Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi on the State of B2B Media
In eight short years, Joe Pulizzi has taken his idea for serving the then nascent content marketing space and turned it into a $6.5 million business. His bold approach to growing the Content Marketing Institute -- and in so doing legitimizing and expanding the market for content marketing -- is mirrored by the bright orange that wraps CMI's website, events, and even Pulizzi himself.
From the outset, Pulizzi was confident that content marketing was the skeleton key to getting consumers, long numb to traditional marketing, to reengage with brands by providing valuable information, content, or whatever you care to call it. Turning that fundamental belief into a business was the hitch.
The original model for CMI (then called Junta42) was to charge a fee to match up brands that needed content marketing projects completed with those that could execute -- agencies, publishers, journalists, designers. But it became clear the business model didn't work: Filling the customer pipeline was unpredictable, the loss of a major account was devastating, and agencies and publishers were hard to part with cash. With a crucial pivot, Pulizzi squared on a media model based on educating brands, marketers, agencies, and whoever else was thirsty to learn, how to attract customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling.
"Everybody was after education and training," says Pulizzi. "'How do I do this? How do I integrate it into the organization? What the heck is this? How do I source it? How do I staff it? How much should I spend on it?' That's when we just said, 'Okay, forget that other model -- let's just focus on education.'"
Media happens to be in Pulizzi's DNA. He started working for Penton in 2000 in the custom media group, producing content marketing projects for advertisers, and eventually running the department. Pulizzi says despite the "fair share of struggles" Penton faced in the early 2000s-dotcom bust, post-9/11 stagnation, some fizzled acquisitions -- the custom media division was growing. "I think when I started, it was about a $2 million division, and when I left, it was about $14 million, so we had really good dollar growth."
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Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.