How to do Content Marketing like the Godfather Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi is the godfather of content marketing – founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Content Marketing World, Chief Content Officer, and the author of Get Content Get Customers, speaker and blogger.
I just missed out on seeing Joe Pulizzi in Australia when he was out in March, but I got the chance catch up via Skype and interview him. Here we get to talk ‘shop’ and discover how to content marketing like a ‘godfather’!
Adam Franklin: Hi, it’s Adam Franklin and I’m very happy to be here with Joe Pulizzi. He founded the Content Marketing Institute. He runs the Content Marketing World Events. He’s the Chief Content Officer magazine editor and he’s got the book, Get Content. Get Customers.
So you’ve really got a stranglehold on the words ‘content marketing’ which I really love, and you own the word ‘orange’ as well I’m led to believe. Whenever you’re on stage, you always have the colour orange on.
Plan it, like you would a house
Adam Franklin: That’s excellent. I’m pleased to hear it. Now, I was reading and listening to podcasts. You did a great one with Timbo Reid when you ever over here in Australia. I really like the analogy about content strategy; it’s like building a house. You don’t just push. You don’t start throwing bricks around. You actually get an architect and a builder to put a plan in. And it’s a great analogy, but if we’re getting specific – What does an actual content strategy plan look like?
Joe Pulizzi: Well, I like that you’re using that architecture mentality because when I go around and talk about content marketing, the majority of the corporate marketers that I talk to actually don’t have a plan. So we try to figure out – where do you start with your planning? And you always start with, ‘Why?‘ You always start with sort of, ‘What is that mission statement? What is that takeaway for your customers? For example, what we want to get into our mission statement?‘ and this is sort the underlying . . . everything underlying when you build a content strategy. So we want to say – Okay, who is our target audience? And be specific, like really – Who is that target audience? What are we going to be delivering to that target audience? I mean, think about it. Are we going to deliver textual content? Is it helpful resources? Is it entertainment? Really get a feel for what it’s going to be.
Putting customers first
And then – What do we want that to do? Not – What do we want to sell? Not specifically more products and services, but – What do we want the end result to be for our customer? Do we want to help them with their small businesses? Do we want to help them be more profitable? Are we trying to help our IT software consultant that we’re targeting? Do we want to help them save time in some way? Really figure out what that unique value proposition is. I call that the ‘Content Marketing Mission Statement’. I love to start there because, when you talk to marketers, they start to focus on ‘Yeah, we really aren’t talking about our products and services; we’re really talking about content for our customers.’
Now this is just one step of 20 that you’re going to take in the content strategy, but what I feel is that – most marketers, they bypass that step and they do what I call, ‘filling buckets’. They’re like, ‘Oh, what are we going to put on Facebook today? What are we going to put on our blog today? What are we going to put on Twitter?’ instead of really thinking conscientiously about what we are doing. And then, once we figure out that mission statement, then we can really get into the objectives of what do we want it to do for our company? Is this customer retention? Is it lead generation? But I always like to start with the customer first and thinking about the messaging for the customer and the customer’s pain points first.
Adam Franklin: Well also once you’ve got the mission, you understand the why and you understand your customer’s pain points. Using that house analogy, what are some of the building blocks or the rooms of the house? I guess, what are some of the fundamental things that a content marketer really needs to build in the first place in order to run an effective content marketing program?
Joe Pulizzi: Once you do that and you’re figuring out, so let’s just take it step-by-step. So we figure out okay, What’s the why? Then we really figure out what is the problem we’re trying to solve in the organisation with our content? What is content going to fix as a business process or a business strategy? And then you quickly go to – We really need to know more about our audience – and whether you call that audience persona or a buyer persona or whatever you go into… What we’ve found is, let’s say, you just take any average organisation. You have more than one person usually creating content, whether that’s on your website, whether it’s social media, whether it’s print, whether it’s in person: you have lots of people creating content.
Define buyer personas
Most organisations don’t have a defined buyer persona, and that’s simply – What’s the picture of this person? What do they look like? How old are they? What do they like doing during the day? And I like to use that audience persona framework because when you get a freelancer, internal or external or using an agency, you have to give them a mental picture of who you are targeting, or else how do any of the five people creating content for your organisation know who they’re really targeting? So that buyer persona step really needs to be taken into standpoint.
And then once you do those types of things, then you can really figure out okay, What is my content type? Where am I targeting that buyer persona? Where are they in the sales cycle or in the buying process? Is it top of the funnel? Are they just learning about whether or not they even need a solution like this? Is it right before the conversion? Maybe we’re talking customer retention. Maybe this program is targeting our customers and we want to have them help us with cross-selling or up-selling, or we want them to be brand subscribers, those types of things. And then we really look at what are the channels we’re going to use that make the most sense? Does email work? Are we going to look at a social media channel like a slideshare? What about print? Is it something that we should look at?
So as you can tell, I mean you know this – but this is not an easy thing where… Oh, let’s just start talking about cats. And we’re going to talk everything about cats. No, we really want to go through a thoughtful process before we get to filling content buckets and channels which most people go right to the channels. They say, ‘Oh, let’s fill those buckets!’ but there’s really quite a few steps before that, steps that we want to look at.
Gated versus ungated content
Adam Franklin: And when content marketers are creating their content with their agency or with their in-house writers or video people, whatever format the content takes, where do you draw the line between I guess delivering . . . Well you deliver value, but delivering free content and delivering paid content? Is there a rule of thumb or a line in the sand, as a guide, so that you can work out whether you should be giving it away or actually charging?
Joe Pulizzi: My take is this: If you’re having somebody pay for content, you’re probably in the publishing media business. So Content Marketing Institute, our organisation, we are a media company; that’s our business model. We have some free content and some paid content. That’s a media model. If you are selling software solutions or you’re selling manufacturing products, you’re probably not charging for any of that content.
The big issue is – Are you going to give it away for free, or are you going to gate that content? Are you going to put a form in front of that content? That’s the bigger issue that we see in the States. I don’t see a lot of brands really talking about giving it away for free; it’s not the issue. I think they understand they need to give it away for free. The bigger issue is they want to put a gate in front of it because they want to lead out of everything.
…having well over 90% of that content ungated, freely accessible content…
“Oh, we’ve got to have information! This is really valuable! We’ve got to make sure we know who they are so that we can get that into the sales pipeline and actually generate some leads.”
And by the way, there’s always a place for gated content. But I think what some people don’t understand is you really have to look at the objective, because if you give away that content for free and let that content be shared and maybe have a form at a difference place in the content, maybe inside the content, or I love SlideShare, a big proponent of SlideShare. Maybe it’s a free piece of content, and as they go to like Slide 9 you have a little popup that comes up and says, “Hey, do you like this content? Maybe you’d like to sign up for it here?” And then they could skip through it but at least you give them access to that content.
Give 90% away free
So I think that what we try to talk to our clients about is really having well over 90% of that content ungated, freely accessible content and then you could look at some of that other content being gated. Unfortunately what we’re finding out is a lot of that content is gated so you don’t get the shareability, which means you’re not going to get the search engine optimisation rankings which, if you look at the overall opportunity for leads, you actually limit it by gating it.
It’s a really important decision and you have to look at each piece of content separately, but I would say for the most part most companies are probably gating their content, putting reform in front of their content too much, and we should look at setting that content free.
Adam Franklin: That’s a really good point, because I’ve struggled with that dilemma too, whether I don’t put a form or whether I do. The compromise that I’ve struck, that I’m quite comfortable with, is having a preview of the content as a SlideShare file embedded on the page so they can preview it. If they really want to, they can go to SlideShare and download it there if they didn’t want to give an email address. I do actually put a form or a gate on there, so if they previewed it and they like it then they can enter their details and be in our system.
Make sure you test your blog titles.
Joe Pulizzi: I mean that’s a good way to do it. I mean if I were you, what I would say is I’d like the next piece, I’d like you to open it up freely and kind of use the suggested form that SlideShare has and see what performs better. I mean see total views, look at everything, and then you can make a decision. So then you might say – ‘Oh, the first way was much better,’ so testing is so critical a part of content marketing, just like blog titles.
Make sure you test your blog titles. What we found is we (not that I’m a big fan of the four tips to or five steps to, sometimes I get sick of those kinds of posts, but sometimes I get sick of those types of posts) but our posts that have a number in it always perform 25% better than anything else. We know this for a fact. We’ve looked at it and we’ve tested it. So as you look at more of the performance of your content, you can actually make decisions about what works best.
Adam Franklin: And Joe, what’s your personal take on email marketing? It’s often overlooked these days with social media getting all the headlines. Do you like it? Do you not like it? What’s your take?
Joe Pulizzi: Well, so I’m a traditionalist when it comes to email marketing, so all the email marketing providers are going to love me. Email is the most critical part of our entire content marketing strategy. What we’ve seen is if we can build and own a subscriber base, and we do that through email, that makes everything else that we do in our content marketing strategy work for us.
Email is the steroids behind social media sharing!
For example, this morning… so this morning at 7:00 in the morning our post goes out. At 10:00, our email to our daily subscribers goes out. So in the morning we see a little bit of social activity, but once that daily email goes out that’s when we see tons of sharing, tons of comments, tons of talking about it. So what we’ve found is email is the steroids behind social media sharing, which means then that’s going to help us in search engine optimisation. And the most important thing about this, when we look at subscription, we really do want to have a connection with our customers that we own. Nothing wrong with Facebook subscription or LinkedIn or SlideShare or Twitter or any of those, they’re all very important, but I don’t own any of those subscription channels. Twitter owns those; LinkedIn owns those. They can shut those off tomorrow.
But if I have an owned email database, I can build. We were talking about architecture and building, building a house on top of that? I can build something on top of that because I own it, just like a media company does or a publisher does. If I don’t focus on subscription, I’ve got to work really hard every day at promotion activities. What I want to do is I want to build a passionate subscriber so that they’ll do some of the marketing for me. And back to your point: I feel email is critical to that. So I would just say to everyone listening to this, really focus on your email subscription channel. And if you look at behaviour, I mean look at the behaviour of your audience… What we know about our audience is they don’t like to go to bed at night unless they have zero emails in their inbox. Email is critical. But it’s also tougher to cut through that clutter. If you can cut through that clutter with not a sales email but an educational, relevant email, you can go to the top of attention and every day you can get their attention. It’s critical. I feel email is more important than ever right now.
So I would just say to everyone listening to this, really focus on your email subscription channel.
Adam Franklin: Fantastic, Joe. I really appreciate the tips and advice you shared with us in the interview. Where can our viewers go to find out more about you or connect with you?
Adam Franklin: Fantastic. And the new book, is there a new book coming out this year Joe?
Joe Pulizzi: It is actually. The new book is Epic Content Marketing. It comes out in September. We’re going to launch it at Content Marketing World North America on September 10th and it’s all about basically how to do exactly what we’re doing from A to Z. Start with the content marketing mission statement all the way to social media and distribution and owned channels like email subscription.
Adam Franklin: Fantastic. I look forward to that when it’s out and great to chat. And have a great day, Joe. Thank you.
Joe Pulizzi: Thank you, Adam. Thanks.
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