For those of you not familiar with the conference, Content Marketing World is the largest annual gathering of content marketing professionals in the world. Held this year in Sydney at the end of March, the two-day event is run by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).
Launched in 2007, the mission of the CMI is to advance the practice of content marketing. Today, we bring you some insights from the founder of the CMI, and author of Epic Content Marketing (named one of the top five business books by Fortune Magazine), Joe Pulizzi.
Q&A with Joe Pulizzi
How has the value of content changed over the last 10 years?
Pulizzi: There are a couple key differences. First, there are no barriers to entry in publishing. Every company, no matter the budget, can publish consistently valuable content and create/develop an audience. Second, consumers are more in control than ever before. In the past, brands had more control over how to deliver messages because there were only a few channels available for distribution. Today, there are literally hundreds of different channels available for consumers to get the information they need. Because of this, brands need to step up their game in order to get found, and to get their content shared so they can grow their target audience.
What is the most important factor for content marketing success?
Pulizzi: Honestly, it’s consistency. I see so many brands start and stop with their content, treating content marketing programs like campaigns. It takes time and patience to build a long-term relationship with customers through content – two things that most brands are lacking in. We advise anyone starting with a content marketing program to commit to at least 18 months.
What do you think are some of the most effective uses of content marketing?
Pulizzi: The best consumer examples are what Red Bull and LEGO are doing. They are developing content around their core values and the specific informational needs of their customers, not necessarily pitching product. I also like what Chipotle is doing with their “Farmed and Dangerous” mini-series. It’s clear that brands are getting into the publishing and broadcast basis in a big way.
What is it that makes these examples effective?
Pulizzi: What makes these examples work is:
- Consistent publishing.
- They take a specific point of view (they are creating value not describing value).
- They are targeting a specific audience and a specific content niche.
- They are really investing in the content and working to develop “best of breed” information. If there was a final one, none of the these examples are specifically telling people to buy their product…they are developing relationships through the content, with the hope that people who engage in their content will buy more from them.
Pulizzi delivered the opening address at this year’s Content Marketing World: The Content Marketing Revolution. Here’s a wrap up of what Pulizzi had to say…
The Content Marketing Revolution
According to Pulizzi, there are three types of media: paid, earned and owned. Content marketing falls fair and square into the owned media bucket. Think about it like this: paid media is akin to advertising, earned media is the result of super-effective PR, and owned media covers all the ‘stuff’ that you create in-house and self-publish. The whole point of owned media is to attract and retain customers by creating and curating valuable, compelling, relevant content.
Now that that’s settled, let’s take a look at the difference between content and content marketing. Basically, content is all the ‘stuff’ that is not driving your business. Conversely, content marketing is all the ‘stuff’ that seeks to change or enhance some kind of behaviour.
Pulizzi invited his audience to think back to the day when the humble website was first created. The birth of the website was fantastic for marketers. Finally, they had somewhere to store all their ‘stuff’. All those product sheets. All those people and project profiles. All that ‘stuff’ that no one really cares about, that no one really reads. Load it all onto the never-ending, unlimited corporate website.
Then social media came along. “Even better,” exclaimed every marketer across the globe! “Now I have even more places to put ‘stuff’. I’ve got social media platforms, and blogs, and videos.”
According to Pulizzi, the problem with this out-dated model was that it assumed that customers cared about what marketers had to say. It assumed that, by talking at our customers, we could create new, and maintain old, customer relationships.
Marketers soon came to a shocking realisation: nobody cares about our ‘stuff’.
Enter content marketing.
“Marketers started running with ‘how to’ blog articles, ‘Top 10 Tips’ articles. We started educating and informing our customers. We’re now providing really useful information (just as media companies have done since way back when), educational thought-leadership type stuff. We’re generating e-newsletters and podcasts and videos and blog articles,” says Pulizzi.
Pulizzi claimed that, regardless of whether you’re operating in Australia, in the UK, or in America, nine out of ten companies are now engaging in some form of content marketing. As Pulizzi says, these kinds of rates are “going to help the world”. Nine out of ten companies are generating educational content, thought-leading content that is available. To everyone. For free.
There’s just one problem. Not all this content marketing is effective. According to research undertaken by Content Marketing World, ADMA and King Content, only 33% of businesses believe that their content marketing programs are effective.
To secure increased budgets and resources for any type of marketing, Pulizzi stresses that you need to be able to demonstrate effectiveness and success. So, if there is only a 33% effectiveness rating for content marketing, increased budgets and resources are highly unlikely.
So, what exactly is the number one barrier to content marketing effectiveness and success? Pulizzi supposes that it is the lack of a strategy, the lack of a plan of attack.
Pulizzi explained that most of the corporations that he works with, even the big billion dollar corporations, have no content marketing plan. They’re all out there, furiously creating and curating content, and publishing it all over the place. But, they’re steering a ship with no heading.
So, what does Pulizzi say that we all need to do?
He reckons we all need to go back to basics. We need to take a good, hard look at exactly what it is that we’re trying to sell. We need to determine exactly what it is that we’re trying to do. Once we’ve worked that out, we need to work out how to connect with (potential and existing) clients through content marketing. We need work out how to help our customers move through the buying journey in order to create a better customer, or to maintain a customer.
Next up, Pulizzi says we need to seriously think about how content marketing is measured. You can simply count ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ or website traffic. That’s fine. But Pulizzi thinks there are three much more important questions that you need to be asking when it comes to measuring content marketing:
- Is it driving sales for me?
- Is it going to save costs for me in some way?
- Or is it going to create a happier customer?
Pulizzi calls them sales, savings and sunshine.
Now, if web traffic helps you figure out the answers to these questions, that’s great. If you find out that your updates via LinkedIn or Twitter create a happier customer, that’s great.
But before we can measure anything, we really need to know what our objective is. You can’t measure anything, if you don’t have objectives and KPIs to measure against. So, you need to know why you are even embarking upon a content marketing program at all? Why do this in the first place?
According to Pulizzi, there is one third and final factor that all content marketers need to consider to guarantee success. Pulizzi used the example of one of his customers. His client was pouring money into his content marketing campaigns. And yet, he was in all sorts of trouble. No one was engaging with his content. Nobody was sharing his content. No one was subscribing to his newsletter. He wasn’t meeting his corporate objectives.
Take a guess at what the issue was?
His content was no different to that of his half a dozen competitors. He wasn’t communicating anything that was any more valuable than what anyone else in his industry was doing. He was doing exactly the same stuff as everyone else.
Pulizzi tells us: you can’t just make your story a little bit better, or just incrementally better. You have to tell your own story. You have to tell a completely different story. If you’re not sure what that story is, figure it out. Quick smart.
Then, focus on best-in-class content. Make sure your content stands out. Make sure it grabs and keeps the attention of your audience. It simply cannot be the same as everyone else’s content. Have your own goals. Target your own audience.
Have your own voice.
Named one of the five must read business books by Fortune Magazine, get your copy of Epic Content Marketing here.
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