Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the bestselling author of seven content marketing books including his latest, Content Inc. He has founded four companies, including the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and his newest venture, The Tilt. His podcast series, This Old Marketing with Robert Rose, has generated millions of downloads from over 150 countries. He is also the author of The Random Newsletter, delivered to thousands every two weeks. His Foundation, The Orange Effect, delivers speech therapy and technology services to children in 35 states. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

By joepulizzi published September 18, 2009

20 Questions to Ask before You Launch Your Content Project

As usual, Seth has done it again.

I’ve taken Seth’s questions to ask on launching your next website and adapted them a bit for content marketing. As you put your next content plan together, use these questions. You won’t be sorry. Enjoy!

  1. What is the goal of the content marketing project?
  2. In other words, when it’s working great, what specific outcomes will occur?
  3. Who are we trying to please? If it’s the boss, what does she want? Is impressing a certain kind of person important? Which kind?
  4. How many people on your team have to be involved? At what level? Who ultimately responsible for owning the content program?
  5. Who are you using to outsource your content project? What expertise will they need? What will they specifically do? Who will oversee them?
  6. Who are we trying to reach? Is it everyone? Our customers? A certain kind of prospect?
  7. The person we are trying to reach – are we trying to inform them or entertain them? Do we know what their informational needs are?
  8. What are the content activities that this group has demonstrated they enjoy interacting with? (that’s who you compete with for time)
  9. Are we trying to close sales? If so, can we measure directly. Do we want people to call us?
  10. Are we telling a story that’s worth spreading?
  11. Are we earning permission to follow up?
  12. Do we need people to spread the word using various social media tools?
  13. Are we building a tribe of people who will use the content to connect with each other?
  14. Do people find the content via word of mouth? Are they looking to find answers to a specific problem and can the content answer them?
  15. Is there ongoing news that need to be presented to people or is news not important?
  16. How consistently will we need to share the content to make a maximum impact – either in online or print? How many times a month would we like people to engage in our content? For how long?
  17. Does showing up in the search engines matter? If so, for what
    terms? At what cost? Will we be willing to compromise any of the things
    above in order to achieve this goal?
  18. Will the content need to be universally accessible?
  19. How much money do we have to spend? How much time?
  20. Does the organization understand that ‘everything’ is not an option?

For more, check out these key questions to ask when launching a content marketing initiative, 10 questions to ask before you blog, the six steps to content marketing success, or download this free white paper on setting up a program that attracts customers with content.

Image credit: Shutterstock


By joepulizzi published September 17, 2009

Social Media Starts with a Content Strategy

Had the pleasure of giving this presentation for Virtual MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group) yesterday on social media and content marketing.

Some key takeaways from the presentation:

  • The key to social media is understanding that no one cares about you.  They care about themselves. If you deliver consistent, valuable information to your customers (or followers in this case), they will care because you made it about them.  Most brands get this wrong.
  • That means that publishing, and developing a content strategy that revolves around your customers' informational needs, comes first. Without content, using social media as a distribution mechanism and conversation starter is pretty pointless.
  • What's your secret sauce?  Find the place where your customers' informational needs intersects with your niche expertise. You can build a strategy on that.

The presentation also includes loads of blogging and Twitter tips, as well as other helpful tools such as Namechk and

For more on creating a content marketing strategy, get this free white paper.


By joepulizzi published September 14, 2009

Six Steps to Content Marketing Execution Success

Just finished this last post on content strategy before content marketing, then saw this perfect post from Seth Godin. It really puts what we are trying to accomplish with content marketing in perspective.

Seth maps out six specific steps when it comes to success. Let’s take these steps and relate them to our content marketing efforts.

  1. Attitude
  2. Approach
  3. Goals
  4. Strategy
  5. Tactics
  6. Execution

Note that Seth puts execution last. Many marketers focus on the execution of the marketing program first, without looking at the previous five points (hard to believe, I know).

Step 1: Attitude

I call this secret sauce. What is the intersection between your expertise and the informational needs of your audience (your customers)? Those content areas become the core for your content marketing program (and your business).

Your secret sauce should be very relevant to your product and service offerings.  After all, you are in this to sell more of something, so be sure that is in the plan.

Step 2: Approach

In the approach section, think about listening posts. In step 1, you really took some time to figure out how you can truly be an educational resource. In step 2, you ask the questions and listen to find out the real pain points of your audience. This is where social media tools come in so handy. Use Twitter Search, Google Alerts and other social media tools to listen to what your customers are struggling with. 

This will help define the story you are trying to tell. Ask yourself this: “If you don’t understand what your customers are struggling with, then how can you solve their problems?” It’s a simple question, but it’s the core of our entire marketing plan. Good editors dig deep to understand. You have to as well.

Step 3: Goals

Notice that we first have to find out what our customers’ information needs are first, and what our informational expertise can be in relation to our product/service offerings, before we move onto goals.

Remember, you can’t have strategy without goals.

Step 4: Strategy

Now you can put together your content strategy once you have your goals, approach (listening posts) and attitude (secret sauce) in place.

Step 5: Tactics

Now pick the most effective tactics based on what the first four steps tell you. Note that many marketers go to tactics that sound right first, without going through the first four steps. 

“Wow, an ebook is a great idea.” 

“We should do a custom magazine.”

“Why don’t we have a blog?”

Don’t go here until you understand why these tactics are a good or bad idea.

Step 6: Execution

Then we actually execute the plan. Execution is extremely important, but meaningless without the first five steps. Think of it this way – a perfectly executed dive at the wrong event on the wrong day is just a waste of perfectly good water.

As Seth says: “If the top of the hierarchy is messed up, no amount of brilliant tactics or execution is going to help you at all.”

By joepulizzi published September 10, 2009

The B.E.S.T. Method for Content Strategy (what you do before Content Marketing)

Core point: Don’t start executing on your content marketing until you have a sound content strategy.

Yes, easier said than done, but so many of us get infatuated with a tactic before really planning out what should happen and why. You wouldn’t build a car without a step-by-step plan, but many of us create an eBook, Facebook page, web content or custom magazine without a content strategy.

To address this, Newt Barrett and I covered the B.E.S.T. content strategy in Get Content Get Customers. The goal of asking the B.E.S.T. questions as part of your content marketing strategy is to find the intersection between your products/services and the information needs of your customers. Only then can you craft a content marketing approach that will deliver more sales, more customers, and more measurable results.


  • What action do we want our customers to take?
  • What effect must we achieve with them?
  • How will we measure their behavior?
  • How will we put them on the path to purchase (what exactly is the conversion)?

To sum up: How will you measure as a whole and what are the smaller measurements that tell the Return on Objective (ROO) story?


  • What do our buyers really need to know (not about our products, but about information and tasks relevant to what we have to offer)?
  • How does what they need to know align with the our unique expertise?
  • What will provide the most benefit personally or professionally?

To sum up: What’s the intersection between your expertise (as it relates to your products) and the informational/entertainment needs of your customers? That’s what I like the call the secret sauce!


  • Does this content marketing effort help us achieve our strategic goals?
  • Does it integrate with our other strategic initiatives?
  • Do we have executive support for this content strategy?

To sum up: I’ve seen too many custom content projects live outside of marketing and the overall strategic goals of the company.  To truly be successful, a content strategy needs to tell your brand story as it relates to your customers. Don’t let it live in a vacuum.


  • Have we precisely identified the prospects we want to target?
  • What are the different customer segments? Why are they different?
  • Do we really understand what motivates them?
  • Do we understand their professional roles?
  • Do we understand how they view the product or service we offer?

To sum up: Get a handle on the buyer persona for each of your customer segments. If you don’t know them well, how do you know what they need. (Excellent overview here on a buyer persona.)

How do you get this kind of information? Use these social media tools to create your own listening posts. Send out surveys. Call your customers. Talk to your salespeople.

And finally…

Once you have this information, and the executive team buys into this essential background information for your content strategy, then you can start developing the execution plan.

Also check out: Five Reasons Why Content Strategy Comes before Social Media

By joepulizzi published September 8, 2009

The Changing Face of Communication according to IBM

Following in the footsteps of their previous white paper on marketing trends (The End of Advertising as We Know It), IBM Global Business Services has developed another dandy for your reading pleasure called The Changing Face of Communication (download the PDF here). The report was designed specifically for telecommunication providers, but I feel it’s relevant for all marketers.

I recommend you take 30 minutes to really go through this, but I wanted to pull out some interested quotes that help tell their story about how buying decisions have changed, and the role of technology in marketing.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published September 3, 2009

Print Custom Magazines Still Work: Q&A with financial custom publisher T3 Publishing

Almost a year ago I came upon a custom magazine called thinkMoney from the company thinkorswim.  It’s just one of those custom magazines that I like to keep around and refer to on occasion.  Design, content, calls-to-action…they are all working in the same direction. (fyi, thinkMoney won “Best New Magazine” for the CPC Pearl Awards in 2008.)

Over the past few months, I’ve been able to work on a few projects with thinkMoney’s custom publisher, Kevin Lund from T3 Publishing. When he showed me some of the results from thinkMoney, I knew it was something we had to share on the blog.

Kevin’s background is in financial education as well as business development
and marketing for financial information services. Additionally, he’s
been an independent trader of equities and equity options for 12
years (so he knows the trading business).  Having made his living both trading the markets as well as
writing, speaking and analyzing them, he has a good sense of what
traders and investors need to know and want to hear.

Here’s some of the highlights from our Q&A. If you think that custom print magazines don’t work anymore because of the web, think again.

Joe: Kevin…before we get into your custom magazine project, let’s have your take on the content marketing industry?

Kevin: In a word – crucial. It’s also growing leaps and bounds, whereas traditional advertising firms continue to struggle to reinvent themselves while latching onto status quos. I really don’t know how today, any company, whether you’re a one-person operation or a juggernaut can effectively market themselves in a world of so many choices, without making a concerted effort to connect with and educate their target audience as to why they should be taken seriously.

Consumers have become so much smarter with the proliferation of Web, social media and mobile technology that the definition of branding has risen far above 30 second messages that shout at the audience. “Build it and they will come” no longer works. Now, it’s more like “Build a buzz, and they will come.”. Content marketing goes right to the heart of the target audience with relevant messaging and has the ability to shape their behavior, without being sneaky.

I wish I could remember where I heard this from, but there’s a great Chinese proverb that we live and die by as a custom content firm that goes something like, “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” That’s content marketing. If you’re a marketing professional, and you don’t understand the value in that, then you simply don’t get it, and you probably won’t survive.

Joe: Your client thinkorswim, why was a custom magazine on the list of marketing initiatives?

Kevin: Initially, the idea of a magazine hadn’t even crossed their mind. But they had a very real problem when they were acquired by a large, publically traded company (INVESTools) in early 2007. Their trading software was already widely regarded as the best in the retail option space, and because of their almost legendary customer service and quirky personality, they had an extremely loyal, almost cult-like customer base of very active traders. Not a very easy bunch to please, let me tell you.

Anyway, they didn’t want to risk losing touch with their core audience as they built critical mass. They needed an effective medium to scale their legendary personal touch, without the customers sensing that anything had really changed. At the same time, they needed a way to introduce new product lines, promote trading activity and build brand equity without going through traditional marketing channels. We brought the idea of the magazine to the president and founder of thinkorswim and he loved it. He hired us on the spot and thinkMoney was born.

Joe: What types of results have you seen with the magazine, and how do you integrate it into their total marketing efforts?

Kevin: The results have truly exceeded even our highest expectations. According to readership surveys, over 90% of the audience has acted on the information in some meaningful way, a majority of which, has driven revenue directly to the firm. It’s really the best of both worlds for them. It’s not only become one of the firm’s most powerful marketing pieces, but it’s also the voice of thinkorswim as a firm.

The magazine has been so successful that it has become a brand within the brand that customers rely on, with anticipation. We get some of the funniest fan mail. We’ve been told by customers that they actually wait outside their mailbox just to get it. Another customer said he’d trade in his spouse for a lifetime subscription! That’s the extreme of course, but that gives you an idea of the type of buzz that we’ve created.

When we started conceptualizing thinkMoney, the company freely admitted that despite their success, they were terrible at marketing themselves, so they really didn’t put any limitations as to what we could do, which for a brokerage firm is rare.  Much of the design elements and art that we’ve introduced into the magazine has found its way into the branding campaigns for the firm, which is very flattering.

The creative license we’ve been given is just amazing, but because of it, we’ve been able to defy the conventional wisdom on Wall Street and produce a serious financial magazine that makes you laugh while learning how to trade a complex product like derivatives. It shows their audience that while they don’t take themselves too seriously, their message is serious and they are a voice to be heard.

Joe:  Why is expert custom content so important for traders?

Kevin: If you want to get through to traders, you need to speak the language of trading, which is not to be confused with financial reporting. We do both, but if you use financial reporters for a trading magazine, your audience will see right through you and lose interest. Traders typically aren’t interested in mutual funds or making 10% returns a year. The term “compounding interest” isn’t in their vocabulary. Rather, they thrive on the alternate reality they live in. The average person that loses $5,000 in a stock investment might think about cancelling the family vacation that year. But for the trader, it might be all in a day’s work, and there’s always tomorrow.

So the information you have to give traders needs to be relevant, useful and timely. They live for the moment, so the content needs to cater to that mentality. This is a magazine by traders for traders, which is a very different approach than most other financial magazines.

But this is the same for trading as it is any niche market, which is really what I think your question speaks more loudly to. No matter what your niche is, you want to balance the needs of your audience with your marketing objectives. The formula isn’t difficult: Give them information that is actually worth learning and is actionable right now. That’s it. No real secret.

Joe: What’s next for thinkMoney?

Kevin: We’re working carefully with thinkorswim right now through the next phase of their ongoing evolution. They recently merged with TD Ameritrade, so they’ve inherited a new set of challenges that are very positive, but challenges nonetheless. We’ve been here before though, and the magic that came from that is something we can repeat again, I’m sure.

Other Relevant Articles:

By joepulizzi published August 13, 2009

What if? (no one cares and why you need to be a publisher)

What if? (questions posed to a marketing professional)

What if your customers saw your company as the industry thought leader?

What if they signed up for your enewsletters and white papers because they were interested in what you had to say, and thought it could positively impact their businesses?

What if traditional media called you for interviews, or bloggers wanted Q&As from people in your organization…not just a few times, but consistently?

What if you didn’t need salespeople to make cold calls anymore?

What if your customers spread your content to prospects for you – essentially becoming your marketing distribution arm?

No, this is not fantasy land.  This can happen.  Maybe it’s already happening.

How you ask?

By consistently delivering the most important, most valuable, most necessary information to your customers.

No one cares about your products, your services, your blog,  or your website.  They care about themselves…how to be happier, more successful, how to sleep better, how to get a raise, a job or some peace of mind.

What are those things for your customers? What do they really care about?

Once you get around the idea that they really don’t want to hear about you, what will you tell them?

The marketing fantasy is happening for those that take on this task. I’ve seen it happen to Brian Clark, Shama Kabani, Hubspot and countless others.

They are true publishers.  Sure, they have products and services, and are very successful.  But they are first and foremost publishing machines that focus on their readers’ (customers’) needs and wants. They are building marketing assets (not advertising).

Most marketing professionals know this is possible, and want to go this direction, but more than not stay true to the past for a variety of reasons.

The new media company is not a media company…it’s you. The sooner you accept that and begin publishing, the sooner you can be part of the fantasy.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

By joepulizzi published July 24, 2009

The Ultimate Guide to Creating an eBook – The eBook eBook

Wanted to pass on an outstanding eBook from Jonathan Kranz on the what, how and why for developing an eBook. 

First off, this is a great example of how to do an eBook: inviting design, easy-to-follow organization, great examples, and a readable, natural voice.

Second, if you are considering an eBook as part of your marketing plans, this is a must read.  Below is the embed, but you can download the complete version from Jonathan here. The best part is, Jonathan is eating his own dog food by not requiring any registration in advance of getting the eBook (way to go Jonathan!).

The eBook eBook 11 Point Checklist

  1. Find an exciting subject that really means something to your customers
  2. Identify subject matter experts and other sources of precious information
  3. Frame the subject on terms favorable to your business
  4. Use conflict to create dramatic interest
  5. Organize your content for easier writing and reading
  6. Pick the best approach for packaging your expertise
  7. Create callouts and sidebars that stimulate interest
  8. Craft an inviting introduction that lures readers inside
  9. Lead readers to the next step of engagement with your business
  10. Design your ebook to complement your ideas
  11. Plan to promote your ebook for maximum market impact

Another relevant article – why giving away your eBook for free can help you generate print sales.

By joepulizzi published July 8, 2009

The Decline of Advertising and the Rise of Content Spending

Just read through a very interesting post from Brian Solis on Forrester’s Five-Year Media Spending Forecast. From the results, this quote from Forrester’s Shar VanBoskirk is worth some discussion:

“The most interesting takeaway from the research is that overall advertising budgets will decline.  Yep.  With dollars moving out of traditional media toward less expensive and more efficient interactive tools, marketers will actually need less money to accomplish their current advertising goals.”

Takeaways here…

  • Five years is a long time.  Twitter isn’t even that old.  Take these with a grain of salt.
  • Anyone who doesn’t think that advertising budgets will decline should try a new career.
  • Yes, online efforts are cheaper, and social media is essentially free…but what’s not being said here is a lot.

Where’s Content?

Let’s look at a few of the biggest projected growth areas, social media and search marketing.

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, social media doesn’t work without relevant, valuable and consistent content. Success in social media relies on a web content strategy that works for the brand and especially for the brand’s advocates. Although social media distribution is essentially free (Twitter, posting on YouTube), the content planning, resource allocation and then creation is not. That’s where the money is going.  Take Hubspot for example.  The distribution of their content is very cost effective (blog, online TV series, community site for example), but the planning time, knowledge, resources and coordination cost plenty.  Worth it…absolutely, but inexpensive…no. Content usually shows up in another line item on a budget, which may be the problem. No one ever knows how much the content really costs. I know some executives that think that the content magically appears every week at the end of a rainbow.
  • Then comes search marketing. Showing up in search results means you need great content. Getting results from pay-per-click usually means you need a great content offer. Either way, without content, search doesn’t work.

What I’ve just pointed out may seem obvious to some, but I see this over and over again first hand. Small, medium and even large companies look to “alternative” online strategies and discount the cost of the content.

Actual client: “I want to create an ongoing content series, most likely a blog, that we can integrate into a social media campaign. We need a content plan and need to outsource the editorial.  Also looking for integration into social media (Twitter and other stuff like that) and monitoring of our objectives (more traffic) . Budget is about $5k.” Yikes! (This example is from a $500 million dollar company)

Spend on the Right Content Initiatives

Okay, so what should you do with this?  First off, stop thinking about content marketing or content strategy as the end deliverable. The content process is not just the video series, the enewsletter or the custom magazine. It’s the entire content strategy process, including (shout out to Kristina Halvorson from Brain Traffic on guidance here):

  • The Content Audit. Before you usher in more content noise, it’s worth it to figure out what you have said. Anyone about to spend significant investment in content creation should develop a content benchmark first.
  • The Content Plan. Who’s the audience?; What are their informational needs?; What are the success metrics of the content plan?; Who owns the plan?; What are the best content tactics?; How will we execute those tactics?;
  • Content Maintenance. Once we create the content, how do we keep it fresh, updated, and continually monitor our customers’ informational needs so that we succeed with the content plan?
  • Content Marketing. How are we distributing our valuable, relevant content so that we deliver on our success metrics?

So, the morale of the story is, take all that money you are saving by not advertising, and make sure you put it into the right content buckets. Yes, social media may be free, but succeeding in social media and your web content strategy is not.

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By joepulizzi published July 7, 2009

Branded Content Tools: You Need One

I love branded content tools and applications.

If you aren’t thinking about creating one, you need to be…now!

What is a branded content tool? Simply put, it’s an online application that comes from a brand (i.e., Kraft) that solves a very simple problem or is incredibly helpful.  Most times, it’s free as well.

Why create a branded content tool/app? Similar to content marketing, where a company delivers valuable, relevant and compelling information in order to position that company as a trusted expert, a branded tool uses data content to do the same thing.

What are some branded content application examples?
Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Website Grader from Hubspot. Free and easy-to-use tool that measures how well a website is doing in terms of search engine optimization. Website grader has been so successful for Hubspot (over 1 million websites to date), that they launched a number of other graders, including my new favorite, the Gobbledygook grader.
  • The Webbed-O-Meter from Webbed Marketing. Free tool to analyze your “buzz” effect over 16 different social media sources.
  • iFood Assistant from Kraft. Recipes on the go via your iPhone.
  • Personal Budget Planner from Easy-to-use online tool that helps you create a financial budget.
  • Nike Plus from Nike. Track your running and training. Also, check out the Perfect Shoe Finder from Nike.  Very cool.

How to start? Think of this…what’s something very simple, and very helpful you could be providing to your customers for free, that ultimately positions you as an expert related to the products/services you sell.  The alignment of those two things could make for a killer app.

Some odd examples? If I’m a printer, I’d create a “design your own magazine cover” tool. If I’m an air-conditioning repair shop, I’d create an automated check up tool that emails key dates to tune-up the air conditioner. If I’m a dentist, I’d develop a teeth simulator that shows what happens to teeth if you eat certain foods for sustained periods.  You get the point.

What helpful tool should you be developing that your competition hasn’t thought of…yet?

Relevant Resources:

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