Content marketing is about giving value first and thinking about money second. Joe Pulizzi is a true practitioner of this methodology. Joe is a quintessential content marketer, author and founder of the Content Marketing Institute. Joe shares his tips on making content go viral, monetizing earned media, finding your niche and more!
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Marketing Speak. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, and I have with me today Joe Pulizzi. Hey, Joe, good to have you on the show.
Stephan, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Right, Joe is the quintessential content marketer. He is like the Godfather of content marketing, frankly. He has several best-selling books. The newest is called Content, Inc. It was number 36 across all books on Amazon, which is quite a feat. It’s currently number 2 in direct marketing and has been for a number of weeks. It’s a category bestseller in marketing in Amazon. It’s just crushing it. That’s Content, Inc. His other book is Epic Content Marketing, and that also was a bestseller in Amazon. He is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, which runs an amazing event called Content Marketing World. I spoke in there twice in 2014 and 2015. It is just a phenomenal conference. The Content Marketing Institute also puts out just an excellent magazine called Chief Content Officer, and Joe and I met at the Marketing Profs’ Digital Marketing Summit several years ago. We just ended up by chance having lunch together and the rest is history. I spoke at multiple Content Marketing Worlds and I’ve done some online trainings for the Content Marketing Institute. Again, here we are today to meet up again and chat about content marketing. He’s also a seasoned podcaster. He has two different podcasts. One is called Content, Inc., which is the companion to the book. He’s at 120 episodes already with that show. They’re very short episodes, 3 to 5 minutes, and he just riffs on a topic and does this every Monday and Tuesday, so that’s pretty awesome. He has another show that he co-hosts called This Old Marketing, and they’re already up to episode 112 with that show. He gets around. He’s in a podcast. He’s in the conference world. He’s online and social media. He’s of course an influencer in social media and it’s just a distinct pleasure to have you here today. Thanks, Joe.
I think everybody’s thinking right now, “That’s way too much content. This guy’s got to stop.” We were talking before the show. I think that I need to put some of these to bed because that’s just a lot.
It does sound a little exhausting, to be honest. I have two shows myself, this one, and then Get Yourself Optimized, and that’s once a week for each show and that’s exhausting. Plus I have my consulting clients and SEO and online marketing. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on.
Yeah, it works, though. We wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t help the business, and it’s interesting with the Content Inc. podcast, I started that podcast 9 months before the book came out. I think one of the reasons why the book was successful was because the podcast set up the marketing for it. Believe it or not, and I guess this is no secret, but most of the content in the book, I already podcasted out. I gave away all the content in the podcast before. Actually, you can listen to all the episodes of the podcast, Stephan, and you probably don’t need to buy the book, so there you go.
I am looking to save a few bucks here and there, so.
There you go. Yeah, just three minutes at a time, you’ll get the entire book, or you could just buy the- It’s just amazing. People like it in different packages. Same thing with Epic Content Marketing. The book that I wrote in 2013. I blogged basically 75% of that book was already out and available before the book was out. People like it in certain packages and I’ve never been shy about saying, “Hey, if you want it for free, just read my blog,” or “You can get it in this wonderful package that we put together nice and neat for you. You could buy the book or get the audiobook or whatever.”
A number of books have stemmed from blogs or podcasts. I think The Long Tail was one of those books that came out of being a blog.
I think it was. I think The Long Tail, I think the first one that I read that was actually a blog, was it called The Dip from Seth Godin? He says right in it, you open up the book and he says, “Basically these are all different pieces parts of my blog posts, so if you don’t want, here it is in my own format.” I’m like, “Wow, that’s fascinating. It’s like he just took content he already had and put a book together.” That just seems a lot easier than writing it fresh.
Oh, for sure. I think John Battelle did the same thing where he blogged and then turned that into The Search.
I don’t know a better way to write a book. I know you’ve written three books, right, Stephan?
I think you just wrote your third one, which was fantastic, and I’ve done every time, I’ve done a book, so Content Inc. was my fourth book. I always do the blog to book strategy. I go ahead and I’ll say, “Okay, here’s the table of contents, here’s how many chapters, break those chapters up into blog posts,” and then I’ll just basically spend the next six months, because I’ve got a blog anyways. I blog for LInkedIn, Entrepreneur, for Content Marketing Institute, and then I’d go ahead and send those out and then basically I can actually meet my blogging deadlines or my writing deadlines as I go and then by the six months period, then I can go back and say, “Oh, great, here we go. 75% is done.” Then I’ll go ahead into the editing and the writing process and fill in the gaps. I think that’s just, if you’re going to write a book, that’s just the way that I do it, and I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve got other deadlines to meet.
It’s a great approach. That’s not the approach that I use. I take a little different tack where I’ll have a ghostwriter assist me with taking my material out of my head by just interviewing me. I find that it’s a lot harder for me just to speak to a microphone. Someone else has to be on the other end of the line in order for it to just flow for me. I’ll have my ghostwriter interview me. We’ll record it, get it transcribed, and then he’ll use that as the material to base the book on and then fill in all the gaps. That works well for me. It’s a lot of work for the ghostwriter but-
If it works, it works. Obviously, it does, and that’s why there’s no one right way to do any of this stuff. You’ve got to find your rhythm.
Sure. Let’s riff a bit more about this idea of content repurposing, because we might have something in a particular form. Let’s say it’s a video or an infographic or whatever, and we haven’t seen all the different applications of that same piece of content in different formats. Some formats can do better in different venues. For example, if you have a blog post, you could reformat that into a short slide deck. You have your top ten lists of these are the top trends in content marketing for 2016 or whatever. You could repurpose that into a slide deck, upload that to SlideShare, which is owned now by LinkedIn, and have an additional format, additional readership, and potential virality in a different community. What would be some really obvious repurposing opportunities for our listeners?
Most of the time, if you’re a marketer out there, what you’ll do is you’ll say, “Oh, that blog post went great,” or “That white paper did awesome. I wonder if there’s other things we can do with it.” That’s 99% of the time. Really what we’d like to do is be in the 1% and say, “Here’s the story we want to tell. Not a blog post, a white paper, infographic. Here’s the story we want to tell. How are we going to tell that story that makes the most impact for the business?” We definitely don’t want to create any more content. The goal is never to create more content. It’s actually to create less content with more impact. What we want to do is plan upfront for that.
If I’m going to say to your point, let’s say that I know that I want to have 3 or 4 PowerPoints like SlideShares every quarter, and let’s say that I’m going to do that on a monthly basis, so every month I’m going to have a Slide Share. I’m going to go back to, “Here’s my editorial calendar, and how do I make that go?” You’ll start to look at your editorial calendar and say, “Oh, okay. Here I’ve got these 6 blog posts and I’m going to link these 2 up, and each of those 2 will become 1 Slide Share or 1 PowerPoint presentation. This one here, this one will become the podcast for the March first episode, and we’ll start looking at doing that.” There’s very few people and businesses that look at it that way, and I think that that’s where we miss our mark, because if you don’t do that, you’re basically creating a new project every time. Which is fine. You’re still using the content asset. You’re still going in and you’re using the blog post, you’re using the white paper, and you’re saying, “How do I tell that story differently?” Look at all the time. You’ll get ROI right away if you go to the beginning and say, “Here’s how we’re going to do it.” I’ll give you another example of what we did at Content Marketing Institute. The last two weeks of December around the holidays, we’ll do a blog post that’ll be a compilation of different pieces of content that we’ve already created. It’s like “The Top Ten Templates of 2015”. People do this all the time. It’s not new, but we use existing content and then we talk about that. We know we’re going to do that in January. We know 12 months before, so that we know, “Oh, okay, we’ve got a top ten list. We need 10 of these, so that’s going to be January through September that we’re going to put out these templates, and then in December we’re going to have an overall up to every one of those becomes a slide share if you will as we’re going through it, and then part of those, from those slide shares, we’re going to pull out a template. Those templates are going to be used. We’re going to use that as a download for our email newsletter, so that’s fantastic. That’ll email download for the first six months, and part of this information is going to go in our documentary, let’s say, or an article in the Chief Content Officer magazine. Anyway, I’m just rambling at this point, Stephan, but I think you get the idea that you want to plan for repurposing up front instead of thinking about it after the fact, which is what I see most people doing. They wait for a content hit and then they say, “How can I repurpose?” You want to plan for that to happen in the first place.
Couldn’t agree with you more. One of my clients, Zappos, from a while back, they created a Guinness world record, most simultaneous high fives. It was at a stadium and they got everybody to do high fives all at the same time, and that was cool. It was remarkable in that it was worth remarking about, to use Seth Godin’s definition of remarkable. However, they didn’t leverage it very well. They didn’t follow on with other things to keep that alive. I could imagine an infographic, for example, of different kinds of high fives or different kinds of hand gestures and maybe what they mean in different countries, like some will get you shot and so forth, depending on what part of the world you’re in. Then viral videos, like man on the street sort of videos. Show us your different kinds of high fives that you can do or different hand gestures and just get people’s reactions in different parts of the world where you’re doing these different hand gestures and it means something quite different. You could do comics. You could do listicals and Slide Shares and all sorts of really cool stuff with that concept, but it just fell flat because all they did was just the Guinness world record. They got it and then they wrote about it or something and then that just died.
Then it’s done. It’s just like every campaign out there, and that’s what we see in most content programs. They’re all called “Content Campaigns” because they’re short term. They stop. I would take, I don’t know what the significance of the hand gestures is besides the world record for their brand and the story they want to tell, but let’s just say it was integral to their story. I would say, “How do we continue to tell that story ongoing and build an audience around this that’s going to be important to our business?” You might be creating the definitive platform for hand gestures where part of that is the world record thing, but part of it would be, “We got the newsletter out of it. Every day we’ve got a new hand gesture from a different part of the country or part of the world or whatever you’re talking about. You’ve got a pod. You’ve got all these things that you’re building a community around this thing because if it was important to do for the world record, I hope it was important to do more for your business in some way. I would look at that as an ongoing effort like you’d never stop it. I think that’s where most brands just don’t do that. They’re like, “Oh, okay, here’s the campaign we’re going to do, this is what we’re going to do for the next 6 to 9 months, and then we’re going to stop and do something else.” I just think that’s just a waste of time and energy. The worst thing is if you actually do create an audience in the first six months and then you just tell them, “Hey, that was great, but now we’re going to go do something else.” I’m like, “Really? You had me, I was captivated. Now it’s over?” It just seems like there’s better ways to use our time and resources than to just start and stop.
Agreed. Let’s talk a bit more about story-telling. How does one create a compelling story and then create the different avenues for telling that story and keep people riveted throughout the story arc and talk a bit more about storytelling.
I’m going to put this in business terms and the reason I want to do that is that storytelling, and I think we’ve talked about this before, storytelling is maybe an overused term. I’ve used it a thousand times in my books. I’ve been one of the people that I’ve actually overused it. What I’d like to look at is, is that why are we telling stories and then how do we tell something that’s ultimately going to captivate an audience or make it remarkable, as we talked about before, because I don’t want this to be a one-time thing.
Yeah, and I would say, facts tell, stories sell.
Absolutely. Ongoing, consistent stories are what sell the most, and how do we know this? Is because look at every major media company out there. How have they done this? They’ve found a content niche that they really can tell some amazing stories around on a consistent basis. They built an audience base and they’ve been able to monetize that audience. That’s exactly what every brand wants to do, except instead of monetizing that audience through paid content or paid advertising like the majority of media companies do, we’re trying to sell more products and services. Basically, we’re trying to do the same thing. A couple things up front that I would start with, and before you embark on your storytelling journey, would be, first of all, what’s the sweet spot for you? There’s two sides to that intersection between the sweet spot. One is, what is your authority area that you can actually tell stories around? Where do you have the knowledge and skill areas in maybe better than most, or maybe you’re going to invest in that you actually have some credibility to talk about? That’s really important. On the other side, there’s actually two things you could look at. One is, if you’re a small business entrepreneur, what is your passion area? The reason why passion is so important in this, because the first many, many months of you creating content, whatever platform it is, it’s going to be a lonely experience, because it takes time to build an audience.
As you and I both know when you start a podcast, you start some initiative, you don’t have a big audience at first. It takes time to build that audience, and you’d better have passion about it, or you’re not going to get up the next week or the next day or whatever it is and do this thing. Let’s say if you’re a good sized company. You might say, “Okay, not passion, but what’s that customer pain point that we can really focus on? What is keeping our customers up at night?” That’s maybe something you want to focus on. That intersection between those two things, that’s called the sweet spot. That’s where we want to start. Most times stuff, and that’s where people just start telling stories right away. “Great, I’ve got a passion for fiberglass pools. We know a little bit more about it than most. We’re just going to start creating content, answer all questions about fiberglass pools.” Well, you’ve got to go to step 2. Step 2 is, we call this the content till. You have to find an area of little to no competition on the web where you actually have a fighter’s chance to break through. You have to tell a different story, and this is what gets almost every company out there. You know this, especially working in SEO, where you go into a company, and they say, “Here’s all the content we’re creating,” and you look at it and you’re like, “Well, this is what everybody else is talking about. This is no different. This is not going to break through at all. This is not remarkable at all, and actually I can go to 100 different places right now, even according to Google, and I can find content that’s exactly like this. It’s not share-worthy. It’s not impactful. It’s not going to change my customer’s lives in any way. We want to start there. Before we start to create any stories, however we’re going to tell them, I like to look at those two areas because then we can really figure out, “Okay, creating this audience and this community is really going to be worthwhile and valuable.” It’s going to be impactful to the business and it’s going to work because we’ve actually focused on a content niche that we can actually be the leading information expert in the world and if we put in the work, it’s going to make sense for our business.
It’s a total non-starter if your content is hum-drum, it’s just me-too content, basically tell your story from your perspective. You want more product going out the door. You want to sell more of your services. That’s not going to yield the opportunity that you want it to.
Yeah. Nobody cares about your products or services. That’s the first thing, whenever we do a content advisory day, or you’re working with a group of small business owners, I always have to say, “Remember, nobody cares about your products and services. All that time you’re spending on all that content about how your products and services are so awesome, nobody cares. Nobody gives a crap about that at all.” Nobody cares. Sometimes those things can be valuable. By the way, that’s usually the majority of content that businesses have, about themselves. Which is totally fine, I totally get that. That’s a very small portion of the buyer’s journey. Maybe 1%, 2%, or something? Okay, then they need that because they’re going to make a final purchase decision. I’d rather not even get to that point. I’d rather be the organization or the person that they’ve been looking for for all this insight to help them be smarter, to help them get a better job, live a better life in some way, be that person that they have relied on so that when they do decide to buy something that we have to offer, they never even go anywhere else. They just come to us.
If you have your face to your company, you end up having your butt to the customer. You turn your face around, face the customer, serve their needs, it’s all about them, and not about the company. Now you’ve got your butt to the company. You may lose your job.If you have your face to your company, you end up having your butt to the customer. Click To Tweet
But you’re going to be delivering so much better content.
It all starts audience first. Every writing book that you could possibly say. I just read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” which by the way is a fantastic book and I can’t believe it took me this long to actually read it, but as he goes through it’s like, you have to have your preferred reader- I forget what he calls it- but whatever your PR is or whatever that reader is, that basically is your audience persona, in mind at all times, and as you are writing the content, you always have that person or that customer, that persona, in mind. That persona is not you. You are not the audience for your content. That’s where so many businesses go wrong. We think, “Oh well, I‘ll like this. This is what I would want to know.” But you’re not the audience for your content. You have to get out of that.
This will really blow people’s minds is, one of your personas, that’s critically important, isn’t a potential customer. It’s an influencer. It’s the linkerati, the folks out there who have a lot of authority and importance in the eyes of Google and other authoritative, important sites like Facebook and get those folks to really resonate with your content. That’s a key persona that most people don’t even think about. Here’s a great example. I think this was from one of your top business to business campaigns in content marketing for 2014 or something like that, or 2013, was Caterpillar did this massive Jenga game, which was brilliant, and was spot on for creating something for influencers that customers are going to say, “Oh, that’s cute,” but they’re not going to say, “Oh, I totally should buy that excavator or whatever, huge piece of equipment, because I saw it on this massive Jenga game on YouTube.” No, it’s for the linkerati. It’s for the influencers, but then juxtaposed that against another company that created what they thought would maybe be a viral video, which completely fell flat. It was a company called Shipserv, and they created an explainer video, how to use their software, using Lego characters. It was all cutesy and so forth, but that has such minimal appeal only to people who are die-hard customers. Thus, only got a couple thousand views, versus Caterpillar’s several million views for their massive Jenga game, I think, is a great example of how to create either for the influencers or how to alienate the influencers, essentially.
You bring up the point where if you could even take it deeper than that and say, “The most important, the first one you should look at is actually your employees.” There’s a whole other conversation we should have before we ever get it out there. I’m a big fan of Don Schultz, father of integrated marketing, teacher at Northwestern University, professor. He always said, “Before you ever start on your external marketing, external communications, you have to first get your internal communications in order, and that’s to make sure, “Hey, what do you need to communicate to them?” These are your best marketing people, your employees, if you use them properly. I’ve done a lot of work in the transportation and logistics industry and the biggest issue they have is turnover of employees. Number one issue more than anything else, and they also know that they get more customers through those people that are loyal to them than anyone else as well. People talking about how their employees are doing stuff, talking with their families. Those are really, really important. You’ll see. The number one communications initiative in transportation is always internal marketing. How are we communicating with the truckers? How are we communicating with their families? That’s a really, really big issue. It just gets to the point where if you’re a B to B company, let’s say, and you’ve got 7 to 9 buyers, decision makers, influencers, in that buyer’s journey, let’s say, or for that product, you’re only going to focus on one at a time, and you have 3 distinct ones and you want to make sure that you know what those audience’s needs are. Where if you’re going, “This is internal. This one’s to influencers. This one’s to my audience at this particular time.” That’s why this is not easy. If this was easy, then we wouldn’t even have a company, Content Marketing Institute where people need to actually learn on this thing ongoing. Most people are not, this is a new muscle for most people that they haven’t used before. We’re really, really good at paid media. We’re really, really good at interruption. We’re not really good at creating long term relationships with customers over time through content. Off my soapbox, so there you go.
We are in the attention economy and it’s all about interruptions. It’s all about clickbait, linkbait, going viral, and not about developing as much the rapport and ongoing dialog. It’s just a quick hit, in and out. I think that’s doomed for failure eventually. We’re just going to get all burned out from information overload.
Yeah. The quick hit, viral happens after a thousand pieces of really good content. That Caterpillar thing doesn’t come along very often. Most of the time, when something really goes viral, it’s because and the audience has been built up to such a point where that they start sharing it, or you’re targeting the correct audience, and then it really works over time. Ann Reardon is a really good example of this. Ann Reardon, she’s known as the baking queen of Sydney, Australia. Stay-at-home mom, and she starts creating recipes and videos about baking. How many of those are out there? How do you cut through all the clutter in recipes? There’s a thousand of them every minute of the day. She said, “Well, I want my differentiation to be when somebody sees my content or my videos, I want them to say, ‘Wow, that was impossible! How does she do that?’” She does things like, how do you take 5 pounds of Snickers bars and put them into a cake, or how do you, I don’t know if you’ve seen this or something, but she did the one where you had the Instagram cake, where it was basically a chocolate cake and you slice it down the middle and it was a perfect replica of the Instagram logo. I don’t know how she did it. It was impossible. That one, that was way down the line. I think that was after she was blogging, doing these videos, for a year and a half or so. That one went viral. It didn’t just, she didn’t just get it on her first try. Now she went from 100 subscribers in 2012 and now she’s got well over 2 million subscribers. Her business is going gangbusters and it’s fantastic, but it took her a time to get there. I think because we think that we can instantly communicate with somebody and anybody can publish content, and everybody is a publisher, that we’re just try to get it all at once. It’s slow and steady. It’s just like we were talking before, the whole Warren Buffett thing. It’s slow and steady that wins the day. It’s just we don’t notice that. We think that every time we see this viral thing, it’s like, “Oh, that’s what I want to do.” Well, not so much. Slow and steady still wins and I don’t care how many new social platforms are out there. It will still win. In every case study that I look at, it’s almost always the case where it didn’t happen overnight. It takes 6, 9, 12 months of consistency. One content type, one platform, building an audience over time.
That same analogy could be applied of multi-year overnight success can be applied to businesses as well. You get these stories of unicorns, of huge companies selling for billions of dollars that just came out of the woodwork. It took time for those founders to get to the point where they were able to create that overnight success. That really wasn’t actually overnight. Instagram and Flickr and so forth, Flickr started as an online game and then they just took one of the best parts of the game, was the photo-sharing capabilities. That became their business and then they were able to sell it to Yahoo.
Actually, there’s a company in the Cleveland area here where I’m from called Highland Software. They get all the press because they’ve been able to create this amazing program called OnBase. They’re growing faster than anyone else. I think right now they’re probably like a $500 million company, so pretty good size. They do enterprise content management, and you go into their hallway and it’s all basically a start-up of the year, and all these, grew out of nowhere, they think, but then you see they have the financials on the wall from when they started back in like 1993 or something like that where it was the first year, they made like $5,000. Then the next year was like $120,000 of revenue. Then on and on and on. You see how long it’s actually been to get there and then, “Oh, somebody noticed,” and then here they are, unicorn. It’s interesting how that works. Same thing with content marketing. Same exact thing.
You know, with content marketing, it just seems to be the buzzword du jour, but it’s been a thing for a very long time. It just didn’t have the name associated with it. In SEO, we used to call linkbuilding. Now we call it content marketing.
SEO and content marketing are two very different things.
Oh, don’t do that. It’s still linkbuilding. It’s not content marketing. SEO and content marketing are two very different things. They’re a lot-
I agree, but if you talk about linkbuilding to a prospect, they’re like, “Where are we talking about linkbuilding? Content marketing is the thing.”
Oh, my gosh. That’s where it’s so tough on all these terms. Content marketing, basically brands telling stories to attract and retain customers, has been around for hundreds of years. I like to use the John Deere, the Furrow Magazine example. John Deere created the Furrow Magazine in 1895. They were a very small business at the time. They were targeting their current customers. They wanted their customers to be more successful as farmers. It was targeting the farming life and how they could hire the right people and grow their business and whatnot. Now if you look at the Furrow Magazine, it’s still in production today. 1.5 million subscribers, 40 countries, 14 languages, and it is the largest media company in the farming industry. It’s not a media company. It’s actually John Deere and I love to use that example because it obviously took time to do that. It was in print format, but that’s what content marketing is. That’s a print product. It’s in person, but I totally get the idea where we’re thinking that we’re a search engine optimization, SEM, and content marketing and social media marketing are all tied in, but this idea of creating valuable, relevant content to a very particular audience and doing it consistently over time with the hopes of building an audience, that’s where we’re really talking about content marketing and I think that SEO is part of that. It’s just something different.
There was one model that really appeals to me that’s a triangle where you’ve got three structures to your online marketing, or three areas to your online marketing. You have earned media, owned media, and paid media. SEO would fit under earned media, but having a blog, having a video library and so forth, those would go under-owned media, and that content could be repurposed onto earned media and get free traffic to your videos, for example, on YouTube, on Vimeo and so forth. You could also get some paid media in there too with buying advertising on YouTube and get more views that way and so forth. You have the structure with the three areas, where does content marketing fit in that paradigm?
Traditionally, it’s been owned. Traditionally, if you’re creating your own event, your own magazine, your own blog, your own video series, technically, that would go under the owned. Rebecca Leigh uses the term converged media, and that’s probably what it is more than anything else, because if you have a content marketing approach, you are going to use paid media. You hopefully are going to get earned media out of it, but it’s something that you own as well that you’re trying to develop an audience, and audience is an asset long term. That’s why it’s so tough to put it in one of those pockets. If you forced me to, I would say, “Well, it goes in owned.” If you start a, let’s say that you start a video series, like Matthew Patrick does The Game Theorists, got 5 million subscribers on YouTube, where does that go? Does that go on, is that owned? It’s somebody else’s platform.
No, that’s earned. They own the videos but they don’t own the platform and they don’t own the audience that subscribe to them.
Exactly, but the approach is now he’s, then he wants to lead them back to his website because he’s trying to get email subscribers, because he doesn’t want YouTube to have the control over those subscribers, so now it’s coming back to owned. It’s all over the place.
Which is really tough, by the way, when you have a big subscriber base on YouTube, getting those people to hop back onto your website is tough. There are little things you can do to help sway things in your favor, like put the link at the beginning of your video’s description. It becomes clickable and they’ll be visible without the visitor clicking the link to show the full description. You can have annotations with calls to action to visit the website and so forth. The thing is, is it’s kind of a walled garden. It’s really tough.
Whether you look at iTunes, whether you’re doing this on Medium, whether you’re doing it on YouTube, whatever the case is, the problem is is that’s somebody else’s platform. That’s not yours. You’re renting your space on there and you’re trying to, whatever goal you have to build your audience on somebody else’s platform. The problem is, let’s just take YouTube for example, because it’s interesting the way that so many people like a PewDiePie or a Smosh, or whatever, that they build these big audiences on that platform. PewDiePie has got 33 million subscribers on that platform, but if YouTube decides to, which they can, per their algorithm changes, they might say, “Well, I don’t want to show, even though somebody subscribes to you, these 33 million people, PewDiePie, I’m going to show them a Jimmy Fallon video, because I’d rather do that because I get, we’re trying to drive more revenue that way, or more eyeballs, or whatever the case is.” They can do that. That’s why it’s tough if you build your publishing platform on somebody else’s property, what are you going to do if they change the rules, like Facebook did? They’re all going to change the rules. They all continue to. LinkedIn does this. Twitter does this. Everybody’s changing their rules. What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to build in something so that you can build an audience something of value. The value is not in the content. The value is in the audience. You create the content to build the audience. We don’t have the audience, what do we have? If YouTube shut down tomorrow, like, “Man, there goes my entire business model. I am done.” Which would keep me up at night, which is why if you look at Matthew Patrick and Smosh, Smosh is a good example. Smosh basically grew up on YouTube. Millions of subscribers, look at all their calls to action. Everything what you talked about, everything in the videos, it’s all going back to their website because they’re trying to get email subscribers because they know that basically all the control is with YouTube.
Us podcasters, we’re beholden to Apple with iTunes, and Google is coming out with their version of iTunes for podcasters in Google Play. They’re supporting now the ability to have your podcast show listed and get found through Google Play. That’s pretty cool for those who are Android.
Exactly. It’s the same thing for us. It’s that we’ve got to make sure our calls to action go somewhere or hopefully they’ll be compelled to go somewhere where we can actually build that audience ourselves and have the most. That’s why I love, by the way, that’s why we have a magazine. It’s amazing. We get more people filling out information on themselves and giving away this information for our free magazine than anything else we do. It’s unbelievable. People say, “Why would you do a print magazine?” I say, “It’s not a print play, it’s a data play.” I get more information about our audience than anything else we do. That and webinars. It’s just interesting. Just a different take.
Yeah, that’s genius. One way that I do that is by having self-assessments where people fill out a questionnaire in order to get an assessment, like a mini audit, without human intervention, so I pre-wrote all the questions, all the multiple choice answers, and then the recommendations based on the answers. In fact, you can have multiple layers or levels to this so that based on how you answer the questions, you might get additional questions that you have to answer, and then finally you get the output, which is in a PDF. I created a WordPress plugin for that, because I didn’t find anything that did this, and I wanted this.
I’m not smart enough to create a plugin.
Well, I had somebody else do that. I delegated. Back in the day I wrote plugins.
I can delegate. I can’t do much of anything else, so there you go.
Back in the day, I did program, but that’s not my highest best use. I wrote the first version of the SEO Title Take plugin years ago, but then I quickly figured out, this is not my highest best use. I need to delegate this to my programmers.” A couple of quick things I wanted to make sure we cover before we wrap up the episode. In Content Inc., you talk about a six-step process. Let’s quickly talk about that process for our listeners.
Yeah. Basically the six steps, and just so you know how we got there, we went and interviewed dozens and dozens of really successful companies. Basically these companies and entrepreneurs and small businesses, they built huge audiences and they’ve been able to monetize those audiences, and most of the people we talked to were multi-millionaires. I wanted to figure out, how did they do this? How did they go and build this audience, and then launch products and services secondarily? That’s, in almost all cases, that’s what they did. We reverse-engineered the model and we found that they all followed the same six steps. Time tables were a little bit different, but they actually followed the same six steps. The first two I already talked about, which is the sweet spot and the content tilt. That’s basically your content strategy. That’s before you create any content. The third step is what we call building the base. What we found was most interesting, and we covered some of this, but it’s not, “Hey, we want to tell this story and we shoot it out everywhere.” Everyone did the same thing, just like every media company since the dawn of time. They picked for the most part one content type. Is it textual, is it audio, is it video? One content platform. Is it my blogger website, is it iTunes, is it YouTube? They consistently deliver to every, like John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire. I love that example he’s done.
I was just on his show. I was Episode 1159, which is hard to believe he’s had 1159 guests on his podcast, but he releases his podcast every day at [3:30] AM Eastern Time and has done so for the last 3 years. I’m like, “Wow, that’s consistency,” and now he’s a multi-millionaire. He’s done pretty well with the whole thing. Consistently over time. It takes, and it takes usually over 12 months to build a loyal relationship with an audience and to really see impact on the bottom line when you build a trusting audience. Building the base is step 3. Then we’re going to harvest that audience. We’ve just had that conversation. We want to focus on email subscribers, even if you build, let’s say you build your publishing platform on an iTunes or on a YouTube. We want to focus however we can to get as many of those people as part of our email audience as possible, and that’s where, funny enough, most of the revenue ultimately comes from when you’re sending out emails to people that opt in to your content. 4 is harvesting the audience. Then 5 is diversification. What a lot of companies will do is, like I said before. They get this story idea. It’s like, “Oh, I want to do, let’s do the podcasts. Let’s do the book. Let’s do the blog. Let’s do the YouTube series.” No, that’s not the way to do it.
Build the audience on one platform with one content type, harvest that audience, then diversify.
First, you want to build the audience on one platform with one content type, harvest that audience, then we diversify. For us, the Content Marketing Institute, we basically just had a blog for the first 24 months. That’s all we did. Then once we got to well over 10,000 email subscribers, then we launched This Old Marketing podcast. Then we launched Content Marketing World, our event. Then we launched Chief Content Officer magazine. Those types, so that we always did that secondarily in order to extend the reach of that audience and find new people for our initial audience. Then the 6th one is monetization. Any smart marketer, business owner, you’re not going to wait til the 6th step to monetize, but I put it 6th because you usually have to do the first 5 steps to be able to extract a value from that audience that they’re willing to pay for. What we find out is that Content, Inc. for example, in Content Inc. case studies, they usually have revenue streams, five, six, seven different revenue streams into the business. What I love about this whole idea is that in every case, they actually did build an audience first, and then that audience, you become, you know that audience so well, they’ll tell you exactly what to launch. If you look at Brian Clark’s business and CopyBlogger, now Rainmaker, basically blogged for the first 19 months.
He didn’t have any products or services. The audience basically told him, “Here’s what we need, here’s what we’d like you to sell.” He created Rainmaker and now he’s one of the fastest-growing softwares and service companies. It’s actually a very similar example for Rand Fishkin and Fishkin and SEO Moz and now Moz, which I know you know Rand very well. That type of thing works amazingly well and it’s that six step system and it can work, and it can work for any size company. I just love it because it’s a simple model. It’s the model that we used at Content Marketing Institute to do what we’ve been able to do, but most people don’t because it takes time and patience, and you have to focus on an area and an audience where you can actually be the leading expert in the world at something. In a lot of cases, before the content is created, you get companies or individuals that don’t do the amount of work necessary on the strategy side.
That’s a great process, and for you listeners, definitely check out the book Content, Inc. to really dig into that six-step process because that’s critical process. Last question here for you is relating to developing a cult of personality, an authority, a brand for yourself as a person. Your personal brand, I know you write for Entrepreneur.com. You also publish on LinkedIn Pulse. How did you decide which venues that you were going to associate with, that you were going to provide content for, and how is that working for you?
The number one thing, they’re all working fine. I don’t do as much on entrepreneur anymore because they changed their rules. LinkedIn, I try to publish once a month, but the thing that I’m most consistent about that’s built my own brand, my own personal brand, is basically consistent publishing on the Content Marketing Institute blog, which by the way, started in April 26 of 2007, which was Joe Pulizzi’s blog. The Content Marketing Institute blog used to be just mine, and I started basically blogged 3 times a week around content marketing, which actually wasn’t a term at the time, and just started to focus on that area, and built that audience. I was able to diversify that into a business. Now we’ve got 28 people that are fantastic. Then now I really try to pick my spots. I do a lot more of this type of stuff, Stephan, when I’m on your podcast. This is my 5th interview today, so I have one more right after this in 3 minutes. I’ll have 6 interviews today. I have another 7 lined up for Thursday. That’s where I use most of my time is getting on other people’s platforms not going out and speaking. If I can do it on LinkedIn and I’ll get the good promotion behind it, I’ll absolutely do that, but it’s amazing because we’ve talked about this before. There’s so many people that are creating content out there that are trying to create their own platforms. There’s so many opportunities for me personally to get in front of other audiences, so that’s where I try to spend most of my time now.
Our Checklist of Actions to Take
☑ Before you make goals for your external communication, look at your internal communication. How do your employees feel about your company and its goals and ideals?
☑ Start a plan about how you can repurpose content in the future-how do you want the story to transition? What other ways people could enjoy consuming your content?
☑ Find your sweet spot. What do you know a lot about that you love?
☑ Find the till. Create a persona for your audience. What’s a niche that you can find a valuable audience in? How can you make a big impact in their lives and businesses?
☑ Build that base by focusing the majority of your time and resources in building in one specific platform until you have a substantial audience.
☑ Then, find a way to harvest that audience by bringing them into your base, like your email marketing list.
☑ Diversify onto other platforms when you have an audience. Find a valuable way to continue your story you are giving to your audience.
☑ Monetize your list by finding out how you can convert your audience into customers.
☑ Find ways to expand your reach by getting onto other people’s platforms, such as other podcasts, guest blogging, or a YouTube show.
☑ Check out Joe’s amazing resources and tips on ContentMarketingInsitute.com, on the Chief Content Officer, or at Content Marketing World.
About Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of Content Marketing Institute, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s fourth book Content Inc. was just released. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. You can find Joe on Twitter @JoePulizzi.