Joe Pulizzi on the Power of Content Marketing: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Joe Pulizzi is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, father and lover of all things orange. He’s the founder of multiple startups, including the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the leading content marketing educational resource for enterprise brands, recognized as the fastest growing business media company by Inc. magazine in 2014. CMI is responsible for producing Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing event in the world (held every September in Cleveland, Ohio), as well as the leading content marketing magazine, Chief Content Officer. He began using the term “content marketing” back in 2001.

Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s third book, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of the Year” by Fortune Magazine. His fourth book, Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses, was published by McGraw-Hill Education (September 2015). His fourth book, Marketing Profit, will be released in September, 2017. Joe has also co-authored two other books, Get Content Get Customers and Managing Content Marketing. Joe has spoken at more than 500 locations in 16 countries advancing the practice of content marketing. You can also hear Joe on his podcasts, “This Old Marketing” and “Content Inc.” If you ever meet him in person, he’ll be wearing orange.

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Before discussing Content Inc., a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

My wife Pam…and it’s not even close. Without her persistence in pushing me to start my own business, none of my career achievements would have been possible. After years of talking about starting a business, she worked with me to set a date where I left my 6-figure executive job to start what is now Content Marketing Institute.

The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

My first boss, Jim McDermott at Penton Media. Jim took me under his wing in 2000 and taught me the publishing business AND the content marketing business. A few years later I took Jim’s role and was able to help grow Penton’s Custom Media group into a major success story. Jim is still a mentor and I talk to him every week (he’s retired now).

Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Our initial product, a content marketing matching service, was something I fell in love with. I thought the idea was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, the finances just didn’t work out. After we lost a big customer, I had to rethink the entire plan. Two weeks later, we made our pivot, and instead of focusing on the features and benefits of the product, we focused everything on the informational needs of the customers. We started delivering industry leading information to our audience in the form of blogs, podcasts, a print magazine and later our big event, Content Marketing World. Three years after our pivot, we became the fastest growing business media company in the US (according to Inc. magazine).

To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

I’ve studied communication strategies and theory my entire life. I truly believe what Professor Don Schultz says…that there is only one way companies today can differentiate themselves…it’s how they communicate to their customers. Everything else can be copied.

What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

I’d never want to go back, because the mistakes I’ve made led me to this point…but maybe I would have started out as an entrepreneur sooner. I thought there was a “perfect” time to start a business. There isn’t. You just have to jump.

Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time. Strategy is all about saying no. I also love what Derik Sivers says…basically, when you’re young and looking for success, you say yes to everything. You never know when your lottery ticket is going to show up. When you find success, it’s either a “hell yes” or a “no”. It should be this way with what you choose in life and in business.

From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Question everything. In life I look to the people who listen and ask questions over those people who believe they have all the answers.

From Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Those who take the ideas and do something with them are the ones who having all the fun.

Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Drucker is amazing. I see this a lot in content marketing. So many large enterprises are creating and distributing mass amounts of information based on a decision that never should have happened.

Of all the greatest leaders throughout history, with which one would you most like to be closely associated for an extended weekend of one-on-one conversation? Why?

Well, if I had the opportunity, I’d love to have a one-on-one with Jesus…perhaps the greatest leader ever. I wonder if he had a sense of humor? I imagine he was the best listener, which is why so many people were drawn to him.

Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any advice?

Getting the attention of a customer base/audience that doesn’t care a thing about your product or service. I believe the key is to, every day, create value outside the products and services we offer. That is the role of marketing today and tomorrow…build a relationship with customers that does not rely on the product or service.


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Joe Cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Content Inc. link

Content Marketing Institute link

Joe’s website link

Joe’s blog link

Link to learn more about Joe and his speaking engagements

Twitter link

His Amazon US link

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