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, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). 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 December 4, 2007

A Useful Content Marketing Checklist

Pete Shemilt from the new UK blog Relevant and Valued created an interesting content marketing checklist that is worth a look. According to Pete, who created the checklist from a combination of our eBook and information from Client Path Marketing, “The framework can be used to explore which content marketing opportunities are most relevant for your organization and business.”

What I like about this new checklist is the ability to choose the most appropriate content marketing device depending on the goal, taking a more broad term like “lead generation” and using more concrete terms such as acquire, convert, retain, grow, recruit and amplify.

Ultimately, in this new age of uncertainty for marketers, testing and experimentation is key (as Pete suggests). Possibly more helpful in the future is to take a chart like this and offer degrees of tactical importance. For example, if your goal is retention, is a print magazine more powerful than website content, or even is the combination of both more powerful than any individual tactic? Does it depend on the type of customer, or specific market? These are the questions that have no concrete answers…and until we get some hard and fast research, testing may be are only answer.

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By joepulizzi published November 29, 2007

The Big Idea Won’t Fix Your Marketing…think Small and Frequent

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The December 3rd issue of BusinessWeek featured an article about Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, and the company’s struggles to significantly grow revenue. More than anything, this article discusses the transformation that Saatchi and other large agencies are undergoing to stay relevant.

Times have clearly changed, and agencies, as well as traditional media companies, are struggling to find their way. The article states:

“For most of the 20th century the so-called creatives ruled the industry. They didn’t worry about where or how an ad ran. They didn’t analyze market niches. They were about Big Ideas that would connect a brand, emotionally, with millions of consumers. Today, you might say, the
Small Idea is ascendant. Ads are targeted at individuals or communities of consumers. That’s because the media universe is so fragmented–into blogs, social networks, television, magazines, and so on–that finding the right medium is fast becoming more important than the message itself. “

Couple of takeaways here. First, most agencies and creatives I know still search and believe in the big idea. I believe all humans do, to some extent. We believe and have faith that all our problems (and in this case, communication challenges) have one great and almighty solution. Sometimes, they do. But in media and marketing, this very rarely happens. Today, it’s never just one big idea.

Look at it this way. If a heart attack victim survives and is on the road to recovery, it’s not one thing that brings her back to health. It’s many little things, accomplished and executed over many days, weeks and months. It’s eating better, exercising regularly, maintaining a more positive outlook on life, smiling more…and so on and so forth. If you did just one of these, it would be ineffective. If you did all of them, just once, that’s no good either. No “big idea” fix.

Now look at today’s marketing. If you have a customer communication challenge, is one big idea going to fix that? Not in the least. It won’t be fixed by a glam-packed 30-second spot, or print campaign or even the integrated strategy itself.

Here’s the solution for 99% of the businesses out there: It’s not one big idea but a series of small, ongoing conversations with your customers, distributed through the media your customers use. This requires intimate knowledge of your customer, and a determination to leave your customer, on each occasion, in better shape than you originally found them. Instead of one big bang, it’s one brick per day that over the course of weeks, months and years builds a house, a true brand relationship with your customer.

This is done by communicating great content to your customer that helps them become, not necessarily emotionally tied to you, but intellectually tied to your brand. Educating your customers is probably the single greatest gift you could give them.

Second point, specific to this quote: “…finding the right medium is fast becoming more important than the message itself.” I’m not sure anyone really has the answer for this, but I’d position that it’s neither. The most important is finding the right customer. The customer dictates both the medium and the message. Without the perfect concoction of both, the communication effort will fail.

To some extent we are all suckers for the big fix. Who really wants to create ongoing, educational content for customers anyhow? It’s too much work. Yes, it may be too much work, but it sure does work.

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By joepulizzi published November 27, 2007

Facebook: Ads Still Interrupt, Even if they Come with a Photo of My Sister

I was reading Danny Sullivan’s article “Forget Facebook. Search ads are the real revolution” and couldn’t get over the point that advertising, even in it’s most targeted form, is an interruption.

Just in case you haven’t heard, Facebook has been receiving some criticism over their new advertising platform. The digital content blog has a good 3 step description of the new program. In looking this over, there are a lot of opportunities for brands to get involved, but the one that is intriguing is the integration of your friend’s referrals.  Saul Hansell from the NYTimes puts it this way:Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published November 26, 2007

Association of Publishing Agencies’ Customer Publishing Awards 2007 Announced

The Association of Publishing Agencies (APA), the UK organization focused on custom publishing and content marketing, announced their annual winners of their customer publishing awards. The grand award (customer publishing solution of the year) went to Boots’ (Britain’s leading pharmacy) parenting club magazine, published by Redwood.

The APA Customer Publishing Awards are focused on effectiveness, while their Olive Awards are more focused on creativity.

Below is a listing of all the winners. Congrats to all.

Customer Publishing Solution of the Year – Parenting Club Magazine, Boots
produced by Redwood.

Most Effective Automotive Title – Today, Tomorrow, Toyota produced by Sunday.

Most Effective Finance Title – Roar, Liontrust produced by Cedar Communications.

Most Effective Travel and Leisure Title – About the
House, Royal Opera House produced by BBC Customer Publishing.

Most Effective Membership Title – Parenting Club Magazine, Boots produced by Redwood.

Most Effective Public Sector Title – Camouflage, British Army produced by Haymarket

Most Effective Internal Communication – The Job, The Metropolitan Police produced by Seven Squared.

Most Effective Business-To-Business Title – Contact, Royal Mail produced by Redwood.

Most Effective Consumer Publication
(Retail) – Magazine, produced by Seven Squared.

Most Effective Consumer Publication (Non Retail) – Sky Movies, BSkyB produced by Future Plus.

International Publication of the Year – Land Rover Onelife, Land Rover produced by

Specialist Communication of the Year – Food 4 Thought, British Heart Foundation produced by John Brown.

Online Publishing Solution of the Year –, Honda Racing produced by John Brown.

Launch of the Year – A
Journal of Interest, Coutts produced by Seven Squared.

Integrated Marketing Solution of the Year – One Army, British Army Recruiting Group produced by Haymarket Network.

Designer of the Year – Tan Parmar, LIV, Volvo produced by

Journalist of the Year – Claire Wrathall, High Life, British Airways produced by Cedar Communications.

Editor of the Year – Zac Assemakis, Land Rover Onelife, Land Rover produced by Redwood.

By joepulizzi published

Content Marketing: Driving Customer Growth through Content

Just wrote a “basics” article on Content Marketing for the Online Advertising site by Cory Treffiletti.

The article reviews a bit about what content marketing is, what companies are doing it and in what form (with specific links to examples), how to integrate content marketing into your overall marketing plan, and how to start your own content marketing plan.

Check it out when you get a chance. Also, tool around the site a bit.  Cory provides some excellent information on online media buying.

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By joepulizzi published November 25, 2007

3 Steps to Initiating a Successful Online Content Marketing Program

I talk a lot on this blog about the importance of integrating content into your overall marketing program, and the various media outlets available for your corporate content. In this post, I’d like to focus not on why a content marketing focus is important, but how to implement one step-by-step.

Many businesses, especially small businesses, may not have the financial resources to create a glossy custom magazine program, but all companies can initiate a low-cost, effective online content marketing program today.

Here are initial 3 steps to creating an effective online content marketing program. This will cover the start-up phase. We’ll cover execution in another post.

1. Determine which organizational goals will be affected by the content program.

An effective online content marketing program must directly tie to the overall objectives of your organization in order to be successful. Don’t get into creating content because it’s in style. Do it because it truly helps your customer and, in turn, your business. Here are some answers that I have actually heard before from marketing professionals that want to launch custom publishing programs:

  • “We want to drive more traffic to the Web site”.
  • “Our competitors are doing it, so we need to do it as well”.
  • “We’d really like to win an award for this”.
  • “We have tons of great information in this company. We need to tell the world about all the wonderful things we are doing”.

Some of the above may sound reasonable to you. The problem with each of them is that they are not measurable and don’t consider the customer for a second. How does driving more traffic to your Web site accomplish your organizational goals? Just because your company has lots of “great” information, does that mean that telling the story will bring you more revenue? Not in and of itself.

Most of the key problems with a content program result in a clear misunderstanding of organizational goals. So, let’s start there. Organizational goals must be two things, specific and customer-focused. Here are a few examples of organizational goals:

  • Increase our number of domestic widget-line software customers by 20%.
  • Generate an average of 10% revenue growth in the top 20% of customers in Latin America.
  • Sell 10 consulting packages to new customers in 2008.

The above may seem simple, but it’s amazing how many marketing organizations don’t bring these types of goals to the table when creating a content program. So, before you launch any content program, be sure to list out your key organizational goals. Once that is complete, understand which ones your are trying to affect with the online content program.

2. Determine the informational needs of the buyer.

Most people want to move directly into creating the goals for the content program. Makes sense for it to be that way, right? Now that you understand the organizational goals, and have chosen which one or ones will be affected by the content program, we can come up with some clear and measurable content marketing tactics. Right? Wrong.

Let me give you an example that is more personal. Let’s say that you have a daughter who you want to shape into the next Tiger Woods. So, a reasonable goal for you (Earl Woods) would be for your daughter to win the junior nationals. Since that is your goal, you create a plan-of-action that includes finding a personal golf coach for your daughter, signing her up for the junior league program, as well as buying her the latest in golf equipment. Sound reasonable?

Unfortunately, when you created the plan, you didn’t consult the customer on what you want them to be, or what THEY need for THEIR success model. What if your daughter doesn’t like golf? What if she likes golf, but doesn’t want to be in competitive sports? What if she’s built for basketball, or engineering? Worse yet, you were so busy planning the strategy, you didn’t realize she was left-handed.

This may seem like a terrible example, but this exact issue comes up in organizations all the time. Businesses create specific content so that customers react in very specific ways. Without a clear understanding of the customer’s information needs, any reaction that is close to the end goal is pure dumb luck.

Successful businesses already have a pretty good understanding of their core buyer. In order to create an effective content program, you need to take it a step further. Businesses with content marketing programs create content that is supposed to do very specific things. Just think how pointless this would be if you didn’t know what information the customer needs to make a better buying decision…a buying decision that ultimately leads back to the organization’s overall goals.

Understand your customer by doing comprehensive research. Comprehensive research does not necessarily mean expensive. Think of your research as including the following:

  • Phone calls and in-person meetings with customers. Also include those people that you think should be customers (what I call “shutouts”).
  • Zoomerang or SurveyMonkey email surveys to customers and prospects.
  • Discussions with your customer service and sales department.

By doing the above, you’ll be able to create a buyer persona for your target customer, and a true understanding of what information they NEED that will effectively get you to your goals.

3. Determine what you want your customer to do and why this helps the business.

Have you ever asked someone who owns a company what their Web site is for? Most answers are scary and revolve around the ultimate response that is “because everyone needs a Web site”. Even those companies that believe their Web site drives revenues for their business can rarely define exactly how.

Content marketing programs are no different. Organizations create custom magazines, newsletters, microsites, podcast series, etc. for all kinds of reasons. Many know exactly what they do and are supposed to do. Unfortunately, many others do not.

Before you initiate and create the content for your online content plan, make sure of the following:

  • The content plan specifically drives the organizations’ goals.
  • The action(s) you want the customer to take are in some way measurable.
  • The content is based on your buyer research about their informational needs.

If you have each of these components, then you can create very specific goals for your content program. Some of these goals will be easy to link to your overall goals, such as a business transaction. Others will be just a piece of the overall pie (that keep you going in the right direction). Examples of these may be:

  • Downloading a white paper to extract more customer information.
  • Signing up for an enewsletter or ezine to begin creating a relationship with a prospect.
  • Trial offer or demo.

Today, most organizations call these instances a conversion. Whatever you call them, make them specific and measurable in some way. Even print programs can measure conversions through group A/B benchmarking studies, or specific calls to action that drive customers to web landing pages.

In Summary…

Before launching a content program for your organization (business, association, non-profit, foundation, etc.), follow these three steps first:

  1. Have a clear understanding of the organizational goals first.
  2. Understand the informational needs of the buyer.
  3. Create a content plan that is specific and measurable…one that directly speaks to the organization’s goals and an understanding of the customer.

By doing this, you’ll be ready for the next phase of the plan, the step-by-step guide to executing an online content marketing plan. I’ll be reviewing this over the next week or so.

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By joepulizzi published November 20, 2007

Content Marketing: Direct Marketing with a Higher Purpose

I’ve always explained the definition of content marketing in chunks.  I usually lead in with a quick definition like “editorial-style content delivered from organizations to customers through all types of media channels”, or something like that. Sounds too textbook, doesn’t it? Then I’d give a few examples. Then, if they still don’t get it, I say “have you seen the airline magazines?” That usually does it.

Well, over the last few weeks, I’ve started using a new definition, “Content marketing is direct marketing with a higher purpose”. People seem get that right away. I just got off the phone with someone who works in the direct marketing industry and they immediately got it. “Oh yeah, more than the offer, you are trying to build a relationship”. Yes!!!

Let’s take this a step further.  Here is the definition of direct marketing on Wikipedia:

“Direct marketing is a sub-discipline and type of marketing. There are two main definitional characteristics which distinguish it from other types of marketing or advertising. The first is that it attempts to send its messages directly to consumers, without the use of intervening media.  This involves unsolicited commercial communication with consumers or businesses. The second characteristic is that it is focused on driving purchases that can be attributed to a specific “call-to-action.” This aspect of direct marketing involves an emphasis on trackable, measurable results (known as “response” in the industry) regardless of medium.”

What’s Similar?

  1. Messages are sent directly to consumers. Content marketing is targeted.
  2. Content marketing, performed correctly, always involves some sort of call-to-action.

Major Differences?

  1. Direct marketing is measured through response, and is really the only way to determine if a direct marketing activity was successful. Response is easy to determine in direct marketing (clicks, downloads, calls, purchases, etc.). Response for content marketing could be anything under the sun depending on the marketing objectives of the program (time spent or engagement, downloads, sign-ups, click-throughs…even more challenging measurements such as brand preference).
  2. The definition of “call-to-action” is significantly different. Direct marketing has a specific call-to-action to measure that is usually a direct driver of a purchase decision. In content marketing, your overall goal is to deliver valuable and relevant content that match their informational needs. By doing so, the customer is more loyal, less prone to competitive products, spends more time with your content. Also, your goal with a content initiative may be to access another data point, so that you can refine your content plans to deliver even better content to them on a consistent basis. In business-to-business, where you may have to garner relationships with six or seven titles within an organization, content marketing addresses each of their needs individually to build your products overall case. Direct mail wouldn’t immediately work here because their are too many buying influences.

I think the biggest challenge to understanding content marketing is that it’s easy to get outside the boundaries of what exactly a content marketing product is.  A custom magazine is a very easy indicator of content marketing. It’s valuable content, it’s precisely targeted, and it usually has multiple calls-to-action (unlike direct which usually has one). A content web-portal is a little harder to peg. You create the content portal for a very specific group of people, and probably sent them direct mail and email to drive them to the site, but there are aspects that fall outside of the direct marketing equation. Examples may be a news release program that increases SEO (search engine optimization) to drive more relevant searchers to your site. Or a linking strategy that does the same. Does the fact that you don’t “know” EXACTLY who you are targeting hurt the definition?

Get to the Point

Although you could argue many differences, although some inconsequential, the basic premise of content marketing being direct marketing with a higher purpose is sound. As a content marketer, I want to employ all the same tactics of direct mail except the call-to-action should reinforce a long-term customer relationship. That is done, not through an offer, but through great content that meets or exceeds their informational needs.

What say you?

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By joepulizzi published November 19, 2007

30 Thankful Truths of Great Corporate Media

As Thanksgiving is upon us, I’d like to take time to thank all those companies who strive to make their customers and prospects more intelligent through the use of great content. Thanks to all those organizations around the world that believe in, and practice, the following content marketing truths:

  1. That the content is more important than the offer.
  2. That a customer relationship doesn’t end with the payment.
  3. That printed marketing doesn’t stop with the full-page advertisement.
  4. That “being the content” is more important than “surrounding the content”.
  5. That interruption isn’t valued, but engagement is.
  6. That a blog can be and should be a core part of communicating with your customers.
  7. That internal marketing always takes precedence over external marketing.
  8. That a brand is a relationship, not a tag line.
  9. That focusing on what the customer wants is more important than what you have to sell.
  10. That readers are old school, customers are new school.
  11. That the competition can copy everything you have, except your brand. Communications is the differentiator.
  12. That a news release isn’t meant to be picked up by the press, but to help customers find your great content on the web.
  13. That communicating directly with customers is the best choice.
  14. That marketers can be publishers.
  15. That today’s traditional publishers are scared of marketers.
  16. That without content, community is improbable, if not impossible.
  17. That the marketing brochure should be stricken from all strategic marketing plans.
  18. That content without design doesn’t look appetizing.
  19. That lead generation is only one small part of the marketing picture.
  20. That hiring an editor is not a want, but a must, for the organization.
  21. That, no matter the medium or the provider, someone is always selling something.
  22. That the long tail of search engine optimization is driven by consistent content on your corporate blog or website.
  23. That 90% of all corporate websites talk about how great the company or product is and forgets about the customer.
  24. That 90% of all corporate websites suck.
  25. That the blogging community will be more important than traditional media (if not already).
  26. That in the next five to seven years the majority of content consumers engage in will be corporate media.
  27. That buyers are in control, the traditional sales process has changed, and that relevant content lets organizations into the buying process.
  28. That long-form branded content can be created anywhere your customers work, live or play.
  29. That the Chief Content Officer is the CMO of the future.
  30. That customers want to be inspired. Be the inspiration!

Thank you to those companies that get the value of content marketing. For everyone else…there’s no time like the present.

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By joepulizzi published November 15, 2007

Custom Publishing Council Launches Content Magazine

Congratulations to the Custom Publishing Council for their premiere launch of Content magazine. Content is a 32 page over-sized magazine that targets 35,000 marketing professionals, CMOs and media executives. The initial magazine was mailed out the 2nd week of November, with upcoming issues in January, June and October of 2008.

We (the Custom Publishing Council) have been discussing “putting our money where our mouth is” ever since I joined five years ago. Well, we’ve finally done it…and, with high standards to live up to, the team did some excellent work.  After all, the association that promotes custom magazines better have a darn good magazine.

Take a look at the digital edition of the magazine. Of particular note, please check out Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni’s piece on Connecting Customers with Brands. Samir and I had a nice conversation at the Pearl awards about the need to constantly refer to our readers not as readers, but as customers (and explains it very well in this editorial). The key is that using the term “readers” is short-sighted, and doesn’t reference the true level of engagement the customer has (or can have) with a custom magazine or content marketing initiative.

If the brand has done its job of determining the informational needs of the customer, and provides relevant content to meet those informational needs and wants, a brand connection is not only possible, but probable.

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By joepulizzi published November 14, 2007

An Airport Study on Human Behavior – People Still Read!

My flight from New York to Cleveland was again delayed this past Friday, which gave me the opportunity to observe some human behavior. NOTE: The flight was delayed about four hours, and yes, people did look at me funny while I was doing this. The good news is that I didn’t get assaulted.

Place: Laguardia Airport, Gates B5 – B8

Rules: Over a matter of 10 minutes (trying to get a snapshot of behavior), determine what activity was each person engaged in. Those people who were eating were not included, as well as children under 15 (best guess).

Audience: A broad dissection of ages, nationalities/ethnicities, and even split of sex. Generally, people seemed to be from New York, Ohio and Georgia.

Goal: To get a snapshot about what activities people were engaging in. Mostly, since I come from a publishing and marketing background, I wanted to see if people still read.


  • Reading a book: 22
  • Doing nothing: 18
  • Reading a magazine: 18
  • Talking to someone in person: 17
  • Talking on a cell phone: 13
  • Listening to Music via iPod/MP3 player: 12
  • Working on a Computer: 8
  • Texting/Blackberry: 7
  • Sleeping: 4
  • Reading a newspaper: 2
  • Knitting: 1
  • Talking to themselves: 1

Total Number of Participants: 123

Note: 2 people were involved in multiple activities (music/texting, music/computer)


What can we take from these findings, other than the fact that I need to get a life?  Here are some summary points of the above findings:

  • 34% of participants, by far the largest percentage, were involved in reading a magazine, book or newspaper. This was somewhat surprising considering the current wave of technology. People engaged in reading were a variety of ages.
  • Only 11% were on their cell phone.  Although this is surprisingly low, it could have been because it was later in the day (after 6pm EST) and not during normal work hours.
  • 12% were involved in using a handheld or computer, while 10% were listening to music or audio programs via their iPods/MP3s (22% total involved in technology).

What this Means for Corporate Media Opportunities:

  • There is still great opportunity for corporations and other organizations to influence buyers through the use of print. The printed word is still incredibly important, even cherished, by buyers. Many people observed were almost hugging their book or magazine. It’s important stuff to them.If businesses find out the informational needs of their customers and deliver quality information in book, magazine or newsletter form, they could be cherishing that information instead of People magazine or US Weekly.
  • The above not withstanding, buyers engage in information in so many different ways, we, as marketing professionals, must create our content in multiple media and make it accessible to our customers. That means print, web, in-person, etc.
  • Humans crave interaction. More than eight people of every 10 were doing something. They long to communicate, to educate and entertain themselves, and to be inspired.

I think that was my biggest takeaway from this experiment…inspiration. People want to be inspired. I believe that it is your opportunity as a marketing professional to find ways to inspire your customers. Find ways to make your customer more intelligent. Help them make better decisions and live a better life in some way.

If marketing is the process of selling in a particular marketplace, the core of that process is to leave the customer in a better position than you found them in. Is that too much to ask? How great could your company be if that was your marketing mentality.

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