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 27, 2008

Tales Equals Sales: The Power of Marketing Storytelling

Here is my latest article from Chief Marketer magazine on the power of storytelling. Some excellent examples here from Unilever’s Degree (Degree Rookie campaign) and Blendtec’s Will it Blend?

Aside from the examples, here’s the real core of the article:

Storytelling, sometimes referred to as content marketing or custom media, consists of delivering the brand product message as relevant and compelling information. Instead of marketers following a playbook,  storytelling requires much the same mixture of rational and emotional messaging that you’d find in a New York Times feature, or even on primetime television drama.

Smart marketers are realizing that they don’t have a choice anymore when it comes to reaching consumers. In today’s business environment, the 4 Ps of marketing can be copied verbatim by an outside competitor. The only
separation is communication – how a marketer tells its story.

Although I prefer the term content marketing, many leading content experts such as Story Worldwide and Storybrand Consulting have picked up on the “storytelling” concept.

Whatever it’s called, the “story” is the same – deliver relevant, valuable and compelling information to your customer, and reap the rewards of engagement, loyalty and, ultimately, purchase.

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By joepulizzi published March 26, 2008

Content Marketing at 4 Companies – IBM, Siemens, CIT and Information Builders

In yesterday’s post I gave an overview of the BtoB NetMarketing breakfast where leading marketers discussed, in detail, the use of content in their overall marketing plans. What we are starting to see is an evolution of the marketing profession into a marketing/publishing mixture.

Here are some of the highlights that pertain to online content marketing.

Bill Stabile, Siemens Corp.

  • According to Forrester, the majority of marketers want to put more budgetary funds into the web.  This includes Siemens, which at the present time puts 20 – 30% into online.  Mr. Stabile stated how huge this number is, especially since, according to him, Siemens barely had an online footprint a few years back.
  • Siemens is positioning themselves around online thought leadership and credibility, with a focus on engagement.
  • There is no doubt that online is the focal point of their ongoing campaigns.
  • Siemens Answers campaign is Siemens first big push into an integrated print/online campaign. Print, online media, search, online pr and social media all push to the Siemens Answers microsite.
  • They measure their activity in awareness, favorability, response and leads.
  • Mr. Stabile focused on the use of traditional, mainstream media to drive to their own online content initiatives.
  • He stated that 90% of technology and industrial decision makers go online to find suppliers. This is something Siemens is taking very seriously.
  • Their future area of focus: moving to two-way communications.  Right now, he would consider what they are doing one-way communications.
  • INTERESTING STATEMENT – Mr. Stabile said that minor changes in the marketing mix can lead to substantial business increases (5% movement of trade shows into online was the example).

Chris Boylan, Information Builders

  • His goal for the $300 million btob software company is to generate more leads from less traffic.
  • Big goals: increase brand awareness, generate leads, integrate lead generation reporting with SFA system, and track campaign through to sales.
  • Mr. Boylan stated that the main goal when someone gets to their website is to guide visitors to the most compelling content.
  • They use separate landing pages for their white papers with minimal distractions – just get them to complete the form!
  • They use Baynote – had 10% increase in conversion just by using this software.
  • They shoot for lead price to between $20 and $40 per lead when using lead gen and white paper syndication sites such as ITToolbox.
  • Over last year, they increased their overall budget by 15%. 57% of that goes into PPC and organic search efforts.
  • Since last year, they saw a 40% lead increase. 857,000 unique visitors, 25,994 total leads – $45.82 per lead. This generated $35+ million in new business. 13,991 leads from PPC and organic search. 12,003 through syndication.

John Carnero, CIT

  • Created “Behind the Business” series in partnership with Conde Nast, which was a video series promoted using The New Yorker, Wired, Portfolio and Golf Digest. The premise is an ongoing series with leading CEOs about how they became CEOs and define success.
  • The entire program includes advertorial, events, online advertising, video/podcasts, etc.
  • They also promoted it through a LinkedIn advertising plan.
  • Also created a program called “5 Minute Capital“, which is a 5 minute podcast on Intellectual Capital. Their goal is to position key employees as thought leaders, partnering with media sites to drive traffic to their content.

Eric Andrews, IBM

  • IBM is to transition from push to pull marketing strategies.
  • Mr. Andrews stated that they can no longer interrupt their customers – they must provide relevant content for when their customers are ready, and in formats they prefer.
  • Marketing is changing to a conversation.
  • In Web 1.0, we were consumers of media. In Web 2.0, we are participants.
  • At IBM, customers are in control and they guide the marketing conversation. That means that IBM has to be quicker, more responsive, and must listen to all feedback.
  • Social Media enables those conversations through communities, forums, discussion groups,etc.
  • IBM promotes employee participation in blogs (has blogger’s code of conduct).
  • The strategy starts with listening – posts, feedback, what customers are saying, etc. This helps them to understand the language they speak.

As you can see from the notes, these four companies get it. They get the fact that the marketer is in control, and to be part of the conversation, they have to create relevant and compelling content consistently, and in multiple formats.

Toward the end of the presentation, there was a lot of talk about how marketers need to be storytellers – creating useful content…specifically targeted micro-niche audiences with very precise bits of information.

The future has arrived!

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By joepulizzi published March 25, 2008

Is the Main Job of Marketing Today Publishing?

I had the pleasure of attending the BtoB NetMarketing breakfast about a week ago while I was in New York. I was really looking forward to this, especially when I saw the panel:

  • Jon Carero, VP, Interactive Marketing at CIT
  • Bill Stabile, Sr. Director, Brand & Marketing Communications at Siemens Corp.
  • Chris Boylan, Director of Internet Marketing at Information Builders
  • Eric Andrews, VP, WW Demand Generation at IBM

Here is a link to the videos from the event.

My key takeaway was this: Leading marketing organizations such as IBM and Siemens are focusing the majority of their time, attention and resources on the creation and distribution of their own content to customers and prospects.

Don’t get me wrong, companies like IBM buy plenty of TV and online “space”, but those buys are part of an integrated communications plan that direct the buyer to their own content.

This is especially important in the business-to-business buying cycle where it may take six to 24 months for someone to make a purchase decision, and involve from six to possibly 20 people who have a say in the final choice (ouch!).

Marketing today is all about publishing.

Considering the vast changes in buyer behavior, these marketers understand that their marketing function is not about getting prospects to buy now (which is impossible in a b2b environment).  It’s about getting the prospect engaged in the information provided…making it relevant to their lives and jobs, and motivating them to come back for more (by creating more relevant content).

By providing this type of content marketing and setting up the building blocks for a long-term relationship, the opportunity is now available to actually sell your solutions, because they trust you, have a stake in your brand, and believe in your solutions-oriented message.

The whole idea of this, even ten years ago, would seem like the hard way to increase sales. Today, it’s the only way.

I’ll have more on some specific takeaways from each presenter tomorrow.

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By joepulizzi published March 21, 2008

To Publishers: Your Customers Don’t Need You Any Longer

I had the pleasure of speaking to about 40 magazine and book publishers in New York last week for the Publishing Business conference. The presentation was called “Businesses Are Becoming Publishers: What Your Customers Are Doing with Content and How to Handle it.”

I’ve given this type of presentation to publishers before. I especially like the slide that I put up, in all black, that states “Your customers don’t need you any longer…” I was happy to see that only a few people left the room after this slide.

The point I was trying to make is a simple one: in any market today, no matter how niche, sellers can reach buyers without going through distributors like magazine and book publishers.

This is not a new concept to many who read this blog, but it was definitely a wake up call to many in the audience who haven’t thought about their business models in that way before.

The choice I gave them was not an easy one, but one that I truly believe has much opportunity for publishers. It is the choice between trying to grow top line revenue within a business model that used to work well, but will be challenging to grow in the future – or – giving in to the new buyer behavior and help teach traditional businesses how to become their own publishers.

Both directions have risk, but by publishers morphing into marketing services companies, they can begin to take advantage of the large shift of dollars from traditional advertising to customized content production and execution. According to Publications Management, 27% of marketing budgets now go toward the creation and execution of content.  I would anticipate this number getting to 50% within the next decade.

The big reason I see this as an opportunity?: Marketers don’t want to be publishers. Frankly, in my discussions with marketing professionals, the last thing they want to do is be responsible for the creation of relevant content. Almost all of them now know they have to create valuable and compelling content to stay competitive, but they really don’t want to do it themselves.

This premise is one of the major reasons we launched Junta42 Match. Businesses must start creating their own media, but they lack the will and the expertise to do it right. Publishers can help them get there.

Here is the link to the entire presentation from Publishing Business.  We also took video, which will be up as soon as I get around to it.

Exciting times for sure…lots of opportunity, as well as lots of business models that either don’t or won’t work in the very near future.

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By joepulizzi published March 19, 2008

Ad Age Crystal Ball 2.0 Mention

Ad Age did a survey of their Power 150 bloggers list about what technology marketers should be paying the most attention to in 2008.  They were nice enough to include me.

Here’s my statement:

The single biggest issue/technology that deserves the most attention is not a site or an application, but more an organizational philosophy. It’s the content marketing movement — which is the philosophy of marketing services not by traditional methods, but by delivering valuable, relevant and compelling content to customers and prospects on a consistent basis. This is being done through all media platforms, and we are seeing companies like P&G and Nike put a large amount of money and resources into these efforts.

Here are some of the other ones that really caught my eye.

Tom Martin

With the cost of production and distribution of digital content rapidly approaching zero, including distribution to the television platform, the opportunity to create branded micro-content that consumers will invite into their lives becomes a financial reality with a huge ROI upside; it’s advertising that people want to watch. This should be the single biggest trend to catch fire in 2008.

Paul Chaney

Online video/TV is the technology to watch in ’08. There seems to be a seismic shift toward digital distribution of video content, more and more video sites are being created, and there is a small camera revolution going on (which includes webcams) that portends a continued rise in user-generated video content. YouTube was just the beginning. Now, there’s ooVoo, seesmic, Revver, Jumpcut … the list goes on and on. Oh, and FastCompany.TV that Scoble just inaugurated. Add to that the fact that people are
scurrying to their computers in droves to watch television programs which, themselves. More than any other technology, including social networks, online video is it.

Dan Schawbel

Micro-communication: Marketers need to focus their attention on messaging within internal workforce, as well as the external world.
Messages have transitioned from full-blown blog posts and email blasts to short and concise messages. Examples of this trend are Twitter and Seesmic, both of which provides users a way of conveying their messages in short text messages or videos that can be easily consumed by others.  As people have less and less time to read full-blown news articles and blogs, they will resort to communicating in as few words as possible. Messages that contain simple headlines and links to other resources will skyrocket in 2008 and beyond. Marketers have to be aware of this in order to sync their corporate messaging down to a level where people
can understand, react and make decisions faster than long essays.

George Parker

What makes a site worth reading has very little to do with digital technologies or web applications, it has everything to do with content.  This is what encourages consistent readership and keeps visitors coming back for more. You ask what is most deserving of marketers’ attention in 2008 and why? The best illustration of this was at the AdAge IDEA conference, when the BBDO/GE presentation of their $350 million campaign was followed by the BlendTec guy who does $50 videos on YouTube. As he demonstrated, this increased sales by over 30%. There were no similar metrics given by the BBDO/GE team … But then again, that’s “Branding!”

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By joepulizzi published

If you mail it, will they read it? Great Health Magazine from CVS

- by guest blogger Michael Buller

This is Michael’s second guest blog post. We received such a great response from the first one, we asked him to post again.  Thanks Michael. – Joe Pulizzi

CVS made news recently with the announcement of a new custom publication Great Health Magazine, which they aim to launch this spring. The publication, which will also have a “sister web site” and eventually an enewsletter, will be centered around health issues. On the surface, there’s no doubting the numbers that make a compelling case for the relevance:

  • Women influence 80% of healthcare decisions in
    their households, wielding buying power of about $1.2 trillion.
  • The initial mail list will be 500,000, picked from
    the 75 million people who have signed up for the CVS ExtraCare card. That list
    will double to 1,000,000 in 2009.
  • The average reader will be a mid-50s college
    educated woman, who owns her own home and still works to support her family.

So there’s little doubt that the women who receive this publication are predisposed to care about the subject matter. And there’s
little doubt that with demographics like this, advertisers would love to talk to this target audience. But here’s the catch: there’s no truth to the saying, “if you mail it, they will read it.”

Reaching a desired demographic is one thing; getting them to engage in the publication is another.

Based on that reasoning, I’m skeptical. More than just about any other family-friendly topic, healthcare content is pervasive – online, in print, you name it. A Google search on women’s health returns 36,500,000 results. You don’t need SRDS to see how saturated the category is ‑ just visit any newsstand and look at the women’s magazine section; you’ll be inundated with cover lines selling health stories. Cutting through that clutter to get readers to not only pick up the publication, but actually spend time with it – that’s a tall order.

I hope CVS succeeds – a successful custom magazine by anyone helps all of us in the industry – but I’m worried that the content will be so generic and/or brand-centric that it will fail to capture anyone’s attention.

Even if it does, there’s another major hurdle to battle.  There’s nothing in the press release or news that indicates that CVS is funding the endeavor – but it does say that the company hopes to attract ad revenue from pharmaceutical and OTC advertisers. It’s likely that they’re counting on advertisers to flock to their alluring demographics. But what if cautious advertisers wait until the magazine proves that it is engaging readers – will CVS have the financial fortitude to invest in the publication during that time? Or will they impatiently demand a return on their investment from the start? Or worse, have they convinced a small custom publisher that the publisher should take all the risk in launching this venture, with the promise of big ad revenue returns down the line?

I hope not – that happens too often where marketers want both a content marketing program that engages
their customers, and the luxury of someone else paying for that program.

Basic Media Group is the company that’s signed on for the CVS magazine. On March 18, their one-page website said: “Updated website coming soon.”  Hmm.

Michael Buller is Vice President/General Manager of Custom Publishing for The Pohly Company, a diversified marketing and publishing services company specializing in engagement marketing and customer communications.

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By joepulizzi published March 17, 2008

Content Marketing vs. Custom Publishing: What’s the Difference?

Had a very interesting conversation with Vince Giorgi, Vice President at Hanley Wood Marketing, during the Custom Content Conference about the custom publishing industry.  As readers of this blog know, I’ve been constantly struggling with the differentiation between “content marketing” and “custom publishing.”  Well, thanks to Vince, we have it all figured out.

Content marketing is the business “practice” of delivering relevant and compelling content to a person or target audience.

Custom publishing or custom media is the “service” that produces the content marketing effort. Publishers or agencies that provide project management, design, web and content services for an organization, are providing custom publishing services on behalf of the business.

This seems to make too much sense. Thanks to Vince, I think we have a clear separation of the two.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.  Are we off base? Is this dead on?

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By joepulizzi published March 14, 2008

Like it or Not, Information Must Be Your Product

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a variety of marketers recently about how they create and distribute content through their marketing programs. Although each organization executes the content process differently, there seems to be one key differentiator between those organizations who are successfully changing behavior through content and those that aren’t: Information as a product.

Whether you sell products or services, the new rules of marketing require that, along with everything else you sell, the process of delivering consistently valuable information must be considered throughout the organization as, yes, a product.

What do I mean by that? When an organization looks at their content marketing as a product, they inherently create a number of initiatives and processes around that product, including:

  • Upfront Business Planning
  • Product Testing
  • Research & Development
  • Product Success Measures (marketing return on investment)
  • Customer Feedback Channels
  • Quality Control
  • Product Evolution Planning

Successful companies such as Procter & Gamble, IBM and Microsoft have all approached their content in a similar fashion.

Why approach information as a product?
Simple…organizations today have no choice but to place that kind of importance and processes behind their content initiatives.  Customers today are in complete control, and filter out any message that does not benefit them in some way. Since that is the case, organizations must first build a solid relationship with customers through the use of valuable, relevant information – then, and only then, will organizations be able to sell the other products and services that grow the top line.

This is happening now
We are seeing this trend happen now, as more businesses morph themselves into media companies. You are seeing appointments of titles such as "chief content officers" and businesses that are starting to hire full-time journalists. It won’t be long before "traditional" businesses even start to purchase media companies themselves (we are already seeing some of this).

What you need to do
Any company serious about growing top line revenues, and at the same time concerned about how to market in the future, needs to make the "information as a product" concept a priority.

Small organizations with limited budgets should start searching out expert journalists to begin overseeing their content program.  Mid-to-large organizations may want to look into hiring a custom publisher or post-advertising agency (props to Story Worldwide on the terminology), to begin helping them construct their information/content marketing business plan.

The reason I recommend help is that it is very challenging for someone from a traditional marketing background to create a content plan.  In order to be successful, you need a strong marketing and publishing background, and a keen understanding of how consistent editorial content can maintain or change customer behavior.

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By joepulizzi published March 13, 2008

Custom Content Conference 2008 a Huge Success

It’s hard to imagine that the premier Custom Content Conference could have gone any better.  We were shooting for at least 100 and had closer to 140 attend.  We were hoping for a few sponsors and sold out our exhibits and sponsorships. We wanted great speakers and interactive sessions…and got those too.

I always seemed to be running around at the conference and didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to enjoy the presentations. The second day I completely missed (in NYC for the Publishing Business conference), so please see Newt Barrett’s takeaways from the conference.  Also, Jeremy Greenfield provides some insight into the first day as well. I didn’t take many pics, but here are the ones I did manage to get. [added, Barbara Logan’s post from Hammock].

Here are my takeaways:

  • From Joe Duffy’s presentation, he cited that (according to Yankelovich 2005) 56% of consumers avoid products and services that overtly market.  Creating valuable content targeted to customers instead of hard selling is not just a recommendation, but a survival requirement.
  • Duffy: the marketer’s role is shifting from storyteller to the true creator of a better life experience. Amen brother!
  • George Bernard Shaw Quote: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in customizing the world to himself and his values." There are more than a few people I need to send that quote to.
  • While I was listening to a presentation by Brand Keys, this concept hit me in regard to traditional publishers:  the customers (advertisers) of traditional publishers and media companies don’t need them anymore. I used this concept to begin my presentation at Publishing Business conference the next day. Why use the middleman when you can go direct?  We are seeing this more and more and will continue to.  Have you seen BusinessWeek or Advertising Age lately?
  • Geoff Cook, the CEO of, talked in detail about the rise of his social networking site targeted to 13-17 year olds (which is rising by leaps and bounds). Consumers, more than ever in history, want to be part of something, be associated with something.  That is a major reason why social media initiatives are taking off. It makes sense that the more people live in a virtual world, the more they long for networks and associations.
  • Following up on the previous point, Kenneth Neher with GlaxoSmithKline, referred to association marketing linking directly with their key driver, which is advocacy. Neher stated that the right content at the right time from the right brand builds true advocacy. He also showed his loyalty continuum which is:

    aware – interested – try – adopt – loyal – advocate

    Neher also stated that a key to their advocacy success has been their consistent use of print and online content efforts directly targeted to their consumer groups.

  • Kent Nichols, the creator of the popular Ask a Ninja episodes, was probably the most entertaining of all, especially with the number of jabs against living in Ohio (which, for the most part, were true, what can I say?). Kent has proven that successful online business models today have nothing to do with the way business was done in the past. That said, you can’t do much online without either great content, or ways that people can interact with compelling content.
  • Joseph Plummer rounded out the first day with an excellent presentation on engagement. "Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context." Plummer’s idea of "turned on" has a lot to do with co-ownership and co-creation of the brand. Couple points here…1) the faster you realize that your customers, not you, own the brand, the more you’ll be able to use content marketing as a core to your overall strategic vision and give your customers the access they need to help you build your brand, and 2) don’t underestimate the power of how and in what format your content is delivered.  Great content in the wrong delivery vehicle or wrong location can damage the brand. The message idea and the context idea don’t arrive until after you have a firm grasp of the customers’ needs and wants from an informational perspective.

That’s just for starters.  I have a few more concepts I’ve been working on related to the conference that I’ll be sharing soon.  Last but not least, the launch of Junta42 Match was very successful. Receiving great feedback from publishers about the concept.  As you’ll see in this picture, I’m a bit partial to orange.

Final thoughts…big thanks and appreciation goes out to Lori Rosen and Mike Winkleman (and the board) for putting on a great show. And last but not least, I have to throw some props to my good friends at the following organizations, who gladly supported this first year event. Premier sponsor Nxtbook Media, gold sponsor Fry Communications, and the rest of our supporters including BPA Worldwide, Convera, Creel, D Custom, Lane Press, Publishers Press, Readex Research and Texterity.

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.