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Content Marketing: Starting with Why

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May 2,2013

By Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

I average about three speeches a week revolving around the topic of what is content marketing.  At every one of those events I ask, “How many of you have a documented content marketing strategy?” That answer has never been more than 20 percent, and usually just a few hands are raised.

Think about that for a minute. Content creation and distribution is booming. We've never seen brands more active in developing content marketing plans to attract and retain customers. Our latest research tells us that more than one in every four marketing dollars is spent on a content marketing initiative. Yet, almost no one has a concrete strategy for the deployment of those content assets.

(I’m virtually shaking my head.)

“Creating more content” was cited as the biggest challenge for content marketers in 2013. But without a content marketing plan of some kind, you simply don't know if that's true.How can more content creation fix your problem when you have no concrete plan? It’s like building a house with no architectural plans.

So, we are going back to basics here. Expert content marketers with defined and working strategies can skip this article. For the other 90 percent of you, all I ask is that you start thinking about starting with why before creating any more content.

Start with “why”

With content marketing, there are a number of possible business goals you can have. A few to consider are:

  • Lead conversion and nurturing: How you define a lead will vary; but from a content marketing perspective, a lead is when you have (through the exchange of engaging content) encouraged someone to give up enough information about themselves that you now have permission to “market” to them. This can include signing up for a “demo,” registering for an event, subscribing to your eNewsletter, or gaining access to your resource center. Once you have the prospect’s permission, you can use content to help move them through the buying cycle.
  • Customer loyalty/retention: Just like you have a planned lead nurturing process to turn prospects into customers, you also need a planned customer retention strategy. If your ultimate goal is to turn customers into passionate subscribers who share your stories, this area needs major attention. Options may be a customer eNewsletter or printed newsletter, a print or tablet magazine, daily or weekly blog content, or possibly a user event or webinar series.
  • Customer up-sell: Why stop communicating with prospects once they become customers? Instead, communicate with them more frequently (certainly not in a creepy way) and engage them with additional value. Customer up-sell and customer retention goals can work hand-in-hand.
  • Passionate subscribers: If you can successfully move customers to this stage, you have really accomplished something. Content — and especially content generated by satisfied customers — can be one of the most powerful ways to reach any business goal. This is when content marketing starts to work for you exponentially. For example, CMI has over 40,000 active subscribers to our daily or weekly content. Those people have “opted-in” to our content and have given us the permission to market to them. The majority of our revenue sources come from that subscriber base. The moment we started focusing on subscription as a key content marketing goal is when our business started to take off.


The key takeaway

The return on any one of the above objectives must have direct impact on one of these areas:

  1. Revenue
  2. Lower expenses
  3. Happier customers

If your goal is to increase search engine rankings, you have to continue that path to help show one of these three behaviors or, honestly, you’ll never get taken seriously by senior management.

The most effective way to look at this is to ask, “How are customers and prospects who engage in my content different from those who don’t?” At CMI, we know a subscriber is more likely to sign up for one of our events, which is a key revenue source for us. More subscribers of a similar type equals more revenue for us. It’s just math at that point. Subscribers also share more of our content to others, which helps increase our search rankings and helps more people become aware of what we do through social media. CMI’s “Moneyball“ number for content marketing revolves around passionate subscribers.

What’s your number?

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 as well as the premier international content marketing event Content Marketing World and Chief Content Officer magazine.


Once your small business determines the "why" behind your unique content marketing strategy, it's time to jump into the basics, with Joe's 5 Phases of Content Marketing; designed to help you align your company goals with proper content marketing processes.

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