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Joe Pulizzi: A ‘Content-First Business’ Is The Future Of Marketing

Content marketing has many different meanings to many different CMOs. From messaging and branding to customers and product, every marketer seems to have an opinion. One thing is certain, though: Content marketing is at the top of the 2017 CMO agenda, with PQ Media forecasting it to be a $300-plus billion industry by 2019.

However, marketers’ approach to content marketing needs to change. Digital disruption has fragmented the once-linear customer journey into hundreds of nonsequential touch points. Consumers are now always on, and to reach them requires a shift in focus from one-off campaigns to consistent contact.

On behalf of CMO.com, marketing expert and consultant Andy Betts recently caught up with Joe Pulizzi, best-selling author and founder of The Content Marketing Institute, for insight about content marketing success. Of note, Pulizzi will be speaking at Adobe Summit, March 19 to 23, about running a content-first business and why publishing is the future of marketing. Click here to view the agenda and register. (Enter code CMDC17 for an additional $200 discount.)

CMO.com: Content has been around a long time, so why all the hype over the past five years? What has changed?
Pulizzi: Two things. First, anyone can publish today. The cost of a content management system back in the late ’90s was six figures. The content creation process is truly democratic. 

Second, the shift of control has moved to the consumer. Before 1995, there were just [a handful of] ways that consumers could get information. Today, there are thousands. Control moved from brands with big budgets and media companies to the smartphone user. So now brands must create valuable, compelling content on a consistent basis to break through the clutter and form relationships online. 

CMO.com: What is driving content marketing technology success?
Pulizzi:
In my last book, we reverse-engineered content marketing platforms, trying to identify their success. We found four things that each one had in common: They focus on one core content type [text, image, audio, video]. They primarily publish on one main channel [such as blog, website, iTunes, YouTube]. They deliver consistently, like a media company. They publish well over a year to see results.

CMO.com: What are the biggest content marketing challenges facing the CMO in the next 12 months?
Pulizzi:
Most large enterprises have many personas and buyers. Unfortunately, content marketing approaches work with one differentiated message to one audience. That means the CMO needs to make sure the message is truly different, delivered consistently, to one main audience. For large companies, success in content marketing may mean multiple content brands and platforms, just like a media company.

A second challenge is that campaigns, for the most part, don’t work. CMOs need to understand that for content marketing to work, it takes time and consistency. Most brands simply focus on short-term results over long-term relationships. 

CMO.com: How would the approach to marketing differ from a CMO in a B2B market compared with B2C?
Pulizzi:
It wouldn’t. The biggest difference between B2B and B2C is that the B2B buying process takes longer, generally, and involves more decision makers in the purchase. But this makes no difference in the strategy since content marketing focuses on just one persona.

That means that for a content marketing approach to be successful, it needs to target just one key audience at a time. That’s where so many enterprises go wrong, trying to target more than one audience. B2B, B2C, not-for-profit--you are still targeting the informational pain points of one audience, regardless of the buyer’s journey. 

CMO.com: Who should own content in an organization? What is an ideal structure for a content marketing team?
Pulizzi: Most organizations run content marketing through marketing, but you need to ask the question: Who is responsible for delivering consistent communication with the customer? If that’s PR, then maybe PR should own the process, but in most companies, that’s not true. Innovative companies are integrating customer service and content marketing into the overall function of marketing. 

CMO.com: Can you measure the total value of content marketing? How best can CMOs attribute content marketing value across the whole organizations?
Pulizzi: Of course, just answer this question: What is the difference between those customers that engage in your content versus those that do not? Do they buy more? Stay longer? Talk more favorably about your company? What’s different? That difference can be measured. 

For example, at Content Marketing Institute, we know that those customers who subscribe to our e-newsletter and our magazine, “Chief Content Officer,” are significantly more likely to pay to attend our event, Content Marketing World. Subscribers become better customers. That’s what content marketing can do; it creates better customers. 

CMO.com: Why do some succeed and some fail with content marketing? Can you give readers some examples?
Pulizzi: Two reasons. First, companies fail because they aren’t telling a different story. Years ago, Autodesk had a magazine called “Inventor” that was delivered to customers. It failed, in my opinion, because the content could be found in multiple other locations. It was not differentiated in any way. If you aren’t different, why should anyone bother with it?

Second, companies fail because they stop. I hear “content marketing campaign” all the time from CMOs. When a CMO uses that phrase, I know we are in trouble. They think of content marketing as a short-term fix. Any content marketing program under a year will most likely not have a chance to succeed. 

CMO.com: I’m a big believer in the notion that print is not dead. How best should online content marketers work with offline counterparts? Can you give some examples of success?
Pulizzi:
Print never died; the business model did. Advertisers don’t want to pay for it, but consumers still engage in print content. With digital communications becoming so competitive and cluttered, there is a chance to break through. This is why Airbnb just launched a print magazine. It’s also why John Deere’s “The Furrow” magazine just entered its 122nd year of publishing. Print works when it’s consistent, valuable, and differentiated.   

CMO.com: Can you tell me more about your session at Summit—maybe highlight a few things that you will be talking about?
Pulizzi:
Based on the research I mentioned earlier in the article, I will be highlighting a six-step process to success with content marketing. I’ll be discussing that process and how CMOs can integrate that approach into their overall marketing organizations. There is a huge opportunity with a content marketing approach for CMOs who embrace it. 

Note: Andy Betts, along with Adobe group product manager Peter Krmpotic, will be leading a related session at Summit, “Building a Content Marketing Powerhouse.” Click here for more details.

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