I first got the chance to hear Content Marketing Institute (CMI) founder—and content marketing evangelist—Joe Pulizzi speak two years ago at CMWorld. I remember taking note of how everyone’s eyes lit up when he took the stage, of attendees furiously trying to jot down every content marketing tidbit he shared, and of the electricity in the air—which was surpassed only by Joe’s own magnetism.
So, imagine my excitement when I was able to lock down some time with this renowned marketing guru to get his 2 cents on the latest happenings in the content marketing space (no Joe, I am not trying to butter you up!). After all, any insight I can gain from other industry thought leaders is a gift I can bring back to our clients. Our job at Content Boost is simple: We will always be your eyes and ears in the content marketing space, bringing any insight, tools, techniques and tactics to you so that together we can implement them in your organization.
Therefore, a number of the questions I asked Joe are one’s you ask me every day. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of our conversation:
Content Boost: CMI just put out the 2015 B2B and B2C content marketing benchmarks reports. What stuck out to you most in the results?
Joe Pulizzi: We asked a few different questions this year and now we have a pretty clear indication that if you are going to be successful at content marketing you need to first document your plan in some way. Second, you need to constantly refer to that plan. You can’t stick it in the drawer. What’s so amazing about those two things is that they seem so simple to do. It doesn’t seem like rocket science but yet the far majority of the people that are involved in content marketing don’t have any kind of written down plan.
So what does that mean? That means we are going to have a lot of people struggling with measurement and with getting buy-in from their organization because they don’t have a clear plan.
What we do know is if you go through that documentation process and review it with your team on a regular basis, you have tipped the odds in your favor to be more successful with content marketing, and that is across the board with B2B and B2C brands.
CB: Do you think people just don’t know where to start when it comes to documentation?
JP: Absolutely. With somebody who doesn’t have a strategy, I always say, ‘Just get out a cocktail napkin and start writing!’ Jot down the audience you are trying to target and the subject you have the authority to speak on. Start asking yourself those tough questions and then you can figure out where do you tell your story, how do you tell your story, what channels do you use. Nobody does the work upfront.
CB: Any other surprising revelations?
JP: The one crazy thing to me is no matter if they are effective or ineffective at content marketing, both sides are spending a lot more on content marketing in the next year. So get ready for some really horrible content from those ineffective ones!
CB: A big challenge brands seem to face is whether they should throw every content marketing tactic at the wall to see what sticks, or really try to make a go at one vehicle and do it well. Do you think you should start with one channel and focus on doing it really well?
JP: Unequivocally yes. It’s better to focus on the channels you can really make some investment toward. Be great at one or two channels and then when you know they work for the organization, you can spread out.
Look at John Deere, a B2B company. It’s not the flashiest or the sexiest, but they really focus their entire efforts on that magazine they do and then they take parts and pieces of that and integrate with other things they are doing. They focus on doing one thing and they do it really, really well. For all the things that Red Bull does—the amazing videos and documentaries—really it’s their newsletter, the Red Bulletin, that gets them mostly where they need to go.
Sometimes it’s about doing those smaller things that aren’t as flashy and sexy and doing them really well. It might be a webinar program if that’s what you are really good at or online training. I would absolutely say start very small and figure out the platform that you can be a leading source of information on and then work to integrate other things as you go along.
CB: During your opening address at CMWorld 2014 in September, you stated, “We are old as an industry but we are young in our maturity.” How can we as content marketers help to advance the industry? How can we become more effective content marketers?
JP: If I had all those things figured out it would be awesome! The biggest thing we are dealing with is a culture issue in these organizations. Most organizations have done things the same way for a long time, so it’s hard to change that because it was a formula that was very successful for them. … And now you are telling them to think differently and they are saying, ‘Get lost. This is the way we’ve done it.’ So that’s the biggest thing we have to overcome. It’s about how quickly we can get this new thinking and new approach accepted.
If you don’t have the C-suite and sales on board then you are very short-term focused, and content marketing can’t work on a campaign. You have to build patience into the organization so you can get a couple of wins and then the rest will take care of itself.
CB: A question we get asked frequently is how many blogs/articles should brands publish weekly. Is there a magic number?
JP: It’s almost the unanswerable question. As a business owner and someone responsible for content marketing in my organization, I always want as much content that will impact our customers in a positive way and impact the bottom line. So what is that? We know that for us that’s daily because when we went from five blogs a week to seven that made a big impact. We got more sharing, more subscribers, more revenue.
But they have to be quality posts and not promotional in any way. I would say the magic number is something in which every piece of content that you are going to send out is going to be valuable to the audience you will target. If you feel you can do daily blogging but the quality won’t be there, I would stop right there. If you can only do two quality, amazing posts a week, then do that and do it better than anyone else out there.
CB: What are the biggest content marketing fumbles brands are still making? How can they sidestep these challenges?
JP: Trying to focus on too many audiences with one initiative. I talked to a company the other day that has a blog that targets 18 different audiences. I asked, ‘How is that working for you?’ They said, ‘Not well.’ I said, ‘Of course not because you have to water down the content so much that it’s not relevant to anyone!’
Another problem is there’s too much sales information in the content. The more sales-y stuff you put in the content, no one will engage with it. It happens with every company; they try to do the bait-and-switch and it never works. People can smell it a mile away. We have to get that out of there. You still need product marketing but the fact is 95 percent of content out there is product marketing. So, we need to lay back on the gas a little bit with the product and give a little bit of love to the customers.
Finally, the biggest reason why content marketing fails is because it stops. The greatest media companies of all time are all consistent with everything they do. They deliver whatever they deliver—whether it’s video, audio, television programs or print—on time always. We have to set those expectations that content is a promise to our customers.
Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, “Managing Content Marketing” and “Get Content Get Customers.” Joe’s latest book is “Epic Content Marketing” (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.