Content has been used for ages for multiple marketing goals. How old the value and importance of content may be, in recent years there is an increasing attention for content in a marketing context. However, the real value of content is not just in those tactics. The really interesting part is when you start using content across touchpoints and customer journeys in a consistent and strategic way. Content marketing. An interview with the man who made it popular outside of the web content and digital marketing space.

Since we organized a round table on content marketing with, among others, Joe Pulizzi and helped launch the first two editions of Joe’s Chief Content Officer magazine in Europe in 2010 and 2011, much has changed in the adoption of content marketing.

When I started using content for integrated marketing purposes and Joe Pulizzi developed his content marketing approach in the US, building upon ongoing digital evolutions, businesses didn’t pay a lot of attention to (customer-centric) content. In fact, they never really did.

Today, the attention for content marketing is clearly increasing, although the term is used in a wrong context very often and many businesses are just starting to explore the opportunities and possibilities. Obviously, content marketing is a marketing term (and an umbrella term), which by definition means that it describes and thus in a way isolates a specific set of tactics and strategies. Content should be seen in a broader context. We don’t market content (although we distribute and promote it), we market, using content. Content is just a social object, becoming interesting when it adds value and plays a role in each touch(point), connecting people, brands (and thus people), other people and more people. Content is like an atomic particle in each interaction whereby human experiences and value are key.

Engaging with content marketing

In this interview, Joe, who also developed a content marketing framework in the US, founded content vendor-client matching service Junta42, started the Content Marketing Institute and wrote ‘Get Content Get Customers’ with Newt Barret, and ‘Managing Content Marketing’ with Robert Rose, shares some views on content marketing.

A simple, yet significant, question to start with: what makes content ‘good’, especially from an engagement and sharing standpoint?

Joe Pulizzi: “There are all kinds of definitions of great content. However, if we think about it from an engagement standpoint, great content is information that makes people take an action. In the social media context, we like to think about great content that people are willing to share with their networks through outlets like Twitter, Facebook or other social communities. If, as a business, you develop content that is good enough for people to share with those that matter most to them, you’ve created great content”.

What do you think about all those content syndication websites where you can buy content for nearly nothing? After all, who knows the brand and its story better than the people constituting the brand? Sure, creating content that serves a purpose is not easy and so you need help but how far do you go?

Joe Pulizzi: “I believe they have their place, but honestly, it’s hard to tell a corporate story that is engaging without having any say in the content process. That’s why custom content is so critical. Custom content, created by a brand or partners of that brand, is developed to solve specific marketing challenges. It’s challenging to go to a website and buy content that fits those specific marketing needs”.

The increasing attention for content marketing, that goes hand in hand with the growing significance of inbound marketing, obviously has its reasons. I already tackled some of them but here is Joe’s view on the true meaning, place and value of content marketing.

Joe Pulizzi: “As we are seeing more and more, content is the essence of marketing today. Buyers can ignore you in just about every marketing tactic you try. So in order to get attention and build relationships with customers, you better say something that is compelling or helpful, or customers will certainly ignore it. A content marketing strategy works when customers stop ignoring you, start paying attention to you, and decide to give you business because you are the trusted advisor to the industry (because of all your great content)”.


Content marketing success and failure factors

There are several elements and tactics (and we are finding new ones every single day) that make or break a content marketing strategy.

What are the main success factors, according to Joe? Here is how he summarizes them again for us:

The keys to succeed in content marketing:

  1. Understanding the informational needs of your customers.
  2. Knowing how those informational needs mix with your marketing goals and objectives.
  3. Developing a content program around those needs.
  4. Being consistent (content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint).
  5. Listening and continually evolving the program.

Reasons why content marketing efforts fail:

  1. Selling, rather than informing.
  2. Not being consistent with your content promise.
  3. Not listening, thus not evolving the content program.
  4. Waiting for perfection to come before you send out the content.

Finally, a word on user-generated content.

Joe Pulizzi: “User-generated content will continue to increase and always be important. That said, a brand cannot rely on their customers or other users to tell their story for them. Best-case scenario is to continue to give valuable, compelling and relevant content to your community, so that other people are willing to talk and spread that message in their own terms. Great content should spawn useful user-generated content.

Great content is essential but it’s not the essence of marketing, aligning business goals with what people seek is.

Context is what your content needs. Context is defined by people and their values, emotions, decisions and quests.

Originally published on Social Email Marketing and moved as part of an integration.