The next five years will be all about acquisitions. Many corporations have loads of cash but are light on patience.
At Bounceless we offer an email validation service. However, email validation is only one small (but important) part of the much bigger email marketing niche. Similarly email marketing is only one small (but important) part of the much bigger digital marketing niche. That's why in the coming months we'll be bringing you interviews and stories with thought-leaders in these various marketing niches to help you tie the different pieces of the puzzle together. Today we have an exciting interview planned for you because we were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to chat with Joe Pulizzi, one of the most well known and respected names in the world of content marketing. Today, we chat with Joe about the future of content marketing and dive deeper into the world of where content marketing and email marketing intersect. So let's jump in!
Hi Joe and thank you for taking the time out of your day to speak with our blog audience today about your experiences in the world of marketing. Many in our audience will already be familiar with your name since you are the brain behind some pretty popular marketing platforms and websites, including Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World. You're also a best selling author and have written books such as Killing Marketing, Content Inc, and Epic Content Marketing. You've spent many years building up your reputation as a thought leader in the marketing world. But let's rewind a bit. Where did your professional journey begin and what pivotal moments propelled you and helped you land where you are today?
I got my start in content marketing in the year 2000 at a large B2B Media company called Penton Media (now Informa). But it wasn't called content marketing then. It was called custom media or custom publishing. Initially I just ran the accounts, but I had the chance to take over Penton Custom Media in 2002. We produced mostly custom print magazines for large businesses, and later evolved into online media, webinars and blogs.
Around 2005, I really believed that content marketing was going to be the next big thing in marketing. Google was really taking off, and social media was just getting started. I believed that businesses were going to have to create their own compelling, valuable content to grow audiences on these platforms (luckily, I was right).
In 2007 I finally decided to take the leap, and created what later became Content Marketing Institute. The most pivotal moment came in 2009. We had one product, a content-matching service, and it was failing. I almost gave up the entire idea when our best customer canceled the service. After a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I started going through subscriber feedback from our emails and blog posts. What did I find? They were asking for content marketing training. They wanted to go to a content marketing event. They wanted to meet other people dealing with similar struggles.
So in September of 2009 we made the pivot to CMI, which relaunched in May of 2010. We launched Chief Content Officer magazine in January of 2011 and then Content Marketing World in September of 2011. We were hoping to get 100 to 150 people to come to Cleveland. Over 600 came that first year.
Wow. Incredible Joe! And that's why today you're considered by many as being a content marketing pioneer. But of course, as you mentioned, overbooking events isn't where you started. When you entered the marketing scene, what were your first couple of years like? Why have you, more than others who have been at it for the same amount of time, been able to gain such great traction? What did you do differently that others didn't?
My first blog post was April 2, 2007 entitled "Why Content Marketing?" It was the one time where I talked about how this industry should be called content marketing and not any one of the other 10 terms used. It took well over a year for us to get traction. We were lucky when people like Brian Clark (Copyblogger) started using the term as well.
But once the recession hit, marketers stopped buying anything, especially content marketing. But then when 2010 came along and the recession was over, many marketers hit the reset button on their old programs, deciding to try new things like blogs, social media content, webinars, podcasts and more. It was an amazing time. By 2011 content marketing was on the map and by 2013 content marketing was THE place to be.
What did we do differently? Simple. Every day on the blog we delivered a helpful and compelling blog post to our community...without fail. We just kept teaching and teaching, and the community kept growing and growing. Our best attribute was most likely patience.
Again, speaking about your first couple of years within the content marketing space, what were some of the biggest obstacles that you had to face early on and how did you overcome them?
No one knew what content marketing was. We were in full awareness mode with the name as well as the practice.
To overcome this, I took every possible interview. I said yes to every guest webinar spot. I said yes to every guest blog post. I took speaking events I never should have taken (for free in many cases, on my own dime for travel) just to spread the word.
It wasn't until Content Marketing World 2011 that I actually thought we were going to make it
Our blog readers at Bounceless are mostly comprised of individuals who are interested in email marketing. Tell us a little bit more about the intersection where email marketing and content marketing intersect. Are there any companies out there who you feel are doing an exceptional job with their email marketing campaigns from a content standpoint? Obviously, better content will lead to better open rates and email deliverability. So content plays an important role there for sure. Do you see any interesting content trends in the email marketing space?
Content marketing is wonderful, but to really do it well, you need an opt-in audience. Email! Email subscribers are the top of the subscription hierarchy. Whereas we don't control our social media followers, at least we have our email data.
If I have one regret when I started the business, it was not starting an email newsletter quickly enough.
Anything launched in content marketing needs to be paired with email. Blog and email. Podcast and email. YouTube and email.
I love what both New York Times and Buzzfeed are doing. NYTimes now has over 100 different enewsletters that have an open rate above 50%. Buzzfeed has over 40 different enewsletters now. Like them, I'm doubling down on email (started the Random Newsletter a few months ago).
Back in 2013, you published a book entitled "Epic Content Marketing" which contained tips on how to leverage email channels to grow audiences. What was your inspiration for writing the book? How has your advice on email marketing changed from then to now, if any?
At the time, there was no ONE resource for content marketing strategy and execution. That was the purpose of Epic Content Marketing. I wanted any marketer to pick this book up and be able to create a content marketing approach that would work.
Since then, I probably see email as more important than ever. Why? Because social media platforms are killing our access and abusing our followers. We can either play their game (while it lasts) or build our own audiences.
Let's talk a little bit more about early stage content strategy for a moment. Imagine you're consulting a small startup who is just getting started. They likely don't have much in terms of content created yet and they might not know where to start. If a company is starting with a blank slate, what are the three most important pieces of advice you would give them on the topic of content generation? What type of content should they create first?
First, who's your audience? Be very specific. The more niche the better.
Second, what's your content tilt? Meaning, are you delivering a truly helpful, differentiated message to that audience.
Third, choose ONE thing. Don't be everywhere. Be great at one thing. That could be a blog, a podcast, a video series, etc.
Fourth, delivery consistently. And I mean consistent (same time every day, week, month, etc.).
Fifth, do it for a long time. It takes a minimum of 9-12 months to build a loyal audience and monetize it.
Sixth, make sure you build an opt-in audience (that's where the email newsletter comes in).
So be simple. Put your content energy into being great at one or two things. Use other channels to promote the main one or two...and forget the rest.
What are the three biggest content marketing mistakes that you see companies making and how would you suggest they go about fixing those mistakes?
- No differentiation. Most company content sounds just like all their competitors.
- No consistency. When content marketing fails, it's delivered whenever with no rhyme or reason.
- No patience. It generally takes a year to build a loyal audience. Most companies give up well before that.
If you want short-term success, don't do content marketing. If you want to build a long-term asset that produces for decades, create something valuable and different, deliver it consistently and do so over a long period of time.
You created the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) to provide organizations with the resources to improve their content marketing strategies. One of the main takeaways is the importance of understanding your audience first. Can you tell us a little bit more about how email marketers can learn to better understand their audience to increase the effectiveness of their email campaigns?
When I worked at Penton Media 20 years ago, we were taught to do reader calls. That meant that every week we would call or visit five readers of our content, so we'd have a better understanding of their wants and needs.
Want to understand your audience? Get to know them. Talk to them. Send them surveys. This is called setting up listening posts. There is a ton of technology to help, but sometimes it's amazing if you just talk to them once in a while.
And finally, what major shifts do you see on the horizon for content marketing? How can marketers brace themselves for these changes today?
The next five years will be all about acquisitions. Many corporations have loads of cash but are light on patience. You'll see those companies actively going out and buying audiences (read media assets). Sometimes this will be distressed media. Sometimes blogs or influencer sites. We're used to seeing media companies buy other media companies. For the next few years, non-media companies will be buying the media companies.
So, in a sense, most of the content in the world will be content marketing.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with our blog audience today about your experiences as a marketer. It's been truly insightful. We're going to go out now to look for media acquisition opportunities in the email verification and deliverability space. I'm only half joking :) To our readers, if you'd like to learn more about Joe, you can follow him on Twitter here or over to his personal website here.