A Content Q&A with the Content King, Joe Pulizzi

The REview July 2016
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March 10, 2016 Comments/in Thought Leadership /by Wade Holland

(Thanks to Aaron Batte and Wade Holland at Faction Media for granting permission to use their post of the interview with Joe Pulizzi.)

If you want to pick someone’s brain on content marketing and how to make it work for you, there is no better person to talk to than Joe Pulizzi. He is the founder of Content Marketing Institute, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which also includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World.

His recent book, Content Inc., gets into why businesses should focus on an audience-first strategy. He flips the traditional model of creating a product first, and then finding customers, but instead advocates for developing valuable content, building an audience around that content, and then creating a product for that audience. It’s a model that countless entrepreneurs have adopted and have become hugely successful from.

Wade Holland: So, let’s jump right into the world of content marketing! Is content really different in a B2B setting?

Joe Pulizzi: I think from a content standpoint, B2B is so much better, because you can really target the person you want to focus on with more information and learning/teaching and not focusing just on the entertainment value.

WH: What makes the approach different on the B2B side?

JP: It’s more targeted, you have a longer journey to buying so you really have to put effort into building that relationship, and if you put the time in to build that relationship early on, you have an advantage for when they’re ready to buy. You have to make the decision on who specifically in that company you want to target. The hardest part is just that, deciding who those individuals are. Maybe you want to target an influencer or maybe it’s a gatekeeper. I love that the journey is longer because it gives you time to invest and consistently deliver value over time and you can follow that through and show return. Decide on the client buckets and decide the content tilt that you provide them. Make the decision on the go-to-market channels for each audience.

WH: “Don’t build your empire on someone else’s real estate.” This is something you’ve preached. Are there specific mediums that are best to build your content empires on, at least in B2B?

JP: Email for B2B is probably still #1, so an email newsletter is a must. Take a look at BuzzFeed; they’re using proprietary content on a Facebook channel partnership with Facebook, but as you drill down, you see that they’re getting those people to go to their website or to sign up on the platform itself. They’re really just directing them to an email newsletter focused on cats or dogs or whatever. So for B2B, I still think the best channels are probably email, the blog, events, magazine, and maybe something on LinkedIn and YouTube.

WH: Would you suggest YouTube or Vimeo?

JP: In regards to building a subscriber database, I haven’t seen it done very well on Vimeo, but I’ve seen it done well on YouTube in both B2C and B2B. It’s important to remember that there needs to be a call to action to sign up to something. I’m not sure exactly what that is, but it’s probably something email-based. Same goes for podcasts. All the successful podcasters do this. Yes, you want them to subscribe to iTunes, but at the end of the day, the call to action is to sign up for something and that something is usually in email format.

WH: How do you feel about brief content in the B2B space, such as SnapChat?

JP: I don’t know many B2B players that are using it. I know its going to stick around, but more importantly, you start with the story you want to tell, figure out what’s the audience and what’s the channel they’re on.

WH: What really is the difference between branded content and content brands?

JP: Branded content just takes on more of a campaign structure vs. an always-on strategy. With branded content, you’re still focusing around the product or the attributes of the product like with the Old Spice guy or Dove’s Real Beauty — you know those things can still be effective, but they’re short term. In branded content, we’re trying to get attention and we’re trying to entertain, not necessarily adding a lot of value to the conversation.

WH: So how would you even define “Branded Content Joe?”

JP: Telling stories around a company’s products and services for a short period of time in order to solve some marketing objective. It’s still campaign-based, so it’s a short-term thing and it’s just like any other marketing campaign, where the output would be similar to what you’d want to see in advertising. You want to see some demand go up for the product or service, or you want to see impressions and those types of behaviors. It’s different with a content brand, where you’re actually doing it over a long period of time, you’re not focusing on your product or service attributes — and you’re focusing on your audience first. You’re building an asset over time and then that asset will build an audience for you. In branded content programs, you don’t see anybody building an audience around that. It’s very focused around the product. One is asset based and the other is traditional media based. So I’m not saying branded content is bad, but it’s just a reflection of what we’ve been doing for a long, long time.

WH: On your podcast, you talked about BBC dropping their radio and television divisions. What does that mean?

JP: It just means that they’re now going for an audience-first approach. It’s the idea that you want to market around audiences and that’s how we’re going to do everything. Most traditional marketers would say: “What are we selling?” Now we’re flipping that and saying, “Who is the audience, what are their needs, what keeps them up at night, and how do we best fit our story into their needs?”

WH: In the upcoming years, are there any trends or shifts in marketing you see happening?

JP: Even though we’ve grown so much, we’re still at the very early stages, especially on the B2B side. Most B2B companies really aren’t doing this. So I see a maturing of the haves and have-nots. Some people will get it and they’ll start doing this really well. They’ll build these audiences while others are just going to be frustrated because they never do focus on what to do versus what not to do. I still see, especially in B2B, a lot of M&A [Mergers and Acquisitions] going on and that’s a whole other agency offering — you can offer M&A services to purchase media companies. I just think that’s huge and you’re going start seeing some people make a lot of money off of that. In the next five to 10 years, you’re not going to see a heck of a lot of difference between the people that are selling products and the ones that are selling content because both sides are going to be doing it. Some companies are going to be hugely successful and then there will be some that dabble in it, and those will fail. If you don’t go all-in, if you don’t focus on your audience’s needs first, and you just try to do a little bit on every platform — it just won’t work.

WH: What’s the number one thing you would tell someone who wants to be hugely successful in content marketing?

JP: Besides patience — which nobody wants to hear. Hmmmm… yeah, I’d probably say that. If you’re looking for results in six to nine months, go do something else. If you’re out for something bigger, and you actually see a purpose behind what you’re doing, then you can build a real audience and it will be an ultimate competitive advantage in a year and a half to two years. But I can’t promise anything inside a year. So that’s the issue and that’s where we’re at. We see so many companies that give up in nine months and they say, “Oh it didn’t work.” It does take time.

WH: What’s your favorite example of great content marketing?

JP: Oh you know I love The Furrow from John Deere. It’s just such an old-school example. On the consumer side, of course Lego and Red Bull. Then on the B2B side, I like how Indium has gone about it. In the manufacturing world, I love GE and what they do. Even a lot of the stuff the YouTubers are doing, I’m a big fan of. Even though I can’t stand PewDiePie, what he’s doing should be a model for what B2B companies can do. That didn’t happen overnight. It took three to four years, and he just consistently built that audience and now he has 41 million subscribers. You just see so many of those great examples over there.

Wade Holland, Marketing Specialist

Originally from the Wild West — not Colorado… Montana, of course — Wade loves to explore and discover. His background is video marketing, including co-creating a company and traveling across Colorado for 500 days to experience a unique local adventure every day, including alligator wrestling, skijoring, and even rapping with Steve-O. He’s worked with everyone from tourism boards, startups, small businesses and large businesses. Whatever it may be, Wade brings a natural zest and vigor to everything he approaches. Wade may be reached at wadeh@factionmedia.com.

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