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Joe Pulizzi Shares Principles of Epic Content Marketing

Content Marketing isn’t just an important component of your modern marketing strategy. It’s a must-have mindset that dictates how we engage with our audiences.

Joe Pulizzi, longtime content marketing expert and founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), recently released a thoughtful book full of actionable takeaways to help organizations create information that prospects and customers actually want to engage with!

Check out our Q&A with Pulizzi for the scoop on his new book: “Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less."

An overarching theme in "Epic Content Marketing" is to focus strategy on your audience (more specifically,  attracting and maintaining them). How does effective content marketing help companies drive meaningful relationships to grow and engage with your target audiences?

JP: Let's face it: customers are going out of their way to avoid salespeople and sales speak as much as possible.  They are bombarded by 5,000 messages a day, and the last thing they want is to be pitched anything.  My question back is: If we don't work to develop relationships with customers and prospects by telling compelling stories, how else do we do it?  Not through advertising or sponsorship.  Not by knocking on doors or making phone calls.

Consistent content that helps customers solve their pain points is just about the only way customers will let us into their lives. For those reading this, what do you let into your lives, past the clutter of spam? Only the really good stuff, right?  So go out and be the really good content and stop producing content hat doesn't move the needle.

You cite a great deal of your own personal and professional experiences at Content Marketing Institute, specifically a case study on social media. Can you tell us more about that?

JP: Short version is this: when we started, we didn't have the audience to get our content distributed to the right people.  So developed what we call an "influencer hit list" and promoted relevant content from these influencers to the audience we had.  Over time, these influencers started to notice, and we formed relationships with dozens of them.  Then they started to share our content.  Now, we have over 60,000 subscribers and see over 100,000 unique visitors a month engage in our content.  It all started by giving first.  Most brands want to promote their own content.  If you want social to work for you, about 60% of your posts should be about other people's content (OPC).

More on the CMI’s crowd sourced content strategy in this video:


One of my personal favorite examples cited in the book is Lego Magazine. What is your favorite example profiled in Epic Content Marketing and what would you point to as the key lessons from it?

JP: Okay, this is print, but LEGO Club magazine has made a huge impact on my life.  I started to receive the magazine back in 1987 when I was 14 years old (it was called Brick Kicks back then).  From that moment on, I was hooked.  I've probably spent about $10,000 on LEGO bricks for myself and my kids (and LEGO theme parks).  LEGO knows how to tell amazing stories in multiple formats.  It is the quintessential example of first thinking like a media company, creating the relationships, and leveraging the content to sell what you have to sell. 

You offer “6 Principles of Content Marketing,” an important one being  “Avoid Sales Speak.” This is challenging for companies, particularly those at B2B tech companies that have long relied on product specs to market and sell. What is your advice to help companies think more about value and less about “selling”?

JP: Feature and benefit content is necessary; but two things about that.  First, you have plenty of that content.  Second, the majority of your customers are not at the point in the sales cycle to actually find that content useful.  So what do you do the other 99% of the time, repeat yourself?

If you want to stand apart from your competition, focus on being the "go-to" resource for your customers.  Commit to content as a promise to your customers.  Deliver on that promise.  It's hard to take, but your product is most likely no better than anything else out there.  So how do you differentiate yourself?  By what you say and the stories you tell.  That's it.  Everything else can be copied.  So that's why we say to "sell more" you have to stop all the "selling" speak.  Develop a long-term relationship with customers through interesting content and they will reward you with loyalty.

A critical point you make in the book is to define your Content Mission Statement. Do you think this is a collaborative effort to be undertaken by the organization, or should the responsibility be relegated to the content marketing professional/team?

JP: It should be owned by the content marketing team, but a content marketing mission worth its salt is a collaborative effort.  PR, corporate communications, email, social, HR - all of these groups need to know what the bigger story is.  The worst thing that can happen is that the content marketing team creates the mission statement and forces it down the other groups, or maybe worse, doesn't tell them about it.  All these groups need to be telling a consistent story so it makes some sense to the customer.

Check out the book "Epic Content Marketing!" Its bite sized chapters and tangible feedback provide a great springboard to get your content marketing into gear by honing in on your key objectives!

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