By Joe Pulizzi published November 26, 2014

25 Content Marketing Truths


As Thanksgiving in the United States is upon us once again, I’d like to take time to thank all those companies who strive to make their customers and prospects more intelligent through the use of great content.

But first … a personal story.

Most people don’t know this, but I grew up around a funeral home. My grandfather, Leo Groff, was an entrepreneur who ran the largest funeral home in Sandusky, Ohio (my hometown). While my friends were out playing basketball or pick-up baseball games, I was hanging around the funeral home watching my grandfather and my uncle work (this was not as bad as you are probably imagining). Actually, my grandfather was one of the main reasons I wanted to start my own business.

By the time I was in my teens, my grandfather was around the funeral home mostly to stay busy, while my uncle ran the business. While I did some odd jobs around the funeral home, my main job was to take my grandpa to lunch and listen to his stories.

One story in particular resonated with me. During the Depression, many of my grandfather’s customers didn’t have the money to pay for a funeral. Loved ones would come to my grandpa, telling him that they had no money, but still wanted a proper burial for their deceased. So, my grandfather would do the embalming and funeral services in exchange for rings, lockets, bracelets, and trinkets of all kinds.

A few years before my grandfather passed away, he showed me this old box, which had to be well over 50 years old. In the box were the rings, lockets, bracelets, and trinkets that paid for those funerals. When I saw this, I asked why he didn’t sell them for money or give them back. He said, and I’ll never forget this, “Back in those days, pride was all some people had. They had nothing but needed something. They were able to keep their pride by giving me these pieces of jewelry. So I couldn’t give them back. I also couldn’t sell them because each of these pieces is a reminder of a small thing that I could do that made a huge impact in someone’s life.”

Why did I tell you this? Because I learned two things from my grandfather:

1) Helping others is everything.

2) Amazing storytelling gets you most places in life.

That’s how I feel about the art and science of content marketing. Sure, we aren’t saving the world here as content marketers, but I believe we can do well for people and our companies at the same time by honing the practice.

During this special time of the year, thanks to those organizations that work so hard to create value outside of the products and services they offer.

And, thanks to all those organizations around the world that believe in, and practice, the following content marketing truths:

1. The content is more important than the offer.

2. A customer relationship doesn’t end with the payment.

3. Printed marketing doesn’t stop with the full-page advertisement.

4. “Being the content” is more important than “surrounding the content.”

5. Interruption isn’t valued, but usefulness is.

6. Internal marketing always takes precedence over external marketing.

7. Focusing on what the customer wants is more important than what you have to sell.

8. The competition can copy everything you have except your brand. The way you communicate is the differentiator (the only one).

9. Communicating directly with customers should be your first, and best, choice.

10. Marketers are already publishers (most just don’t understand this yet).

11. Today’s traditional publishers are scared of marketers.

12. Without content, community is improbable, if not impossible.

13. The marketing brochure should be stricken from all strategic marketing plans.

14. Lead generation is only one small part of the marketing picture.

15. Hiring an editor is not a want, but a must for most organizations.

16. No matter the medium or the provider, someone is always selling something (yes, even media companies).

17. Building your content ship on rented land is always a bad investment.

18. Ninety percent of all corporate websites talk about how great the company or product is and forget about the customer’s informational needs.

19. Ninety percent of all corporate websites are horrible.

20. In the next five to seven years, the majority of content in which consumers engage will be corporate media.

21. Buyers are in control; the traditional sales process has changed, and relevant content lets organizations into the buying process.

22. The Chief Content Officer is the CMO of the future.

23. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. This means that for content marketing to be effective, we need to change the culture first.

24. The most effective content marketers document their plan and refer to it often.

25. Customers want to be inspired. Be the inspiration!

Thank you to those companies that get the value of content marketing. Did I miss anything? If so, add it below.

Want to learn more about storytelling from Leo Groff’s grandson? Get Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, & Win More Customers by Marketing Less by Joe Pulizzi.

Image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Manni

    Hi Joe

    Really liked your story and they you have learned from your grandfather.
    All the 25 points are really paramount .

    Thanks a lot for sharing !!!!!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      More to come. Thanks so much!

      • Andrew Betts

        Great article Joe – I would also add something about the skill and mindset that good content marketers have. Whilst everyone that writes something can be viewed as publisher – only the best add value to customers, prospects and organisations. Others seek to game the system with thin content and short term wins driven by the wrong content culture.

  • Shai Geoola

    Great article Joe, thanks for sharing!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      You got it Shai!

  • Robert Gibb

    In the second episode of Content Marketing Next (one of my favorite content marketing podcast episodes ever), Pamela and her guest say that our industry has something no other industry has more of: the love of educating our customers and each other – even our competitors.

    Help people. Put their interests ahead of your own. This is an old message that holds up over time and defeats the enemy of forgetfullness for good reason. It’s a message that incites an action that leads to better business, but more importantly, inspired people.

    With that said, our industry inspires me. So thanks Joe – and all others at CMI – for being the face of it so well.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Awesome Robert. Thanks so much for commenting. Love it!

  • James Prudden

    Is there no end to the continual stories which use numbers to purportedly interest readers in the editorial. The “25 Content Marketing Truths”, the 7 things to consider when writing content, the 5 most important things to consider when blah blah blah… I’m getting tired of the puerile approach… The Content Exchange’s daily email never fails to have at least one number-toting story. Ugh.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi James. I truly see your point. Posts with numbers in them perform much better in almost all areas…so yes, we do use them a lot. Regardless, thanks for commenting.

    • Robert Gibb

      I feel the same way about numbers in titles. Why not just focus on one point and throw all the research you can at it? At this point, they’re irritating and everywhere, mostly just used for click bait.

      But in some circumstances – this post being one of them – they’re relevant. Joe provided 25 well-thought-out points that are quite compelling. Plus he offered a personal story at a good time of year.

      Did you even read this post? If you did, I don’t think you would have picked this page to vent your frustration about “numbers.” I mean, this piece is storytelling at its best. And I quote …

      “Back in those days, pride was all some people had. They had nothing but needed something. They were able to keep their pride by giving me these pieces of jewelry. So I couldn’t give them back. I also couldn’t sell them because each of these pieces is a reminder of a small thing that I could do that made a huge impact in someone’s life.”

      Enough said.

  • heidicohen

    Joe–Thank you for sharing this story about your grandfather. We all have stories but we never realize how important they are to remember, tell and pass on. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Heidi. So true!

  • Maxx Heth

    There are few articles out there that actually convince me to stick around for more than two minutes, but this one really struck a chord with me! Very touching! =)

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Wow Maxx. Thanks. That’s a great compliment.

  • Arnie Kuenn

    Great job with this one Joe. Not only is the article filled with rock solid tips, it is also an example of how to create useful content via a story. Happy holidays to you and your family.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Same to you Arnie. Thanks for all your support.

  • stephaniediamond

    Very touching story and great tips! Thanks for sharing such a great personal memory.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Stephanie!

  • globalcopywrite

    I would add ‘Spin sucks’. No one likes it. No one believes it. Business of any size benefits from using a straightforward approach to their communication.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Excellent addition Sarah!

  • rogercparker

    This is an amazing piece of writing: 25 concise statements with years of profound wisdom behind them; these deserve a beautiful wall-sized poster.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      I’ll pass that idea on to the team. Thanks Roger!

  • Barry Feldman

    I’m moved. And I guess that’s a very brief definition of what the best content does. Happy Thanksgiving to you Joe and the CMI staff. (Love the list.)

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks for all your support my friend.

  • Sita

    Amazing and humbling personal story, thank you for sharing!

  • Carla Dewing

    And that is why the best compliment is a sincere share 🙂

    • Joe Pulizzi


  • Joanne Filancia

    Heartwarming story that ties in beautifully with these 25 content marketing truths – it’s all about understanding your customers and demonstrating respect for them 🙂

  • Singapore_Gill

    Wow. I think I’m going to print this list out,frame it and take it to every meeting. And highlight this sentence “Without content, community is improbable, if not impossible”. Great post, thank you. And happy thanksgiving from Singapore!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Awesome. I’ll be in Singapore on March 19-20. Hope to see you there.

      • Singapore_Gill

        It would be great to be able to see you while you’re in the Lion City next year. Is it for an event? This is now this first thing going in my 2015 diary 🙂

  • Al Smith

    Thanks Joe. Great list. You and CMI defintely practice what you preach. “Helping Others” and “Amazing Storytelling” and your grandfather sounds like he was awesome ! Take CARE man. Go Browns ( and Dolphins )


    • Joe Pulizzi

      Great to hear from you Al, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Bruce Goett

    Excellent article Joe – touching, inspiring, and very informative. I always find something valuable to take away and apply to my own content marketing efforts.

  • Doug Kessler

    Great list — and terrific inspiration. Wish I knew a Grandfather. Yours sounds fantastic.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      He was Doug. I think of him often.

  • Stephen Bateman DipM MCIM

    Inspiring story as ever Joe, but see my tweet on a personal niggle. Warmest

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Love it Stephen. Thanks my friend!

  • Veronica Varetsa

    That was beautiful! Such a wonderful and inspiring post, thank you so much!

  • Ram Babu SEO

    Thanks Joe, It’s really something we must know the REAL truths in CONTENT MARKETING.

  • Phil

    This article was recommended on linkedin.
    No jugement on the personal story, just on the facts.

    Some demystification:

    First Marketing is no science. It’s a concept of market-orientated management and an operational function in an enterprise. Unlike a science it has no primarily epistemological goal and doesn’t follow a strict empirical method neither. Correspondingly “Content Marketing” is not a science but the name of a marketing practise and apart from that an ad hoc mental model that describes this practise with the goal of optimizing certain “key performance indicators”.
    If the author of this article was a scientist he would not talk about 25 truths, but about a set of 25 assumptions and practical suggestions of how to market a brand – while taking some highly speculative bets on the future. Because another quite empirical “truth” is: In 2014 there has been more “buzz” and hype around content marketing than actual implementation.

    Second, inherent logic does not prove the premise. All 25 points sound logical, because deductions take place in a self-referred system based on a set of premises. However if these premises are wrong, the whole deduction itself is wrong and redundant.
    One premise of the whole model is actually the very last point: “consumers want to be inspired”. This is underlaying a certain conception of man. If you remove this premise the whole system of advice and prognosis collapses. It is a highly speculative assumption and neglecting any kind of cultural, social or geo-political relativity.

    My goal is to show that real knowledge is limited. I get annoyed by marketing articles like this that try to state “truths” unaware of their own conditionality. Always everything is so great and so hype and everyone is so thankful while there is so much blablabla. seriously

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Phil…that is deep my friend. Thanks for the commentary.