Flights are booked, out of offices are being scheduled, and everyone is getting their best and brightest orange clothing dry cleaned… because it’s time for Content Marketing World! It’s about time I called up our friend Joe Pulizzi to get the low down on this year’s event. Check it out below!
Derek: It occurred to me that it’s been a year since your book, Epic Content Marketing, came out, and I’m wondering from your perspective what has changed the most since a year ago? What things that you thought were definite are no longer definite one year out?
Joe: Over the past year, we’ve seen a couple of things happen. One, you don’t see a lot of businesses – at least not on the enterprise side – questioning the fact that they need to be creating quality content as part of their overall marketing approach. So that’s great, because I don’t have to go out and evangelize quite as much. But there’s still – and this surprises me the most – not a thoughtful strategy put behind these programs. I think some enterprises are looking at a buy versus build scenario. Companies are looking to see whether or not their customer base exists out there in the form of a prospect or a customer group around a piece of content that they don’t own. Can they go out and acquire that site? And those are usually media companies. I’ve been talking about this for a long time. I thought we would see more action here, but in a lot of the companies I’ve talked to; it’s harder for them to get internal buy-in to do something that’s seemingly so odd. You see a lot of M&A around products and services, but we don’t see a lot of M&A around “Oh, maybe we should buy portions of our marketing mix and keep them as assets.” I see it as “Oh my God! Look, you can pick up a number of subscribers that are your customers.” You know, we advertise, we sponsor trade shows, we do those sorts of things, but there aren’t enough companies out there thinking: “Wow, there are a lot of companies building major subscriber networks and maybe we should approach them for purchase?” I thought this would be going on like crazy. So going back to your question, I’m still surprised in the number of companies that don’t have a documented strategy around content marketing, and I’m surprised that we’re not seeing more M&A. Predictions are, I still believe that both will happen, but I’m surprised at how slow that’s occurring.
Derek: I think your comment on people not really having a strategy speaks to the process marketers are trying to go through and the buyer progression and engagement that they’re trying to drive. I’m wondering how you advise B2B companies with not only allocating time to build a strategy, but then having done that, balancing being progression-centric versus creative and buyer-centric? What I mean by that, is that the content I build needs to serve a purpose rather than just being interesting or relevant.
Joe: What we’re seeing right now on the B2B side is there’s a flight to activity. We do enough stuff; we put enough out there; we get enough of these networks going and good things will happen, without even thinking of why we’re in those networks to begin with. It seems so simple. Sometimes it’s a little bit frustrating when you talk to marketers who are doing so many different activities, but then when you ask them: “Why are you on Facebook?” And, in a lot of cases, the people running the content on that Facebook page don’t know the ultimate business objective behind it. That’s a huge problem. I mean, why would you do a product launch? We know that answer right off the bat. Why are we creating this type of a tool or this type of software? We know the answers to those. But when we think about it from a content standpoint, we get into certain networks, and we’re promoting our content, and we start to measure it in activity, versus in business objectives. So that’s where I think if we start with that “why,” and we do simple exercises to get there. For example, the average B2B enterprise engages in 13-15 different pieces of content – eBooks, webinars, social media, pod casts, etc. I will say to a marketer, OK, for your particular audience and that particular piece of content, tell me why you’re doing it. Tell me the business objectives behind each one of those. But from a process standpoint, I always say, I want you to list your content marketing mission statement, which is very similar to an editorial mission statement for a publishing operation. I come from the publishing side, and our process was always, let’s create our editorial mission statement. Who is the audience we’re targeting? What are we going to send them? What is the outcome or behavior we want to see? 100% of publishers do that, and almost no marketers do it. So, if we’re supposed to be publishers we’re not engaging in the basic process that it takes to create a really good media brand, and that’s where I think we’re stuck.
Derek: I think a lot times in the B2B space we can get caught-up focusing more on the activities or on trying to be ultra-creative in what we’ve done, instead of focusing on how I educate my buyer on why my solution is necessary and valuable and worth investing in learning more about – and maybe even buying. How do you see that?
Joe:It’s about filling in the gap, that’s what you’re talking about. You’re also talking about consistency. Where we are prone, in a lot of cases, to looking at what is that big creative idea or campaign that we can generate, instead of doing the work. And a lot of times it’s just about asking what are we trying to do? Are we doing it every day? Every week? How can we position ourselves as the leading expert, not only in the product, but in the content that we create? And that’s just about consistency. That’s the biggest breakdown in content marketing – it’s not consistent.We’ll blog every once in a while, but we don’t have a consistent process behind how we’re communicating through all of these channels. And then when we get a new campaign budget, we change right at the time when we’re starting to create a relationship with our content around a targeted persona. We change it because we have a new campaign. Marketers do this, but publishers would never do this.It takes three plus years to create a long-term relationship with your reader through your content. It takes a long time to build that trust, and maybe it’s less today, but it’s still a long time. But if you have a 9 -12 month campaign, you’ve got to go beyond that before you get the kind of data that you can start to say, “OK, well this data can tell me how I’m going to treat my advertising now to make that more impactful. It’s going to tell me how I can communicate better with my customers, or how this affects our ongoing content mission.
Derek: That’s interesting and I can certainly internalize it. We run a marketing shop here, obviously. And we are in a space where I’m not sure that we are creating a category, but we are definitely trying to educate people on why to challenge the status quo and think about things differently. What would be the one thing you’d recommend if you were on a journey like ours where you’re trying to change the mindset of a target buying community? Is it consistency and longevity that are going to win? Or are there other things I should be looking at?
Joe: I think there are a lot of other things. But it’s the consistency that’s the biggest breakdown. That’s where the most mistakes are made. That’s where when you talk to enterprises, and they say “oh that didn’t work,” and then I go into the details and find out that they’ve really only been blogging for three months and it was sporadic at best. They weren’t getting subscribers. If you look at most content marketing programs, it took well over a year to build a base of loyal customers. The loyal readers start to share it, and to rely on it. But you have to ask yourself: 1- Are you actually filling a need; and 2- Is the target audience actually small enough? If there are too many types of personas or customers, it’s never going to be relevant enough to work. A lot of enterprises are trying to go big, and we’re saying, go super small. Go small to the point where you can actually say, there is a chance we can be the leading informational provider in this niche category.
Derek: It’s funny you say that. We parallel that thought a lot in the way we advise and work with our marketing customers from a data perspective. It’s really about understanding where the sweet spot of the market is and narrowing the guardrails as much as possible so you have a higher density – rather than a higher count.
Joe: It’s the same thing. I’ve talked to a number of content marketing agencies that are trying to figure out what their marketing strategy should be and you go to their website and they’re basically doing content marketing for a generalist company. I always say, “Look you don’t have to turn down the health care company that comes to you, but you probably aren’t going to market for that company, so let’s figure out the niche, maybe its financial content marketing, maybe it’s those that trade in high velocity environments or global companies.” The better you can get the niche to target that customer the better it’s going to work. But they feel that if they do that they’re going to miss out on opportunities the advice there is “no then you create a different category but let’s start a focused one first and then we can expand onto another content category.”
Derek: I want to make sure we ask this question. With your event right around the corner, what are you thinking will be the hot topics this year? What should we be prepared for?
Joe: The big challenge is how do I show return? So we’re heavy on sessions about ROI. The big thing I’m really excited about is a study we did on “The Effective Content Marketer.” There are different traits that differentiate those people that are supremely confident and effective with what they’re doing. And those who aren’t, or aren’t seeing much of anything happen. So, I’ll be going through that. The big thing has to do with writing down your strategy, and on a regular basis, going back to look at that program strategy. The people who do that score so much higher, even compared to those that have a strategy but don’t look at it on a regular basis. It’s like personal goals. If you and I have life goals, and we look at those on a daily basis, we’re more likely to hit our goals. It’s common sense. That’s exactly what we’re seeing. So, if we can talk to people at the event about doing this simple step that all human beings can do, it’s going to help us to measure, create better teams and integrate with the rest of marketing. It’s the little things that we are not doing because we aren’t used to being publishers. But if we think in this way, and if we start to do that and get used to it, it’ll make all the difference.
Hopefully we will see you all in Cleveland next week. Make sure to stop by booth #59 and say hello to the NetProspex team!