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 January 4, 2008

Like Spike Lee and Madonna, Businesses Are Creating Their Own Media Channels

Did the title get your attention? Frankly, I could have named a number of stars including Larry the Cable Guy, the band Radiohead…even Morgan Freeman. What is currently happening in the entertainment industry is exactly what is going on in the business world…just most people don’t realize it yet.

The January issue of Portfolio highlights how celebrities are cutting out the middleman, creating multiple online channels to communicate directly with customers and fans.

“Losing faith in the old guard, these celebs are using the internet to distribute their work directly to consumers and experimenting with business models that don’t have anything to do with [the major studios].”

While reading this article I couldn’t get over the “too scary” similarity between this and what is happening in traditional media. Businesses of all sizes are dissatisfied with the performance of advertising in magazines, at trade shows, and even purchasing online banners. More money is flowing into measurable media such as pay-per-click (PPC) and into their own web properties. This we have known…but what continues to be treated like a spouse cheating is business’s new love affair with creating their own media channels.

And let’s get beyond social media for a moment. Any organization not contemplating a serious social media strategy is slowing becoming history. This movement is about how corporations are creating their own content, communicating the essence of their brands without having to rely on traditional media (of which social media has to be a part of).

The Portfolio story references this trend as a “more efficient means of reaching potential customers.” More efficient is one way to put it…absolutely necessary is another.

Not convinced? It’s not that there are fewer traditional channels…there are more than ever. Even though magazines keep dying, new ones keep popping up to replace them. There are more cable channels and in-person venues than ever before, in almost every market. What has changed is this:

  1. CFOs are running more marketing organizations today, and are making CMOs and marketing executives accountable to their media spend whether they like it or not.
  2. Whether traditional media is less effective than in the past doesn’t matter…the perception is that it is less effective.
  3. Corporate CRM systems are finally starting to work. Some businesses even have more comprehensive information than their media counterparts. This opens the opportunity to communicate directly with customers.
  4. I believe in branding and awareness, probably more than most, but when it comes down to it, branding efforts are the first to get cut. They are also what most traditional media companies push as a benefit of advertising. Media outlets are becoming better at lead-generation activities, but every media company only had a limited amount of lead-generation products (or their dilute the value and disturb their customers/readers). I can’t stand the singular focus on leads, leads, leads…but it’s happening, and has been for some time.
  5. Technology has obliterated the barrier for businesses to create their own channels such as content web sites, blogs, podcasts, video series, online trade shows, digital magazines, etc.  Even creating custom print magazines and other print custom publishing initiatives are becoming less expensive (except for postage).

But maybe the biggest rush into content marketing (businesses creating their own content channels) is said best by this quote from the above article:

“It will quickly get to a point where if you don’t do it, everybody else will be doing it. If you’re not there, where are you? Then you’ll see the stars participate.”

This is what we are seeing now. The Microsoft’s, Cisco’s, John Deere’s of the world were first to jump on this bandwagon.  Now you are seeing the rest of the business world catch up…because they have to.  Why?

Everything…product, price, place, promotion…all of it can be copied. The lone competitive advantage businesses have today is what they communicate…their brand.

Traditional media will continue to go on, but as Portfolio states, “…they will continue to be diminished…certainly traditional media companies will no longer be the content gatekeepers…”

Whether you believe this is good or bad doesn’t matter at this point.  It is happening. It’s your choice as a business as to what you want to do about it.

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By joepulizzi published January 2, 2008

Webkinz – When Content Marketing Goes Good (and Bad)

For those of you not familiar with Webkinz, they are very similar to what Cabbage Patch dolls were in the 80′s except for the integration of the Internet.  Webkinz, owned by Toronto-based Ganz, are small stuffed animals that come in dogs, pandas, cats, ducks and more. Once the owner “adopts” their pet, they can go to the Webkinz website to register their pet, create a name, and bring their pet to life online.

The Webkinz concept is so simple, it boggles your mind it wasn’t thought of earlier. Simple, and truly powerful. To experience just a bit of this power, just watch a four-year-old navigate their way through the site. You have to see it to believe it.

Here are a couple of points specific to the website and content marketing…

  1. The Webkinz site may be one of the greatest examples of a successful content marketing website in the world.
  2. If Webkinz doesn’t realize that their website actually IS content marketing, it may destroy their brand.

The Webkinz Business Model

According to this BusinessWeek article, Webkinz annual sales are north of $100 million. The revenues come strictly from the sale of their stuffed toys and accessories such as charms and clothes. Frankly, the stuffed animals are no different than what you’d find at any toy shop in the world. The difference is its “Webkinz World” online community.

My six-year-old son Joshua has a Webkinz, a polar bear named (fittingly) Polar. Joshua (as well as his younger brother Adam) have spent a good chuck of time on the Webkinz site fitting their animals with clothes, toys, carpet and wallpaper for the bedroom, and more. Joshua takes Polar to the doctor, to the exercise room, and to other “social” rooms where Polar can play with other Webkinz pets. Joshua needs to go to the store to buy food for Polar that will keep him healthy, and also has to play Webkinz games as a “job” in order to make money to buy more food, clothes and toys for Polar.

It truly is a wonderfully educational and “sticky” site, and, perhaps the best example I can think of for online content marketing. Webkinz World is NOT the product, it’s the retention and growth mechanism. But it ultimately is the reason the brand is what it is today. The online component includes FREE content that educates its customer base and incentivizes their buyers to buy more Webkinz products. Having more pets means your pets can play with each other, and also opens up exclusive items for multiple pet owners.

Webkinz has done what every business in the world seeks to do with their online content, yet they have so integrated the product and the content that it seems indistinguishable. What actually is the product? The toys or the online experience? That is where Webkinz has perfected the art of content marketing. When the content you produce for your customers is perceived as so crucial to the success of the product itself, you have perfect content marketing integration.

A Tragic Mistake

Webkinz recently received a slew of hate mail from parents around the world when they decided to open up a small amount of advertising on their site. This created a virtual PR nightmare for Ganz. Although they have taken the advertising down (such as ads for the recent Seinfeld release “Bee Movie”), they are still considering advertising on the site for “kid-friendly” products.

I can see the storm coming now.

Even in this BusinessWeek quote, it seems that Ganz as well as financial experts just don’t get the true nature of the Webkinz World site.

“Ganz, which doesn’t disclose its financials, must now strike a delicate balance: maximizing profit from the fad without alienating parents and kids. Visitors to Webkinz.com spent more than a million hours there in November, but the site is free. As a result, “they haven’t made anywhere near as much money as you’d think,” says Sean McGowan, an analyst at Needham, who guesses Webkinz sales are north of $100 million. He adds that none of the nascent competitors has figured out how to capitalize on kids’ Web time, either.”

The sales are north of $100 million because Ganz created a safe and educational website that parents can leave their kids on without having to worry. Webkinz has grown because they are delivering high-quality FREE content, with the expectation that the website will drive more Webkinz sales, not that the website will produce revenue itself. Opening up web advertising, no matter how kid-friendly, will kill the brand and the site. Playhouse Disney opened up their website to advertising a few years ago. That was the same time we stopped allowing our kids to go to that site. My kids clicked on those ads like crazy and ended up God knows where. Disney forgot that the website was not there to make money, but to deepen the brand relationship they have with their customers (getting them to watch more playhouse Disney and buy more Disney toys). And from a quick look back at the Disney site, they have removed the advertising.  They figured it out!!!  Webkinz better as well – or they will destroy the safe environment they’ve created for children.

Key Takeaways

  1. All businesses need to create their own content channels, as Webkinz has. Most businesses don’t realize that they can create their own online resource centers for their customers that will ultimately drive loyalty and sales. P&G has done it with Home Made Simple, Miller Electric has done it with MillerWelds.com, LEGO has nearly perfected it. Consumer or B2B…doesn’t matter. Just create content that meets the informational needs of your buyer, treat it for what it is, and watch what it can do.
  2. When content marketing products succeed, such as online content websites or custom publishing print magazines, brands almost instinctively want to open those channels up to advertising. This is almost always a bad idea. Opening up other messages dilutes what you are trying to communicate to your customer. You also lose more control, as Playhouse Disney did when their customers clicked on other websites, alienating parents in the process.
  3. The best content marketing doesn’t have to be online. In Webkinz case, it clearly is.  Others might be print, or in-person. It’s most likely a combination of the three. Successful content programs meet the customers where they are. If you can do all three, it makes the content come alive that much more.

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By joepulizzi published December 31, 2007

Most Popular Content Marketing Articles: A Year in Review

2007 was a great year for content marketing. At the start of the year, most marketing professionals had never heard of the term. 12 months later, content marketing, the practice and the industry, are gaining speed. More and more marketing professionals are understanding the concept of selling – without really selling – through valuable and relevant content creation and marketing.

To cap off the year, I’ve included the top 5 articles from the Junta42 blog, as well as the top viewed and rated articles from Junta42. Enjoy! (NOTE: Analytics courtesy of Google Analytics.)

Top Content Marketing Articles from the Junta42 blog

  1. 42 Content Building Ways to Attract and Retain Customers (1,251 views)
    Definitely caught the most traction. Includes just about every type of medium to get your custom publishing message to your target audience.
  2. Stop Shouting Features: 5 Tips for Launching a Marketing Knowledge Program (894 views)
    Discusses the importance of focusing on the customer…and how to set up “listening posts” to acquire knowledge about your customer base.
  3. Want Customer Loyalty? Create Customer Wins with Content (815 views)
    Based on a Jack Welch article where Jack proclaims the idea of making yourself indispensable to buyers. Our take is to do that through content.
  4. myFord Magazine Special Issue Spells Disaster (359 views)
    I’ve always loved Ford, but I couldn’t let this latest issue of myFord magazine go by without making some constructive criticisms.
  5. How Poor Marketing Kills Great Content (344 views)
    Most marketing professionals think that creating online content or custom publishing editorial/content is the toughest part. It’s not even close…marketing is tougher by a landslide.

Highest Rated Articles on Junta42 (combination Promote’s, Page Views, and Time)

  1. Are Corporations the New Kings of Content?
    A Folio magazine article that discusses why corporate media will overtake traditional media in the coming years and decades.
  2. 8 Tips to Making Your YouTube Video Go Viral
    Excellent David Meerman Scott post with a case study from Blentec that’s worth the read.
  3. The Five Pillars of Content Marketing – The Ultimate Definition
    A first crack of many to try to put the practice of content marketing into an industry definition.
  4. Attention Marketers! Hire a Journalist
    A case for why businesses should be hiring writers to help take their content initiatives to the next level.
  5. Free eBook on How to Turn Prospects into Customers with Content Marketing
    A 30+ page eBook that is worth the read for anyone interested in launching or refining their content initiatives.

Most Viewed Articles on Junta42

  1. Media Gets Social (404 views)
    Consumer content creation is the big deal online these days. There are
    at least 30 million blogs online, podcasts galore, as well as nearly
    100 million photos available via Flickr. All sorts of new web tools
    have been developed to enable this new social media, as it is being
    called.
  2. Are DVRs Killing the Commercial? (397 views)
    With DVR penetration on the rise and a decreasing consumer response to
    TV commercials, the time is ripe for companies to explore new forms of
    online marketing.
  3. Pump Up Your Brain (337 views)
    According to Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, the best way to
    get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas. This applies to inventions or
    developing content.
  4. 11 Ways to Promote Your Website (330 views)
    From writing articles, news releases and blogs to giving speeches,
    marketing your content and other tactics can drive traffic to your site.
  5. The Viral Garden & the MySpacing of Facebook (313 views)
    Brennan White at Pandemic Labs discusses the current state of Facebook
    and responds to concerns that Facebook is committing all the mistakes
    that Myspace committed.

Thanks to each of you for your support during 2007.  Looking forward to a great 2008!

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By joepulizzi published December 27, 2007

Duke University Shows Promise of iTunes Learning

Here is an interesting case study from Apple on the integration of audio learning via Apple’s iTunes at Duke University. If you look at this from an organizational standpoint (not just an educational one), Duke realized that its customers (the students) craved new and engaging ways to access university content. The article goes on to say:

“[Duke] recognized that iPod would allow access to rich content anytime, anywhere, and do it extremely easily…[They] helped gain support at the highest levels of [the] administration for this notion of infusing a new and emerging technology throughout [the] campus. [Duke] also realized the value of partnering with Apple as they developed an entirely new way to distribute content.”

There is always a concern over adoption status when businesses launch audio or podcasts initiatives. Probably the biggest concern is whether or not the customer group has the technology and the knowledge to use a product, such as an iPod, to access the content. Duke and Apple took this out of the equation by handing all 1400 incoming freshman a brand new iPod.

If you are planning on launching this kind of initiative in your organization, here are some key takeaways:

  1. Do research upfront to see if there is a need, as well as determining whether your core target can handle the technology.
  2. How many of your buyers have the technology (an iPod, MP3 player, or computer access to the audio files)? If your buyer base is “more behind” the technology curve, you may still want to consider CD-ROM technology (audio books still sell well to particular populations).
  3. Can you get organization-wide implementation of the content itself? Duke targeted teachers who were interested in new ways of learning and willing to take a chance. Take that same stance with thought leaders in your own organization who can develop key audio content.
  4. One-offs probably won’t work. Be sure to create content in series or educational tracks. Sign up key customers for these tracks and then deliver periodic content to them. If they need a player, do what Duke did and send one to them. (NOTE: This makes much more sense for buyers who have large decision-making responsibility. I would not recommend this for consumer populations.)

Here are some helpful links if you are planning on podcasting for your customer base:

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By joepulizzi published December 21, 2007

A 2008 Marketing Prediction to Bank On: Why Simon Kelly and Content Marketing Rule!

Just finished reading through an excellent article from Folio (a magazine/web site about the magazine industry) about their predictions for 2008.

Most of the predictions were on budgets (some good ones), recession, the economy, print vs. online, integrated media…blah, blah, blah.  And then I come to my friend Simon Kelly’s (Story Worldwide) predictions, which after reading, am now considering starting the Simon Kelly fan club (wait, he already won an award for that).  Here are a few of Simon’s gems:Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published

A Video Case Study that Works – Burger King Whopper Freakout

I caught this Burger King Whopper Freakout Video on the What’s Next? blog and couldn’t help but comment. The video, pitched and created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, creates perhaps the ultimate case study for Burger King.

In the video, the following happens:

  • Customers demand a Burger King product.
  • Are angry that they cannot get a Whopper.
  • Clearly state, with passion, their dissatisfaction for the competition.
  • Discuss their loyalty to Burger King over years and decades.
  • Make references to Burger King as a key part of their childhoods and experiences growing up.

What’s so wonderful about this is the brutal honesty (customers do not know that the whole thing is a practical joke). Most companies wouldn’t take a risk to get THIS kind of content. It could realistically be the one of the greatest case studies for a product I have ever seen.  Hat’s off to BK.

By joepulizzi published December 20, 2007

Can Buzzfuse Help You Market Your Content?

I stumbled across a service today called Buzzfuse. It immediately caught my attention (as a content marketer) with this statement:

“Buzzfuse is a content marketing system: we help content creators better market their content, and help consumers find the stuff they want.”

Content creation is not a problem for most – marketing is usually the hurdle…so there is definitely a need for a service that helps businesses and individuals promote their content efficiently.

Here is how a business can use Buzzfuse:

  • Upon sign-up, upload your key customer list emails into your distribution list.
  • Once that is done, you can select key content to promote to your customers. For example, I tested this blog post called How Poor Marketing Kills Great Content and uploaded a few lines of simple code to the HTML.

After uploading the code and activating the link, you can now send your article to your key customer distribution list.

  • Your customers can now do a couple things…they can click directly to your article (which is not different than just sending them a link) or they can make some comments in the Buzzfuse system, as well as rate the article.
  • Other people that reach your content through search engines and referrals can get involved in the conversation through Buzzfuse.

Potential

  1. The possibility exists that you can begin to create a dialogue with your customers, or key customer groupings, through this service.
  2. It also enables your customers to interact with each other…something that is sometimes very difficult to do.
  3. The system can be used without your customers necessarily signing up to use Buzzfuse, such as voting and commenting.
  4. If nothing else, it can help in your link-building strategies.
  5. The content is not limited to just blogs…you can use your web articles, flash and at a later day, video.

As a new service, Buzzfuse has to get the word out like all startup online services.  Bloggers get some of these benefits through a service like Feedburner (sends RSS subscribers emails of your posts). That said, I almost see Buzzfuse as a combination between Feedburner, LinkedIn and an online forum. This service may be especially useful for small businesses trying to create an ongoing conversation with their customers and prospects by sending them quality content.

Overall, I like what they are trying to do.  The fundamental philosophy of Buzzfuse is dead on – businesses need help in marketing their relevant and valuable content.

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By joepulizzi published December 18, 2007

Five Tips to Improve Sales with Content

Most small off-line businesses do not think seriously about driving sales through their website. Little do these organizations realize that your website may be your most important asset now and into the future.

I recently wrote this article for Contracting Business magazine (a magazine for heating and air-conditioning owners and contractors) about five tips to improve sales with content.  Here are the five tips below, but please check out the entire story at Contracting Business.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published

Microsoft Uses Content to Attract Small Businesses

Say what you want about Microsoft, you’ve got to love their strategy to create relationships and sell products to small businesses. They are doing many things right, and a few things wrong that need to be corrected…let’s review.

I received an email with this link promoting Microsoft Office Live Basics for Small Businesses.  Live Basics enables businesses to reserve a domain name, create and update a web site, and create a centralized email hub for up to 25 email accounts (this part competes directly with Google Apps for small businesses, which I use).

It’s not the product that necessarily caught my attention – it was the content on the site.  There are two key areas to focus on: Articles and Tips and Community and Blogs. The site has over 250 articles and blog posts dedicated to small business solutions, many focused on small business online tools, tricks and techniques. Most articles are written by professional freelancers, which Microsoft is probably paying for (good move).

On the home page of the Microsoft Live Small Business site they promote an eBook from Startup Nation on the 11 ways to Create a Successful Web Site. Kudos to Microsoft for partnering with a recognized small business name such as Startup Nation. The eBook is free, but sign up is required. By giving up some information, you’ll also receive a subscription to their Microsoft Advisor eNewsletter. Microsoft is employing the basic “free on free” technique of giving you something large for free (eBook), then getting something regular for free (the eNewsletter), in exchange for your email address.

Microsoft has the process down and is doing most things right when it comes to delivering content to target customers. That said, here are a few things Microsoft should look at to improve the site:

  1. Why all the advertising? As I was reading the content I just couldn’t understand all the advertising (usually from Sprint or MasterCard). There are obvious reasons for Microsoft to have advertising on the site, but I believe that it goes against the higher purpose of the website…to get small business owners engaged in the site, familiar with Microsoft small business services, and ultimately, sign up for a service or content product. TAKEAWAY – Ditch the advertising…it’s distracting and interruptive. Getting rid of it will help keep your customers focused on what they truly need, small business solutions.
  2. No sample of eNewsletter? I really wanted to see a sample of the eNewsletter before I gave them my personal information. TAKEAWAY – Add a sample to give people a taste…you’ll see higher conversion if the content is good.
  3. No comments? With today’s technology, it is almost expected to have comment capabilities set up on articles. TAKEAWAY – Add comment capabilities to articles to create a more vibrant and interactive community.
  4. The Blog is a servant to the articles? The blog postings rarely offer a new take on small business solutions. It seems to exist to promote key Microsoft articles or give technical public service announcements. I’m not quite sure of the purpose. TAKEAWAY – Create a team of dedicated small-business experts as bloggers that create new insight into the challenges of small business.

Overall takeaway – Microsoft is doing some great things with online content marketing, but even the biggest and best companies in the world don’t have the content process entirely figured out.

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By joepulizzi published December 16, 2007

Blog Carnival – The Best of Content Marketing #3

Here is edition #3 on the best content from the web about content marketing and custom publishing. Anything that will help you create better content for your business, in whatever form, will be included here on a regular basis.  Not sure what content marketing is?  Click here for the Ultimate Definition of Content Marketing.

40 Online Marketing Methods by Hans De Keulenaer from the Web Business Marketing Blog.  He took our 42 Ways to Attract and Retain Customers to the next level.

Kenton Newby presents a five-minute video on Automatically Finding Ideas for New Website Content.  Interesting take and service he discusses.

Kathleen Gage writes a nice piece called “Is Blogging Necessary?” on her Street Smarts Marketing blog. Most companies don’t understand the opportunities that present themselves with a blog.  Kathleen reviews the basics.

Mark Riffey presents Reach out. Regularly. Or they’ll forget about you. posted at Business is Personal.

Nice post by Bud Caddell from Imagination Publishing called Web Metrics, Are You Missing the Engagement Mark?

My Creative Team presents 11 Ways to Promote Your Website.

Newt Barrett from ContentMarketingToday covers 3 More Reasons Marketers Must Become Publishers.

Content Marketers: Don’t Overlook the Basics from Pete at Relevant and Valued.

And here are some recent videos to check out that relate to branded content and content marketing:

Tiger Trap from Buick
Dr. Pepper’s Cherry Chocolate Rain (I can’t get this song out of my head).

…and a few microsites…

Dell Star Power
BMW XPLOR
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

For more, check out more Microsite examples at Junta42.

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