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 October 11, 2007

Solutions to the Three Deadly Marketing Mistakes

Patsi Krakoff, who writes a excellent blog on eZines and blogs, discussed the three deadly marketing mistakes you can avoid.  Here are the three:

  1. “People aren’t finding you easily online – your website or blog is not updated frequently enough, there’s not enough content with keywords, or you may have poor website design that makes search engine indexing and capturing visitors difficult if not impossible.
  2. There’s no way for people to try out your services or products for free before buying; no information products available;
    no way for you to capture email addresses for follow-up marketing. Even
    when you do have a system in place, you aren’t following up with leads
    like you should.
  3. Your emails, web pages, blog posts, ezine and other content lack benefits-driven reasons why visitors or email recipients should read, care, and act on your messages. You’re not persuading
    anybody to do anything. You wish you could hire an expensive
    copywriter, but you’re the one in charge of your marketing and web
    writing.”

Patsi discusses the need for great writing skills to overcome these mistakes.  This goes for the smallest start-up companies to the largest conglomerates.

In Patsi’s words, there is only upside to a sound writing strategy for your web properties: “You write about them [your customers' needs], they search for solutions, they find you (your website, your blog, or your landing pages), and everybody goes home
happy.”

Not sure about this strategy?  Do me a favor.  Go to each of your competitors’ Web sites.  Odds are, pretty much all of you are saying the same thing, and in most cases, each make it pretty difficult for your customer to buy – pushing products and services over valuable content. Well, let’s shake it up a bit (and do something that actually differentiates your brand from the competition).

Here are a few concrete steps that all marketers need to take in order to make your Web site content work for you, not against you.

  1. Hire an editor or custom publishing expert/provider. Frankly, extracting great content from your organization is challenging and difficult. It can be done, but most often is better extracted by a professional editor. You focus on selling your products and services, the editor can focus on creating valuable and relevant content.
  2. Create an Editorial Calendar. Coming from the publishing arena, editorial calendar’s are a constant practice…but not for businesses.  David Meerman Scott is a huge proponent of this, and discusses this in his book called The New Rules of Marketing and PR. (Also, check out the free eBook.)The key here is to create a calendar of your ongoing content initiatives…whether that’s your blog, newsletter, press release schedule, white paper or eBook, microsite launch, or other content marketing/custom publishing initiative. This schedule is your promise to create ongoing and consistent valuable content to your customers. If you do that, differentiation is possible.
  3. Or, do it yourself. Some small businesses don’t have the luxury to hire an editor. If that is the case, take Patsi up on her concept and learn how to write effectively yourself. I’m a big believer in this, but I also believe in focusing your time and energy on your key talents.  If writing is not one of them, or you don’t enjoy it, find the money and outsource it. Better yet, outsource anything that is not your core competency. Don’t believe it’s possible?…check out The Four-Hour WorkWeek by Timothy Ferris.

As the great Don Schultz has preached for many years, everything can be copied by the competition…product, packaging, logistics, design…everything except your brand communications. Don’s right!

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By joepulizzi published October 10, 2007

Nominate Your Favorite Marketing Blog

Michael Stelzner’s Writing White Papers blog is seeking to find the Top 10 Marketing Blogs specifically for marketers. Here’s the information from Michael:

“Please make a single nomination by replying to this message and include why you like the blog (anonymous comments will be ignored). Be sure to include a link to the blog. To make the cut, a blog must be nominated more than once.

The winners will be announced here and also in the November edition of our newsletter.

Nominations must be received by Oct. 31st, 2007.”

Please feel free to drop by Michael’s site to vote for your favorite in the comments.  By the way, stick around and read some great content on white papers.

By joepulizzi published October 10, 2007

Remember to Thank Your Customers – with an Email and a Side of Content

According to Email Experience Council and the Direct Marketing Association, welcome emails to new customers have “significantly” higher open rates than regular emails. The best part is, the majority of these emails just say “Thanks” and then give some links to other resources.  Here are some highlights from the study:

“Instead of engaging subscribers with incentives and links to products, departments, loyalty programs, catalogs and other
shopping-related material, a great number of the largest online retailers simply say hello and leave it at that. Though, in 2007:

  • 98% of retailers’ welcome email now contains a link to their shopping site (up from 88% last year)
  • 33% contain store locators (up from 31%)
  • 14% containing links to catalog information (up from 6%)
  • 58% of welcome emails were CAN-SPAM compliant in terms of including
    both a mailing address and unsubscribe method, versus 52% last year

The study shows that 72 percent of major online retailers send out welcome emails, up from 66 percent last year.”

I’m not sure how many of these emails are driving customers to content, but that would seem like the most relevant of emails.  For example, “Thank you so much for being our customer. Many of our new customers enjoyed reading ‘This eBook that is Very Valuable’. We hope you do as well.” So, nothing is better to customers than a thank you, plus some valuable and relevant content.

By joepulizzi published October 10, 2007

New eBook Teaches How Content Marketing Turns Prospects into Customers

My content marketing partner in crime, Newt Barrett, and I just put the final touches on our eBook entitled Get Content. Get Customers. How to Turn Prospects into Customers with Content Marketing. This eBook is a teaser version of the complete printed book, which will be released sometime in the 1st quarter of 2008 by Voyager Media, Inc.

As you can see below in the press release, there are all kinds of useful tools in the eBook, but my favorite is our B.E.S.T. model (see the illustration to the right). BEST stands for Behavioral, Essential, Strategic and Targeted.  Essentially, BEST is the definition of content marketing and can be used as a litmus test against any content initiatives you launch. Without one of the four characteristics of content marketing…well, it isn’t content marketing.

Here is a direct link to download the eBook.  I hope that you will.  Once you do, please send on feedback so we can make the printed book the most useful to marketing professionals.

New eBook Teaches How Content Marketing Turns Prospects into Customers

Many marketing pros are frustrated by the decreasing effectiveness of traditional marketing campaigns.  The new eBook, Get Content. Get Customers. shows why businesses must make dramatic changes in how they approach current and future customers.

Co-authors, Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett, explain why a new form of marketing is needed,

“The buyer can find everything they need to make informed purchasing decisions on the Internet. They don’t need to rely on
old-fashioned marketing collateral nor salespeople to educate them about products. Today, businesses that market only through traditional means ignore the importance of the fundamental changes in buyer behavior that make compelling content so critical to the decision-making process.”

Pulizzi and Barrett recommend the use of content marketing strategies to woo this new breed of buyer.  They suggest that providing frequently updated content that is both relevant and compelling is essential to attract and to retain loyal customers.

Get Content. Get Customers. is a practical guide for executives to the brand new world of content marketing.  Readers can expect to learn the following:

• The three reasons traditional marketing isn’t working.
• Content marketing (the former custom publishing) is the biggest industry you’ve never heard of.
• What content marketing really is and why it is important.
• Why you must now think like a publisher today!
• The 11 biggest benefits of content marketing.
• The seven deadly sins of content marketing.
• What Best Buy, MindJet, and ThomasNet are doing to drive business through the use of great content.
• What specific methods you should use to implement your content strategy now.

Get Content. Get Customers. is available for free download on the book’s website: www.GetContentGetCustomers.com.  The greatly expanded print version will be available in January 2008 from Voyager Media, Inc.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of Z Squared Media, LLC,  is chief content officer for Junta42, a content marketing/custom publishing search portal. Newt Barrett is the founder of Succeeding Today. He is also the chief content officer for ContentMarketingToday, the online content marketing resource.

By joepulizzi published October 9, 2007

The Importance of Internal Marketing on the Brand

I was reading an excellent article from Bill Taylor, who writes the Game Changer blog at Harvard Business Review. This post, entitled, “Why Should I Do Business with You?” uncovers some key aspects about the importance of internal marketing and communications.

In a study of bank branches, a researching team set off to ask employees a simple question:

“As a customer, why should I choose your bank over the competition?” And two-thirds of the time…front-line employees have no answer to that question—they simply “make something up on the fly.”

Bill goes on to ask the question: “How can any business expect to outperform the competition when its own employees can’t explain—simply and convincingly— what makes them different from the competition?”

This goes back to basics on internal marketing and communication. Don Schultz, in pretty much every book he’s ever written, discusses the importance of internal marketing…even more important than external. In a 2003 article in BtoB magazine, Schultz writes:

“Internal marketing is more vital than external marketing. Customer-touching and customer-facing employees, not external marketing, drive acquisition and retention. Solution: Invest in internal marketing, branding and promotion. Work with HR, IT and operations to get employees involved in the demand chain.”

Schultz’s words still hold true today, and uncover the root problem in Bill’s situation with retail banks. At the end of the day, all the external marketing and branding won’t work unless the main customer touch point (the employee) clearly understands what the company’s vision and brand statement encompasses.

Here are some activities to consider if your company is lacking in the internal marketing department:

  • CEO blog. Create an internal only blog or regular email to employees on the state of the business.
  • Newsletter. Create a print or electronic newsletter, at least quarterly, that clearly discusses what the company stands for. Include customer case studies and wins. Also include the vision statement of the company on a regular basis.
  • Quarterly All-Employee Meetings. In-person is great for a small company. Large companies can do webinars. Be sure to share the financials of the company and discuss why the strategies within the company link directly back to the vision.
  • Internal Forum. Integrate your CEO blog with an internal forum where employees can share best practices.

These are easy-to-implement steps that may make the most difference in all your marketing activities. Remember, if your employee doesn’t understand your brand, how can you expect your customer to understand it?

By joepulizzi published October 8, 2007

The Genius of Joel Osteen, Content Marketing Expert

Joel Osteen is one of the most popular ministers in the world. I’m sure you’ve seen his 30 minute sermons somewhere on Sunday television. If not, maybe you’ve caught his best-selling book in the book store. Whatever the case, Joel Osteen Ministries from Lakewood, Texas has become one of the most influential groups in American when it comes to spiritual development.

For the moment, I’m asking all of you to put your religious preferences aside. This example of Joel Osteen focuses specifically on what we can learn from Joel Osteen, the content marketing machine. For this post, consider Joel Osteen Ministries the business, and Joel Osteen the CEO.

According to their Web site, Osteen preaches weekly to over 38,000 (in person) and has been noted by Forbes for having one of the fastest-growing and most diverse congregations in the country. Over the past few years, Osteen has used a multi-platform content marketing effort to not only drive his local business, but his national and international business.

Note: The Importance of the Marketing Database
If you look at the Web site, you’ll notice how many “gifts” are offered for free.  All a user needs to do is give over their name and email address. This brilliant marketing strategy is used by some of the best marketers in the world – because it works. Joel’s most important asset is his database. Through his database he drives his business. Without a name and contact point, Joel can’t do much. With a name, he can spread his word through multiple communication efforts.

  • Free Giveaway – By just signing up with your name and email, you will receive “30 Thoughts for Victorious Living” for free. Just as a traditional business gives away a white paper, eBook or free seminar, Joel gives away this mini-booklet. Once you subscribe you begin to receive Joel’s email updates.
  • “Today’s Word” Email Newsletter: As you sign-up for the free giveaway, you receive a daily email (shown here) complete with a scripture passage (repurposed content) and a motivational passage from Joel and his wife Victoria.
  • Weekly Video Emails: In addition to “Today’s Word” you can receive Joel’s “Live Like a Champion” email that includes a web video presentation clip of one of Joel’s sermons. Again, Joel uses already-created content, puts a different spin on it, and delivers it to customers.
  • Online Video: Customers can watch Joel through streaming video anytime by signing up or logging in.
  • Podcasts: Same as above…if buyers want to listen instead of watch, they can download and receive regular podcasts, much of which are repurposed from sermons.
  • In-Person Events: Joel and his ministry team travels around the country promoting their message. His events are often sell-outs, and tickets are sometimes harder to come by than a Yankees-Indians series ticket.
  • Print Books: Joel cranks out a number of books, including best seller “Your Best Life Now” and soon to be best seller “Become a Better You.” Joel also focuses on smaller, niche titles that go deeper into targeting the marketing database.
  • Prayer Requests: If a customer wants prayer support, they can type the request into Joel. By doing so, Joel gets prospect information for the database.
  • Weekly Television Sermons: Joel promotes all the above content marketing/custom publishing initiatives through half-hour sermons on cable television. Throughout the telecast, Joel promotes the in-person events, books, podcasts, emails and more. So, while you are watching his “great content”, you get the opportunity to go to the Web site for more great content. During the entire sermon, joelosteen.com is in clear view.

Putting It All Together
Joel hasn’t become one of the most popular evangelists in the world through print advertising, radio spots or television commercials. He has done so through the effective use of multi-platform targeted content.

  • Joel effectively integrates his content through multiple channels (print, online, in-person) to meet his target buyer where they are at. Each customer has different preferences, and Joel recognizes that.
  • Joe mixes tastes of traditional media (cable broadcasts, print books) with non-traditional media (streaming video, podcasts, targeted roadshows) to create the highest amount of publicity and word-of-mouth buzz. Even though I’m sure Mr. Olsteen recouped profits from the book, if it was used as simply a loss leader for the other products, it would be an effective tool.
  • Database is Key: Joel’s database is a key driver for book sales, events and other promotions. He understands that his followers like information in multiple-formats, and he makes all kinds available.
  • Repurposed content: Original content is often expensive and time-consuming. Joel’s Ministries can take a traditional sermon and create the original product (30 minute cable product) and repurpose those into daily emails, streaming video, podcasts, and content for the book.

The next natural step for Joel would be a blog…but honestly, Joel is already doing a ton to get the word out on his ministries.  It would seem that a blog would really assist the site’s search engine optimization efforts. According to Alexa.com, Joel Osteen’s site ranks 260,996 with 186 linking in, while his church URL ranks 34,701 (both impressive rankings). That said, a blog would help. Joel would get more love from Alexa if the sites came from the same domain (both sites are essentially the same, but with different domain addresses).

It also looks like Joel does NOT invest in any search engine marketing. With a database as large as he has (estimated in the hundreds of thousands – if not more), he probably doesn’t need to.

Whatever you think about Joel Osteen, and judging from the blogosphere there are many who do not agree with his spiritual tactics, you can’t deny that Joel Osteen is perhaps the greatest marketing minister in the world.

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By joepulizzi published October 5, 2007

Will it Be a Cold Day in Hell when Ads become Relevant?

I was reading Dave Morgan’s Online Spin article and I couldn’t help but shake my head. Dave brings up some great points, and asks the question, why are there so many online ads that are completely irrelevant to the Internet user? From a technical standpoint, I think Dave hits the mark.  Here is my take:

  • Online advertisers are still more concerned with getting "their" message out and not as concerned, or simply unaware, of the informational wants and needs of the target buyer.
  • Online technology has opened up so much opportunity to create great branded content, yet most media companies and marketers use the exact same format for advertising that we see in traditional, non-technological, print magazines. The days of tile ads and banner ads are going the way of the Dodo.
  • Dave mentions the lack of creative as a key issue to today’s online ads. I would say that creative is an issue, but a minor one compared to the real issues…lack of understanding of the buyer and lack of execution once the buyer’s needs are uncovered. Good creative, though hard to find, is much easier to get a hold of than good execution.
By joepulizzi published October 4, 2007

4 Content Marketing Essentials for Every Business

Content marketing isn’t a luxury anymore…it’s a necessity. Delivering consistent, valuable content to your customers and prospects is now a cornerstone of every business, large or small.

Here are 4 things that every business, not matter what the size, should be doing on a regular consistent basis that involves high-value content.

1. Blog – A blog may be the simplest and most effective way to deliver daily and ongoing content to your target buyers. It also gives you the ability to be edgy and cutting-edge on topics that can differentiate you from the competition. If you are looking for the basics on setting up a blog site, see this post from The Lonely Marketer. Once you launch the site and begin to add content on a regular basis, promote the site like crazy. Problogger has a bunch of great posts on this.  Here’s “10 Tips for Finding Readers” and “Another 19 Strategies.”

2. Hire an Editor – It’s challenging to extract the best information from a company and deliver it to target buyers on a consistent basis. Businesses are set up to deliver products and services, not necessarily ongoing valuable content. For that reason, find an industry expert to take charge of your content activities. You can either find a freelancer (check your trade magazines to find the best ones) or hire a custom publisher to oversee your content activities (for a basic directory of custom publishers, go to custompublishers.com, or The Custom Publishing Council member directory).

3. Launch a Microsite – It’s often challenging for businesses of any size to add content to a product or services Web site. Large companies deal with corporate branding politics that causes headaches for any minor change…plus, large companies have many groups of targeted buying groups (so it’s challenging to deliver a consistent content message). Small companies may be scared to change their site too much because they at least want their site users to know what they are selling.

The easy answer is a microsite (sometimes called a content web portal). At this site you can focus on creating great custom publishing content targeted to your customers and prospects.  Be sure the content is 100% customer-focused. If it is, you will be successful. A great example of a medium-sized company is Intuit’s JumpUp.com. It’s obvious their target is the small business owner and start-ups, and all the content is concentrated on small-business planning and entrepreneurial issues. Any company can do this…and if done right, the payoff could be big.

4. White Paper Program
- White papers are usually 8 – 12 page documents that cover a key industry issue. Design doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but the content must be great. Custom published white papers can serve as excellent thought leadership and lead generation pieces for your company. The key with white paper programs is consistency. If you launch a program, make sure you have at least one white paper per quarter. Although you can use them as sales collateral, white papers are most easily downloaded from your Web site or, better yet, your microsite. Grant Thornton has always done a great job with their white paper program.  Check them out here.

Although there are many more custom publishing/content marketing initiatives that a company can (and maybe should launch), these are the basics that every business must have in our new marketing social media environment. Down the road, you may want to consider printed custom magazines or newsletters, a digital magazine launch, eProducts such as eBooks or eNewsletters, and possibly in-person events such as customers roundtables.

Final Note: The Case for Print. I was at the Folio conference in New York recently where traditional publishers discussed the differentiation between print and web users. Consistently, publishers notes that there was only about a 15 to 25% overlap between print and web users. Depending on your industry and your readership, be sure you understand how your customers want to receive their information. If the research tells you print is still a big part of their daily behavior, you may want to integrate the above strategies with a print newsletter or mini-magazine that can lead buyers back to the content on your Web site.

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By joepulizzi published October 3, 2007

Book Excerpt: Larry Weber’s “Marketing to the Social Web”

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I caught this book excerpt from Larry Weber’s new book entitled “Marketing to the Social Web” on BrandWeek. This is definitely something I want to pick up.  Specifically, though, I want to point out a couple of Larry’s key points in the excerpt.

Clear your mind of all those one-way, one-sided communication techniques, all those ways of spouting only your side of the story. Marketing to the Social Web is not about you getting your story out, it’s about your customers. It’s about being more transparent, earning trust, building credibility. It’s about nurturing relationships and dialogue among customers, prospects, your company and
whoever else is active in the community.”

Amen Larry. Any marketing communications that we spill out of our organizations must be 1) all about the customer and 2) extremely valuable to them. The days of traditional marketing/sales collateral are over. Thinking about producing that corporate brochure? You might want to kill it and create a piece that’s truly valuable.

“Segmenting by behavior, attitudes and interests doesn’t depend on faceless numbers (how old customers are or how wealthy they are, for instance). Instead, it groups people by what’s important to them, as indicated by what they do, think, like, and dislike. Once you know what moves your customers, you can target them with marketing activities that are meaningful to them. (It’s all about
them, after all.)”

Through research, listening posts and ongoing feedback from customers you can determine what is ultimately important to them. So many companies communicate what is important to the company, not the customer. Be sure your content litmus test includes a BS factor for your corporate communications.

“Communication is less about creating contained and controlled messages (as in the old marketing) and more about creating
compelling environments to which people are attracted. Remember, the marketer’s primary job is to be the aggregator of customers and potential customers. The marketer’s secondary job now and in the future is to create compelling environments that attract people.”

I agree and disagree with this. I believe that creating the proper environment for customers includes a combination of controlled and consumer messaging. Creating ongoing and consistent information is important for your business’s credibility. This controlled information can then be distributed through a variety of uncontrolled mechanisms that create a truly valuable customer environment.

“Let me point out, at the risk of sounding profound in a clichéd way, that everybody has become media. So as you get into the Social Web, you are media. Individuals are media, organizations are media. They are writers, editors and publishers, sorting, prioritizing and presenting compelling content in an interesting way makes it important.”

So true Larry. Every business should consider themselves a publisher. The communications we send out today as businesses should resemble more the editorial-based content we read in the trades or traditional media vehicles, not as sales collateral. Some of the biggest publishers in the world are not traditional publishers (Oracle, Microsoft).

On Viral Marketing: Yet silly virality, for all its popularity, is not really word-of-mouth. The concept we should be talking about is
content-based virality. How do companies get solid viral content, something that does more than simply attract attention to itself? In healthcare, the content could be about lowering cholesterol or improving quality of life. People talking to other people about these topics will create a viral dialogue with content.”

So many businesses are interesting in viral marketing for the sake of it. True viral marketing revolves around the great content a company can create that hits the deepest issues for the targeted buyer. The best viral marketing educates about a truly important customer issue.

“The new marketing will be collateral-free, with material that is more compelling, customized, visual and up-to-date.  Information can be a powerful customer relationship tool, but it doesn’t have to be printed in an ad or booklet.”

I’m not sure how far Larry will take this in his book, but I’m a big believer in print for the right reasons. Printed custom newsletters and custom magazines can still be some of the best customer-relationship vehicles…if the content if focused on the customer. That’s one of the reasons why customer printed magazines still have some of the highest growth rates in the custom publishing/content marketing industry.

Overall, this looks like an extremely interesting read. For information on buying the book, click here.

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By joepulizzi published October 2, 2007

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

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

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

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

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