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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Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:



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

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


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


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

  1. 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

  1. 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


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


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

  1. 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

  1. 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, 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


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


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.

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, 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


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


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


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

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


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 for the business, for

  1. I’m @JuntaJoe on Twitter and Content Marketing World is September in


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 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 And finally if you’re looking for some

really smart traffic generations strategies head over to 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

About 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 Magazine, Folio: 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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