By Joe Pulizzi published September 1, 2014

Confession: A Big Mistake We Were Making With Content Marketing

face-adjusting dark goggles-jarEvery now and again, we realize we aren’t following our own advice (gulp).

While we have been big proponents of offering unique content in each of our channels — and have a channel strategy for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others — we were overlooking our most critical channel: email.

As I have talked about before, getting new subscribers is key to our business strategy, and it’s important to us that we are building on “owned land.” And while our weekly email newsletter was a great summary of our blog posts, it didn’t offer anything that people couldn’t get anywhere else.

So, earlier this year, we considered what to provide that would be both unique and timely. We decided to include a weekly segment from me that looks at something going on in the content marketing industry that week, or shares a key observation I’ve had. If you want to get this content, the only way is to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

The results have been really positive. We’ve received tweets, Facebook posts, and direct emails from subscribers, telling us how much they look forward to that little nugget each week.

As far as staffing support goes for our email strategy, we realized we needed to invest in dedicated resources to make it happen successfully. So we finally bit the bullet and brought on an audience development manager.

After a few months of doing these newsletters, we looked back at the excerpts and noticed a theme had emerged: These writings often cover what the future of content marketing industry may look like and, more importantly, what you need to consider if you’re in this field. We compiled some of these excerpts into the eBook below.

Regardless of whether or not you are one of our subscribers, my challenge to you this is: Ask yourself what your most important channels are — and what you are offering there that isn’t available anywhere else. If it’s not new, or different than the content you create for your other channels of communication, you may have a problem (like we did).

I’d also love to get your thoughts and examples: Which brands do you think are offering unique content in their various channels, including email? Has this been a challenge for you? How did you overcome it?

As we learn more about addressing our own challenges in this area, we will be sure to keep you posted.

For more great ideas, insights, and examples for advancing your content marketing, read Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Rob TheGenie Toth

    Interesting strategy. Of course, I can’t comment on CMI’s operations … but I know on our end (and for client projects), I’d want to maintain one “hub” (ie: such as this blog) where ALL content is available. Or at least the unique content. Curated/shared items can occur across social media… but all unique content is linked from or somehow available the one center.

    I open every CMI email and precisely love that it’s a “Read More…” summary of a blog post. Because in the few instances when I decide to not read it right away, I know I don’t have to clutter my email (even if it’s a separate folder) or permanently pass on the piece of content since I know it’s also waiting for me at the blog.

    For our list, we focus on treating the email as a distribution point not as a channel to publish exclusive new content onto. I’d instead consider an eMag or similar, but I’d leave the email as a “here’s what’s new at CMI” format.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Rob…yep, there is no “one way” to skin this cat. We saw this as a problem and are tackling it this way. So far, it seems to be working.

      Thanks so much for being a loyal reader. Really means a lot.

  • Angela Hursh

    I feel like our library (Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County) is just taking the first baby steps into a more business-like approach to email. We’ve only been sending email for one year, and at first the strategy was like a BB gun–shoot out emails to all users, as many as we could get away with, and hope that something sticks. With a year’s worth of data, we have now been able to build a new strategy that is more focused. Our users are broken into more than a dozen “clusters”-categorized by their use of library materials. We’ve also defined marketing strategies for each cluster. For instance, those in the “Transitionals” cluster are showing signs of moving from print materials to downloadable and streaming materials. Obviously, our strategy for them is to move them concretely into the “Digitarians” cluster by increasing their awareness of our available e-services. With these more focused emails, the open rate increased and the unsubscribes decreased. Our big hurdle is budget, but fortunately for us, we have a lot of owned property to use. Next up-getting executive buy-in for a blog!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Great take Angela. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • Christopher Watkins

    Wonderful to see a voice raised in praise of one of the “classics”: e-mail! Most certainly it’s as legit a channel as anything, and to be honest, in these days of digital rapidity and “innovation,” I think longevity is quite possibly the most reliable badge of legitimacy one can rely on; i.e. if it’s still around, there’s probably a reason! Thanks for a fine read, will be a pleasure to share …


    Christopher Watkins
    Social Media Manager

  • mohammad umair

    The article has certainly opened up my thought process to something new. My firm has clients from various domains. Being a content marketeer this is a gem of an advice as I can customize the email highlighting what future trends can be expected in their respective domain.

    Thank you

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