Digital Marketing Strategy: How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy with Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing is all the rage these days, but have you given thought to developing a strategy for your content?

Do you know how to create content that your audience will find valuable enough to share?

Do you know how to measure what is working with your content marketing?

In this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast, I’m joined by Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute – a leading source for research, webinars, and white papers on the science of effective content marketing.

In today’s discussion, you are going to hear Joe and I talk about:

  • How to develop a content marketing strategy
  • How to create content your audience will find valuable
  • How to measure what is working
  • What a Chief Listening Officer is and why you need one
  • How to set up listening outposts so you can hear what your audience is saying about your brand
  • Joe’s 5 step framework for developing effective content
  • How curation can play a role in your content
  • How he built Content Marketing Institute into the leader that it is today
  • How he first started to monetize the site when it was just 6 months old
  • His annual conference
  • and so much more…

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

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Transcript

Trent
Dyrsmid: Hey there, Bright Idea Hunters, welcome to the Bright Ideas
Podcast. I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid. This is the podcast for business
owners and marketers who want to better understand how to use online
marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost their business.
The way that we help you do that is we bring experts onto the show to share
with you their knowledge and what is working for them and that’s exactly
what we’re going to do here again today. I am very, very pleased to welcome
the poster boy for content marketing. The self appointed poster boy for
content marketing. The founder of The Content Marketing Institute, Joe
Pulizzi. I think I said that correctly.Joe
Pulizzi: That is right Trent. You got it.Trent: Alright Joe. Welcome to the show. It’s a real pleasure to have
you.Joe: Good to be here. Thanks for having me.Trent: All right. So I am sure there are a couple people in my
audience who may not have heard of you and may not have heard of the
Content Marketing Institute, so I just want to start it off with a little
bit about you and your background and why should they care about The
Content Marketing Institute?

Joe: Sure. Content marketing is a new term to most but it’s an old term
for me. I’ve been kicking it around since about the year 2000, 2001. It’s a
whole idea that businesses today, to attract and retain customers, they
need to create valuable, compelling, and relevant content, similar to what
media companies have been doing for years. So that’s kind of what we do at
The Content Marketing Institute. We really preach that form of training and
education, mostly for Fortune 1000 companies. We have the largest event on
content marketing called Content Marketing World. It’s held every September
in Cleveland. We have a magazine called Chief Content Officer and like I
said, we do consulting for big brands that have lots of content and are
often confused about how to distribute that content for sales success.

Trent: Seems like a question a lot of people might be asking
themselves these days. So CMI, when you started it, was actually not even
named CMI. It was back in 2007 and I think in 2011, you sort of re-branded
and went in this, I don’t know if you would call it a new direction, but
I’ll let you answer. Why did you make that change?

Joe: The old name was called Junta 42 and we were actually an online
matching service where if a brand was looking for content, they needed to
create lots of content in whatever form it was, we would match them up with
agencies that could serve those needs. It was sort of like the match.com
for content marketing if you will. It was very successful. Over three years
we had over 1,000 matches and lots of happy customers but as an
entrepreneur, it wasn’t the great financial business model and made the
pivot in late 2009, early 2010, rebranded everything as Content Marketing
Institute. Then thankfully things just took off and the event was a real
big success in 2011 and the magazine and it just went forward from that
stand point. It all was at that same time where a lot of these bigger
brands were waking up and saying, ‘Oh my gosh. Get social media?’ But it
was about what goes into that social media and a lot of brands were
honestly confused about how to do that because they were talking a lot
about themselves and not talking about things that their customers cared
about.

Trent: Joe, do you have anything running on your computer that could
be consuming band-width? Any browsers open? Skype? Anything like that?

Joe: Yeah.

Trent: Can you turn all that stuff off?

Joe: Yup, yup. One second.

Trent: No problem.

Joe: Can you cut this out?

Trent: No. I don’t bother. I mean I can. But I don’t.

Joe: All right. Go ahead. I’m shutting things down as we speak.

Trent: All right. No problem. I mean if the pause is really long, I’d
chop it out. That’s extra work man. I’m trying to make this quality content
in the minimal amount of effort.

Joe: I’m with you man. All right. Here we go. Okay. There’s one down.
There’s two down. So hopefully that is a little bit better.

Trent: It is. So in this interview, I want to talk about two things.
First and foremost, I want to talk about content and content marketing and
all of the things so that the people who are listening to this can take
action after listening to this interview. There is also going to be some
people, I’m going to put myself in both camps actually, who are going to
want to know how did you build The Content Marketing Institute? How did you
make that successful? Because you’re an entrepreneur and I’m an
entrepreneur and there are lots of entrepreneurs listening to this. So
we’re going to get to that kind of in the second half. So, I guess the
first thing, so let’s say I’m a brand or whoever and I’m thinking, well
okay content marketing. I’m hearing this all the time and SEOs seem to be
getting a little bit pooh poohed these days. Where do I start? I guess I’ve
got to think of a strategy or something, right?

Joe: The biggest problem, Trent, every business out there is creating lots
of content. We did a research study, Content Marketing Institute with
marketing profs and basically year over year you find that 90% of companies
are doing content marketing. The problem is they’re not doing it very well
and they’ve got content all over the place. There are no goals behind it.
They have wishy-washy goals and what we’ve found is more than 90% of those
companies don’t actually have a content strategy which by the way scares
the crap out of me. Because you have a lot of companies out there, just
creating things with no real idea of what it’s supposed to do for the
business, which is scary.

But it also makes a lot of sense because at the end, I mean, Jay Baer
was the author of the Now Revolution, a good friend of mine. He says this
all the time and I love that he says it. All businesses today are actually
two businesses. You’re in the business that you’re in and you’re in the
publishing business. Well nobody told us that we were going to be in the
publishing business. It just happened because all those technology barriers
are gone. Consumer behavior has changed. Google has changed for that matter
and now what we know is we better create valuable, helpful content that
people share to, that link to, or you’re not going to be found. So it’s
really as simple as that.

I think if you look at, at least from the brands that we talked to,
they have three major goals when they come and talk to us. They say, ‘Joe,
I want to get found in Google. I’ve got to get found in search, ‘or ‘Joe,
I’ve got to drive online leads,’ or ‘Joe, how do I make social media work
for my business?’ I say, ‘Let’s take a step back and let’s figure out if
you have anything important to say to your target audience.’ Because we
have lots of stuff that we talk about, regarding to our products and
services. We don’t necessarily have that type of information in what I call
story form. Is it really helpful? Does it really position us as experts as
maybe the leading experts in our niche? So when our customers are ready to
buy, they buy from us. And how are we going to measure that in the first
place?

So I guess my recommendation is always take a step back and ask the
question: Why? Why do you have a Facebook account? Why are you on Twitter?
Why are you on Linked In? Why do you have a blog? Why do you do that
newsletter? Because most of the time when we talk to big billion dollar
companies, they don’t even have an answer for that. Ask anybody why they
are on Facebook and you’ll get a million answers and none of them will be a
really good answer for growing a business.

Trent: Yeah, that’s an important one. ‘We’re doing it because
everybody else is doing it. Isn’t that a good enough reason?’

Joe: ‘Joe, we had to have one.’ I said, ‘No you don’t. You don’t have to
have a blog. You don’t have to be on Facebook.’ Figure out why you’re on
those channels and I think you’ll think differently about the content that
you create. If you think about it, you customers, they don’t care about
you. They don’t care about your products. They don’t care about your
services. They care about themselves. So you have to create information
that helps them to care about you so you can win their hearts and win their
minds and you do that with the type of content that media companies have
been creating for years.

Trent: Okay, so you get your ‘why’ figured out. This is obviously the
foundation of your strategy. But what do you do after that?

Joe: Well once you have your ‘why’ and once you understand who your target
audience is, so really who is it? And for most businesses it’s multiple
people. But let’s just simplify it here. So yeah, exactly. So, let’s say
you are a small business. Let’s not think about it in the Petco, AT&T,
Verizon terms of big enterprise. Let’s just say that you are a million
dollar, couple million dollar business. You’ve got a couple employees.
Things are going along well. You probably have three or four buyers of that
product. Could be CEO level. Could be VP of Operations level. Could be
marketing. I don’t know. Depends on what you’re selling, right? Or let’s
say you’re a HVAC company. Maybe your core buyer is the mom, which it is.
It actually is if you are an HVAC company. Figure out who that core buyer
is because in a lot of cases you’re not going to have time to set up
separate content strategies. So let’s simplify it. Who is that main buyer?
Who is that reader if you will? And then hopefully get that whole why
figured out. I call it a ‘content marketing mission statement’. Then once
you figure that out, then you can look at what your channel strategy will
be. When I say channel strategy, that’s the blog, the Facebook, the
newsletter, those types of things.

Most companies start out with the channel. What we can do is we can
start off with the why to the who and then we can look at that channel and
figure out, okay, what are we going to put in these channels and what’s the
behavior that we want to see? Ask that question before you create that
content. I just talked to somebody today that has a blog. I said, ‘Why are
you doing the blog?’

‘Well, we wanted to have something to put out in social media.’ I
said, ‘Well how do you measure performance?’

‘Well, we’re not quite sure. We look at the referrals back to the
website.’ I said, ‘Figure out what the call to action is.’ Is it an email?
Maybe it’s an email subscription. Maybe it’s so you can own that database
which I think is, by the way, a great thing.

Trent: That’s for sure. That’s why I do this.

Joe: Exactly right. We can get into a whole conversation, Trent, about how
email is not dead, even though most people think it is. I think it’s the
most valuable connection we can make. More valuable than Facebook fan or
Twitter follower or anything like that. So I guess just simplify it. Really
think about how you can do good with your content. To who are you going to
create that content for?

What channels should you choose and less is more, mind you. You might
not need a Pinterest strategy folks. You might not need to be on Instagram
right now. Figure out what things you can do really well, the kind of
content you can be the best in the world at. At the end of the day, how are
you going to measure that performance and in a lot of cases for small
businesses, it’s actually having somebody sign up to get more information
from you so you can create that direct connection to them.

Trent: I like how you talked about the channel thing being more is
less. I think that one of the things that might make this overwhelming,
because I know what it’s like to be the small business owner of a two
million dollar business because I was that guy before this guy and you
don’t have any resources. You don’t have any time. You’re just like running
on this treadmill every day and some slick consultant says, ‘You need to
have yourself a content marketing strategy and get a Pinterest and a
LinkedIn, and a this and a that and a that, and a that, and a that.’ And he
rattles off six social networks and you’re going, ‘No. When am I going to
do that? When am I going to do that?’ So if you had to pick one outside of
your blog, because I think the blog is the most important. Do you have a
different opinion that differs than that?

Joe: No. No. I mean if you’re talking from a small business, I would look
at the blog as your magnet. That’s who you’re going to bring everything
into and then you have your social media outpost that you can use to bring
people into that blog.

Trent: Yeah. So I know what you mean. But I want to make sure my
listeners do. Please explain the difference between your ‘magnet’ and an
‘outpost’, because they have kind of different jobs don’t they?

Joe: Actually, they do. And I would start at it from this point. I talked
to, this is a couple months ago, but I remember it really well. It’s an
HVAC company and we were talking about, should they start a blog and why it
would make sense for them and they said, ‘No, we’re going to put all of our
content we put on Facebook and we link everything to Facebook and that’s
how we’re going to do our content strategy.’ I said, ‘That’s one way to do
it. That’s fine.’ But I just made the point to them. I said, ‘You do
realize that Facebook owns that content. All the links that go to that,
Facebook gets all the link authority with that Google would deem to that.
You’re actually helping Facebook a lot. All the people that like you on
your Facebook business page, that’s owned by Facebook too. So at the end of
the day, Facebook could just shut that down and you don’t own any of those
connections.’ I said, ‘Why would you give Facebook all that power?’

So it doesn’t have to be a blog. Trent, a blog is just a tool, right?
In some cases, it’s just a website, but it’s something that you own and
it’s something that you can easily publish content from. That’s the
simplest way to look at it. So why I like a blog is the fact that that’s
where your really great content can be and then let’s think of Facebook as
an outpost. Let’s say you create a really interesting, helpful piece of
content on your blog. Then what would an outpost be? Then you might share
that post on Twitter, to those people that follow you or those people that
follow certain hash tags, that can come back to your blog, or you could
share the image from your blog post on Facebook. Because Facebook is very
visual, and you might have a little, couple sentences about what is in that
helpful blog post and then that would link back to your Facebook page.

So that’s where, maybe to think about it is, yeah I think ‘magnet’ is
the best way to look at it because if you own that and everything else is
almost like you’re syndicating the content out so that people can then find
you. At the end of the day you’re at a place, your blog, where you can
actually do something about that person on your site and that could be, in
my case, for a small business, it would be ‘Sign up for more great
information.’ so that I can continue this conversation.

Trent: I did an interview last week with Marcus Sheridan. Are you
familiar with him?

Joe: I love Marcus. Absolutely.

Trent: Smart guy. And his comment was, ‘I realize that comments,’ on
his blog, ‘was not a business model.’ And I love that because it really
drove home the point of having the mailing list. I mean you can get all
this comment love on your blog. And he also said to me, it was either in
the interview or off camera, not a one of the people who ever hired him as
to come in as the sales line consultant, were one of the people that
commented. I found that exceptionally interesting.

Joe: Well here’s the dirty little secret. And this is my take and I would
probably agree with Marcus on this. I think engagement online is highly
overrated. Everybody talks about ‘Oh we’ve got to have engagement and oh,
we’re not having comments on our blogs.’ My former company that I owned and
sold a year ago was called Social Track. It was a blogging service for
small businesses. Most of our audience were HVAC repair men and installers.
I talked to a lot of them. They are like, ‘Joe, you’re helping us with all
these blogs and we’re not getting comments.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but you’re
getting people to sign up to get more information from you. You’re getting
people to actually call your phone number and you’re getting sales. Do you
really care if you get comments?’ No, you don’t care. They just feel like
they should get comments.
I think it’s great if you can get that kind of engagement on
commenting but I would agree with Marcus. I mean in a lot of cases that may
be a different buyer altogether. It could be somebody that is looking for
their own influence or strategy. A lot of people, if you’re answering their
questions, they may just go, get that detail, want that detail and need to
contact you or sign up for more information via email. So, I would really
look at the comment as a ‘user indicator’, I call it. It’s something that
could show performance but in most cases, I don’t think it tells much about
if somebody is going to buy or not.

Trent: No, I don’t think so either. My previous blog used to get a lot
of comments. Bright Ideas is growing faster than that blog. I get more
iTunes downloads than that blog. I get more people writing me an email to
rave about it but get almost no comments on Bright Ideas itself. I’m to the
point now where I’m like, ‘Well I don’t really care because it doesn’t seem
to matter because the other metrics are the ones that I’m more interested
in.’ And my list growth is faster than it used to be with the other one as
well.

Joe: There you go. Right there, right? Everybody should listen to that
again where you just say list growth. For a small business, list growth,
that is your own media channel and that is the one that you should look
over all the other stuff, the Facebook likes, the followers, all that
stuff. It’s the list growth is number one.

Trent: All right, so there are people who are listening to this.
They’ve got a small business. They are doing a couple million bucks or half
a million bucks. They are not blogging yet and they are going ‘Okay, okay.
I’m interested so far but I don’t know what to write about.’ What do they
do?

Joe: Talk to your customers. Well first of all, I find that very hard to
believe. And by the way, we get it all the time. Oh, I don’t have enough
content. I don’t have a good story. Think of it this way. We’re not telling
a story like once upon a time telling a story. We’re telling a story like
‘what are my customer’s pain points?’ What keeps them up at night and I
guarantee you have the answers to those questions. I’m sure you heard from
Marcus. I mean Marcus is king of writing down the questions of his
customers and frankly if you just talk to a couple of your customers and
write down their questions or talk to customer service or talk to your
employees and think about all the questions that you get, all the time,
related to your business, you would have more content ideas that you could
possibly handle. Most people just don’t do that, so I think we think of
‘Oh, I can’t talk about that product anymore.’

You’re right. You’ve got enough of that kind of content. You’ve got
tons of product content, tons of services content. Focus on what’s really
keeping your customers up at night, what really their pain points are, and
that’s the type of content we want to focus on. So if you don’t know, if
you honestly don’t know, talk to your customers. If you want to take a step
two, talk to your employees.

Trent: Yeah, I knew that was the answer you were going to give. I
loved how Marcus made it so incredibly simple. What are all the questions
that people have before they buy something? Okay, we’re going to create
content to answer every one of those questions and now his pool business
has a ton of leads coming in all the time. There is another kind of cool
little idea and I don’t remember who I got this from so I can’t attribute
this to the person, but it was pay attention to the other blogs in your
niche and see which articles are getting the most comments and the most
shares and the most tweets, and those are the topics that people care about
and then research and write your own version to express your opinion on
that topic.

Joe: That’s a great way to put it. We’ve used, I’ve used Google alerts
forever. If you’re tracking certain key words. Let me take it back to HVAC.
You might track air conditioning in your area and see what people are
talking about air conditioning, heating, global warming, those types of
topics. There are things that in the news. Let’s say the SAG Awards were on
last night. You’ve got the Oscars coming up. You could do things like that
but related to your business. Top lists are amazing. You can curate other
top blogs out there. So let’s say some of your even competitors have some
amazing content out there. You could do a roundup of different articles.
Believe it or not those types of things work and I think it’s all about
thinking about what is your content marketing mission.

Here’s a good one for small businesses. What’s INC magazines mission?
If you read INC magazine, you know that they are targeting small businesses
and entrepreneurs with very, very helpful pieces of content in different
forms, in order for small businesses to be more profitable. That is their
editorial mission. That is their content marketing mission. That’s what you
as a company need to get, where if you’re thinking about your customer,
what is that over-arching statement that is really going to help them take
the next step, as it relates to your business or your industry.

I think if you just wrote that down, that can be your guiding
principle for all of the other content that you create. Then you’ll say,
‘Well that piece of content that we want to create or that employee
suggested doesn’t fit because it doesn’t fit within our mission.’ At least
you have an overriding vision statement, so you know what steps you need to
take and not get confused and say ‘Oh we’re going to talk about this over
here.’ ‘No we’re not. It doesn’t fit in our mission.’

Trent: In other words, if you were to think about what is the top or
maybe top two or three problems that our prospective customers are trying
to solve? That’s the stuff they care about most. Like, for example, in the
marketing agency space I know that their top two problems are unpredictable
revenue and not enough leads. So, every interview that I do with marketing
agencies, I ask them always about those two things. What are you doing to
generate recurring revenue and what are you doing to cause growth to occur?
So if you keep those two things in mind, it’s awfully easy to keep yourself
focused. And there’s always more, especially if you’re reading other
people’s stuff, there’s always more ideas to be shared and share.

Joe: Well you bring up the marketing agency and I’ve worked with marketing
agencies for a long, long time and from a content marketing perspective I
can tell you the number one failure is the fact that it’s the lack of
focus. When they create content it is all over the place. And when I mean
all over the place, it’s all over the place industry wide because they’ll
say ‘Oh, we cover healthcare. We cover financial. We do manufacturing. We
do everything.’

‘No you don’t.’ Of course, you dabble in everything. But wouldn’t it
be more profitable to really focus on a core area? It’s the same thing for
content marketing and that’s why they’re not successful because they talk
about everything. The smaller you can get from a content niche stand point
the better and the more successful you would be. But most of us like to go
wide. ‘Oh we’re going to cover pet supplies.’

‘You are? Well isn’t the experts at pet supplies like Pet Smart and
Pet Co., they sort of have a corner on that market. Let’s figure out where
you can really be an expert’. And I would say I’m going to talk about pet
supplies for elderly Americans in Southeast Florida who like to travel in a
RV. And I’m talking that’s how specific we want to get.

That’s our buyer because then you’re just talking to that buyer and
then that’s where the opportunity is. So if you’re a small business, I
would really get niche and really take seriously the question where can you
be the leading expert in the world? When I started Junta 42 now Content
Marketing Institute, content marketing, I mean that was a whole new thing.
Nobody used that term at all and I said, ‘Yeah we can be the experts in
content marketing in the world if we focus on this’. If I was starting the
business today, I wouldn’t choose content marketing. Too broad.

Trent: Yeah. Sound strategy. So, one of the things I don’t think I did
very well when I was running my tech company that we talked about off air
was really honing in on who my specific customer was. And now I do so much
it’s even defined on my about page on Bright Ideas. There are basically two
people that I create content for. What are some tips that you would give to
someone who has not yet been through the process to define their avatar
because we’re all scared that we’ll get so focused but that we might lose
sales with these people over here. That what it used to be for me. I didn’t
want to get too focused because I thought then the other people won’t call
me but that’s kind of a dumb way to think about it.

Joe: Yup. And that’s how most people do because they’ll say well we don’t
want to do anything because if we focus on this audience we might lose
someone else and those people will still call. That’s not the issue.
Because I don’t know how you’re getting those anyways. They are coming in
through referrals, other ways, whatever. They will still come in. Focus on
where the bills get paid. Where, basically, and I would also say if you’re
a small business or an entrepreneur where your passion’s at? I mean that’s
really where we want to focus on. If you haven’t done it before, I like
looking at the very simple, like if you were thinking about an 8 1/2 x 11
sheet of paper. Get a picture of this person in your head. Who is that?
That’s Jeremy. Jeremy is an IT director. Jeremy goes out for coffee in the
morning. Jeremy’s got a girlfriend. Jeremy uses a smartphone 20% of the
time. Really, get a good feel for Jeremy and that’s who we’re writing to.
Why is it so important? Because it’s not going to be you just writing. You
might not even write the content of your small business or marketing agency
owner or whatever. You have other people writing that. What happens is
whoever is telling that story, they don’t have that buyer in front of them
and how are they supposed to tell a story if they don’t know who they are
writing to and that’s why when you outsource content, you’re usually not
happy with it because you’ve never told them exactly who you’re writing to.
Give them the canvas so they can actually paint the picture.

Trent: How do you know, Joe, that Jeremy is the right guy? Because
that was one of the things that I thought. How do you figure that out?

Joe: I think you do it, at first, by hypothesis. You know the business,
right? You’ve done your research. You’ve talked to your customers. I mean
if you have customers, prospects, you talk to them. If you put any kind of
a business planning document together, you know who you’re targeting right?
Here it is. I’ve done the surveys. I’ve done all the stuff that you know to
do. Then the best way to do it is you start creating content, you will get
feedback. When we talk about what the structure is of a content marketing
department, there is a role in there called the Chief Listening Officer.
That is often done by a social media manager in most companies. When
content goes out, two things can happen. You can get a piece of feedback
and you do something immediately with that feedback. ‘Oh, it’s got to go to
customer service. It’s got to go to product marketing. That’s got to go to
sales.’ That’s great, right? Your content is getting a reaction. You’re
going to send that out. You also might say, ‘Oh that has to go back to the
person that’s leading our content strategy because we need to adapt the
content strategy because of that feedback.’

I’ll give you an example. When we started Chief Content Officer
magazine and the kind of content we produced on Content Marketing
Institute.com, it was almost the identical target. But what we learned was
that the people that were enjoying the magazine were more strategic. These
were higher level people. These were directors. These were VPs. The people
who were enjoying our content online were the doers, the marketers, the
social media managers, the content managers, corporate journalists,
corporate editors, those types of people. Two very, very different people
but we had it all kind of meshed in one when we started. That was about
nine months of feedback that we took to get to that level. So I think you
start with your best guess. Don’t worry about it. You’re going to make
mistakes. Get that feedback and you’ll quickly learn, if you’re listening,
which you should be. Jim McDermott, a mentor of mine for many years. He
always said, ‘You want to set up listening posts as a good journalist
wherever you can. Set up listening posts for your current employees, for
customers out there, so that you can get a feel for what’s going on in the
marketplace so you can create better content.’

Trent: And can social media outposts be these listening posts or is
there something better?

Joe: Social media is obviously the easiest one to go after. If you’re not
listening on, let’s say, Twitter for sure, I mean just about every type of
person out there, at least to some extent, is on Twitter. So you can go out
and listen on Twitter. Listen on the hashtags. For B2B LinkedIn is
fantastic. You’ve got other places like Cora. If you don’t know any of
those then just use Google alerts. Set up your free Gmail account. Listen
using Google alerts but honestly, Trent, I love talking to people. I love
the good old fashioned, I call it the reader call and I’ve been publishing
for a long time. You actually call a reader and you talk to them. What do
they think of the magazine? What do you think of online? What are you
getting out of it? What are you not? We take all that together. Surveys are
fantastic as well. I mean online surveying tools are pretty much free now.
Use those as well.

Trent: Yeah, Survey Monkey, if you’ve never done that before is a
terrific one and it’s free to use. Alright. I think the only part of the
content, before I shift gears to talk about how you made CMI so successful
is the whole measurement aspects. You know, you’re doing this stuff and
you’ve got Google analytics and you’ve got Facebook insights but it’s kind
of all over the place. If someone, if they don’t know what to look for,
what are the things they should look for and how should they measure it?

Joe: I think the first thing is you’ve got to make sure you figure out
what your goal is because there is no one measurement. How do I measure
social media? I would say, ‘Well why are you on social media? What are you
doing?’ So, let’s say if your goal was, ‘Oh we want to retain our
customers’, well those measurement metrics are much different if you wanted
to create top of the funnel activity. So if it’s top of the funnel activity
that you’re after, I think what we already talked about was actually
getting people, things like where are we landing on our top search engine
keywords. Like, for example at CMI, we have a running list, a changing
list, of 50 keyword variations. I know where we are at in those at all
times. I know where our competitions at and I know where we are trending.
So that’s one way to measure it so we know how we’re bringing people in.

Social media shares are a very important one. Number one is List
Scrub. We track it every day. We want to see how we’re trending. Where are
they coming from? Which posts are getting more people to sign up and which
posts aren’t? Which contributors are doing better and which ones aren’t?
For my small business what we’ve looked at is we can track revenue much
more effectively once we have them in the database so that’s why the email
is critically important. Let’s say you’re going to do something more
traditionally, I mean this is online marketing we’re talking about.

But if you’re talking about retention, you might look at a newsletter
or a magazine going to customers. Well in that case, you’re going to show
measurement, you do an AB test. Hold some back. What’s somebody spending
that getting the newsletter versus somebody that is not getting the
newsletter? Those types of things. That’s bringing back year and years of,
you know, the AB tests and publishing with those types of things. I would
just first figure out what are you doing and then figure out what your
return on objective. I cannot stand ROI, to say return on investment. In
content marketing, what does that mean? I want to know what your return on
objective is. What are you trying to do and then we’ll figure out the
social metrics, the sharing metrics, the lead gen metrics or the sales
metrics that you can put against that objective.

Trent: I want to ask you one mildly technical question. This is for my
own selfish interest but I’m pretty sure other people will want to know the
answer. You said, which posts are causing the most opt in? So, you have got
an opt in box on your side bar which I am assuming is the same piece of
code no matter what post I’m looking at. Then down towards the bottom of
the post, you have another opt in box which, how I would do that, is I
would have used a plug in to put the same piece of code at the bottom of
every post so I wouldn’t necessarily know which post was the one that was
causing the most opt-ins to occur. How are you guys doing this so you’re
getting that data?

Joe: You can do it through Google analytics and setting up and I’m not the
Google analytics person so bear with me, but what is it called? Setting up
a funnel? Set up a funnel in there so you can track by posts, which ones
get conversions.

Trent: Do you have to do that for every single post? Do you have to
make a new funnel in analytics or is there a way to have that [inaudible
33:33]

Joe: I actually don’t know. I need to check on that. I don’t know how
we’re doing it. I can tell you that what I do know is I can tell how many
people sign up on the bottom versus the side versus here’s the number one
thing and I don’t know if you’ve been to your site a couple times and
you’ve seen a pop up?

If you’ve seen that pop-up that’s Ippity. Ippity is integrated within
Wordpress and that actually, our dirty little secret is, I cannot stand pop-
ups as a user. But I love them as the publisher because more than 50% of
our sign-ups come directly through that pop up.

Trent: Mine is even higher. I think I’m at 63% it is, by far.

Joe: It’s the dirty little secret of the business that we’re in that we
all cannot stand pop-ups, but they work.

Trent: Yeah, I’m able to track which location, the number, the
percentage, all that but if you can talk to your person after and wouldn’t
mind emailing me how to do that in analytics?

Joe: I will check on that, absolutely.

Trent: If it’s something I can republish on the post for the
listeners, I will do that as well.

Joe: Fantastic.

Trent: All right. I want to shift gears now and talk about the
building of the Content management or rather Marketing Institute. So, it
says you’ve got over 30,000 people on your list and you re-branded in late
2011?

Joe: ’10. May of 2010.

Trent: So May of 2010, so you’re two and a half years with this brand
name? Yeah?

Joe: Correct.

Trent: So, let’s kind of go back to your first six months. What kinds
of results did you get? Like how big did your list get within your first
six months and then what were some of the activities that you were using to
get traction?

Joe: The difference between what we were doing before and when we launched
the Content Marketing Institute is it’s a multi-author blog. So what we do
is we find contributors from the outside and every day, this is new, I have
the Saturday post. I used to have my own blog on a different platform. But
every Saturday is my blog but the other six days are contributors and there
is a very specific reason why we did that. Because we had our network. I
had my network. Employees had their networks but we wanted to reach our
contributors’ networks. So influencers in the industry because we wanted to
reach out as far as we could and get people talking about us and content
marketing and sharing our stuff that wasn’t being shared.

You have to do that through, I like it, but you don’t have to, but
the best way to do that in my opinion is through an influencer strategy and
we use these contributors. So what we do is we sign them up. We say ‘Hey,
would you like to contribute on our blog? Here’s our blog guidelines.’ They
submit the content. We have an editor on staff that edits that piece of
content like crazy because we want that contributor to look like a rock
star and then when that piece of content comes out, they do look like a
rock star. It’s fantastic. And you know what those people do? They share it
with their network. We don’t have anything attached to that network right
now but they get our content. They come back to our site. We can convert
them. They can come back the more they see Content Marketing Institute is
doing great things.

We’ve added over 150 contributors. So let’s say over the first six
months we had 30, 40 contributors. We knew really quickly that this was
going to work well because at the time I think our traffic. We just look at
traffic numbers. I think we were doing about maybe 15,000 to 20,000 unique
visitors every month. And now, I think the last time I checked, we were
over 150,000. That happened in a very short period of time just because of
the fact that we were getting that kind of reach that we weren’t normally
getting and that’s also because of the linking then. We got such
credibility with Google really fast because of all the inbound links that
we got. I love the model of the multi-author blog. I think that more
organizations should use it. I think if you’re a small business listening
to this, you should really take it and because of the fact that you’re
saying ‘Hey, we want to share as much great content about the industry as
possible and we’d like to share it on this platform’. It can really work
for a lot of companies.’

Trent: So when you were at that point and you didn’t have a big
following and you didn’t have a lot of traffic and you’re going out there
to these people and you’re saying hey, why don’t you write for free for my
blog because it’s going to benefit. What did that conversation look like?
Because I’m right there right now. I would love to have a lot of
contributors. If you’re listening to this and you want to contribute, get
in touch. trent@brightideas.co.

Joe: This didn’t just start when CMI launched. This started when I
launched the company in 2007. So before the rebrand. Basically, I call it
giving content gifts. So we would use the tools like Google alerts, like
Twitter, to find out well who are those influencers? The best question to
ask is where are my customers hanging out when they are not on my site?
Make a list of those. Those could be media companies. Could be bloggers.
Could be other influencers. Could be competitors. Make a list of those. And
then what you do is that becomes part of your content distribution
strategy, and I’ll give you an example.

So let’s take Twitter. Most people, for the most part, they share
their own content. Some things that are interesting but a lot of their
content is self serving. ‘Hey, we’re doing this, we’re doing that. We’re
great.’ What we did on Twitter and what I did specifically is I would take
that influencer list and you could start with 10 to 15 and I would
consistently share their content that was relevant to my audience, but I
would share their content. And you do this for months without doing
anything. Or most people go wrong when they go and say, ‘Hey would you
contribute to my blog or podcast?’ They don’t know you from Adam. What you
want to do is you want to keep sharing their stuff because when you go to
them in a month or two months, they are going to know you and they will say
yes because you’ve been sharing their content and they love you for it.
There is not anybody out there that would say ‘Stop sharing my stuff’.
Everybody gets the game. They know it. They love it. So you need to build
that rapport with them.

My good friend Andrew Davis who wrote a book called Brandscaping, he
coined this whole idea called ‘Social Media 411′. The whole idea is of
every six social media posts, one is your promotional post about your
product and service. So get that out of the way even though nobody will
probably read it. One is your piece of educational content or helpful
content on your site. And then four, that’s helpful content that you’re
sharing from other influencers. You’re letting them know you’re tagging
them on Twitter. Tagging them on Facebook so they know and that’s how
you’re building your network. We’ve done that and now we probably get about
four or five people that want to contribute a day. We can’t even handle all
the contributors. This has happened over a three year period. But I just
call it giving content gifts. The more you give, the more you will get, I
promise you it will work that way.

Trent: Please feel free to refer those people to my way.

Joe: I would be happy to Trent.

Trent: Okay. Thank you. All right, so you started to use this multi-
author model. You started to get traction quickly. Are you monetizing yet
in your first six months? Or are you just building?

Joe: When did we monetize? Yes. We did. We have a unique model that I
probably stole somewhere called The Benefactor Model. We called it Content
Marketing Institute. We wanted to be like an industry organization around
the concept of content marketing. Went to some companies that I already had
relationships with and sold the concept of what the institute was all about
and we had three or four companies basically fund us from the start about
this concept. If you scroll down to the bottom of Content Marketing
Institute.com, you’ll see ten benefactors there. I sold it as ‘Limited to
ten and you’d need to sign up now for X amount of money’. and right away,
actually before we launched the site we had already had money behind it. So
that’s a very good way to do it, if you can get it. Let’s say you can’t. So
basically that was our monetization to start with. It didn’t seriously. Go
ahead.

Trent: I wanted to ask what did that conversation look like? What was
in it for them? What did you say to them? What did you charge them?

Joe: Shared the vision with what we were trying to do. I could only use
the traffic that we had from the previous site. I said ‘Here is what the
vision is. This is going to be the leading educational platform, so a lot
of smoke and mirrors.’ Did the best we could. But what I promised them was
that they would have first right of refusal forever on that spot. I would
always limit it to ten. And that they would receive 10% of the inventory of
our, basically, square banner on the right side and on every page of the
site they would have a logo and link.

Trent: Okay, so….

Joe: In addition, if they wanted to, and we would have to go through
approval process but we would also let them blog once a month about
something that would interest our customers but it would have to be
approved by editorial. That was the program. That was the benefactor
program.

Trent: I see them down all along the bottom. Curada. Brand Point. PR
Newswire, etc. You mentioned that they get some other real estate as well?

Joe: There’s the banner on the right side. There are two things that will
go there. There could be a house ad or there could be one of our banners
from our benefactors. If there’s a square on the right side.

Trent: Right now I’m seeing, towards the top, so they attend our
upcoming event Content Marketing World Sydney. That’s a house ad I’m
assuming?

Joe: That’s a house ad. That’s a house ad.

Trent: In that space is where you’ll rotate through your other guy.
Your benefactors?

Joe: If you hit refresh a couple times and you should see that go to a
couple different, you’ll see a couple pop up from our benefactors.

Trent: The banner that’s to the left of that, the bigger one, is that
a paid? Do you just sell that to whomever? Or how does that one get filled?

Joe: That, technically, is always our own inventory that we’re selling.
That could be our white papers. They actually go to sponsored material that
could be our events, that could be our research projects.

Trent: And so these ten benefactors were people that kind of knew you
and had done business with you before? It wasn’t like you were making cold
connections to try and sell these people on this vision.

Joe: The first one. So let’s put it in perspective. The first couple I
knew. Then once we had some traction where I’d be able to sell, we sold all
of them in about six to eight months. I think all of them were sold. And
the longest time that there has been one of those available was about a
half an hour. We’ve got a waiting list for people to sign up for them.

Trent: What do people have to pay to be one of these ten?

Joe: It’s $25,000 a year to do that.

Trent: A year. Well that definitely helps.

Joe: What’s great about those is it’s reasonable, which is wonderful.
That’s a foot in the door to a lot of the other things that we do. So if
you look at those sponsors on there you will notice that a lot of those
sponsors are our sponsors for Content Marketing World. They advertise in
our magazine. But what happened first was that benefactor.

Trent: Okay. All right, so you started to monetize with them very
early on. What was next? An event? More content? Keep walking me through.

Joe: When we made the decision, when I said basically this old model is
not working. All entrepreneurs listening to this, the pivot happened,
right? And I said, ‘That’s it. We’re going to go this direction’ and I made
the decision that I’m going to give 100%. We’re going to go all in and I
said well, if we’re going to be the leading resource for content marketing,
we’ve got to have the leading event. We’ve got to have the leading
magazine. So at that same time, when ContentMarketingInstitute.com
launched, three months later, September we had already committed. We said
Content Marketing World 2011 is going to happen. So we announced it a year
in advance that we were going to do an event.

To be honest with you, the original plan was to get 100 or 150 people
there and we were blessed to have 650 show up. And we knew we were on to
something at that point. The same thing with the magazine. At first when we
launched the magazine in January of ’11, had to do the same thing with the
benefactor. We pre-sold. ‘Hey, it’s going to go to 20,000. It’s going to be
great. Yada yada.’ I had to call in a few favors here and there for people
to advertise. But, it worked out well from that standpoint. The magazine
came along in January. That was all the build up to the event which
happened in September of ’11. Then ever since then it’s been rolling. We’ve
been adding all kinds of wonderful things and then last year’s event got
over 1,000 people.

Trent: That’s fantastic. When you re-branded from and I don’t
remember, Junta 42?

Joe: Yeah, that’s okay. Junta 42. Nobody could remember it anyways. That’s
one of those things where you think. Here’s a little piece of advice for
people on this call. If you think you’re going to come up with the coolest
web 2.0 name. You know what? Sometimes boring is better. Honestly, Content
Marketing Institute, to me, is so boring but you know what? People don’t
have to ask what you do anymore. People know exactly what they do. At least
they get a good ball park idea when you say Content Marketing Institute.
Education and training around content marketing. Yes. Junta 42, I spent
more time explaining what we did and you know. You live and learn.

Trent: So you had a staff helping you right from the get-go? Because
you had built this other company and had people on board. Was there ever a
time when it was just you behind CMI?

Joe: If you’re familiar with Penton Media? Penton Media is the largest,
independent business media company in North America. I ran the custom media
division there. I left in March of 2007. I was open for business in April
of 2007 and it was just me. It was just me for quite a long time. Probably
about a year and then my wife came on board. We’re a complete 100% virtual
company. About ten full time people all over the world and we use about 30
or so additional contractors. But for the most part it was me just to
start.

Trent: I love the virtual model. I anticipate that I will have staff
with the software company I’m a co-founder of and even Bright Ideas as it
grows but I don’t want to have offices again.

Joe: Well why would you? Unless you actually have customers that have to
see you, like have to go see you every day. There is no reason. By the way,
ego got to me because I actually looked at office space. I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m
going into business for myself. I’ve got to find an office space.’ No you
don’t. You don’t have to. And the other thing is you don’t have to hire
people full time either. That’s a whole other thing. There’s a ton of
people out there that love the 30 hour flex time. They want to have some
things to do on the side. They already have benefits maybe through a spouse
or whatever and they are willing to work whenever you need them to work and
it has worked fantastic for us and we love the model.

Trent: How do you find all those people? Are you using the Freelancer
and Odesks of the world? Are they coming to you now?

Joe: Some of the people were people that I’ve worked with in the past. So,
a lot of people that I worked with at Penton that I knew. But our content
director, I had met her, I didn’t even meet her. I knew of her on Twitter
because I saw what she was sharing on Twitter. Took me to a couple of her
blog posts and then basically sent her an email, talked to her on the
phone. She was like our first major content hire and I didn’t meet her
until nine months after we hired her.

Trent: Wow. Nice.

Joe: For our industry, like if you’re a marketing agency, I look at their
social media platforms and I look at their blogging and that’s what we kind
of stick to. It’s a really good indicator of what they do.

Trent: Yeah, absolutely. Sadly, I am running into a time constraint
now. Which totally sucks because I want to keep going. So I am probably
going to be inviting you back again in the not too terribly distant future.
It has been absolutely a pleasure to have you on. I look forward to meeting
you in person at one point in the not too distant future because you know
I’m going to be at your next CMI event.

Joe: That would be great. Trent, it’s been a pleasure. If you ever need
anything let me know. I love talking about this stuff.

Trent: Yeah, no problem. Last question. If people want to get a hold
of you, what is the easiest way to do that?

Joe: Content Marketing Institute.com for the business, joepolizzi.com for
me. I’m @JuntaJoe on Twitter and Content Marketing World is September in
Cleveland.

Trent: Alright. Terrific. Joe, thank you so much for making some time
to be on the show and look forward to having you back.

Joe: Thanks Trent.

Trent: To get access to the show notes for today’s episode, head over
to Brightideas.co/36. And if you run a marketing agency and you’d like to
get access to the 2013 Bright Ideas Marketing Agency Industry Report, head
over to Brightideas.co/2013report. And finally if you’re looking for some
really smart traffic generations strategies head over to
brightideas.co/massivetraffic and enter your email address and you’ll be
given free access to the Bright Ideas massive traffic tool kit, which is a
compilation of all the very best traffic generation ideas that have been
shared with me by the guests on Bright Ideas. I’m Trent Dyrsmid, I’m your
host and this wraps up this episode.

If you enjoyed it, please head over to iTunes and leave a five star
rating along with your feedback comments. Thank you so much. We’ll see you
in another episode of the Bright Ideas podcast soon. Take care.

Recording: Thanks very much for listening to the Bright Ideas podcast.
Check us out on the web at brightideas.co.

About Joe Pulizzi

joe-pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe is first and foremost a content marketing evangelist, and founded the Content Marketing Institute (a division of Z Squared Media, a 2012 Inc 500 Company), which includes the largest in-person content marketing event, Content Marketing World, as well as Chief Content Officer magazine, the leading magazine for content marketers. Joe is also co-author of  Get Content Get Customers (McGraw-Hill), recognized as THE handbook for content marketing, as well as Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand.

Awarded “Custom Media Innovator of the Year” by American Business Media, Voted Who’s Who in Media Business by BtoB MagazineFolio: 40, and recognized as the Most Influential Content Strategist via Lavacon,  Joe travels around North America and Europe  talking to marketers and business owners about how they are indeed publishers, and what they need to do about it.

Joe writes one of the most popular content marketing blogs in the world and is overly passionate about the color orange.

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