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 his latest book Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). 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 March 12, 2008

Love Your Customers, Even if They Don’t Buy

My last post was five days ago.  That has been the longest stretch without blogging since I started this blog almost a year ago.  Doesn’t feel good, but I guess I had good reason. New Orleans for the Custom Content Conference (launch of Junta42 Match as well as organizing the sponsors for the event), and then speaking in NYC for the Publishing Business Conference (thanks to Marcus Grimm from Nxtbook for proving it). Not to mention digging out of 26 inches of snow to get to the Big Easy.

I have about five blog posts loaded up and ready to go, but I just saw this article I wrote in DMNews about the importance of consistent content as it relates to direct marketing.

This is probably my favorite line:

The future of marketing is not about tempting [customers] or conning [customers] into buying more; it’s about communicating a message that says, “Regardless of whether you buy from me or not, you need this information. Enjoy!”

To direct marketers, that line might be sacrilegious, but I still love it.

By joepulizzi published March 7, 2008

Junta42 Match Launches to Publishers

Very excited about the beta launch of Junta42 Match, which will be the first resource of its kind to help marketing professionals find expert content providers and suppliers to distribute their own expert branded content.

Regular readers of this blog know all about this, but to those that don’t, we’ll be formally announcing the launch of Junta42 Match in New Orleans this Monday, March 10th at the Custom Content Conference, the first conference for custom publishing and content marketing (put on by the Custom Publishing Council, a Junta42 Match partner).

We’ve already received a tremendous amount of support from custom publishers and content agencies about this concept. For the next three months, any publisher or firm that specializes in custom content solutions for corporations, associations, non-profits and other organizations can sign up for a free trial. We’ll be launching the full-blown Match site, open to marketing professionals, by mid-June of this year.

Here’s the quick pitch: the marketer can come to the Junta42 Match site and, upon sign in, will fill out a short project brief. Based on their answers, we’ll search the database to find the best matches to their project needs.  Their preferences may be based on content expertise, product expertise, location, size, and a number of other criteria.  The initial search will bring up, say anywhere from five to 20 companies.  Marketers will then be able to go through each of those project profiles (where the providers will be anonymous). Then, the client can choose anywhere from three to five “finalists” to match up with, or choose their “perfect” match to get started right away (something we are calling “Direct Match”).

Once the marketer makes the full Match or Direct Match selection, we will review the project to make sure that the company is: a) legitimate, b) has a real project, and c) has a budget or business model. Upon approval, the publishers/content providers will receive the client’s information and the Match is made. Junta42 Match will stay in the process to guide the client with resources, receive ongoing feedback about the result of the project and find out who they chose and why.

We believe that this could take weeks, even months out of the marketer’s traditional searching process for a custom content provider.  We also believe that marketers could and should use this system as a replacement to the sometimes random and drawn-out process of a formal RFP. As for the publishers, just one project will more than pay for their inclusion in the database.

If you are a publisher or know of anyone involved in the execution of content marketing or custom publishing solutions, I urge you (or them) to sign up for a free trial today.  As you can probably guess, we’re pretty pumped up about this concept.

Here’s the formal press release that will go out on Monday.

A big thanks to all the Junta42 members who have supported us along the way.

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By joepulizzi published March 4, 2008

Custom Publishing vs. Marketing Services: You Decide!

Interesting post here from Bill Mickey at Folio magazine about the custom publishing industry. The article is targeted to publishers and media professionals, so much of this isn’t relevant to marketers. That said, there are a couple key points here that should be highlighted that pertains to all businesses using targeted content as a marketing strategy.

“…custom publishing, as a term, has lost its
relevance,”
states Mickey, who argues that the preferred term publishers use is marketing services.

I’ve always said that I’m not a huge fan of the term custom publishing, and opt for content marketing instead. But marketing services? The term “marketing services” is so broad and, frankly, pretty meaningless. But mostly, it discounts the true value that publishers bring to the table – the keen ability to deliver valuable, relevant and compelling content to a defined audience. Does “marketing services” say that?

I talk to publishers on a daily basis, and I’ve never talked to one that refers to their core competency or description as “marketing services.” According to the article, CMP recently reorganized and renamed their custom division as Marketing Services. I love Bill’s writing, but I’m not sure that’s enough to make it the preferred term. Are more publishers going this direction? For marketers sake, I hope not.

Most media professionals are beginning to position their organizations as marketing services companies, which I completely agree with. Marketing, consulting and content services should and may be the majority of revenue streams at traditional media companies within five years. But does defining it as marketing services discount the value that these publishers bring to the table for content marketers?

“‘We’re in the business of providing marketing solutions, so
there is no off-the-shelf program anymore,’ says Chris Schraft,
president, Time Inc. Content Solutions. ‘The answer to every question,
if you’re a custom publisher, is no longer custom publishing. It’s now
about understanding the client’s business objectives, their target
consumer and then looking at how customized content expressed in a
variety of formats and across a variety of platforms can really deliver
on those objectives.'”

I need help with this one. The last sentence from the quote is a decent definition of content marketing/custom publishing…but it’s used in this context as something different or new. Custom publishing has always been about understanding client needs, creating buyer personas, targeting those buyers with great and consistent content, and using all the platforms available. This has been the same for as long as I’ve been in the business. The difference is the availability of new and affordable technology solutions to target customers and the huge change in buyer behavior due to the Internet and the democratization of content (thanks Google). The problem with the term “custom publishing” is the perception that it is print-focused. The concept, though, is still the same.

In all honesty, I like the article, but it really comes from the perspective of a traditional publisher with a custom division more than a “pure bred custom publisher.”  Traditional publishers, although improving, tend to use custom as leverage to the other programs they sell. For example, they may really want to sell you a print and online display program, so they’ll lead with a custom content plan that leverages the print and online assets they have. It’s been done for years and is pretty common place.

This trend is definitely changing, but I doubt that any pure content marketing providers would use anything like “marketing services” as a name for what they do, or the industry they are in.  If you know of any, let me know.

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By joepulizzi published March 3, 2008

Where Should You Stick Your Marketing?: Educate Customers Everywhere

I was in the doctor’s office last week for a routine checkup. As I entered, the nurse escorted me to the patient room where I waited for the doctor. On the desk in the office sat a computer monitor that was streaming what looked to be a PowerPoint show. 

There were about 10 rotating messages targeted to me, the patient. One talked about checkups for colon cancer, another about weight issues, and another one was about moles (fun!).  I learned a lot and paid attention. The one slide on adult shots motivated me to ask the doctor a question, which resulted in me actually buying an additional shot…one that I would not have bought without the computer show.

The health care industry always been a trend setter when it comes to educating customers and prospects. They are in the business of healing and education.  Most hospitals either have their own newsletter/magazine, or carry the WebMD magazine. Now they are doing it again by using a computer (which has to be there for the doctors/nurses) and leveraging it to educate customers (and upsell).

Here’s the point: You are also in the business of education. It is your responsibility to educate your customers and prospects about not only your products, but about the industry and key issues that surround your product. By doing so on a consistent basis, with relevant and valuable content, you will sell more to these people.

And here’s your task: Find the places where your customers and prospects are, and take advantage of these locations by delivering timely and relevant information. This could be:

  • On your invoices (tip or white paper download information).
  • At your register/counter (placards, signage, additional tips, magazines, newsletters, monitors).
  • On your website. We talk about this all the time, but most marketers still only use their website to showcase the company and its products. Carve out a portion of your site to educate and inform your customers about things important to them. Do this right, and they will come to rely on you for this kind of information.
  • At trade shows (pass out industry reports, white papers, etc.).
  • On sales appointments (magazine, tip sheet, industry report, economic report, microsite to send prospects to, etc.).

These are just a few.  The point is to think of all ways in which customers come in contact with you and leverage those opportunities to help educate and engage them. Most companies lose educational opportunities through many different touch points. Make sure that you aren’t one of those companies by making a list of those touch points and deliver content marketing to them along the way.

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By joepulizzi published February 27, 2008

Engagement Sells: How Online Content Can Move Product

This is a link to an article I wrote for Chief Marketer about creating engagement through the use of content, specifically microsites.

Here’s a few paragraphs that form the key takeaway of the article.

“First, relevant and valuable online information significantly affects a purchase. Second, a prospect who isn’t necessarily ready to make a purchase can be positively influenced and moved closer to a purchase by engaging in online content.

It’s also important to note that online engagement in content isn’t usually a one-time event. Success with microsites and other online products such as eZines and online magazines are predicated on the delivery of consistent and ongoing streams of content.”

I think we’ve all seen blogs, microsites, and even corporate websites launch with grandeur, and then die miserably due to the lack of a consistent content strategy. Success in content marketing and custom publishing does not happen over night.  Stick with it. If you’ve created the proper buyer personas, performed the right research, and created the right content that meets the informational needs of your audience, you will be successful.

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By joepulizzi published February 26, 2008

Why It’s Bad to Be a Large Brand: Opportunity Abounds for Small Business

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The March, 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review has a very interesting article entitled "When Growth Stalls," by Matthew S. Olson, Derek van Bever, and Seth Verry.

The article’s research focuses on top organizations, which they refer to as “premium position” companies.  Premium position companies hold leadership positions in their markets, records of past success, etc.  But the fact that they have held these premium positions is what attributed to their downfall, or plain old revenue drop.  Examples included are Levi Strauss, Kodak and Caterpillar.

While the concepts do not specifically refer to marketing and communications, the reasons for decline that they discuss could easily be applied to marketing concepts.

Below are some interesting quotes with commentary:

"Premium position captivity is the inability of a firm to respond effectively to new, low-cost competitive challenges or to a significant shift in customer valuation of product feature."

This should sound eerily familiar to CMOs in large organizations. It is the successful, large businesses that are having difficulty grasping new media formats. As it relates to this article, premium position companies have a long track record of success, so it is inherently more challenging to divert from what previously worked. Advantage: small and mid-sized companies.

"We use the term ‘captivity’ because it suggests how management teams can be hemmed in by a long history of success.  A company that solidly occupies a premium market position remains insulated longer than its competitors against evolution in the external environment.  It has less reason to doubt its business model, which has historically provided a competitive advantage…..when the towering strengths of a firm are transformed into towering weaknesses, it’s a cruel reversal." 

Translation: "We’re really smart so don’t try to tell us how to do it." Arrogance, with a dash of bureaucracy, will hamper, or even destroy, the longest running, most dependable brands over the next five years.   

"We saw a cycle of disdain, denial, and rationalization that kept many management teams from responding meaningfully to market changes." 

Have you ever had a conversation with a marketing executive from a large company about the new rules of media and marketing? For the most part, those people are relying on a set of believes and practices that may not apply in the future (In doubt? Read IBM’s "The End of Advertising as We Know It.").

"Organizations simply don’t recognize the importance of an emerging behavior or customer preference in their core markets.  They continue to place their bets on product or service attributes that are in decline, while disruptive entrants emphasizing different, under recognized features gain ground."

Companies need to be particularly attuned to the new forms of communications demanded by the customer, and recognize the many options consumers now have to seek out information on their terms. A great example of this is in traditional media. The great media companies in the world grew to powerhouses as the distributors of content throughout the world. Why? Because they (and only they) had the ability to connect customers with valuable information. Today, anyone can do that. The business model that was once so profitable, is today obsolete.

"Levi Strauss…illustrates how difficult it is to respond to a threat in the absence of a burning platform.  If your sales are continuing to rise, how do you focus concern?"

Think about this one. Many firms don’t realize the bridge they are standing on is burning down, and by the time they find out, it may be too late.

One of the things that strikes me about these concepts is how they apply to communications.  If companies have been very successful in the past with dominating their markets, they probably assume that the forms of communications they use will continue to serve them well in the future. 

Communications get blind sided along with rest of firm’s strategies.

As we have discussed many times, disruptive technology in communications is the ability of smaller, less well-funded firms to develop great communications at a fraction of past costs.  They can now compete toe-to-toe in the communications arena, making decisions faster and being inherently more flexible due to the lack of management layers. That is why companies who are only a decade old like Google can become the most dominant brand in the world.

I wonder what will happen in the next 10 years?

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By joepulizzi published February 25, 2008

Trends in Online Marketing – A Report from the Online Marketing Summit

Just returned back from San Diego, where I spoke at the 2008 Online Marketing Summit.  Great event. Congrats to Aaron Kahlow and team for doing a tremendous job with a record crowd. I didn’t have time to attend all the events, but I managed to scratch some notes about what struck me as interesting and important.

  • The online shift is happening, and it’s significant. We see this in companies like Microsoft and Intel that are putting 50% or more into their online budgets.
  • Behavior is driving marketing decisions – not the big agencies.
  • Consumers are spending, on average, more time with social media sites than traditional media and vendor sites (3.47 hours per week for social media, 3.16 hours for vendor sites, 3.03 hours for traditional media sites).
  • 1% of a social media site’s total audience actively contributes content (rest are passive).
  • 30% who read content from a website more likely to purchase. 80% who contribute more likely to purchase (CoreMetrics Web 2.0 study).
  • Insight from the conference made by many experts: “If you are not good at networking off-line, you won’t be good online.”
  • Everyone is concerned about search engine optimization, and its relation to the creation of great website information. But most do not realize the benefits of others linking to your great content (referrals), which could ultimately account for more website traffic, and more of the right kind of people engaging in your information.
  • If you want clear editorial control as a company, don’t even think about launching a social network.
  • 50% of brands will spend 50% of budgets on alternative media by 2011 (Advertising Age).
  • 60% of online consumers make purchase decisions based on peer advice (Visa/Yahoo!).
  • Businesses should begin to think of competition in terms of what takes up your customers’ time.
  • 80% of Internet traffic begins at search engines (Harris Poll).
  • Six of the top 10 most-trafficked sites are social media sites (Alexa.com).

“Time is the most precious asset right now. If we can be worth their engagement, that’s the highest benchmark for advertising.” - Jim Stengel, CMO, Procter & Gamble

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By joepulizzi published February 22, 2008

You Are What the Web Says You Are: Reality and Social Media Reality

This guest blog I wrote for the ASBPE (The American Society of Business Publication Editors) National blog may be of interest to freelance writers and journalists, but also relevant to marketers and publishers as well. The point is that, regardless of if you think social media and social networking is too much hype and not enough substance, there is a perception that goes with social media involvement.

Those that are actively involved in social media immediately have an impression of those people that aren’t. Right or wrong, the reality is there. My position is that NOT being involved in social media, as a writer, a business, or a marketer, could significantly hurt a customer’s or prospect’s perception of that individual or organization.

Here is my take below from how I evaluate freelance writers. Whatever your position, you may want to look at your own social media persona and envision how you may be perceived.

“1. First I check their website. If they have no website, that’s a problem.

2. Then I check to see if they have a blog. A freelance writer without a blog makes no sense to me. It is the ultimate promotional tool for a qualified writer, yet I find that most writers don’t have one. (For those without a lot of money to spend on a
website, use the blog as your website. It costs nothing.) And yes, even those of you with steady gigs should have blogs.

3. Then I check their LinkedIn profile. How many contacts to they have? (Fifty should be a minimum.) This shows me that they really know how to network, which can help with sources for any story. In reality, 100 contacts is probably the minimum.

4. If they pass the first three tests, that’s a great sign. For other references, I Google their name to see if anything interesting comes up. Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg profiles all help. Those tell me that this person has a clear understanding of the benefits of social media, and knows how to use it.

This whole process takes all of five minutes … five minutes well spent. It helps me figure out who I should really talk to, whose work I should evaluate. Fewer than 5% of all the writers I come in contact with pass these four tests. Those are the ones I’m interested in working with.  They understand networking, social media, the value of writing as a form of marketing, and that the way you get new business in the writing world has forever changed. You are what the web says you are — and you have almost 100% control over that message. Very powerful.”

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By joepulizzi published February 19, 2008

Finding a Custom Publisher Just Got a Whole Lot Easier: Custom Publishing Industry Gets Behind Junta42 Match

We are proud to announce that Junta42 has partnered with three elite organizations around the launch of our new content marketing matching product Junta42 Match.  The Custom Publishing Council, American Business Media, and BtoB Magazine have all formed strategic alliances with Junta42 Match, announced formally Wednesday.

Please read the entire release here for all the details. For a brief 2 minute video on why Junta42 was created and how it will work, check out this video.

The core issue is that content marketing is becoming more important to businesses around the world, yet it’s challenging, and sometimes even cost- or culture-prohibitive, to create strategic content programs internally. If a marketer decides to search for a content or publishing partner, it’s very difficult to find the right one.  Most of the time, marketers rely on referrals, search engines, or an RFP blast to locate the perfect provider. Any of these strategies might take days, weeks, even months to find the right match. Worse yet, they might call on their agency to provide a content solution, who may or may not have the relevant content or product qualifications to do the job.

On the flip side, new business opportunities are still the driver of long-term custom publisher profitability. Yet, the process for finding qualified leads for custom publishers hasn’t changed in years, and is far behind many industries that have leveraged the internet to create a buyer/seller marketplace.

Thus, Junta42 Match was born.  The service will be an audited directory of custom publishing providers, and will give marketing and association professionals the ability to match their project (a custom magazine, newsletter, content Web site, video series, enewsletter, custom event, etc.) to the exact qualifications of a custom publisher or content agency. Matching services will be conducted online, allowing for ease and anonymity.

Junta42 Match will be free for buyers (those looking for expert content help). Sellers—including custom publishers, traditional publishers with custom divisions, advertising and digital agencies, direct marketers, pr firms, etc.—will be charged an annual or monthly listing fee. All content providers will be offered a free trial.

The service will be open to publishers on March 9, 2008 (launching in time for the Custom Content Conference), and will be available to marketing professionals for matches by mid-May.

We’ve already received a flurry of positive feedback, but I’m more interested in getting actual feedback once the service is launched.  We believe we are addressing a real need here.  Hopefully you agree.

By joepulizzi published

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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