6 Content Marketing Insights from Joe Pulizzi

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Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute was in our town last week, speaking to a Meetup group about content marketing. (Thank you to sponsors Content Strategy PDX, Social Media Club PDX, and Babcock & Jenkins). After a bit of palaver on the state of marketing (prognosis: marketers are doing okay and if we keep learning we’ll do even better) Joe launched into the six key points he wanted to share with the group. And now, I share them with you:

1. Find your why.

This means why you’re creating and distributing content in a specific channel. One example: Proctor & Gamble has a website called Home Made Simple. The why of this site is: “Enabling women to have more quality time with their families.” From the company’s point of view, if you give millions of women ongoing reasons to spend time on your site, you are creating the likelihood that they will appreciate your brand. One of the basic tenets of content marketing is: It’s not about you; it’s about your customers. Give them content that makes their lives better. This site exemplifies that premise.

Another P&G example is a site focused on enabling teen girls entering puberty to be more comfortable with their bodies.

Still another P&G site, this one with “Helping men become better men” as the why.

This one didn’t work, and has been discontinued. The moral of this failure might be: A Successful Model Will Not Work for All Demographics, or, alternatively, Don’t Patronize Your Audience. (“Five weird facts about your wife’s brain”? Really?)

One last example of this why-gathering: The Indium Corporation develops and manufactures materials used primarily in the electronics assembly industry. They developed a blog with this why: To help engineers answer the most challenging industrial solder problems. This is a near-classic example of helping your customer and in the process, becoming a highly trusted source of information. (And who will you buy from? People and companies you trust. ‘Nuff said.)

2. Create a content marketing mission

Joe’s example here is Inc. Magazine, whose mission is: Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing businesses.  This mission statement includes:

  • The target audience
  • What will be delivered
  • The outcome for the audience.

3.  Answer customer questions

In 2007 River Pools and Spas spent a quarter of a million dollars ($250,000) to achieve $4.5 million in sales. This fiberglass pool company was something like fourth in its industry in the Virginia area.

When the recession hit, new orders dried up (no pun intended) and existing orders faltered; people suddenly struggling wanted their deposits back. The company began a new communication strategy, developing what’s considered the “the most popular and informative educational blog and video library in the swimming pool industry.” The focus is on answering people’s questions:

The blog isn’t glamorous, but it doesn’t need to be. It gives the prospect the answers to the questions he or she has, and those answers, one by one, remove barriers. The content absolutely nails the customer’s interests and concerns, so it is trustworthy (and so is the company, who obviously totally understands its buyers).

The results: In 2011, River Pools and Spas sold more fiberglass pools than anyone in the entire U.S., not just in its geographic area. Content marketing – specifically the strategy of answering people’s questions – positioned the company as the customer-focused expert and helped the company win three ways: Closing more deals (15% more); spending less time on each sale (they halved the sales cycle); and cutting the paid media budget by 84%.

4. Get your content on the same page in the company

This means that each department that uses content needs to be aware of the others, and coordinate messaging and offers. One of the biggest risks is that two silo’d departments will waste resources by replicating content; another is that messaging gets out of sync and confuses customers. Big companies manage this by having content directors in each department meet weekly and share plans. Whatever your process, planning ahead and communications across departments are the keys.

5. Plan to repurpose up front, not after

As you plan your content, outline how you will use it in multiple ways.  Some marketers have a rule of thumb: If you can’t get five pieces out of a major content pillar, then it’s a waste of time and resources to create that major piece. A “major” piece takes up focus, budget, and time. An example is a white paper or webinar, each of which should be transmutable into the other, in addition to leading to datasheets, blog posts, infographics, and of course a coordinated flight of social media with each released piece.

Do this planning before creating the content, as it may alter how you proceed, and it’s much less expensive to do it right the first time. Measure twice, cut once, as the old saw goes.

6. Build audience with influencers

Joe gave his own organization as an example telling how CMI grew by identifying people who are influential in the space, and finding ways to bring them into CMI’s content-creator fold. You can read the whole story in Joe’s post on Copyblogger, “How to Create an Influencer Plan that Drives Your Content Marketing,” but here’s the gist:

CMI created a list of influential people, and then worked to get their attention using what they call the “4-1-1” plan (“4-1-1” was originally coined by Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping).

For every six pieces of content shared via social media (think Twitter for example):

  • Four are pieces of content from your influencer target that are also relevant to your audience. This means that 67% of the time you are sharing content that is not yours, and calling attention to content from your influencer group.
  • The fifth piece can be your original, educational piece of content.
  • The sixth piece can be your sales piece, like a coupon, product notice, press release or some other piece of content that no one will pay attention to.

Final thoughts

Joe’s closer is a list of top ten To-Dos, which you might adapt for your 2014 plan. Note: “Content 2020” is Coca-Cola’s master plan for its content marketing path all the way to 2020. It’s relevant because while you might not have Coca-Cola’s budget, there’s nothing limiting your strategic planning and chutzpah.

If you’d like to see the whole of Joe’s deck, visit SlideShare.

And to get started with your own content strategy, check out the Act-On’s Resources and browse the papers, videos and blog posts.

Visit Act-On’s Content Marketing Resources

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