Joe Pulizzi – The Godfather of Content Marketing, Consistency is Key to Online Success.
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Joe Pulizzi – The Godfather of Content Marketing, Consistency is Key to Online Success.

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Joe Pulizzi, is the founder of the contentmarketinginstitute.com
He is an entrepreneur, a coach, prolific speaker and an author.

For more than 15 years Joe has been a passionate evangelist for
content marketing. To say he knows how to provide value and to teach others to do so is a huge understatement.

It was when Joe decided to stop pushing so hard to sell his products and services and set out to create the NUMBER ONE resource on the planet for content marketing education did he see his own business turn around and take off like a shot to become the huge success it is today.

Have a listen to my chat with Joe
See highlights and links from of our chat below…
Check out the transcript or download it to read later: ENJOY!

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  • 1. BigValueBigBusiness.com Joe Pulizzi ContentMarketingInstitute.com TRANSCRIPT James: I want to welcome my very special guest today, from contentmarketinginstitute.com, Mr Joe Pulizzi… Hello Joe – how are you today sir? Joe: James, I am fantastic it’s wonderful to be on your show, thanks for having me. James: Awesome, awesome…Joe I am so grateful to have the privilege to chat with you today and I am extremely excited for you to share with our listeners the deepest depths of your expertise and experience in the world of content marketing. Joe: You’re setting the expectations pretty high there James, I would lower them a little bit. James: No way no way I’m holding your feet to the fire. Joe: Alright, let’s do it James: So listen before we jump in, I want to take a second and congratulate you on the huge success that you’re having with your latest book, the so apropos titled Epic Content Marketing. You reached the number one best seller status on Amazon and you’ve been tapped by Fortune Magazine as one of the five must-read business books in 2013. Sure that is awesome Joe: Thank you sir. It was funny I was talking to somebody the other way about the Fortune thing and I said it’s hard for me to believe that the Fortune editor only read five books and I happened to get that — if you don’t mind into the post – I’m thrilled. I’m happy the book is doing well. I mean, that was my goal. So it’s the third book I’ve written, first one is solo and I just wanted to create something that was of ultimate value and I’m just glad that it’s out there. James: Awesome, awesome. In my humble opinion, it’s the MBA textbook for blogging or in the blogging content industry. My personal copy and I think I hit you up with this on Twitter. Mine is worn dog eared, highlighted and underlined. It’s getting used, let’s put it that way. Joe: Well, thank you sir. I mean it’s just and you know because we cover the history of it. I mean, I’ve been in this industry for so long. People think that content marketing industry is new and I mean it’s been going for hundreds of years. I’ve been in the industry for over 15 now. I actually had hair at that time when I started in this industry. And it was important for me to kind of tell the full story not only about how can you use it to grow your business or agency or whatever perspective you’re coming from, hut just for the fact that this is a progressing discipline and we have a ways to go.
  • 2. James: I’m so excited that it’s at the front now because it really speaks to my audience, my mission about just providing value. And you say the word value with every twist and turn that you make when you mention content marketing and I just love that so let’s dive in. I want to get a little history. Can you please just tell us a little bit about who Joe Pulizzi is, where you came from and a little bit about your journey that brought you here to where you are today. Joe: Well, I started probably most relevant to content marketing. I started in the industry at a company called Penton Media in 2000. Penton is the largest at least today. The largest independent business publisher in North America and I actually started working as an account manager in Penton Custom Media which meant that if people didn’t want to spend their money on advertising and I think we had 46 different media brands at that time, they went – the sales rep said, “Hey, I can’t sell advertising to this guy. Maybe you can do something with them. Send them over to us at Custom Media and we started selling them things like webinar programs, custom magazine programs, and custom newsletter programs.” And we got into things like blogging and social media stuff when I left there in 2007, but that was sort of my indoctrination into custom media, custom publishing, branded content, content marketing, whatever you want to call it. I started running the group from 2001, left in 2007 to start what is now the Content Marketing Institute. But I really – as I started to sell this thing to chief marketing officers in 2001, 2002, I used all the different terms. I used branded content, I used custom media, I used custom publishing, but the one that really got them to sit up in their chair was when I mentioned content marketing because they, “Oh, I’m a marketer. Marketing content, I get it. You have to.” We’re sort of a paint-by-numbers crowd as marketers so you have to be very, very simple about the concept and then they started to get that and said, “Oh, yeah. I can market through content.” And of course, content back then was very zealously and it wasn’t what we know right now as the truly helpful inspirational type of content we’re talking about to move the customer. But I really did feel at that time that we were on to something big and in the long behold — I started pushing out this term content marketing in 2007 and it really started to take shape in 2009. A lot of thought leaders like J Bear and Brian Clark got behind the term and really started to push it and it seems to me, I mean you tell me, it seems to be sort of the de facto term for our a little industry right now and I’ve written a couple of books, spoke around the world on content marketing, and just having a good time evangelizing the practice of content marketing and my whole goal is to get people to realize that they don’t have to – by the way I’m not an advertising hater, I believe in advertising, we advertise. But the whole goal is that brands out there don’t have to feel like they’re forced into interruption marketing. They can actually create their own content. They actually can be informational experts, position themselves that way and communicate directly with customers if they wish to do so. James: Well said. Well said. And I totally agree in that I appreciate the history. I heard that you quite possibly could have coined that phrase content marketing and that maybe why you’re considered by some to be the godfather of content marketing. What’s the validity there? Joe: Yeah. I don’t know. There’s no – we don’t, we don’t have absolute proof on that. James: Okay.
  • 3. Joe: I probably was one of the earliest ones using it. I started using the term in 2001. David Meerman Scott actually started – I think he used content marketing in one of his books, Cashing in with Content in 2005 and so we go back and forth on that. It’s probably fair to say that I was one of the earliest using that term. James: All right. I appreciate it. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot… Joe: No. It’s all good. I wish there was proof of it because it’ll make my life a lot easier. James: Well, let’s see who makes it into the urban dictionary, how’s that? Joe: There you go now. James: Awesome, awesome. So listen not to cast a light on the darker days but how about the challenges early on your career? I seem to remember right before the Content Marketing Institute took off that you faced some challenges and you were considering packing it in. Can you tell us about that? Joe: Oh, boy. Yeah. I must – I think I talked about that in another podcast, you must be listening about. I don’t usually tell it to many people but let’s bring that out. So content marketing still went out with a product called Junta 42 in 2007 and it was basically the e-harmony for content marketing and it actually did fairly well. We matched up over a thousand projects. And is the idea that if you were a brand and you wanted to find somebody to help you with your content marketing either create a video or writing or whatever, we would matched you up with an agency or freelance writer that will help you do that and get your project done. So we matched up all these projects. It was really, really good. The problem is, is that our customer-based, our paying customer-based was not the brands, it was the agencies. And as you know, the agencies are the cheapest people on the planet. They don’t pay for anything and so we were targeting. So of course, hindsight is 20/20, we targeted people – our financial model was based on agencies spending money. And the darkest day that I probably had was we had our best day, best week I guess ever in the service where we actually matched up a multimillion dollar project and the customer that got the project – the agency that got the project, I was like, “Oh, this is issue in there definitely going to re-app because I’ve just given them a million dollar project, content marketing project.” I went and talked to the woman running that agency and she said, “No. We’re not going to re-app in the system. We’re going to spend our $5000 elsewhere.” And I basically said, “I can’t give you better ROI on $5000 than a million dollars. I can’t. I can’t do it.” And I basically had what I would call a come to Jesus moment and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, this not going to work because our business model is flawed. My best example of a customer is not going to come through it and spend money with us.” And after feeling sorry for myself for a while and putting two and a half years behind it, I said, “Okay. We’re going to change the business model.” So over the next three months basically changed the entire model from focusing on agencies to focusing completely on training and education for brands and brand marketers and then we decided basically almost at that moment, we said, “Look, we’re going to launch the largest content marketing event on the planet. We’re going to launch the leading magazine on the planet and we’re going to launch the
  • 4. number ONE resource on the planet for content marketing education and Content Marketing Institute was born.” So that really — about the end of 2010 was when really knew we have something but before the end, James, and I didn’t know if we were going to be able to make it or not. So it really took about three to three and half years to start up and pivoting that one time before we actually knew we had something. James: So you would consider that your big breakthrough moment and you’d given us a little insight on what that felt like – could you just elaborate a little more when you realized there was no turning back. My friend and I always have this entrepreneurial thing between us. It’s plan A would be the entrepreneur doing what you want, finding your passion and going for it. Plan B is going back, back to the cubicle, back to corporate. Joe: Yup. James: We called no turning back. We said, “No plan B.” So when did you realize that there was no plan B and it was full steam ahead? Joe: Well, it’s funny. I mean, it all happened in – basically one day, I went through of course you have to be manic depressive to be an entrepreneur anyways. So I remember, I mean I was outside in my backyard feeling sorry for myself, thinking I just wasted the last two years because the start up that we have is not going to make it and I mean, I’m broke. At this point, if you’re an entrepreneur for as long as I was – let’s say that was about two, almost exact two and a half years into the business. I’m broke. I mean, I can’t go back and work for somebody else. I can never work for somebody else again. It’s just that I’m not built that way because you’re calling your own shots. You’re working on your own timetable. You’re not really good at working with other people telling you what to do anymore and I really felt – it felt sad. I mean, it’s probably the best way to talk about it because I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, I actually have to go back and work for somebody.” And then I really did think, James, I’ve got to give it another shot. So I put that plan B to rest for a while and said, “Look, I’m going to give this” – luckily, we had a little bit more money. I mean, we were running red for a couple of years but we — I had enough saved up because they saved up for six to seven years to do this thing. So the lucky thing is we were able to make that go forward and I decided, “Look, I’m not going to go back and we’re going to stick with this thing a little bit longer.” And then I knew that one – especially once Content Marketing Institute started to get as, it really got traction quickly for all the reasons that we’re probably talking about it and we’re able to make this thing go. James: That’s a phoenix rising story. That’s awesome. So I told you a little bit about my podcast before we came on the air and big value, big business providing big value. Can you correlate your success or the things turning around in the creation and the success of the Content Marketing Institute? Can you correlate that to the value that you were providing? Did you have some kind of value epiphany? What is your current value proposition to this day for the company? Joe: It’s funny when I started. The company started what is now Content Marketing Institute started on April 2, 2007 and April 26 was my first blog post it was actually called “Why Content Marketing?” which it was kind of interesting because we put everything behind that term. From that moment on, I just had
  • 5. this belief that if we gave away all the knowledge that I had and what the team has on a daily basis and we gave as much away as possible, we get rewarded with loyalty in our customer-base and in the subscriber-based and we were absolutely right about that. And it’s sort of the basis for content marketing, right James? I mean, that’s the whole thing that we believe that if we give enough knowledge away and we are so incredibly helpful to our audience, they will reward us and buy our products and services and that’s exactly what happens. So everyday if we’re not giving away as much as we possibly can and showing them more value than anyone else is showing in content marketing, then we’re going to be fine. And I think the difference is that most companies, at least the companies that I worked out, they want to hide that, right? They want – “Oh, that’s to the IP. We don’t want to give that away. People need to pay for that. We need to lock that behind our gate. We need to do it.” They’re scared to give that away. Well, you know what? If you don’t give it away, your competitor is going to give away, somebody else is going to give it away and I believe that – I mean, everybody can duplicate anything else that you have. They can duplicate your products, your services; they can’t necessarily duplicate your communication. I mean Don Schultz, the Father of Integrated Marketing; I am totally a believer of what he said. He always focused on that’s the one area you can differentiate yourself as to how you communicate. So that’s where we have a competitive advantage and if you give away all that knowledge and if you can understand how to monetate that into selling more products and services that’s where I think the key to making this whole thing happen. So I would just merge of the mentality that if we give away as much value, as much information as possible, it’s going to make all the difference in the world for our business model. James: Yeah. It’s so good to hear Joe that content marketing – and there’s a difference between content and content marketing. And content marketing is — it’s almost not even marketing, it’s like content giveaway. It’s value giveaway. We call it marketing only because it brings people closer to us in our brand and our products and services, but we’re actually giving stuff away, and I like that revealing the secret sauce. Joe: Well, I think that the key is that — I mean the difference between content and content marketing is content is all the stuff that you have that’s not making an impact or changing any behavior in your customers or prospects. Content marketing, the reason why we call it marketing is because we have to see a behavior change of some kind. So that’s how you actually see – I mean, most of the impact if you really measure all the way through the funnel, I think most of the impact will be made on the stuff that’s really inherently valuable, that really amazing content that you’re given. All the stuff that we have that’s not doing much is usually that product, or service content. I mean, when we go into companies and we look at, we do a content audit of their material, 90% of the content they have is all product or service related and the challenge is that only about 2 to 3% of the buying cycle, they care about that kind of information. So we have 90% of all this content for just a very small portion of the buying cycle and the other parts of the buying cycle whether that’s before the purchase or after the purchase, customer retention or loyalty or building loyal subscribers to my brand, we don’t have a lot of content or at least a lot of the content in story forum for that. So that’s why we’re trying to work with a lot of companies and teach obviously a lot of our readers, on the fact. Look, your customers, your prospects, they’re looking for all this information, shouldn’t it make sense for you to be found when they’re looking for all this information either before or after the sale or I mean, I think by the way,
  • 6. customer retention and loyalty that’s my favorite kind of content marketing. You already have an audience, defined audience of people that know you. Why aren’t you delivering ongoing solutions to them to help make their experience better around your products and services and give them better insight? I’ll give you a really good example. Our HVAC, one of our HVAC companies in this area… it got really cold here in Cleveland, Ohio as today as we tape this, it’s minus nine I think is the temperature right now and last night, they were sending some very helpful tips on how to stay warm and the things you need to do around your HVAC system and making sure that the water doesn’t freeze up or our water pipes don’t freeze up on you and all those types of things. That’s incredibly valuable information and also very much real time marketing as well. So it’s those types of things that I think are critical and I think the best kind of marketing is the marketing that really going to help somebody with their jobs or their lives or make something better at the end of the day. James: That’s a perfect segue into what I wanted to ask you next. Because dealing with big brands and you can have this contrived, manufactured content, they could hire someone to do it, but talking about the smaller person that HVAC guy. Obviously, he’s paying attention to what you’re telling him because he’s communicating these types of things and this timely information that’s so helpful. Two questions: How is he delivering that? And in ongoing basis, what type of value added content is he delivering out there to keep his existing customers happy and to attract new customers? Joe: Well, in that particular situation, I mean that was a very, more spontaneous type of communication that was delivered through email. I mean, that’s a customer relationship. So he has my email so there’s that connection already, but what was interesting about it is that the content was already created. The content was actually linked to number of blog posts that were already created because ongoing. And that’s why if you look at the pure definition of content marketing, content it says it needs to be consistent, on a consistent basis. It’s not a campaign. If you look at the way most big brands and most big agencies look at content marketing, they look at it as a content marketing campaign and content marketing and campaign don’t go well with each other. Because when you say campaign, you’re inherently saying that it has a stop date, just like a political campaign stops at some point. Content marketing campaign stops at some point and that’s why I think most brands fail where this one works really well is, this is an ongoing blog series in this case, they blog twice a week. I think it’s on Tuesdays and Thursday. And it’s – we’re building up a connection and a trust and we have a promise of content we’re delivering to our customers. So as I would say for everyone listening to this, if you’re going to start a content marketing program, you have to commit to consistency just like the best media brands of all time whether you’re looking at the New York Times, whether you’re looking at ESPN, Wall Street Journal, whatever the case is, they consistently deliver every day, every week, every month, every quarter, whatever the timetable is. So if we want our content marketing to be successful, and we actually want to build a relationship with customers long term. We have to do it consistently, or why should they even anticipate our content in the first place? We’re just going to send it out when we want to or we’re just going to send it out when the need arises for us or we need more leads. God, I hope not. I mean, what we really need to focus is what are their information paying points, what are their needs, what are their interest, how can we deliver on those on an ongoing basis to create that long term relationship and to create that trust? So I guess to answer your question – it’s kind of a long answer to your question, the most important thing
  • 7. and if you said James, you said, “Joe, why do most content marketing programs fail?” I would say because they stopped. So we’ve got to be more patient with our content marketing. James: Now we know why you wrote the book. Well, I’ve been dying to ask you that. Joe: A lot of people say that. A lot of people say that. Yeah, a lot of people say that. But that’s the one thing like when I do presentations James and I get out in front of them, I always go through the definition and the parts of what my definition of content marketing and I spend the most time on the word consistent because that’s where it breaks down for the most part. James: I so appreciate that and I wish I had an hour and a half; I wish you had an hour and a half because this is priceless. But I want to keep it going, you’ve got a schedule to keep. Talking about getting back to you personally Joe. On a personal note, do you have any particular habits or rituals, I mean, you sound like a really together guy, just habits or rituals for productivity, accountability, for consistency that you use on a daily basis to keep you moving towards your personal and business goals. Joe: On a personal basis, I actually just – I’ve been really working hard on keeping a journal and part of that and I’ve been using ever-note to do that and I actually been – I mean, I listen to a podcast from Michael Hyatt who is an author of a great book called Platform and I’ve been taking kind of his advice in trying to keep a journal and as part of that setting goals on a daily basis. And what I’m trying to do and I struggle with it just like everyone else is, but I would like to get two or three things done a day that are going to continue to move either myself, my personal goals, or my business objectives forward. So there’s couple of things as part of that. So how do I choose what those things are that I want to get done on a daily basis? So I put that in the journal and I also write it down. So I know and I’m sort of double checking myself to make sure I’ve got it in two places and these are the things – my day is not complete unless I get these two things done. I mean, if you look at and I just read this thing from Jerry Seinfeld the other day. He always talk about don’t break the chain and if you’re going to become a good comedic writer, you’ve got to make sure that every day you’re writing and you put a big X over that day and then as you do it the next day, the next day, and the next day, you actually create a chain and you want to make sure you don’t break the chain. It’s the same thing with setting whether you’re doing a journal or setting the goals. So I tried not to make sure I don’t break that chain and then as part of that, those things those small things go back into – I have – I don’t even have it in front of me, it’s actually downstairs because I was looking at it this morning, but I’ve got a print journal. It’s a moleskin journal and I’ve got my personal goals, my business goals, my philanthropicals and my spiritual goals all written down. I know there are four or five for each of those – by the way family goals as well. So those are the five things and I’ve got those down there and that’s where my little things I do every day, roll up into those big things. Those are the things I can’t complete today, those are the things that are going to take some time to get going but I know that if – so it’s all – it’s like setting a content marketing plan. It’s the same thing. I’ve got overall objectives and I’ve got little things I need to do on a daily basis to get and accomplish those overall objectives. So I don’t know if that’s any insight to helping anyone else but I try to really write those down, those small things on a daily basis that move up into the big things. Those big things, they
  • 8. actually changed my life, James. Having those things down on those – when I’m talking about the personal goals and the family goals and knowing what those are because at least in my contact with most businesses, with most people, and most entrepreneurs, they don’t have that and I think actually writing those down and referring to those and I will refer to them on almost as daily basis so you can remind yourself why you’re living on this planet. So I think that’s really – it’s really important for me to move forward on a daily basis by doing that. James: Oh, fantastic. And it validates everything that I – I know I should be doing and I know our listeners will. Even if they’ve heard it before, it’s just hammers it. I mean, this is a successful guy that is getting it done and it’s kind of like how to eat an elephant, it’s like one bite at a time. Joe: There you go. Absolutely, Great play. James: You touched on Michael Hyatt who I do listen to and try to visit his blog and I follow him on Tweeter. Any other mastermind groups that you belong to or podcasts or blogs you subscribed to or have favorite authors that you touch on a consistent basis? Joe: Well, in the industry there is a few people that I follow like I love Ann Handley’s writing in the industries. She is author of Content Rules with CC Chapman. She is fantastic from a marketing standpoint. I mean, I love Seth Godin. You know what I love about Seth, it’s just the fact that I can read it in two seconds and I get something out of it. It’s just a thought, right? I mean, I know what he’s trying to do. He has a different style. But what I also love about it is the fact – there is the textbook offering of consistency when you look at Seth Godin. I think he has blogged every day since like 2001. I mean, that – I mean just – I’m inspired by that myself as I look at that. I mean, I read everything on our own site. I mean, what’s great about how we’ve evolved the content process for Content Marketing Institute. I used to be the sole blogger and now I blog once a week on the site and we get – I get six other examples to read every week from smarter people – for the most part smarter people than me focusing on their expert and that’s how I really learn is by our own content that we have on the site. What else do I look at? I mean, for the most part, I mean, there are really, really smart people out there doing some great work and – I mean, Robert Rose, by the way Robert Rose is our chief strategist. We do a podcast called P&R This Old Marketing, we just did our eighth episode and I learned from Robert. Robert’s take is so different because Robert comes from Hollywood. I come from publishing, he comes from the Hollywood side and we both look at content marketing in a different way. So I love to look at that. He’s an entrepreneur as well. And just for an entrepreneurial standpoint, I’ve got a little group of mentors that I reach out about three or four people, advisers, I would say. It’s not a formal advisory ship but I reach out to them on a regular basis for advice and input and either email or phone call. I think that anybody whether you’re a marketer or whether you’re an entrepreneur or whatever the case is, you need to have that mentorship. When I first started James, I didn’t have that and now that I have those people that I can rely on, it’s so critical. These are people that had been through it. They’ve done what I’ve done and I can reach back to them and I’m trying not – I mean. They’ll tell me; Here’s the mistakes I made, don’t do this. I mean, they’ve already done it. I don’t they do that anymore and go through that although I can make a case for
  • 9. making mistake is really important, but I won’t go through that. That’s a whole different podcast. But I would say that getting your four or five or even three mentors on a regular basis that you can go to for advice is critical for not only formation as an entrepreneur but just as a human being. James: So great. Ann Handley, Seth Godin, and got a grab you some mentors. Can you tell me about any projects that you have or events that you’ve got going on that you’d like to share with all our listeners. Joe: So we’ve got Content Marketing World Sydney, coming up on 31st of March in Sydney, Australia. We’ve got the big show Content Marketing World on 2014 which I’m programming. Yesterday was a big day, I was programming that,all yesterday, we have over a hundred speakers for that event and it’s not easy at all programming that. It’s a big, big challenge for me. Sometimes I just sit and look at the board. I do – I have a whole system where I lay out all the tracks with post-it notes from speaker’s standpoint and in a content topic standpoint and it is probably the hardest thing I do but the most rewarding thing I do from that standpoint. We just launched the podcast with Robert Rose. I was talking about. I’m having a good time with that. That goes out every Saturday on the Content Marketing Institute blog and then our big thing we’re working on in this organization is we’re working on online training and development for content marketing that we will probably launch in the next two months on contentmarketinginstitute.com. It’s been a labor of love for the entire staff. It has not been easy to do but we’re really excited that will come up because we have got about 30% of our audience is international and we don’t really have anything to offer them because if you’re – in India, it’s hard to get to Content Marketing World in Cleveland every year, even into Sydney, Australia so and we’re not going to do events in every country. So trying to get that training off the ground is really important. James: Did you – you want to leave us with anything else? Joe: Here’s what I would say because I know you have an audience of agencies and brand marketers. So I would first give this out to agencies and please stop using the word campaign in your terminology to your clients because it gives them the idea that it is a short term — content marketing is not a short term effort. The second – the thing I would say to brand marketers is if you’re having trouble with buyin, really book a pilot program, six-month pilot, get agreed upon objectives in your organization around what you’re trying to do because people ask me all the time, Joe, how can I be more effective with content marketing and I would say – I asked them, “Well, what are you trying to do? What pain are you trying to solve with your content marketing?” It’s not just – you just can’t, “Oh, I need content marketing. I don’t know for what? I don’t know what your problem is. I don’t where the opportunity lies. So the first thing is, is if you do a pilot, you want to figure out what the overall objective is that’s going to help the business and then we can get those agreed upon objectives in the organization and you could set some KPIs and some measurements against those that are agreed upon and then it’s like almost like hitting a single. A lot of us say, “I want to do content marketing. Let’s hit a home run.” Well don’t do that. Just hit your single then once you get your buy end in the organization and you’ve accomplished some of the objectives in your pilot then you can go ahead to double or triple then you can hit a home run. Content marketing is about a whole lot of singles. You don’t hit a lot of home runs with it, but those singles add up to a lot of runs. So that’s where I like to look at. So I would just say be patient and look at
  • 10. the pilot and then for your agencies, I don’t want to hear you say campaign anymore. There you go my friend. James: Absolutely. I draw a parallel to content marketing just like you do working on goals, little steps lead to big, big destinations. Joe: And every day, absolutely. Every – work the program every day and that’s why a lot of people fail at content marketing it’s because it’s harder than advertising. Advertising is a lot easier than doing a consistent content marketing program which is why a lot of people give up. So stick with it. Keep the faith.