TRS 002: Joe Pulizzi author of Killing Marketing
Known as the granddaddy of content marketing, Joe Pulizzi breaks his sabbatical to join us on today’s episode. We’ll talk about how he got Content Marketing Institute off the ground and what it took to ultimately launch the premiere content marketing conference Content Marketing World with top performers like Kevin Smith and Tina Fey.
Back in 2001, Joe was out in the business world trying to build a following around content marketing. The only problem: no one had ever heard of content marketing before. With a new a strategy inspired by Walt Disney, Joe set out to change how businesses marketed themselves, and he might have accidentally killed marketing along the way.
What’s next for digital marketing? What’s next for Joe Pulizzi? Listen to find out.
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Marcus: Hello, marketers and business leaders. I’m Marcus Grimm, and welcome to The Revenue Stream, the podcast from Web Talent Marketing. Here we discuss everything you need to know to build brands, generate leads, and convert sales from some of the brightest minds in marketing.
Marcus: Hey, marketers and business leaders, and welcome to this episode of The Revenue Stream with Web Talent Marketing. I am so super excited to introduce you to today’s guest. He’s been called the Grand Papa of content marketing; he’s been called the Grand Poobah content marketing. He’s been called the Godfather of content marketing! Yes, we do have Joe Pulizzi with us today. I’m very fortunate that Joe has been a friend of mine for well over a decade. I still remember the first time that he said the words content marketing to me, and I was like, “Well, what exactly is that, Joe?”
Marcus: And like many people, I didn’t know exactly what it meant. And after Joe started talking, I’m like, “Wow, this is exactly what I believe in as a marker.” So thrilled to have Joe here today. For those who don’t know, Joe is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Content Marketing World, Chief Content Officer magazine. He basically was one of the main people who created this industry and lifted it up from something that we didn’t even know what it was to something very, very large. Somewhat culminated for Joe in 2016, in June of 2016, when he sold the Content Marketing Institute to UBM for $17 million. And then Joe did exactly what all of us would do in that situation: he took a year off! So Joe, that being said, I’m not exactly sure how I should even introduce you. At this moment, are you still on sabbatical? Or to put it another way, if I were to ask your dear wife, Pam, what do you, or what are you doing this month, what would she say?
Joe: Well, first of all, I can’t believe we’ve known each other for over a decade. I already feel old. But you introduced me, I think you even said grandfather, maybe, of content marketing. Why are all these old titles? What is? Why can’t it be the young prince of content marketing or something youthful? Why must it be something old? Actually, I finished my one year sabbatical in the end of 2018, and this is my first podcast since coming back from the dead.
Marcus: I am so grateful. It’s your comeback party!
Joe: It’s my comeback! And everyone in the world’s going to know that I’m out now that I’ve come on your podcast. That’s exactly how it’s going to be. No, 2018 was a magical year. I’m not ignorant enough to not know that most people don’t get the opportunity to take a full year off. I was able to do that. Spent a lot of time with the kids. Did things that I’ve never done before. Did a lot of traveling- a lot of personal traveling, not business traveling like I used to do. And I’m hoping to keep a lot of that going in 2019, but technically I’m not on the sabbatical anymore.
Marcus: Outstanding. Well, I think I speak for everyone in this space that there were, there were thrilled to have you back now. Now, today we’re going to talk a little bit about the book you put onto the market before you disappeared for a year, Killing Marketing. But I actually do want to tell a story about one of the first times you and I spoke because you actually addressed it in the book. And I remember the first time you reached out to me, and it was about sponsoring a project that you were involved with and the title that you were working with was something called Content Marketing Strategies. And I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, I don’t really know what that means.” And I asked you, and you said, “Well, Marcus, it’s what you always believed in. It’s thought leadership. It’s, telling good, compelling brand stories without trying to sell.” And I’m like, “Oh, that’s what content marketing is.” And you looked at me and you said, “Yeah, Marcus, that’s what it is.” But I realize in the book I wasn’t the only one who was unfamiliar with that term. You guys actually went out of the way to create that term. So can you tell that story a little bit? Since I realize now that I’m not the only one who felt like I was in the dark.
Joe: Okay, well this is going to take the entirety of the podcast! So I’ll try to make this as short as I possibly can. But you remember the days that I worked at Penton Media?
Joe: So I ran the Custom Publishing Division at Penton Media, now bought by Informa, a big B2B company, but at the time, very large business to business company. It did a lot of magazines, does the business newsletters, and events, and whatnot. So I ran the Custom Publishing Division, which we did custom magazines, custom newsletters, and such for big companies B2B companies like Microsoft, Parker Hannifin, whatnot. And I would go in, I’d have to pitch this stuff, I’d have to sell this stuff. And if you go in to a Senior VP of Marketing or a Chief Marketing Officer and you say, “Are you interested in custom publishing?” They’re already sleeping. You can’t use custom publishing- that was the term for what we’re talking about, right: custom publishing, custom media, member media, corporate content, whatever you wanted to call it. It wasn’t very sexy at all. And it was hard to get anyone’s attention.
Joe: Well, I’m desperate to sell. I had a small family; I needed money. I’m trying to figure out how do I sell this to more people? And I started throwing this term around, which wasn’t my term, but maybe we had Content Marketing Institute helped popularize it. So I used content marketing and I said, “Well, are you doing any content marketing?” Well, the Chief Marketing Officers that I talked to had no idea what content marketing was, but if you know marketing people- marketing people think that anything (blank) marketing they should know everything about.
Joe: So you should know everything about direct marketing or search marketing. That’s why those things took off. So I’m thinking, “Well, let’s just put content in front of it. Maybe that’ll work!?” So the CMOs would listen to me and they’d say, “Oh yeah, we’re doing content marketing!”, not having a clue what I’m talking about. Then I’d get into it, and then you’d realize, they had there own magazine, they maybe did their own newsletters, they had thought leadership, white papers, whatever. So they were doing, maybe not a strategic approach, but they were doing it. And so when I decided to start a business in 2007, I thought, “Look, how are we going to differentiate ourselves and how is this even going to work?” And I said, “Well, I really think that content marketing is going to be the term.”
Joe: And it wasn’t the term. Nobody, still in 2007, so I started using it 2001. Nobody still knows what it is in 2007, and I said, “Well maybe, that’s- what I would call today or a content tilt- that’s our differentiation point and that’s how we can sort of bring the market around to this kind of thinking.” And I started blogging about it in 2007, 2008, 2009- started to get some traction. Some industry leaders started to get behind it, and then launched what became Content Marketing Institute in 2010, and I would say probably by 2011 it was a real industry term.
Joe: Bascially, we made it up and wished!
Marcus: And I love when you pitched it to me for the first time, which probably wasn’t ’07, ’08 I was like, “What!?” You were so confident, Joe. I loved it.
Joe: It helps when you spend your time with a lot of marketing people. And I can say this because I’m a marketing person, we’re very simplistic people.
Marcus: We are.
Joe: So you can’t get overly complicated. If you’re using terms, I mean we’re salespeople at heart, so you better be simple. And if you say content and marketing, it really does make sense what it is, right? You’re marketing through the use of content. What kind of content is it? You know, that’s basically what we’re doing. You know, content by itself is meaningless. It could mean anything, but if you put content in front of marketing, it takes a whole new meaning.
Marcus: Now what’s crazy is, if we look at this book that came out last year, Killing Marketing, you and I just talked about something that really did not exist as a as an industry term, you know, a decade ago. But the reality is this entire book about “killing marketing” is about brands that have gotten so big that they’ve turned their own content marketing departments into revenue centers. And so I guess one of the things I want to talk about is, how did content marketing gets so big that you’re able to have a book about brands that are just killing it this way, when a decade ago, you and I would have been like, “What does that word even mean?”
Joe: Well, I don’t know if it’s as big as I would like it to be. It is not enough. Content marketing is not an unknown, but if you’re comparing it to the advertising industry, it’s still Pluto- it’s not even a planet. It’s very, very small. So we need to put context there. Now the potential is amazing. And now we finally have some case studies that we talk about in the book. By the way, I have to mention my co-author Robert Rose. You know, he and I, we’ve been working on this concept for a long time, and we were able to put the book together. But the idea that you now have the Arrow Electronics of the world, the Lego’s of the world, the Red Bulls of the world with amazing case studies that can show you and say, “Look, yeah, we’ve done content marketing. We’ve created content that doesn’t just sell- we built audiences through it!” And then they took that next step, which is really what we talk about in the book, where you’re driving direct revenue from the content itself- not just selling more products and services.
Joe: So if you just say, “Hey, what’s content marketing?” You say, “We’re going to do some kind of content initiative. We’re going to do a video series. We’re going to do an event series. We’re going to do a magazine. Whatever the case is, we’re going to build an audience.” And because we build that audience, that audience comes to know, like, and trust us. They end up buying more of our stuff. That’s a pure version of what content marketing is. So you’re generating revenue, but indirect revenue. The idea of “killing marketing” is that we can then generate direct revenue from that as well. Advertising, sell a new product and services we never thought before, product development, if you will. And this is what we think is going to be the next version of marketing. So when we say “killing marketing,” we’re not saying get rid of marketing. We’re saying that marketing as we knew it, interruption marketing, is being replaced now with this new thing called content marketing strategy, if you will.
Marcus: And one of the things that I really appreciated was, in some of the examples in the book, relatively mature industries that previously would have looked at that marketing department, not as a revenue generator but as an expense.
Joe: Oh, and, and by the way, still does today.
Joe: Most of this stuff is looked at as an expense because we think marketing is advertising and everything else is publishing, and you don’t think that it’s all the same. Marketing is publishing, and publishing is marketing, and it’s all one in the same. You can generate revenues that you never thought possible, and it doesn’t have to be just an expense. I mean, Red Bull sort of stumbled into the idea that they could generate all types of revenue from their… Now they’re in the music business. They have a video generating business. They have their own agency. They’re making money off of their magazine. At first they thought that was, “Oh, that’s what we have to do to build the brand and to get exposure. So let’s do a magazine, and it’d be great. We can have it available at all the indy car races and stuff like that.”
Joe: You know, that was very Content Marketing 101, if you will. Let’s experiment. Well now, you know, ten, fifteen years later they’re like, “Oh my God, this is a billion dollar machine we’d created!” And they advertise; and they sponsor all kinds of activities, but they don’t have to. That business could run perfectly fine on its own organic growth if they just said, “Look, we’re just going to advertise through our own media properties, and we have those connections with our audience.” So, and that’s kind of what we’re getting to where you’re getting the Parker Hannifins of the world. You’re getting these B2B companies that you never thought possible. Arrow Electronics, which is my favorite case study of all, big electronic distribution company. They’re the largest media company in the electronic space. They’re profitable! Their media is profitable in and of itself. It’s not an expense. And where it could start as an expensive growth, it doesn’t have to be. But that’s thinking that most Chief Marketing Officers aren’t used to because you don’t think you can generate direct revenue from your marketing.
Marcus: Well, and I guess this is what you were getting at early in the book. And, by the way, I love how you and Robert had this really great conversational style and you actually shared an email chain in the book where you talk about the new media model and the new marketing model were exactly the same. And that was a major Aha for you. And that’s pretty much what you’re getting at with with the Arrow Electronics story, right?
Joe: Yeah, it was silly because we talked about it every day, and then we’re just emailing back and forth and I’m like, “This is- everyone that’s talking about new marketing. What is new marketing when you bring in social media and communicating through all these new channels?” And then you and I have always been very involved in the publishing industry and you’re like, “Well what’s new media?” Well, it’s leveraging social media and creating all these new audience. Then you look at and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s the exact same thing!” It’s just that one- The new marketing model always points to we’re going to sell more products and services and the new media model says, oh, we’re going to sell more advertising and maybe some new products and services, maybe subscriptions and whatnot. But then you look at the model and you look at the strategy behind it, it is the same thing. So we were like, oh my God, media and marketing is absolutely converging. And it’s just how you want to look at it or what you want to call yourselves that’s the difference. But it’s really not different at all.
Marcus: I think that’s a very, very well said. You know, one of the things that we always talk about with content marketing is that it can’t be salesy. You know, there’s times to be selling and there’s time to be telling stories- and they’re often different times. And the great marketers know this intuitively, and the biggest brands sometimes we’ll give them marketers enough rope to swing from. But even so that C-suite’s very often looking for an immediate ROI, and it seems like smaller companies, all the more so, they’re the ones that are like, “Okay, well how do, how do I sell from this white paper?” or “How do I sell from this podcast?” or “How do I sell from this Webinar?” And so I think that was one of the reasons, Joe, that the case study on Terminus was very surprising to me because Terminus is a company that you would think would be putting a lot of pressure on those marketers to bring in leads, bring in something that our salespeople can close right now. Can you just take listeners through the evolution of how Terminus did this?
Joe: Terminus is a great case study. Terminus is an account based marketing software as a service- it doesn’t matter if you know that it’s a SaaS, right? So they’re creating this software, and the CEO basically had this idea that they wanted to do, which I would consider a thought leadership program, called Flip My Funnel. This is a different way of looking at leads and how we approach leads. And of course they’re focusing on the problem. What’s the problem with leads? How do we get more out of them, how we build better relationships with customers? That’s what their software does. But they’re like we don’t want to sell all the time. How do we position this the right way? So they said, “Okay, let’s create this Flip My Funnel thing” and started a blog.
Joe: So to answer your first question, it got immediate executive support because it was the CEO’s baby.
Marcus: That’s huge.
Joe: That’s how a lot of these things start. So you get some champion in the organization that just believes it so much. Because Flip My Funnel- right away took a long time to get going. If you start a blog, if you start a video series, if you start a podcast minimum six months, nine months, twelve months before you get enough of an audience where you could possibly sell to that audience. Which means you have to have executive buy in. In Terminus’s case they did because the executive believes in it. He said, “I’m going to do it no matter what, and we’ll see what happens.” I don’t even think that he was thinking that it was going to be something like it was.
Joe: Well, it started to grow. More people started to subscribe to the blog. More people started to share it on social media. The audience was saying, “Is there an event for this?” The CEO and team of Flip My Funnel said, “There might be an event here!” They get an event together. The first event gets I think 150 couple of hundred people; I think it’s up to 500, 600, 700 people now- profitable event. They’re selling sponsorships for it and kicking off its own revenue. It’s growing like crazy, and they’ve even gotten approached on buying that- their marketing! People wanted to come in and buy it. Think about this. This is their marketing program: Flip My Funnel. Because they said, “Hey, we want to be known thought leaders in the industry for this. What are we going to do?” They create the blog; they create the event. And then outside media companies come in and want to buy it!
Marcus: Somebody wants to come in and buy your marketing.
Joe: Talk about that marketing, right? Now I love small business. This is actually easier for small businesses to do this.
Marcus: Talk to me about that.
Joe: Well, it’s usually executive sponsored. You have a small company; the CEO buys in. If you’re in a big company, usually a content marketing initiative isn’t even seen by the Chief Marketing Officer, right? It’s a low level; some slush funds were set aside, and they gave a pet project to somebody and said, “Okay, let’s do it.” But when things get tight, that gets cut.
Joe: But if it’s a small company, you’ve got C-level buy in. They are patient enough to go through the hills and valleys until you build a substantial audience and really make something of it.
Joe: And before you know it, you’ve got something. Take it: even at Content Marketing Institute, I mean if it wasn’t, you know, it was my wife and my company so we could do whatever we wanted to, but we could have easily given up on the whole initiative in nine, twelve months because it wasn’t doing anything. But we waited and waited. We built the audience. And then, you know, Content Marketing World went from nothing to 4,000 attendees in a few years. That happened because we were patient and let it happen. And it’s great because now you’ve built an asset in the company if you’re able to do that. But a lot of big companies don’t do that. And they’ve gone, you know, they just go back to what they know and what they’ve been doing for the last 75 years. And that’s advertising. “No! We have to advertise, and we have to interrupt! Let’s go do that.”
Marcus: And speaking of going back to what they know, one of the philosophical questions that I have for you- and I don’t know that I’ve heard you address this one before- but the reality is even in a small organization, sometimes we’re doing content marketing and sometimes our marketers are tasked with doing lead gen. So, you know, you look at a guy with Gary Vaynerchuk, and he’s like, “Jab, jab, jab, right hook.” He’s making it seem really simple. You know? My left hand, my jab, hand is all content marketing. Then my right hand is where I ask for the sale. That’s kind of tough to do an organization. So I mean, what do you see now? Do you have people in the organization that are specifically doing content marketing or specifically doing Lead Gen, or are you finding savvy marketers that can, can put their foot in both sides?
Joe: Well Marcus, honestly it’s all over the place. I’ve seen every type. I mean sometimes you have it as separate function. Sometimes you have one in the same. But what I would say, look, there’s no one right way to do this. Gary Vaynerchuk has his own take. He’s been very successful with it. He’s out hustling right now. I’m sure hustle, hustle, hustle. He’s got lots of things to do. So when he’s talking about, “Look at some point, with the content, we’re going to hit him with the sale,” I think that the content always should be helpful to the audience in some way. I would rather sell not through the content. So I’ll give you an example of what we did at CMI. So CMI has over 200,000 email subscribers that they send the blog out to. Well, the blog is always educational. It’s always helpful. It’s always “how to” always some strategy. Well, how do we sell? Well, they’ve given us permission for relevant emails to send them notices, and then we’ll say, “Look, you’re interested in content marketing. Would you come to Content Marketing World?”
Joe: It’s a flat out sell. That content is flat out, but I don’t want it disguised as thought leadership: something that should be thought leadership and then hit them with the hook, I guess is what Gary would call it, in the end. I don’t want to do that in my content. I want to do it AROUND the content because I think people respect you more if they know exactly- Are you selling? Are you not selling? You can say, “No, I’m not selling in this. I’m helping you. But around that content and this email, I’m absolutely selling you.”
Marcus: Yup. Clear barriers.
Joe: And that’s the price. That’s the value exchange, right? They gave me the email address. I’m going to respect that and send them great content, and to pay for that every once in a while I’m going to hit him with a sales pitch.
Marcus: So now you mentioned a little bit about what you did at CMI, and I got a couple questions for you because you’ve walked the walk and talked the talk for several years. So one of the inspirational pieces you shared and Killing Marketing was that visual marketing map of your brand, which was inspired by the Disney one. Can you just take us through that?
Joe: Oh, I love that. If anyone hasn’t seen the visual strategy that Walt Disney put together, I love it! There’s a picture you can find online. We like to talk about it in the book, but I found it, I stumbled on it; it’s from 1957. I actually stumbled on it in 2008, I think it was Harvard Business Review Post, and fell in love with it because Disney then, 1957, and today is both a media- they learned the convergence of media and marketing a long time ago. So if you look at the way that Disney did his strategy, and then we adapt- and I’ll go into what we did at CMI- is in the middle, you know, all of it was about either creating these cartoons, they’re creating these characters, they’re telling these stories, and they’re creating content, trying to win fans over. And then all around it, basically everything they would create all the magazines that they would create and all the specials that they would do and the radio shows and everything, would all lead to one place. And that was Disney World. And that’s how Disney, at the time, that was the big plan for Walt Disney on how he was going to build this empire and make his money. And he did pretty good job of it. But it was amazing that what happened is that every one of these initiatives were revenue generating on their own but always worked with one another and there was one big revenue generator. I would argue it’s changed because Disney has so many now, but at the time, it was just one and that was Disneyland… then morphed into Disneyland and Disney World. So I was like, “Oh my God, that could be CMI’s plan.”
Joe: So I studied and I went through it, and I said, “Well, what is that for content marketing? What is that for Content Marketing Institute?” Well, instead of all these cartoons and these characters being built, what could CMI do? And that was our blog. Our “attraction mechanism” was the blog. And every day we would send out a blog post, and we would work to get opt-in subscribers. And then all the other things that we ended up doing. We would say, “Okay, well how do we build more subscribers?” Well, the podcast helps do that. The webinar series helps to do that. The white paper series helps to do that. The mini events help to do that. Okay, that’s all great. And then those were all basically break-even scenarios. We’re making money, but we’re not setting up new bank accounts or anything. But what is that all leading to? The event. Content Marketing World was our Disneyland.
Marcus: Yeah, I guess here’s my-
Joe: Yeah. It has already made 80% of our profits.
Marcus: 80% of the profit. That’s, that’s super helpful. And I want to dig into that in just a little bit, but I think a question too is what type of a creative you are. That story plays so well here in 2019, but I am curious, when you first drew it up, did you have all of those ideas, or did this kind of start as a lego thing that you had the blog and now let’s… I’m just curious, you know, how you as a creative attacked it?
Joe: Oh no, no. That’s a good question. And I want to- because I’ve got all kinds of thoughts- I want to make sure I say the right thing to you. Initially when we tried to copy the Disney plan, we didn’t have the assets of Disney and we weren’t as far along. So I think what you’re asking is where do you start? What do you do? And this is- by the way, if anyone’s listening to this and getting into content marketing and wants to do it- this is, I think, one of the key things that we learned early and most organizations learn way too late. Most organizations want to do everything in one time. They want to do, “Oh, we’re going to do the blog. We’re going to do the podcast. We’re going to do the Instagram series. We’re going to do Facebook. We’re going to do everything all at once.”
Joe: Well, you know, you do that; you’ve just got a whole bunch of crap out there that’s not going to do any good because you can’t be great at everything at one time. So we knew that, and basically, that’s what Disney did as well. So if you go back, the way they did that they just started by creating amazing movies. They did that better than anyone else. So what can we do better than anyone else? We can do daily content about the industry better than anyone else. So we just did the blog, and we just did the blog for three years. First three years, that’s all we did! Didn’t do anything else.
Marcus: Is that right? Boy, now that’s actually surprised me. It was just a blog for three years?
Joe: It was just the blog. So I would say probably, let’s be fair- I don’t want to over exaggerate. I tend to. So, let’s say during the first 18 months, there was nothing but the blog. And then we started to wean in some webinars. And then we started our research program. So after the first 18 months, okay, then we did some webinars. Then six months later, then we started our annual research program. And then we got into the event… I’m sorry. Then we started the magazine, Chief Content Officer. Then we started the event Content Marketing World. So in January 2011 the magazine started; September 2011 was the event.
Marcus: And before you had launched all these properties did you have that visual map in place and then you were just exerting discipline, or did you step back when you had five or six of them and say, “Aha, now I’ve gotten my own map.”
Joe: Alright. You want to know how the map started? I wish I still had it because I don’t know what happened with it. I had napkin; it was a cocktail napkin. And this is basically, you know, back in the day we started a little software thing. This was back in 2007, 2008 I started a- basically it was a matching service for agencies- called Junta42. We called it the eharmony for content marketing. You were around during then and remember the whole thing! Well, that didn’t work. And this was in September of 2009 and, even though we had the subscribers and had everything, I hadn’t gotten into this plan yet. So this plan happened September 2009 when I was really feeling sorry for myself and I thought I’d have to go back and find a job.
Joe: And I wrote it on a cocktail napkin, and I said we would create the leading online destination for content marketing. That became contentmarketing.com, and then I had a little arrow going down to, once we do that, we’re going to create the leading print magazine in the world for content marketing. That it became Chief Content Officer magazine. And then I had a little arrow to go on to the next one that said, we’re going to create the leading physical event for contact marketing. And that became Content Marketing World. And the goal was, I can’t remember the exact year, I think we were trying to say, could I do this in five years? And we ended up probably by 2012 doing it. So basically three years later, two and a half years later.
Marcus: So it’s really helpful to think about, that for you, it wasn’t just a a map of, you know, I assume I’m speaking to you in your hometown of Cleveland… It wasn’t a map of Ohio, but it was truly, in your case, it was a map of how to travel through Ohio. I’m going to go to this step, this place first, this place second. And when it’s all said and done, then I will have this content marketing empire.
Joe: Yes, it had to be that way because none of the magazine was impossible without the audience. The event wasn’t possible without the audience. The easiest way, and you may disagree, you may say now it’s a podcast today, you may say it’s something else today, but at the time the easiest way was to create an email subscription following through blog content. And so that’s exactly what we did. People like the blog so much, they end up subscribing to your email newsletter. They opt in to get updates from us, and then I can say, “Hey, would you like to subscribe? You’re a marketer. Would you like a free subscription to the magazine?” Then with the magazine, I get people to sponsor that, advertise in that, so that supports itself. And then we get them to the granddaddy of them all Content Marketing World. And we were hoping for 150 to show up in Cleveland in 2011 and we were lucky and blessed to have 660 show up that year.
Marcus: I’ve got a question for you about the event, but I do want to tie off just one more question with this. My perception, Joe, and you’ve already said that 80% of the profits came from the event, but my perception is like any media business, my perception is that some of those properties probably did not perform exceptionally well on an individual basis. And my question is: am I correct in that assumption? And, and as CEO of this, were you ever tempted to shutter one of those, or were you always cognizant of what they were contributing holistically to the brand?
Joe: That is so… You know, this question because you’ve lived through it so many times with publisher’s whining to kill magazines! Yes. The answer is, I so much believe- the one that really didn’t serve itself so well was the print magazine. Print magazine was costly to do. The audience development on that cost more than anyone else to make sure we had the right addresses and keep getting them opted into that. And if you looked at it on a line-by-line basis, revenue from expenses, I could make it look like it was making money, but it was losing my on paper. But I also knew that I could not get the philosophy of content marketing to chief marketing officers without that magazine. And that was the goal.
Joe: The goal- trying to reach content marketing people, people doing content marketing, that was the blog. Those are the people that were online all day. They were getting the blog. They’re on Twitter. They’re on Facebook. They’re on LinkedIn, and they were engaged in it. That’s great. They got the blog. But we needed to reach CMOs because we needed a cultural change in the organization for these things to get adopted and for the CMO to say, “Yes, I will send 15 to 20 people from my organization to Content Marketing World.” That, you have to make mountains move to do that kind of thing! And that’s what the magazine did. So on paper, if you just, and I can prove it to you in a second and how that really works, so I knew which companies we’re going to and what CMOs we were hitting, and we were very strategic about who got that. We pushed audience development on basically the Fortune 5000, leaning heavily toward B2B. That was our target. We were going into that, and then I could show that, when we started that magazine going into 2012, 2013, 2014 those organizations where we had subscribers, they were, though we had not met necessarily those people, but we had individuals from that organization coming more and more at a higher percentage if we could get that magazine inside the company.
Joe: That’s what we’re talking about. That’s making change happen. But if you just looked at the numbers and you were a CMO, or a publisher, an executive, you would’ve killed it years ago without looking at that data.
Marcus: Right. And you know, it’s interesting, what you’ve got going on there that I don’t think a lot of people necessarily pay enough attention to, is you’ve got some really savvy segmentation going on there behind the scenes. I think Ryan Holiday recently said, you know, when you’re launching a product or service, you should take out a piece of paper and say this is a blank that does blank for blank. So your magazine’s statement would look a lot different than a lot of your other initiatives. So, you know, I’m not surprised.
Joe: Yeah, different audience targets. Different audience targets, different goals. I don’t think a lot of even traditional media companies, and you’ve worked with most of them out there, they don’t think about it that way. They think, “Oh, somebody reading the online stuff is the same person that’s reading the magazine. That’s the same person that’s going into the event.” No, it’s not. It’s hardly ever that way. You have different groups of audiences. They may be learning the same types of things, but you present in a different way depending on who they are. And we realize that early in the game; we were lucky to do that.
Marcus: That is dynamite insight. I’m going all over the place on this interview because I feel like I’m the guy getting getting you back out of the woodwork here after a year, but I do want to ask you another question. I’m asking all the good questions, Joe. You’re not going to have to do any more podcasts this year!
Marcus: But, one of the things that I was always amazed about was when you launched Content Marketing World. First year event, and even in the second and third years, you didn’t really wait to go big on that. And I’m talking about your keynote speakers. Can you help us understand why you made the decision? You know, look, you could have done a chief marketing officer from any of the Fortune 500 companies and they would have been good, but you’re like, “No, I’m doing Kevin James. I’m doing Tina Fey. I’m doing Mark Hamill.” How or when did you have that thought, and tell me what it meant for the brand.
Joe: Oh, I know exactly when it happened. It’s, um, so we had a meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. This was, October, November of 2010. And we’ve got a lot of the business leaders in downtown. I was trying to make it a big deal that we were bringing this huge content marketing event nobody do with content marketing was a huge marketing event to Cleveland, Ohio. I was trying to get excitement going and people to adopt it as their own. And so in November, you know we put out, “Hey, here’s the event” and we opened up for registration. And I’m looking at it, and I’m like, “Okay well it’s the end of the year we’ve got nine months ago and we’ve got like 30 to 40 people signed up. That’s okay.” Because I was hoping for 100-150. I’m like okay this is fine.
Joe: And then I’m like well am I setting my expectations a little bit low, 100-150? It’s not going to be the leading event in the world if I’m just satisfied with 100-150. Like we really do have to go big or go home. So we, at the end of the year, talked with Pam, my wife. She also ran operations and the events side, specifically. And we’re like, well, what do we do? And we’re like, we know exactly what we do. We go out and we get a big name that puts us on the map that says we’re not just some small event; this is going to be it and this will pay dividends for years and years on. And we went out and said, okay, well what makes the most sense? And at the time, Kevin Smith, you know, Silent Bob?
Marcus: Oh yeah. I said Kevin James. It was Kevin Smith.
Joe: Yeah. Clerks Kevin Smith, that Kevin Smith. He also created this huge podcast empire. He was doing all of this stuff that was very relevant to what we were talking about, content marketing. And I said, “Well, if he can not be, uh- cannot use so many bad words, maybe he’ll work!” And we went out and made this crazy offer, and he said yes. We worked through it. And I remember the day he accepted, I was at South by Southwest, I was talking to David Meerman Scott, who we also went out got, still a big keynote speaker, but at the time, very, very popular marketing keynote speaker. I went and got him, and then told him at South by Southwest. So we were at the same party together. And I said, “We just got Kevin Smith.” And he said, “Oh my God, you do not know how big that is.” And I said, “It’s okay. He’s not, you know, it’s not Mark Hamill. It’s not the biggest name on the planet, but it’s okay.” And he said, “You have no idea how big this is going to be.” And he was absolutely right. And that sort of put us on the map. We had to put- there’s a lot of money that we had to put down and we did not have it at all. We were totally faking our way there. And I think just making that commitment and believing in the visual map and believing that it was going to happen: it made all the difference.
Marcus: Well, and as a fan of yours and as a friend, I agree. I mean, I was thrilled about the event when you said you were launch it and then I was like, really? Kevin Smith, really? Tina Fey? So yeah, you nailed it. Hey, you know, as we sit here on January 19 you know, there are some indications that this long prosperous boom might be coming to an end. And in this book about “killing marketing” you’re talking about creating new defensible revenue streams. These streams will become more important if the economy does slow. But at the same time, we do all know that when times get tough the C-suites starts asking some strange questions to the marketing department. What do you think’s going to happen to these brands if in fact the economy does now take a take a turn towards slowing down?
Joe: That is a fantastic question, and all I can do, Marcus, is go back, into brief history. But if we look back at when content marketing first started to take off. It was in ’08, ’09 when we see the first, outside of the Red Bulls and the Disneys and everything, how you really started to see regular companies get involved in content marketing, which are a lot of the case studies we talk about in the book Killing Marketing. That was in ’08, ’09. That was when the major financial recession, which I’ll remember forever and anyone in the stock market would remember when that all happened. Now content marketing can be, and sometimes is, more expensive, but if you’re smart about it and your agile about it, it doesn’t have to be. And these are times when, I mean, if you look at some of the greatest companies in the world were born during recessions. Intel, everybody knows, Intel knows that was during a recession that Intel was born. Another great company, Content Marketing Institute was born during a recession.
Joe: These are when you get people who are risk takers that really want to do something amazing. And by the way, I’m being facetious about Content Marketing Institute, but the old, and you know the landscape at the time, the only reason CMI and Content Marketing World were ever created, it’s because you had the Cranes of the world, you had B2B Magazine, you had Ad Age, you had Adweek, you had all these marketing publications that should have done Content Marketing World. They were all battening down the hatches. They all stopped spending and everything, and they just prayed for it to be over. And they got what they got. When you had really, really small, crazy entrepreneurs that are running these other media companies thinking, “Now is the time that we can take market share and actually create something.”
Joe: So that’s why I always think it was fortuitous- it was a tough to go through that time- but it was fortuitous in that horrible economic time that we had to make an opportunity. So I would say this to anybody in that position. Yes. I we’ve all seen that there’s a possible slow down. Some people have said recession. I don’t know if that’s true, but definitely some kind of a slow down. This is the best opportunity because the media companies and your competition are going to put a pause sign up, and when they put a pause sign up, that’s when you start to see dollar signs and say, “If we invest now when we come out of this thing in two to three years, we’re going to have the most loyal, largest, whatever the audience is.” And you’ll be able to generate revenue from that quicker than anyone else would be able to.
Marcus: I couldn’t agree more. There is so much opportunity created in times like this. Which brings me to my last formal question for you. What’s the opportunity in 2019 for Joe Pulizzi? You know, you’re coming off of this one year sabbatical. What do you got planned for this year?
Joe: I actually thought, “Boy, 2018 was such a great year. Maybe I can just do a second year of sabbatical!” I think my wife would kill me if I did that. So besides I spent a lot more time with the kids. My two sons are 15 and 17. I’ve really enjoyed spending a lot more time with them. We worked somewhat full time, my wife and I, on our foundation a 501(c)3 called the Orange Effect Foundation. And basically we focus on delivering funds to pay for speech therapy for mostly autistic children that can’t afford it.
Joe: We now fund 127 kids in 28 states. And if you are at all, or anybody listening to this, if you know the power of consistent speech therapy or you know of autistic children and how they need help, they really can communicate but they need some help to do that. We are looking for any and all donations, and we are not afraid to ask for them. So that’s at the orangeeffect.org. And then as I told you before we started the show, I’m just finishing my first novel I wrote. I’ve written or co-written five nonfiction marketing business books and this is my first novel, and I just hope it isn’t horrible.
Marcus: Well, I have all the faith in the world for you. Alright. Well that sound effect means we’re near the end of the program, but it does mean I get to spend our Marketing Minute with my good friend Joe Pulizzi. So Joe, are you ready?
Speaker 3: Okay,
Joe: I’m ready. Let’s do it.
Marcus: Okay. Apple or Android?
Marcus: Android! Yeah, I that one surprises me. Let’s keep going. When you are surfing the web, sir, ad blocker or no.
Joe: No, I want to see the ads.
Marcus: Nice, nice. My kind of guy. Timex, smartwatchs or bare wrist.
Joe: Oh, well I want a regular old fashioned watch, but I don’t want to Timex.
Marcus: Oh, okay. That’s fair. This one is going to be fun. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Don Draper.
Joe: Oh my gosh. I probably have to go on with Don Draper.
Marcus: Nice. Outstanding. And my final one for Joe Pulizzi. Sir, let’s talk about your television habits. Are you in fact a cable-holic or cord cutter?
Joe: Oh, cord cutter. I’m in love with Hulu and Roku. I love both those companies, and I plan to stay with them for a long, long time.
Marcus: Well, how about that? That’s a ringing endorsement from one from the top marketers out there. Joe, thank you so much for joining us today on The Revenue Stream. There’s so many ways that people can Google you; you’re highly google-able. But throw out a couple of the URLs.
Joe: Easiest way is Joepulizzi.com, or probably best, and if you wanted to get my attention, it’s @JoePulizzi on Twitter.
Marcus: Outstanding. Well, hey, this has been Marcus Grimm for Web Talent Marketing. I’m thrilled to have Joe on the program today. We’ll see you on the next episode. This has been The Revenue Stream with Web Talent Marketing.