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.

By joepulizzi published February 19, 2008

Why Marketers Are Reluctant to Move Away from Traditional Marketing Strategies

“The future of advertising is radically different from its past. The struggle for control of attention, creativity measurements and platforms will reshape the advertising value chain and shift the balance of power. And, as in previous disruptive cycles, the future cannot be extrapolated from the past.”

– from The End of Advertising as We Know It, IBM Global Services, 2007

Today, most companies are still using traditional marketing approaches that they may have been using since the middle of the 20th century.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Companies are set up to sell products, not to provide relevant and valuable information to customers and prospects.
  • Companies have well-worn marketing paths that are easy to follow.  Going off the beaten path into uncharted territory is intimidating.
  • Companies have strong relationships with media partners that may go back decades.  It’s not easy to break those relationships by pursuing a brand-new content marketing strategy.
  • The reduced effectiveness of traditional marketing may have occurred so slowly that no alarm bells have gone off within your organization.
  • Many companies aren’t measuring their marketing, so they aren’t even sure what is and what is not effective.
  • Many companies lack both the right people and the right processes to implement a new kind of marketing.
  • Many businesses are reluctant to abandon traditional marketing tactics for what they may believe to be unproven content marketing or new media practices.
  • Most companies lack content marketing role models from whom they can learn best practices.
  • Some companies place very little value in marketing versus other aspects of the organization (operations, product development). Little do they know, that every part of the organization is affected by (or actually is) marketing.

In order for a company to alter their mindset toward one of new media or content marketing, they need one of a few things to happen:

  • Business gets so bad that they start trying new things.
  • Voluntary or involuntary turnover creates new thinking in the organization.
  • A culture change in sparked in the organization, through an internal champion, external customer demands, or the merging of a new business culture through an actual merger or buyout.

The point is that there is great opportunity. There is opportunity for small businesses who can make these changes and adaptations faster than their larger competitive set. There is also opportunity for medium and large organizations who can make decisions based on how their customers want to engage with them, not on what they’ve done in the past.

The IBM white paper that led off this post has an interesting set of questions to ask marketing professionals that speaks directly to the drastic changes that have taken place just in the last few years.

  • Will advertisers still need a traditional agency? If so, in what capacity?
  • Will traditional programmers lose significant revenue to the Internet, mobile device providers and interactive home portals?
  • Will consumers reject outright the concept of interruption marketing in the future?
  • Will consumer receptivity vary by medium (for example, mobile devices versus home-oriented devices)?
  • Will consumers see value in advertising as a trade-off for content?
  • To what extent will advertising inventory be sold through open platforms?
  • Do advertising industry players have the customer analytics needed to better understand and reach target customers?
  • Are companies organized correctly to create, market and distribute cross-platform content?

Most everyone has an answer to the above questions – but noone knows for sure if they will be right. All we can do is see what is happening and talk to our customers. That said, the more I interact with marketing and publishing professionals, the more I realize that the old rules don’t apply anymore. What is going on right now is a revolution like nothing we’ve ever seen. The opportunity is great for those companies that buy into this.

Some companies think that the Internet is just another way to market. It’s those companies that are in trouble.

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By joepulizzi 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.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published January 21, 2008

Junta42 Announces Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs

Well, after almost six months in “beta” we’ve decided to launch the full version of Junta42. And what better way to do that than with a cool list.

This week we are premiering the Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs that features the best blogs from the net focusing on some aspect of content marketing. Some, you’ll find, are very well known, while others are definitely “up-and-comers”. Congrats to Millward Brown’s “Straight Talk with Nigel Hollis” on taking first spot on our premiere listing.

I think what I like most is that Junta42 members can vote on the ones they like the best, which generates a user rank. Members can “Hitch!” (or vote – just like Digg) for the blogs they believe are the best. The most popular blogs rise to the top. I believe at the end of the day, that’s the list that will have the most value.

Now, we’ve by no means perfected the selection criteria, but we’ve made a good start.  Here’s a full description of how we selected and ranked the blogs.  I’m quite certain we’ve left off many, so if you know of any you’d like to nominate, send us a note at add[at]junta42.com. We’ll be adding blogs and refining the process over the next few months.

Other additions to the new Junta42 include:

  • Content Marketing Resource Center
  • Video Series on the Content Marketing Revolution
  • Additional social media components, including profile image and commenting tools/notification
  • Easy-to-use “Submit a Story” function (now two steps)
  • Latest article RSS feeds and Email updates
  • and last but not least, the ability to rank all categories by most recent, most popular…and all listings by most popular weekly, monthly or all-time.

We are also excited about the launch of Junta42 Match, which will take place over the next few months. Junta42 Match will be the “eHarmony of business content”, matching businesses who need content expertise with custom publishers or content providers that match specific needs and criteria.

We’ll have plenty more to come on Match over the next few months.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us along the way.  Let’s enjoy the ride and have some fun.

The formal press release goes out this Wednesday.  Here’s a sneak peak…

By joepulizzi published January 14, 2008

Seth Godin: “Content Marketing is the Only Marketing Left” and 10 New Marketing Lessons

Just sat through an hour teleseminar (Seth’s Meatball Sundae Book Tour) produced by Author Teleseminars and Elizabeth Marshall, that included Seth GodinMichael Port and David Meerman Scott. I’m a regular reader of Seth’s and David’s blogs. If you are at all in the marketing game, get their RSS feeds.

The second last question on the call was from me, where I asked about the role of content marketing and its effect on traditional media. Seth was not familiar with the term content marketing, and fortunately David was there to define it as “the creation of valuable and relevant content yourself (instead of using traditional means).”

Okay, here’s the big answer by Seth…

“[Content Marketing] is all the marketing that’s left.”

Seth went on to say (I’m paraphrasing) that teaching your customers and giving your customers the resources to believe you is new marketing. They become a fan of yours because you teach them something that makes them feel better about the world.

For someone like me that lives and breathes content marketing, needless to say I was pretty excited about his response. If you are not creating your own content that gets people talking about you, what are you doing?

Here are a series of 10 other key points from the audio seminar:

  1. The old way of marketing is where producers talked at customers with consistent interruption. New marketing is about connecting with customers.
  2. Today’s new marketing is a bigger opportunity than any revolution that came along before (Factory, Industrial revolution) because people only need access to ideas, not access to large amounts of capital.
  3. Instead of spending $5 million on advertising, spend $5 million on a great product that people want to talk about.
  4. There is a difference between how many and who. Old marketing was about how many. New marketing is about who. If 12 people are coming to your blog, but they are the right 12 people with large amounts of buying power, that’s what matters.
  5. Permission transferred is permission lost.
  6. Your content: Who is listening? Make something for them. If you make something that solves their problems, they’ll talk about it and tell others.
  7. The gatekeepers have changed. Today’s technology has enabled the destruction of old gatekeepers (have a message to tell and can’t get it out… create a blog then) and the creation of new gatekeepers (those that have 1,000 friends on Facebook).
  8. Figure out why the target needs to pay attention to you? Find information they desperately need (books, blog, research, surveys, etc.) and give it to them. This is the heart of new marketing.
  9. Telling an authentic story means living an authentic life (i.e., Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO really does love coffee). In the new marketing world, you can’t fake it, so you have no choice but to be real.
  10. All one has to do to understand new marketing is to start a blog. Write stuff that people want to read instead of dictating to them. You learn the lesson quickly!

Content marketing is not easy because you actually have to listen to your customers and know what their challenges are. You cannot solve your marketing woes through buying advertising space. You must make a connection to your customers, and get new customers, by focusing on their true pain points and healing them with information (okay, a bit over the top, but true none the less).

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By joepulizzi published January 9, 2008

Why Small Businesses Have a Marketing Advantage Over Large Businesses

Many of our consulting clients are small businesses. For some reason, even though budgets aren’t what they are in the larger companies we work with, I love the potential that exists with small businesses. When we make recommendations to larger companies, it takes sometimes many months to get them going, working through multiple chains of command and different budget buckets.

With small companies, sometimes we execute projects the same day. Also, there is a smaller decision-making base, which helps make decisions faster and more focused. Ultimately, that’s why small companies rule.

This is the first page of Seth Godin’s book Small is the New Big:

“Small is the new big. Recent changes in the way that things are made and talked about mean that big is no longer an advantage. In fact, it’s the opposite. If you want to be big, act small.

Consumers have more power than ever before.

Treating them like they don’t matter doesn’t work.

Multiple channels of information mean that it’s almost impossible to live a lie.

Authentic stories spread and last.

That ability to change fast is the single best asset in a world that’s changing.

 

 

 

Blogs matter. If you want to grow, you’ll need to touch the information-hungry, idea-sharing people who read (and write) them.”

Your Website Is Your Greatest Marketing Asset

The changes in technology have enabled small businesses to market their products and services as well as, or better, than a large, well-funded business. The only caveat? Small businesses must understand the power of the internet, and give their foremost attention to their website and online initiatives.

Technological changes are increasing at an ever faster rate than before. Small businesses can adapt to these changes to communicate more effectively with their target customers. Larger businesses, through multi-leveled bureaucracy and committed budgets, have a much more difficult time changing communication initiatives if the signs are there for change.

Small Wins on Local Level

This is especially true on a local level.  Companies such as Lowes or Wal-Mart are tied to corporate branding and initiatives, and are challenged by personalizing marketing efforts to local markets. Even a Best Buy, which does an outstanding job of personalizing stores to their clientèle, still must segment stores into groups (busy suburban mom’s or technology enthusiasts), but not truly on a local basis. Big brands are executed at the national level.

Small businesses do not have that concern, and can adapt to the needs of their local customer base. With a focus on quality web content, it is altogether possible that a small business can score a much higher search engine ranking on local key words, especially with a help of locally-focused blogs, white papers and other online content efforts.

I’m a Small Business: What Should I Do?

To compete with the big boys, here is what you need to focus on:

  1. Begin with Research – Get some key information about your audience. What are they informational needs? What keeps them up at night? What websites do they go to for content? How do they view your services? This type of information will help shape the rest of your marketing plan. It can also serve as a benchmark for measurement.
  2. Start a Blog – There is no better way to consistently get valuable content out to customers as easily than through a blog.  Look to wordpress or Typepad for starter accounts.  Both can be integrated within your current websites.
  3. If you’ve started a blog (or once you do)…get active in the community.  Find the top 20 blog sites in your industry or local area and start commenting.  Every time to comment, a link is created back to your site. In essence, this creates a new highway for people to find your site.  The more highways created, the better your online traffic.
  4. Create a regular opt-in communication piece. For many, this will be an eNewsletter, where you can highlight content from around the web and your own original content that is relevant to your customers. Instead of, or in addition to, an eNewsletter, you can create a white paper series (say quarterly) that speaks to key customer challenges. Expanded lists (top 10’s, 5’s) work great.
  5. Develop your keyword list.  I always recommend spending about 5 hours with a search engine optimization (SEO) expert to help you define your keywords.  It will also help to ask a question that gets this information in your survey.
  6. Utilize NEWS releases – Send them not to get coverage, but to expand your highways and web presence.  Make sure the releases focus on the customer, not how great you are.

It’s never been better to be a small business. Perhaps small is the new big.

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By joepulizzi published October 2, 2007

3 Things Your Customers Won’t Tell You…Unless You Ask

Came across this simple, but excellent post by Dave Navarro at Freelance Folder. The three questions that Dave discusses are:

#1 – Why Do You Enjoy Being My Customer?
#2 – What Else Do You Wish My Business Did?
#3 – Who Should You Tell About My Business?

According to Dave, these are questions we never ask, but need to ask our customers.

Strategy Tip: If we consistently deliver valuable information to our customers, they will be more open to answering these questions. This should make sense, since we are giving them something of value, and they will give something of value in return.

By joepulizzi published September 23, 2007

Content Marketing Lessons from LEGO

LEGO pieces are literally all over our house. We have the traditional sets, like the airport and fire station, the Star Wars series, LEGO Creators, and just about all the Bionicles. If you have boys (or girls) of any age up to 14, you probably know what I am talking about.

LEGOs are small building toys for kids anywhere from four years old on up. If you are asking how they relate to content marketing, read no further. LEGO is perhaps one of the elite companies in the world at attracting and retaining customers through the use of valuable and relevant content. But, before I mention any specifics, I need to tell you a quick story.
My son, Joshua, recently celebrated his sixth birthday.  At the party, he received a card from his Aunt welcoming him to the LEGO Brickmaster Club. With his new club membership he receives LEGO Builder sets and an issue of Brickmaster every two months. This is over and above what he already receives as a member of LEGO club. It goes without saying that Joshua was VERY excited to receive his new LEGO membership.

So let’s dissect this for a second. Joshua (the customer) is excited to receive content from LEGO that, in essence, is a piece of LEGO sales collateral. Do your customers get excited when you send them your sales material?

I’ve discussed this during speeches and with marketers before. Most of the time, I get a very defensive reaction from marketers when I ask them this question.  Marketers usually say something like, “We don’t sell LEGOs, we sell (widgets). Our customers aren’t going to get excited about receiving a magazine about (widgets).” My answer is always the following:

If you have a product or service that helps an individual solve a problem, and your product helps them do their job better, makes their life easier, or entertains them in some way, it is possible to get customers excited about your product through the use of content.

Let’s look specifically at what LEGO does to deliver information to customers that creates a true LEGO experience.

  • LEGO has been delivering consistent content to customers in the form of a print magazine. They have been doing this at usually a 6x per year frequency for over 20 years (I used to get the original Brick Kicks in the 80s). The content has always revolved about how target consumers can take their products to the furthest level of their imaginations.
  • LEGO puts on targeted roadshows around the country for LEGO fans to meet with other fans and see LEGO creations, as well as contest opportunities.
  • LEGO promotes user-generated content EVERYWHERE. You’ll see this in the magazine and all over the Web site.
  • LEGO integrates their magazine content with helpful online content for power builders.
  • LEGO understands the end-user, but also understands the role of key influencers and other decision makers. To bring those decision makers into the fold, LEGO promotes family events and content specifically for parents (i.e., they target C-level executives).
  • LEGO leverages user case studies whenever possible.
  • LEGO segments their customer base with different types of content. While LEGO magazine is great for many of their customers, a good portion of their customer base, which I would consider the “high-spenders,” need more attention and have more advanced content needs. Thus, Brickmaster was born.
  • LEGO created a user discussion forum so that builders could connect with other builders. They also provide a social networking function where customers can personalize their pages and showcase their designs. Some companies outside of LEGO are now dedicated to enhance the LEGO experience (i.e., BrickJournal.com).
  • LEGO is a licensing king and has created non-traditional content channels such as gaming (LEGO Star Wars), movies (Bionicle and Exo-Force) and hundreds of book titles.

This is just some of the great content that LEGO is distributing consistently and frequently to their customers. And, it’s not just good content, it’s great content that mixes interesting stories with eye-catching design to create a true user experience.

Question is, where would LEGO be without this content?  Would they be one of the most recognized brands in the world? Frankly, it wouldn’t be close. Great products such as LEGO aren’t enough to create a great brand and differentiate your brand from the competition. Communications and content is today’s true brand differentiator.

Each of us have the communication tools at our fingertips to create a true community around our products and services. Each of us have the power to create great content that focuses purely on the needs of our customers and prospects.

Still not a believer?  Just ask Megabloks.

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By joepulizzi published September 10, 2007

Organizational Critical Success Factors a Must for Marketing

The marketing function in a business often develops and evolves in a silo. Sales messaging becomes the predominant communications to customers, and overall communications initiatives become tactical and short-term in nature. After a while, management begins to forget if they ever had a marketing strategy in the first place.

In order to market effectively, and focus on the ongoing communication needs of the customer, the entire marketing organization must be aware of the organization’s critical success factors (CSFs).

By defining these CSFs, the marketing team has much of the information it needs to create an effective long-term marketing strategy.

Below are a list of key questions that must be communicated within your management team. Best case scenario is if the answers to these questions come directly from the CEO.

  1. What are the organization’s top priority business goals, both short and long term?
  2. Critical Success Factors (CSFs) are the key elements that must go right for your organization to succeed. Which factors do you consider critical to accomplishing the goals of the business? Can you quantify any of these?
  3. What obstacles stand in the way of achieving the goals and CSFs you’ve noted above?
  4. What are the business implications if these obstacles are not overcome?
  5. What information is required for you to justify any solution that would assist you in meeting you goals and Critical Success Factors? (i.e., overcome your obstacles and avoid the implications?)
  6. In your opinion, how have your existing business systems changed the way you do business? For example, have they helped to improve productivity, increase revenues, or avoid costs?(adapted from IMC-The Next Generation by Don Schultz)

By completing and referencing the above, the business has the background it needs to understand the purpose behind traditional and content marketing initiatives, which leads to measurement.

By joepulizzi published August 27, 2007

Your Most Profitable Strategy: Focus on Current Customers

I was flipping through my notes on the book, “Managing Business-to-Business Marketing Communications” by J. Nicholas DeBonis and Roger S. Peterson.  Excellent book, and here are the highlights as it pertains to customer retention.

The Fundamental Principal of Marketing

It is exponentially more profitable to keep existing customers than it is to acquire new ones.

The rule of thumb is that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Many marketers focus the majority of their efforts on lead generation activities. Although new business is always an important driver to any business, more companies than not seem to neglect the MOST PROFITABLE marketing strategy, which is keeping and growing your current customer base.

What Customers Need

“Customers need and seek out relevant, accurate information for appropriate buying decisions, information that provides a better knowledge of the marketplace and its products, is clear and easy to understand, and which doesn’t add to the customer’s already oppressive information overload.”

A company’s marketing communications should be generated to satisfy the above expectations.  Marketers can do this through many different vehicles and initiatives, but the key to satisfying these needs to create truly educational and relevant content that, to an extent, cannot be duplicated easily.

Relevance, Not Frequency

“Maintaining the customer relationship requires an effective relationship communications strategy and corresponding programs. Customer contact should be based on relevance, not frequency. This strategy requires understanding the information needs of the customer, which is a primary function of a progressive database.”

First and foremost in a content marketing/custom publishing strategy is to disseminate relevant information. If you are unsure about the content you are sending out, wait until it is absolutely essential to the customer. Although frequency is important, it takes a significant backseat to relevance.

How’s Your Database Doing?

Although your customers have many similarities, they are also VERY different. In order to maximize your customer relationships, you must treat them differently.

The more that is known about a customer or prospect, the better a product or service can be provided to satisfy the customer’s expectations. The same goes for your company’s communications. Maintaining customer and prospect preferences in your database is mandatory to create truly relevant customer communications programs.

“In this day of information overload, knowing when, where, and how to deliver a marketing message is critical. Information that appears in a customer’s preferred information source has tremendous credibility.

What to Do?

Not sure where to go from here?  Here are some steps to drive more revenues from your current customers.

  1. Research your customer on every level imaginable. Surveys, focus groups, product data and buying behavior, etc.
  2. Continually take your customer data and get it into a unified database.
  3. Create multi-platform communication programs to satisfy your customer’s informational needs.
  4. Be sure feedback mechanisms integrated into your communications are linked back to your database.
  5. Repeat!

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By joepulizzi published August 10, 2007

Want Customer Loyalty? Create Customer Wins with Content

The August 13th BusinessWeek article from Jack & Suzy Welch is truly eye-opening from a marketing perspective (link to article provided here, but requires BusinessWeek subscription). Welch discusses how customer loyalty has changed from a one-way (competitive price, excellent product quality, easy access, great service, etc). to a two-way partnership. Welch states:

“With the two-way-street approach to loyalty, you and your customers don’t have a deal as much as you have mutual dedication. Because you, the seller, are not delivering on just price, quality, and service. You are demonstrating intense loyalty by giving him a comprehensive, inimitable way to win. Better productivity. Faster throughput. Lower inventory.
More innovative products. You are delivering something—anything—that makes you indispensable to your customer’s success. Then, and only then, will you get complete loyalty in return.”

This is important because it displays how much buyer behavior has changed in the past few years. The 4 P’s of marketing (product, price, promotion, place) are not enough anymore to create, develop and maintain long-term buyer relationships. Most organizations understand the “Better productivity. Faster throughput. Lower inventory. More innovative products.” that Welch discusses. Many organizations DO NOT get the “indispensable” part.

Take a read at this part again:

You are delivering something—anything—that makes you indispensable to your customer’s success.”

Okay, let’s say you buy into this. How do you become indispensable to your customers? How do you become true partners with them over a long period of time?

The goal is not for you to sell something. The goal is to help your customers, in any way possible, TO WIN! In order to help them win, you (as the marketer) must deliver ongoing content to them that gives them the tools TO win. You must deliver content in many different ways, to wherever your customers are, in whatever form they will digest it in.

Content, you say? This is not better sales material, better copy writing on your web site, or better direct mail collateral.  This is a deep understanding of the challenges your customer is facing, and then delivering information that helps them overcome these challenges. This means investing in industry and buyer research, much like the Cisco’s and Intel’s of the world spend billions on research and development. This means hiring the best researchers and journalists in your industry to create content that enables true customer “wins”. This is bigger than marketing.

If, as a marketing organization, you can put the customer “win” scenario in the middle of your marketing plan, you’ll see the difference it can make. From this perspective, much of the “silly” sales messages on your website become obsolete. You’ll want to replace those message with content in the form of articles, white papers, eBooks, video, in-person events, etc. that give your customers and prospects the tools they need to win.

If that doesn’t create loyalty, nothing will.

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