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.

By joepulizzi published October 7, 2009

The 4 Step Content Strategy Program – Content Strategy Simplified

Let's face it.  Content strategy is not easy.  Actually, it's pretty difficult.

Those that regularly read this blog know I've been covering it more recently:

Since releasing the Content Marketing Playbook (which is all tactical), I've been receiving more and more emails regarding where to start with a content strategy.  Here is a roadmap to follow to make sure you are on the right track.

Step 1: Define Your Marketing Goals

Goals like "we want more traffic to our website" and "our competitors are doing it" just don't cut it. Think of it this way: "What are the things that need to happen in order for the content program to continue?" Another good questions is "A year from today, what will be different in our business as a result of the content marketing program?"

Here are some direct sales-related examples:

  • More customers
  • More sales from current customers
  • Less customer turnover

There may be cost-saving goals:

  • Spend less on customer service costs
  • Spend less on traditional marketing to replace with more efficient content programs (to get similar results)
  • Get customers to talk about you more (new kind of public relations)

Whatever the goals are, make them tangible and put a number to them.  Recently I've been seeing more analytics-related goals (number of downloads, web traffic, mentions, etc.), but always believe you need to relate these back to an organizational goal (like the ones above) or you'll never be able to prove enough value.

Step 2: Determine Your Customers' Informational Needs

What kind of information do your customers need to help get their jobs done, or live happier lives, that directly relates to your expertise and, hopefully, your products and services.  For example, Hubspot develops content in and around online marketing.  Most of the educational content relates directly to their product (inbound marketing software as a service), but some doesn't. The point is that Hubspot understands the needs of their customers and delivers ongoing and consistent content around those needs. When they are ready to buy, Hubspot is there.

Remember, you need to position yourself as the industry expert. Find the "secret sauce" – the area between your customers' needs and your expertise. 

How do you get that information?

  • Listen using free tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Search or possibly a paid customer listening tool.
  • Read blogs in your industry.  Choose the top 15-20 and make it a point to have someone own this task.
  • Talk to your customer service and sales personnel.
  • Call your customers.
  • Send out email surveys.

Step 3: What Do You Want Your Customer or Prospect To Do?

To reach your ultimate objective in step one, what do you need your customers to do?

  • Share something with others
  • Download something
  • Call someone
  • Go somewhere
  • Buy something
  • Refer you to someone else

Note that these are all measurable actions.  If you can't find anything to measure, keep going back to the smallest increment that you can possibly measure.  For example, with the release of our Playbook, we are looking at a group of actions (downloads, mentions, enewsletter signups, service signups, consulting inquiries). These are prioritized and weighted. At certain increments, we'll measure, discuss and then tweak the program based on what we are seeing.

Step 4: Determine the Ultimate Product and Content Mix

Many novice content marketers start with this step first.  It's seems the most likely. "Let's do an eBook, or a weekly enewsletter." This is the wrong place to start.

If you did, go back and review steps one through three.  Once those are complete, then review these 42 content marketing examples and begin to test and tweak the ones that align best with your content strategy. Also note that many of these tactics can and should be integrated together (custom print magazine, digital magazine, and customer-focused community site may all be part of the same content program).

If you like this and need a bit more information to really take a committed step toward content marketing strategy, our book Get Content Get Customers will get you there.

By joepulizzi published September 29, 2009

Help Me Help You – Spend Content Marketing Money

Well, first the bad news.

After months of trying to work this out, the winner of Junta42’s $4200 in 42 Days Contest, 48HourPrint, decided not to move forward with their project. (for those of you who don’t remember, every project match that went through the Junta42 system over a 42 day period was eligible to receive the $4200 dollars)

When we started this contest, we all thought how easy it would be to give this money away. I mean, who wouldn’t want $4200 to kick-start a content project, be it a blog, a newsletter, a video series or even (heaven forbid) something in print?

Now, the good news.

We have $4200 to try something new.

What should we do? What would you do? Should we give it away (I’m thinking yes)? Should we spend it on our own content (that’s not as much fun)?

How would you spend $4200? Would you go video, blog content, search strategies? Maybe you’d get a content audit and strategy completed, so you’d know exactly what needs to happen with your content marketing strategy?

Drop me a line and let me know…maybe I can give the money to you.

By joepulizzi published September 25, 2009

How can I get more people to my website?

Somewhat interesting Bloomberg video from Ad legend Jerry Della Femina on the future of advertising and ad agencies.

The key points:

  • The advertising industry is not run by creative anymore, but the bean counters.
  • The “good-old days” for advertising is over – where they used to make 15 cents on every dollar spent, now it’s more like seven or even five cents.
  • According to Jerry, every meeting with marketing executives starts out with “How can I get more people to my website?Continue Reading
By joepulizzi published September 23, 2009

The New Lead Generation is in Membership Programs

Had an interesting conversation with Texterity president Martin Hensel regarding lead generation programs (specifically for BtoB markets) and how they are changing before our eyes.

Now, all lead generation programs are different, but they basically run this way (yes, very simplistic to all you lead generation experts…here goes).

  • Create the offer
  • Convert and gather the lead information
  • Direct e-mail or call by the salesperson to qualify or convert
  • If they don’t respond, keep pestering them with email offers.

Martin was discussing how one of his clients (a leading software company) was beginning to move away from this process. Why? They are finding that the majority of leads they acquire are:

  • Very early in the sales process (often six to 12 months out and are just in the process of learning) and
  • Are put off by getting a direct solicitation after completing an online form (usually from a white paper or webinar)

The solution: the membership model.

Here’s the process:

  • Develop the offer, which is not just for one piece of content, but an indepth dive into multiple and ongoing pieces of online content (think something like Subscribing (the lead information) offers an ongoing content promise.
  • Prospect subscribes to join the free membership.
  • The prospect doesn’t get called unless they state an immediate buying problem (a question in the membership form). All others gain free access to the content community as they move through the buying process.

What makes this different?  Since most of these BtoB buyers are very early in the process and still need more education on the subject, the ongoing content delivery (through email and social media) positions the vendor as a trusted expert. As the buyer gets closer to the buying decision, odds are will be that this company, that is delivering all this fantastic opt-in content to them, is first on the list. Motorola does a version of this already, and have been for a while.

With the buyer in full control anyway, doesn’t this model make more sense? – to focus your “hot leads” with your sales team and let your content do the nurturing for those customers who aren’t ready.

Image Credit:

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.

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