together the kinds of content we were seeing last week.

    In regards to point six: how do you assess adding a new channel instead?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Emily. Well, I guess it depends. The reason I listed point six is because we are finding that brands are experimenting so much with adding channels that they aren’t committing to excellence. But if you see an opportunity in a new channel, go for it.

  • Arun Batra

    Hi Joe,
    I agree with most of the points made by you but I was wondering about customizing the strategy to fit into a pure B2B space where you have limited number of customers with significant continuous repurchase. The challenge seems to be getting compounded with technology edge being with customer.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      If I read this correctly, what if you were the leading informational source for those (few) customers? Would they buy more, stay longer, etc.?

  • Paul

    Joe another insightful article – I pretty much agree with all of it, however, re point 7 I don’t know if I’d go down that road – as you mentioned so often, and I agree , shouldn’t we first analyse customer info and build your content plan from there?

    Paul

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Correct Paul…that is what building a content marketing mission statement is all about. I actually think we are saying the same thing.

  • http://www.redmudmedia.com/ Ralph du Plessis

    Joe, we always try and push clients to invest in proper design in order to give content the edge in “best of breed” because I believe that design holds the key. Obviously the substance of the content forms the foundations of this.

    My question to you, though, is this. If you are just starting to build a content marketing team so that, like us, you can move away from the inconsistencies that come with freelancers, what would that team look like and in what order would you hire them?

    My take on that is as follows:

    1. Editor
    2. PR/Outreach Specialist
    3. Copywriter
    4. Data Scientist
    5. Designer
    6. Developer

    • http://www.redmudmedia.com/ Ralph du Plessis
      • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

        You got it Ralph…editor is number one in my opinion. All companies are flush with content. Good editors will help make sense of what’s worth time spending on.

    • Diane Stresing

      Oh, if only most companies had time/resources to distinguish between the (real, but not necessarily obvious) different roles and their benefits! In too many organizations, and not just small businesses, the content manager is tasked with all six “job” listed above.

  • Stefan M

    Joe, why do you think editor is number one?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Stefan…most companies have plenty of content, but don’t have someone to make decisions as to what should be published, or take base content and turn them into compelling stories. At least this is what we see on a recurring basis.

      • Stefan M

        Ok, I understand you.

        I’m crazy, but CRAZY concerning content. In my opinion, content is the king (probably you know who said this). :)