Author: Joe Pulizzi

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, including his latest book Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). Check out Joe's two podcasts. 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.

By joepulizzi published March 19, 2008

Ad Age Crystal Ball 2.0 Mention

Ad Age did a survey of their Power 150 bloggers list about what technology marketers should be paying the most attention to in 2008.  They were nice enough to include me.

Here’s my statement:

The single biggest issue/technology that deserves the most attention is not a site or an application, but more an organizational philosophy. It’s the content marketing movement — which is the philosophy of marketing services not by traditional methods, but by delivering valuable, relevant and compelling content to customers and prospects on a consistent basis. This is being done through all media platforms, and we are seeing companies like P&G and Nike put a large amount of money and resources into these efforts.

Here are some of the other ones that really caught my eye.

Tom Martin

With the cost of production and distribution of digital content rapidly approaching zero, including distribution to the television platform, the opportunity to create branded micro-content that consumers will invite into their lives becomes a financial reality with a huge ROI upside; it’s advertising that people want to watch. This should be the single biggest trend to catch fire in 2008.

Paul Chaney

Online video/TV is the technology to watch in ’08. There seems to be a seismic shift toward digital distribution of video content, more and more video sites are being created, and there is a small camera revolution going on (which includes webcams) that portends a continued rise in user-generated video content. YouTube was just the beginning. Now, there’s ooVoo, seesmic, Revver, Jumpcut … the list goes on and on. Oh, and FastCompany.TV that Scoble just inaugurated. Add to that the fact that people are
scurrying to their computers in droves to watch television programs which, themselves. More than any other technology, including social networks, online video is it.

Dan Schawbel

Micro-communication: Marketers need to focus their attention on messaging within internal workforce, as well as the external world.
Messages have transitioned from full-blown blog posts and email blasts to short and concise messages. Examples of this trend are Twitter and Seesmic, both of which provides users a way of conveying their messages in short text messages or videos that can be easily consumed by others.  As people have less and less time to read full-blown news articles and blogs, they will resort to communicating in as few words as possible. Messages that contain simple headlines and links to other resources will skyrocket in 2008 and beyond. Marketers have to be aware of this in order to sync their corporate messaging down to a level where people
can understand, react and make decisions faster than long essays.

George Parker

What makes a site worth reading has very little to do with digital technologies or web applications, it has everything to do with content.  This is what encourages consistent readership and keeps visitors coming back for more. You ask what is most deserving of marketers’ attention in 2008 and why? The best illustration of this was at the AdAge IDEA conference, when the BBDO/GE presentation of their $350 million campaign was followed by the BlendTec guy who does $50 videos on YouTube. As he demonstrated, this increased sales by over 30%. There were no similar metrics given by the BBDO/GE team … But then again, that’s “Branding!”

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By joepulizzi published

If you mail it, will they read it? Great Health Magazine from CVS

- by guest blogger Michael Buller

This is Michael’s second guest blog post. We received such a great response from the first one, we asked him to post again.  Thanks Michael. – Joe Pulizzi

CVS made news recently with the announcement of a new custom publication Great Health Magazine, which they aim to launch this spring. The publication, which will also have a “sister web site” and eventually an enewsletter, will be centered around health issues. On the surface, there’s no doubting the numbers that make a compelling case for the relevance:

  • Women influence 80% of healthcare decisions in
    their households, wielding buying power of about $1.2 trillion.
  • The initial mail list will be 500,000, picked from
    the 75 million people who have signed up for the CVS ExtraCare card. That list
    will double to 1,000,000 in 2009.
  • The average reader will be a mid-50s college
    educated woman, who owns her own home and still works to support her family.

So there’s little doubt that the women who receive this publication are predisposed to care about the subject matter. And there’s
little doubt that with demographics like this, advertisers would love to talk to this target audience. But here’s the catch: there’s no truth to the saying, “if you mail it, they will read it.”

Reaching a desired demographic is one thing; getting them to engage in the publication is another.

Based on that reasoning, I’m skeptical. More than just about any other family-friendly topic, healthcare content is pervasive – online, in print, you name it. A Google search on women’s health returns 36,500,000 results. You don’t need SRDS to see how saturated the category is ‑ just visit any newsstand and look at the women’s magazine section; you’ll be inundated with cover lines selling health stories. Cutting through that clutter to get readers to not only pick up the publication, but actually spend time with it – that’s a tall order.

I hope CVS succeeds – a successful custom magazine by anyone helps all of us in the industry – but I’m worried that the content will be so generic and/or brand-centric that it will fail to capture anyone’s attention.

Even if it does, there’s another major hurdle to battle.  There’s nothing in the press release or news that indicates that CVS is funding the endeavor – but it does say that the company hopes to attract ad revenue from pharmaceutical and OTC advertisers. It’s likely that they’re counting on advertisers to flock to their alluring demographics. But what if cautious advertisers wait until the magazine proves that it is engaging readers – will CVS have the financial fortitude to invest in the publication during that time? Or will they impatiently demand a return on their investment from the start? Or worse, have they convinced a small custom publisher that the publisher should take all the risk in launching this venture, with the promise of big ad revenue returns down the line?

I hope not – that happens too often where marketers want both a content marketing program that engages
their customers, and the luxury of someone else paying for that program.

Basic Media Group is the company that’s signed on for the CVS magazine. On March 18, their one-page website said: “Updated website coming soon.”  Hmm.

Michael Buller is Vice President/General Manager of Custom Publishing for The Pohly Company, a diversified marketing and publishing services company specializing in engagement marketing and customer communications.

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By joepulizzi published March 17, 2008

Content Marketing vs. Custom Publishing: What’s the Difference?

Had a very interesting conversation with Vince Giorgi, Vice President at Hanley Wood Marketing, during the Custom Content Conference about the custom publishing industry.  As readers of this blog know, I’ve been constantly struggling with the differentiation between “content marketing” and “custom publishing.”  Well, thanks to Vince, we have it all figured out.

Content marketing is the business “practice” of delivering relevant and compelling content to a person or target audience.

Custom publishing or custom media is the “service” that produces the content marketing effort. Publishers or agencies that provide project management, design, web and content services for an organization, are providing custom publishing services on behalf of the business.

This seems to make too much sense. Thanks to Vince, I think we have a clear separation of the two.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.  Are we off base? Is this dead on?

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By joepulizzi published March 14, 2008

Like it or Not, Information Must Be Your Product

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a variety of marketers recently about how they create and distribute content through their marketing programs. Although each organization executes the content process differently, there seems to be one key differentiator between those organizations who are successfully changing behavior through content and those that aren’t: Information as a product.

Whether you sell products or services, the new rules of marketing require that, along with everything else you sell, the process of delivering consistently valuable information must be considered throughout the organization as, yes, a product.

What do I mean by that? When an organization looks at their content marketing as a product, they inherently create a number of initiatives and processes around that product, including:

  • Upfront Business Planning
  • Product Testing
  • Research & Development
  • Product Success Measures (marketing return on investment)
  • Customer Feedback Channels
  • Quality Control
  • Product Evolution Planning

Successful companies such as Procter & Gamble, IBM and Microsoft have all approached their content in a similar fashion.

Why approach information as a product?
Simple…organizations today have no choice but to place that kind of importance and processes behind their content initiatives.  Customers today are in complete control, and filter out any message that does not benefit them in some way. Since that is the case, organizations must first build a solid relationship with customers through the use of valuable, relevant information – then, and only then, will organizations be able to sell the other products and services that grow the top line.

This is happening now
We are seeing this trend happen now, as more businesses morph themselves into media companies. You are seeing appointments of titles such as "chief content officers" and businesses that are starting to hire full-time journalists. It won’t be long before "traditional" businesses even start to purchase media companies themselves (we are already seeing some of this).

What you need to do
Any company serious about growing top line revenues, and at the same time concerned about how to market in the future, needs to make the "information as a product" concept a priority.

Small organizations with limited budgets should start searching out expert journalists to begin overseeing their content program.  Mid-to-large organizations may want to look into hiring a custom publisher or post-advertising agency (props to Story Worldwide on the terminology), to begin helping them construct their information/content marketing business plan.

The reason I recommend help is that it is very challenging for someone from a traditional marketing background to create a content plan.  In order to be successful, you need a strong marketing and publishing background, and a keen understanding of how consistent editorial content can maintain or change customer behavior.

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By joepulizzi published March 13, 2008

Custom Content Conference 2008 a Huge Success

It’s hard to imagine that the premier Custom Content Conference could have gone any better.  We were shooting for at least 100 and had closer to 140 attend.  We were hoping for a few sponsors and sold out our exhibits and sponsorships. We wanted great speakers and interactive sessions…and got those too.

I always seemed to be running around at the conference and didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to enjoy the presentations. The second day I completely missed (in NYC for the Publishing Business conference), so please see Newt Barrett’s takeaways from the conference.  Also, Jeremy Greenfield provides some insight into the first day as well. I didn’t take many pics, but here are the ones I did manage to get. [added, Barbara Logan’s post from Hammock].

Here are my takeaways:

  • From Joe Duffy’s presentation, he cited that (according to Yankelovich 2005) 56% of consumers avoid products and services that overtly market.  Creating valuable content targeted to customers instead of hard selling is not just a recommendation, but a survival requirement.
  • Duffy: the marketer’s role is shifting from storyteller to the true creator of a better life experience. Amen brother!
  • George Bernard Shaw Quote: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in customizing the world to himself and his values." There are more than a few people I need to send that quote to.
  • While I was listening to a presentation by Brand Keys, this concept hit me in regard to traditional publishers:  the customers (advertisers) of traditional publishers and media companies don’t need them anymore. I used this concept to begin my presentation at Publishing Business conference the next day. Why use the middleman when you can go direct?  We are seeing this more and more and will continue to.  Have you seen BusinessWeek or Advertising Age lately?
  • Geoff Cook, the CEO of, talked in detail about the rise of his social networking site targeted to 13-17 year olds (which is rising by leaps and bounds). Consumers, more than ever in history, want to be part of something, be associated with something.  That is a major reason why social media initiatives are taking off. It makes sense that the more people live in a virtual world, the more they long for networks and associations.
  • Following up on the previous point, Kenneth Neher with GlaxoSmithKline, referred to association marketing linking directly with their key driver, which is advocacy. Neher stated that the right content at the right time from the right brand builds true advocacy. He also showed his loyalty continuum which is:

    aware – interested – try – adopt – loyal – advocate

    Neher also stated that a key to their advocacy success has been their consistent use of print and online content efforts directly targeted to their consumer groups.

  • Kent Nichols, the creator of the popular Ask a Ninja episodes, was probably the most entertaining of all, especially with the number of jabs against living in Ohio (which, for the most part, were true, what can I say?). Kent has proven that successful online business models today have nothing to do with the way business was done in the past. That said, you can’t do much online without either great content, or ways that people can interact with compelling content.
  • Joseph Plummer rounded out the first day with an excellent presentation on engagement. "Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context." Plummer’s idea of "turned on" has a lot to do with co-ownership and co-creation of the brand. Couple points here…1) the faster you realize that your customers, not you, own the brand, the more you’ll be able to use content marketing as a core to your overall strategic vision and give your customers the access they need to help you build your brand, and 2) don’t underestimate the power of how and in what format your content is delivered.  Great content in the wrong delivery vehicle or wrong location can damage the brand. The message idea and the context idea don’t arrive until after you have a firm grasp of the customers’ needs and wants from an informational perspective.

That’s just for starters.  I have a few more concepts I’ve been working on related to the conference that I’ll be sharing soon.  Last but not least, the launch of Junta42 Match was very successful. Receiving great feedback from publishers about the concept.  As you’ll see in this picture, I’m a bit partial to orange.

Final thoughts…big thanks and appreciation goes out to Lori Rosen and Mike Winkleman (and the board) for putting on a great show. And last but not least, I have to throw some props to my good friends at the following organizations, who gladly supported this first year event. Premier sponsor Nxtbook Media, gold sponsor Fry Communications, and the rest of our supporters including BPA Worldwide, Convera, Creel, D Custom, Lane Press, Publishers Press, Readex Research and Texterity.

By joepulizzi published March 12, 2008

Love Your Customers, Even if They Don’t Buy

My last post was five days ago.  That has been the longest stretch without blogging since I started this blog almost a year ago.  Doesn’t feel good, but I guess I had good reason. New Orleans for the Custom Content Conference (launch of Junta42 Match as well as organizing the sponsors for the event), and then speaking in NYC for the Publishing Business Conference (thanks to Marcus Grimm from Nxtbook for proving it). Not to mention digging out of 26 inches of snow to get to the Big Easy.

I have about five blog posts loaded up and ready to go, but I just saw this article I wrote in DMNews about the importance of consistent content as it relates to direct marketing.

This is probably my favorite line:

The future of marketing is not about tempting [customers] or conning [customers] into buying more; it’s about communicating a message that says, “Regardless of whether you buy from me or not, you need this information. Enjoy!”

To direct marketers, that line might be sacrilegious, but I still love it.

By joepulizzi published March 7, 2008

Junta42 Match Launches to Publishers

Very excited about the beta launch of Junta42 Match, which will be the first resource of its kind to help marketing professionals find expert content providers and suppliers to distribute their own expert branded content.

Regular readers of this blog know all about this, but to those that don’t, we’ll be formally announcing the launch of Junta42 Match in New Orleans this Monday, March 10th at the Custom Content Conference, the first conference for custom publishing and content marketing (put on by the Custom Publishing Council, a Junta42 Match partner).

We’ve already received a tremendous amount of support from custom publishers and content agencies about this concept. For the next three months, any publisher or firm that specializes in custom content solutions for corporations, associations, non-profits and other organizations can sign up for a free trial. We’ll be launching the full-blown Match site, open to marketing professionals, by mid-June of this year.

Here’s the quick pitch: the marketer can come to the Junta42 Match site and, upon sign in, will fill out a short project brief. Based on their answers, we’ll search the database to find the best matches to their project needs.  Their preferences may be based on content expertise, product expertise, location, size, and a number of other criteria.  The initial search will bring up, say anywhere from five to 20 companies.  Marketers will then be able to go through each of those project profiles (where the providers will be anonymous). Then, the client can choose anywhere from three to five “finalists” to match up with, or choose their “perfect” match to get started right away (something we are calling “Direct Match”).

Once the marketer makes the full Match or Direct Match selection, we will review the project to make sure that the company is: a) legitimate, b) has a real project, and c) has a budget or business model. Upon approval, the publishers/content providers will receive the client’s information and the Match is made. Junta42 Match will stay in the process to guide the client with resources, receive ongoing feedback about the result of the project and find out who they chose and why.

We believe that this could take weeks, even months out of the marketer’s traditional searching process for a custom content provider.  We also believe that marketers could and should use this system as a replacement to the sometimes random and drawn-out process of a formal RFP. As for the publishers, just one project will more than pay for their inclusion in the database.

If you are a publisher or know of anyone involved in the execution of content marketing or custom publishing solutions, I urge you (or them) to sign up for a free trial today.  As you can probably guess, we’re pretty pumped up about this concept.

Here’s the formal press release that will go out on Monday.

A big thanks to all the Junta42 members who have supported us along the way.

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By joepulizzi published March 4, 2008

Custom Publishing vs. Marketing Services: You Decide!

Interesting post here from Bill Mickey at Folio magazine about the custom publishing industry. The article is targeted to publishers and media professionals, so much of this isn’t relevant to marketers. That said, there are a couple key points here that should be highlighted that pertains to all businesses using targeted content as a marketing strategy.

“…custom publishing, as a term, has lost its
states Mickey, who argues that the preferred term publishers use is marketing services.

I’ve always said that I’m not a huge fan of the term custom publishing, and opt for content marketing instead. But marketing services? The term “marketing services” is so broad and, frankly, pretty meaningless. But mostly, it discounts the true value that publishers bring to the table – the keen ability to deliver valuable, relevant and compelling content to a defined audience. Does “marketing services” say that?

I talk to publishers on a daily basis, and I’ve never talked to one that refers to their core competency or description as “marketing services.” According to the article, CMP recently reorganized and renamed their custom division as Marketing Services. I love Bill’s writing, but I’m not sure that’s enough to make it the preferred term. Are more publishers going this direction? For marketers sake, I hope not.

Most media professionals are beginning to position their organizations as marketing services companies, which I completely agree with. Marketing, consulting and content services should and may be the majority of revenue streams at traditional media companies within five years. But does defining it as marketing services discount the value that these publishers bring to the table for content marketers?

“‘We’re in the business of providing marketing solutions, so
there is no off-the-shelf program anymore,’ says Chris Schraft,
president, Time Inc. Content Solutions. ‘The answer to every question,
if you’re a custom publisher, is no longer custom publishing. It’s now
about understanding the client’s business objectives, their target
consumer and then looking at how customized content expressed in a
variety of formats and across a variety of platforms can really deliver
on those objectives.'”

I need help with this one. The last sentence from the quote is a decent definition of content marketing/custom publishing…but it’s used in this context as something different or new. Custom publishing has always been about understanding client needs, creating buyer personas, targeting those buyers with great and consistent content, and using all the platforms available. This has been the same for as long as I’ve been in the business. The difference is the availability of new and affordable technology solutions to target customers and the huge change in buyer behavior due to the Internet and the democratization of content (thanks Google). The problem with the term “custom publishing” is the perception that it is print-focused. The concept, though, is still the same.

In all honesty, I like the article, but it really comes from the perspective of a traditional publisher with a custom division more than a “pure bred custom publisher.”  Traditional publishers, although improving, tend to use custom as leverage to the other programs they sell. For example, they may really want to sell you a print and online display program, so they’ll lead with a custom content plan that leverages the print and online assets they have. It’s been done for years and is pretty common place.

This trend is definitely changing, but I doubt that any pure content marketing providers would use anything like “marketing services” as a name for what they do, or the industry they are in.  If you know of any, let me know.

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By joepulizzi published March 3, 2008

Where Should You Stick Your Marketing?: Educate Customers Everywhere

I was in the doctor’s office last week for a routine checkup. As I entered, the nurse escorted me to the patient room where I waited for the doctor. On the desk in the office sat a computer monitor that was streaming what looked to be a PowerPoint show. 

There were about 10 rotating messages targeted to me, the patient. One talked about checkups for colon cancer, another about weight issues, and another one was about moles (fun!).  I learned a lot and paid attention. The one slide on adult shots motivated me to ask the doctor a question, which resulted in me actually buying an additional shot…one that I would not have bought without the computer show.

The health care industry always been a trend setter when it comes to educating customers and prospects. They are in the business of healing and education.  Most hospitals either have their own newsletter/magazine, or carry the WebMD magazine. Now they are doing it again by using a computer (which has to be there for the doctors/nurses) and leveraging it to educate customers (and upsell).

Here’s the point: You are also in the business of education. It is your responsibility to educate your customers and prospects about not only your products, but about the industry and key issues that surround your product. By doing so on a consistent basis, with relevant and valuable content, you will sell more to these people.

And here’s your task: Find the places where your customers and prospects are, and take advantage of these locations by delivering timely and relevant information. This could be:

  • On your invoices (tip or white paper download information).
  • At your register/counter (placards, signage, additional tips, magazines, newsletters, monitors).
  • On your website. We talk about this all the time, but most marketers still only use their website to showcase the company and its products. Carve out a portion of your site to educate and inform your customers about things important to them. Do this right, and they will come to rely on you for this kind of information.
  • At trade shows (pass out industry reports, white papers, etc.).
  • On sales appointments (magazine, tip sheet, industry report, economic report, microsite to send prospects to, etc.).

These are just a few.  The point is to think of all ways in which customers come in contact with you and leverage those opportunities to help educate and engage them. Most companies lose educational opportunities through many different touch points. Make sure that you aren’t one of those companies by making a list of those touch points and deliver content marketing to them along the way.

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By joepulizzi published February 27, 2008

Engagement Sells: How Online Content Can Move Product

This is a link to an article I wrote for Chief Marketer about creating engagement through the use of content, specifically microsites.

Here’s a few paragraphs that form the key takeaway of the article.

“First, relevant and valuable online information significantly affects a purchase. Second, a prospect who isn’t necessarily ready to make a purchase can be positively influenced and moved closer to a purchase by engaging in online content.

It’s also important to note that online engagement in content isn’t usually a one-time event. Success with microsites and other online products such as eZines and online magazines are predicated on the delivery of consistent and ongoing streams of content.”

I think we’ve all seen blogs, microsites, and even corporate websites launch with grandeur, and then die miserably due to the lack of a consistent content strategy. Success in content marketing and custom publishing does not happen over night.  Stick with it. If you’ve created the proper buyer personas, performed the right research, and created the right content that meets the informational needs of your audience, you will be successful.

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