Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the intersection of sales, marketing, and technology. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland, explores the business technology landscape through conversations with industry leaders.
This episode covers the three-legged stool of content marketing and the importance of an on-going series, as well as campaign-based advertising and marketing.
Below are a few highlights from our conversation:
TechnologyAdvice: Is it important for every company to have a content marketing strategy?
Joe Pulizzi: First of all you don’t have to have one. I think that most innovative and growing companies have one and should have one. If you’re trying to stay status quo, you could probably do traditional marketing and be OK with it.
Why would you do content marketing? You’re either trying to generate sales, save costs compared to what you’ve done in the past, or create more loyal customers. For those 3 things, there’s a lot of other things that could go into it: recruitment, internal communications issues, etc. You’re trying to keep people at the company longer or happy so there are lots of other ways. If you’re looking to target external audiences, you want sales, savings, and sunshine (creating happier customers).
There are several different ways to target. Most of the examples from some of the larger brands out there, they’re still very campaign based. That’s not how you build a long term relationship. Microsites are created, there’s a lot of content going into one area, they do it for 9 months and then stop. Basically what we’re trying to help marketers with is build an audience and then monetize an audience. Maybe not right away but we’re looking to build an audience and give value every day/week and then monetize down the road. Brands simply aren’t good at it at all.
TA: What does it take to be successful with content marketing?
Pulizzi: The critical differentiation is actually documenting your strategy. You’d be amazed at the number of projects that go on out there, “oh we should do a blog or videos” but they don’t have an integrated strategy around that.
Really, if you’re going to put all these resources into creating amazing content, you have to have a distribution plan. If you don’t have an opt-in subscriber base that can get their hands on that, how are people going to get a hold of that content? There’s so much money going in up front to content creation and not a lot for distribution. It’s not black or white, there’s a lot of different ways to do it. Maybe 50/50 on creation/distribution is a great way to start getting someone engaging in the content.
The last thing is subscribers. We actually want to have a person opt-in to our content. For the most part we see metrics around engagement, web traffic metrics which in my mind are meaningless unless we’re creating a long-term relationship with someone and that means getting them in as a subscriber and cutting through the clutter. When they get up in the morning they’re getting that email or notification that they’re going to get that content, that’ something special and not just a sales pitch.
TA: What are some best practices to improve a content strategy?
Pulizzi: Patience is really important but you have to have a plan. Go to most brands’ YouTube account. There’s just a moshpit of all kinds of videos kind of sporadically submitted and they’re not around anything in particular. What really works in YouTube or iTunes or on your blog is an ongoing series that positions you as the leading informational or entertainment expert around something.
Can you really be the expert resource so that readers will choose your content instead of the thousands of other things around the web? I would say for most content created by brands, there’s probably 7-9 resources talking about this same thing. You have to figure out how your story is any different. Why would they choose to leave the information from whatever site they’re on? You’re not just in competition with all the people in your industry, you’re in competition with Google, Facebook, and all those types of things keeping people’s attention. You have to divert their attention so it has to be really really valuable. Everything you create, are you creating value? Do you understand the informational needs of your audience?
“Hey what if we took our logo off this blog post?” Would people know it’s you? Just take the logo off. Would they know it’s your story? Probably not.
Traditional marketing isn’t going away but how do we use content marketing to make sure all that we’re doing in traditional that much better. Is it making our SEO and advertising that much better? It’s not an either/or. We’ve ignored content marketing and owned media for so long. How do we make it even more important part of our puzzle to attract and retain customers.