Leading Lights: Junta42's Joe Pulizzi

by Britton Manasco | Feb 05, 2009 | Content Strategy

In their recent
Get Content, Get Customers, Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett make a powerful case
for what they call “content marketing.” Their objective is to show how marketers
can – and must – turn content into a powerful asset for generating leads and
closing business. “No longer is it necessary to buy ads to get your message
out,” they write. “Today, marketers can be the media. Businesses, both large and
small, have the opportunity to create their own valuable, relevant and
compelling cont
ent that turns prospects into buyers.” Pulizzi is the publisher
of the highly trafficked Junta42 blog, which identifies trends in content
marketing, and founder of Junta42 Match, an online service that pairs marketers
with custom publishers. Since its launch last summer, the service has matched
parties for m
Leading lights_joe_pulizziore than 100 content projects. I spoke with Pulizzi recently about
his perspectives on today’s “conten
t revolution” and its implications for B2B

Tell me about the
core premise behind your book. What does it help reade
rs grasp about this
emerging field of content

  The book gives you an understanding
about how buyer behavior has changed and
how content influences the buying
process now. And if you implement the tactics we discuss in this book you will
see your business grow.  I really do believe that.  Creating valuable,
compelling and relevant information is perhaps the most important part of a
marketing program today. Buyer behavior, as we show, ha
s changed 
dramatically in
recent years. Ninety percent of buying decisions start on the web. They’re
looking for information. The question is: Are th
ey going to find your
information? We talk about the different questions that you need to ask yourself
to develop a content marketing strategy. This will position you as a trusted
solution provider – the one to turn to when the time is right to

It seems like
content marketing represents a relatively cost effective way for companies to
engage prospects early, develop an ongoing conversation and guide them through
the various stages of a decision cycle.

Absolutely. What I’m seeing and what
marketers I deal with are telling me is that relevant content strengthens their
marketing efforts. When people go to a search engine and they go to a website,
they find content that helps them identify an answer to their problem. What it’s
done is it’s disrupted the whole sales and marketing cycle. Whereas customers
used to look to sales reps and distributors for buying information, the B2B
complex sales cycle has changed because so much is in the hands of customers
now. They are finding that information on their own.  It’s completely changed
the cycle, turning it on its head. They’ll now come down to their two, three or
four vendors themselves without having to do an RFP – just by going online and

Right. The buyers
are essentially moving down decision cycles on their own through the research
they conduct online.

I guess the question is: Will you be
completely forgotten if you don’t have valuable and relevant content out there?
By the time they’re ready to start seriously talking to companies that can
provide a solution, you’re just not considered one of the meaningful players if
you haven’t reached them with relevant content.

You discuss both
B2B and B2C companies in your work on content marketing.  What is the difference
between B2B and B2C in this regard?

Well, I think it’s generally a more
complex sale in B2B. If you are making a decision to spend between let’s say
$50,000 and $250,000, it’s a decision that you cannot make in a day. You have
multiple influencers within your company. Content marketing is about how you as
a company are educating them and addressing their questions so they can make a
better decision. They’re going to find that content somewhere.  Are they going
to find it from you?  Are you the solution provider? Or are they going to find
it from your competition? Where are they going to find it? Buyers are creating
new processes for making their decisions easier, faster, and better. So they’re
going to go out there and find that content and that’s why, in a B2B complex
sale, it’s so important that you make that information available. They don’t
want to talk to your sales reps until they’re ready to

So if you are not
generating insightful and actionable content, you are invisible to these
increasingly sophisticated and demanding buyers. 

Right. That’s reality. Well, what
are you going to do about that? You have to make sure you have tons and tons of
really good content. I think most companies are good at creating information
about their products. They’ve done that for years. Just take the stuff that you
had in your brochures and put it online and maybe create some new interactive
ways for them to get that content. But that’s really not what today’s prospects
really need. What they need to know is how you are going to solve their
problems. That’s where content marketing comes in. You’ve got to be really
educational. But then, at the end of the day, how’s it going to help you
accomplish your marketing goals? Buyers are fine with you selling to them, but
only if you’re giving them very valuable, relevant, compelling

If it’s artfully
executed, perhaps there’s never a point at which somebody feels like they’re
being sold to.

Oh, I would agree with that. What
I’m seeing happen is marketers starting to understand that their companies can
be the trusted media source – talking one-on-one with customers. They don’t have
to go through anybody. They can educate their customers and prospects so that
they become the trusted solution provider. If I am a marketer for a design
software company like Autodesk, I can produce content that discusses trends in
design engineering and I can distribute that content in multiple channels. When
buyers are ready to buy, they will look to us for guidance and direction

You’ve also noted
in your work that traditional media channels and relationships are disappearing.
What opportunity does that present? 

Why can’t you be the media and the
trusted solution provider? That channel could be yours. If you want to be the
media company, you can. You can be the publisher. You just have to look at it
that way. But most companies don’t look at it that

  Yeah, I think
it’s an interesting challenge. In line with what you said, marketers have to act
like publishers. And they must generate fully qualified, “sales-ready” leads.
This really gets to the division of labor in marketing and sales. If sales
people are spending a great deal of their time on prospecting, they are not
developing or applying the skills necessary to guide the buyer through a complex
decision. They are not being truly consultative.

It’s a really good point and gets to
the whole role of the salesperson today. It’s completely changed because a lot
of that prospecting and cold-calling that you used to do have gone away. As a
lot of these marketing organizations become a little bit more sophisticated and
generate leads online, you, as a sales professional, are in there to really help
the buyer make that final decision.

Right. Marketing
must take the prospective buyer a lot farther than they’ve ever taken them. The
expectations for a truly sales-ready lead are rising steeply. You aren’t passing
along a “prospect” who can fog a mirror but rather, an engaged, motivated,
interested buyer who is already exploring the possibilities associated with
taking action. So how do you think marketers will go about developing the
content marketing capabilities that you urge them to develop?

As I see it, more and more
organizations are waking up and they’re saying, “We need content.” Some always
knew they needed content, but didn’t realize they needed a content strategy.
They are starting to realize they must plan for content all along the way. So
what they’re doing is they’re creating editorial calendars very similar to the
way media companies have done for years. But they’re doing it on an ad hoc
basis.  Some have newsletters and some have magazines but now they have to look
at it on an enterprise-wide basis and say, “We have to have content all over the
place in all different forms and channels.” Plus, add in the social media stuff.
You can’t have a successful social media program unless you have really good
content. I’m a firm believer in that. If you don’t have something valuable
behind that social media presence, good luck.

Who do you think
will take the next great leap in B2B marketing in terms of advanced content
marketing capabilities?

I believe you’re going to have
organizations like Oracle or Microsoft that start creating content engines.
They’ll start hiring high-quality journalists and actively create their own
content. Big companies are going to have to do that because it’s going to make a
lot more sense for them just to start hiring talent. I think small- and
mid-sized companies who can’t afford to hire on all this talent will continue to
outsource. But the big companies will have their own editorial content

Why does it make
more sense for those companies? What’s the

I think it comes down to the
expertise they can afford. Small- and mid-sized companies will be challenged by
the growing demands. You have to understand SEO and landing pages and
copywriting. You have to understand the value of an interview and storytelling.
You have to understand different channels and how to best to distribute content
through those channels, whether you’re talking about print, online or in person.
It’s just a lot to handle. 

How should
companies go about identifying the various types of content they should be
developing and marketing? 

The first thing that you have to do
is where they are at right now. What are they doing? What you tend to find is
you have a lot of overlap of content. You have a lot of departments talking
about the same thing. Resources aren’t being used effectively. You’ve got
different messages coming out of different departments. So you have to spend
some time getting a handle on what’s going on in the company. You need to know
what’s working. How are you measuring the impact of your current efforts?

And then, you need to really
understand the informational needs of your customers.   That’s a big one.
Companies all know what they want to say, right?  “Oh, we need to talk about
this. We need to talk about that.” You may feel you need to talk about that to
sell your products or services. But, do you really, really understand what’s
going on with your customers? You really need to have a good idea of what’s
going on out there. Who’s talking about what? This is where social media can be

Then, you need to clarify what you
are trying to accomplish from an organizational standpoint. What are your
objectives? Yes, you want to focus on the customer.  But, at the end of the day,
you’re a marketer and you need to sell stuff. You better be profitable and you
better be driving business.

So what are you doing now? What are
the informational needs of your customers? And what are you trying to
accomplish? You’ll need to know those three things to begin creating a content
marketing strategy.

You’ve made the
case that three are many types of firms – such as custom content firms, public
relations firms and direct marketing firms – that will fight it out to provide
content marketing services in the coming years. Could you elaborate?

Well, let’s start with the custom
publishers because they think this is their domain.  They’ve been taking the
storytelling approach. They started by developing custom print publications and
then they made the transition online. 

Then you have PR folks that
understand the value of a story but maybe haven’t looked at the channel
distribution like this before or concentrated on interaction with a very
targeted group of people. 

And then you have the direct
marketers who’ve been doing a lot of direct communication for years but really
haven’t looked at content quite this way. You don’t really have an “offer” all
the time when you’re talking about content marketing.

And then you’ve got advertising
agencies and you’ve got you’ve got SEM or SEO and interactive groups.

Which ones have
the advantage?

That’s a good question. I don’t
think it’s going to be advertising agencies because I think the jump is too big.
I think what the advertising agencies will end up doing is actually buying out
small custom publishing groups and content agencies that get it. That’s how
they’re going to get in the game. I think that custom publishers probably have
the biggest advantage because they already have the model and the setup.  But
how quickly can they get up to speed on leveraging social media and new media
through that storytelling process? Then I would probably look at PR agencies. If
I were a betting man, I’d put my money on those two: PR firms and custom
publishers. The reason why is because they both understand