Episode Twenty One features Joe Pulizzi talking about how you can build a successful business by following his Content, Inc model!
My Key Takeaways:
Joe was another great guest and his book, Content Inc. is an invaluable resource to myself and other cont...
Episode Twenty One features Joe Pulizzi talking about how you can build a successful business by following his Content, Inc model!
My Key Takeaways:
Joe was another great guest and his book, Content Inc. is an invaluable resource to myself and other content creators.
To learn more about Joe Pulizzi, you can check him out at TheTilt.com. I also highly recommend his book, Content, Inc which you can find on Amazon.com
Now next week, we'll have on Zev Asch talking about his book, How To Get The Most Out Of Marketing: An Action Plan For Small Business Owners! Be sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app so that you don't miss it or any other episodes.
[00:00:00] Greg Mills: Our guest today is an entrepreneur speaker, author, and podcaster. He's the best selling author of Content, Inc Killing Marketing, and Epic Content Marketing. His novel, The Will To Die, was awarded best suspense book of 2020 by the national indie excellence awards. He was founded four companies, including the Content Marketing Institute and his newest launch, The Tilt dedicated to turning content creators into content entrepreneurs.
[00:00:29] He's also the co-founder of the Orange Effect Foundation, a foundation dedicated to finding speech therapy and technology resources for children and families that needed it most. Without further ado, Joe Pulizzi.
[00:00:43] Joe Pulizzi: Greg. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Appreciate being on with you.
[00:00:46] Greg Mills: It's my pleasure. Joe, can you take a few moments and fill in the gaps when that intro and bring us up to speed with what's going on in your world.
[00:00:54] Joe Pulizzi: Yeah. Um,
[00:00:55] I mean, you covered, most of it I've been in, I started in publishing over 20 years ago, fell into this thing called content marketing, which all my business books are around that, which is basically instead of interrupting people, uh, with, let's say advertising, we're going to create valuable, relevant, compelling information, build an audience.
[00:01:12] And then if they know like, and trust us, they're more willing to buy stuff from us. So that's the whole idea behind content marketing. Uh, my wife and I, uh, own ran content marketing Institute up to 2016. We had a very successful exit then. And, uh, I stayed with the company until 2018. Took that whole year off in 18.
[00:01:32] One of the best years of my life spent a lot of time with my kids. My two kids. In college. And, uh, and now really because of this whole pandemic thing, I spent a lot, of course, like a lot of people were spending a lot of time at home and I decided to really focus my energy on like individual content creators who are trying to be financially independent.
[00:01:55] And when I say content creators, I'll be talking about bloggers or podcasters or YouTube or Twitch streamers, anybody. That's actually trying to create a business out of this. And there's just a lot of questions it's very hard to do. And I said, well, I can probably be more effective at helping those people than let's say writing a second novel, which is the novel did great as no.
[00:02:16] I mean, I always wanted to write a novel, but I figured, you know, I could be more helpful. So we launched another business called The Tilt and we are a hundred percent dedicated to training and education for content creators and helping them understand what it takes to build.
[00:02:31] Greg Mills: Okay. Now, are you kind of the outlier in your family or did you come from an entrepreneurial background?
[00:02:37] Joe Pulizzi: No, I absolutely did come from an entrepreneurial background. My, uh, my parents owned a restaurant called Pulizzi's Restaurant in Sandusky, Ohio. So I grew up in that until I was age six or seven, and they ended up selling that business. And at the same time, my grandfather and my uncle owned a funeral home. So I, I grew up in the funeral business.
[00:03:01] I worked at the funeral, their funeral home from, you know, 18 to 22 all during my college years. So basically every little piece of my family had some sort of entrepreneurial spirit and I was itching to start a business forever. I mean, I was in corporate environment until I was 33, 34.
[00:03:19] And finally, you know, I took the leap and started what ultimately became Content Marketing Institute. But yeah, I always had that itch and it's much easier when you see people around you that are doing this and are living a completely different sort of life, not a nine to five life in any way.
[00:03:36] And that's what I was doing. I also thought I wanted to spend time with my family on my terms. So made that decision finally, and it took the leap and it worked out really well.
[00:03:46] Greg Mills: Now you were using the term 'content marketing' as early as you know, back in 2001. How do you define it?
[00:03:55] Joe Pulizzi: First of all, the idea with content marketing used to be called custom publishing or custom media. And it came from the magazine industry where a lot of, uh, companies, instead of doing advertising would create their own magazines like Walmart and Sam's club has their own magazine. Mazda has their own magazine, airline magazines.
[00:04:13] That's where it came from. Was in charge of at the time, this is in 2000, 2001. I had to go sell these projects to big, mostly business, uh, business marketers, chief marketing officers. And when I'd go in and I talked to them about custom publishing, they'd already be sleeping.
[00:04:29] They don't know any of the publishing. We don't do publishing I'm a marketer. So that's when I started using the term content marketing because, uh, you know, just use logic, right? Search marketing, social media, marketing, direct marketing. If you want to get a marketers attention, you have to call it marketing. So I started using content marketing.
[00:04:47] It started to get some traction. And then the whole idea behind it is instead of this interruption thing. So instead of borrowing somebody else's channel: the newspaper, the magazine, the blog, the YouTube channel, you know, your podcasts, let's say I wanted to, I wanted to, uh, advertise on your channel.
[00:05:06] I would be borrowing your audience, your channel, and then say, hopefully people would pay attention to what I have to say with whatever I'm trying to sell. I think there's a better way. And so the idea of content marketing is: how do I create valuable, relevant, and compelling information to a very targeted audience over a long period of time.
[00:05:25] And if I do that, I'll be able to hopefully change or maintain some kind of a behavior. And so what you see a lot of companies doing, and it's probably the fastest growing area of marketing right now where they're trying to figure out, Okay. well, uh, it's, it's much more expensive. It's much more difficult just to advertise.
[00:05:44] How do we do this? How do we build an audience of email subscribers? How do we build a following on YouTube? How do we figure out this thing called Tik Tok? And so you have a lot of companies trying to do that. Most of them not doing very well because it's difficult and it takes a long time to do.
[00:05:58] That's where you're seeing a lot more individual content creators that really only need a smartphone today to try to communicate whatever message they are. Hopefully they have some kind of a hook, some kind of differentiation, and then they can go ahead and create an audience. And that's what we did at Content Marketing Institute start in 2007, really started to get some traction in 2002.
[00:06:18] Launched our big event called Content Marketing World in 2011. So we went from 2010. I think we had revenues of around 50, $60,000 a year. I was losing a ton of money. And then five years later, we were a $10 million business and then ended up selling for a bunch of money the next year. So, it's absolutely the best business model out there.
[00:06:37] It just takes a long time to get there.
[00:06:40] Greg Mills: Now you touched on this a little bit. After you sold the content marketing Institute. And you'd already become a full time novelist. What brought you back into marketing?
[00:06:51] Joe Pulizzi: It was so strange. It was right after the launch of my novel, The Will To Die. This was in March 8th, 2020, which was had to do the timetable in your head the next day. Basically everything shut down across the United States. . And so I'm like, okay, well I'll just start out. You know, we were all at home.
[00:07:10] I'll start on my second novel. No problem.
[00:07:13] But. Over the next 3, 4, 6 weeks. I started to get emails and texts and messages from friends and colleagues and, and LinkedIn connections where they were trying to figure out this whole Content, Inc. Model and content Inc was the book I wrote in 2015.
[00:07:29] It's about the idea of, can you actually build a business out of content creation with what we were talking about with content marketing before, but not in a company for yourself? And I started to go through it and say yes. And I'm like, okay. this is weird. That all of a sudden we're getting this, I understand people are, are getting laid off from their jobs.
[00:07:49] What's the next whole thing. And then I started looking at podcast downloads. I stopped the Content, Inc. podcast in 2017 entirely. And I looked at the downloads and the downloads were going up and I'm like, this is really strange. It's three years. I haven't touched this thing at all. Downloads are going up.
[00:08:04] I'm like, Okay.
[00:08:04] let me check book sales. 2015 was the, when the book came out and I'm checking book, sales book sales are up too. So I'm like, Okay. something's going on here? There is a whole movement here toward this idea called Content Entrepreneurship as we call it now. And I said, I think I can do more good in this area.
[00:08:24] So I went back to McGraw Hill and publisher of Content, Inc. And I said, I think there's something here. We look at the data. Am I right? They said, yep, absolutely. We think there's a need here to update this version of Content, Inc. So we created the second version. Uh, produced it in 2021 and I'm working through all the case studies and everything, Greg.
[00:08:44] And I'm like, well, I can't just do the book. We have to do the whole thing. Like we're going to go, go big or go home. So we said, okay, well let's create the destination. So we created The Tilt, which is, you know, a place a two times email newsletter. We send out to content creators to help them, learn the business side of content entrepreneurship.
[00:09:05] And now we're launching training and we're doing the whole thing. So basically if the pandemic never happened, Greg, I would probably be on my of the series of The Will To Die, a mystery thriller series. But instead now I'm back on the content business side and I'm having a great time and it's just, it's amazing.
[00:09:24] Meeting, all the people and all the issues and all the opportunities. I've never seen anything like it. And it's just, it's, it's fun to work with individual entrepreneurs now instead of working and nothing against working with corporate marketers. I love them. That's what we did at Content Marketing Institute.
[00:09:40] But there's just something about working with entrepreneurs. Again. That's.
[00:09:42] really exciting.
[00:09:44] Greg Mills: Yeah. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
[00:09:48] Joe Pulizzi: Isn't that the truth?
[00:09:50] Greg Mills: What's the underlying concept for Content, Inc.? Can you go over that?
[00:09:55] Joe Pulizzi: Basically, I believe the best way to launch a business today as an entrepreneur is to build an audience first and then launch a product. And once you understand that audience better than anyone else, once you build an audience that knows likes and trusts. And that's completely the opposite of the way most businesses start as you know, right.
[00:10:18] Oh, they have a product. I mean, we have an amazing product. We have a service idea. That's going to be great. So you do the whole thing, right? You figure out, well, what's the product, what's the price. What's my distribution. What's my marketing plan, all of these things. And you really don't know whether or not that's going to work.
[00:10:34] And if you look at any of the data out there, you know, most entrepreneurs fail, you know, 90% of all of these businesses are failing, you know, 50% are dead in the first couple years. And it's, it's very hard to be successful as an entrepreneur. And I think one of the reasons. We start out thinking we have this great idea without really understanding the market dynamics without really understanding the audience's needs or pain points.
[00:10:58] And so we flipped the model and this is how we launched Content Marketing Institute. We said, okay, well, what if we build an audience first, we happened to do that through a blog and an email newsletter. Some people do it through YouTube, some people through Instagram, some people through a podcast, whatever it doesn't matter, but you build that audience.
[00:11:15] First, you deliver consistently over a long period of time. That audience begins to say, Hey, I really trust that person. And they also will tell you exactly what they want to buy. So as you start to go through and figure out what your products and services should be, you you're like, okay, this will work.
[00:11:29] This won't work, whatever. So for example, with content marketing Institute, this is 2010. I was basically doing consulting to keep the lights on. We didn't really know what we were going to do from a product standpoint. And then I started to get. Emails chats, uh, notes from friends from subscribers, then they would say, Joe, um, do you have any training in your organization that you could help us with? Joe,
[00:11:57] is there any large in-person events for content marketing? Um, those types of questions were asked. I'm like, well, no, there's not, but there should be. So we ended up launching those things. And like for example, the event was a huge success. We were hoping to get a hundred, 150 people into Cleveland. The first year we ended up getting 600 that year.
[00:12:17] The, the event became the largest event in Cleveland, Ohio up to 4,000 attendees. And I'm like, this business model works. Now. It takes longer. You have to make it through the early days. You have to figure out how you're going to keep the lights on. And you're going to have a lot of bologna sandwiches and ramen noodles.
[00:12:34] But once you build that?
[00:12:37] audience and you figure out what those products and services and revenue sources will be, then you can see some hockey stick growth in year two, three and four, which is what we saw. So basically and this is how we're launching the tilt as well. I have ideas of how I think we can generate revenue for the tilt, but right now, all we're doing is building an audience of subscribers.
[00:12:56] And I believe that once we get to the point, like we already know that training is a need. So we're figuring, Okay. training will be the first thing we do. I don't know what's going to be next, but if you can do that model, it's a lot of people can't because they don't have the patience. But if you can do that model, it's the absolute best model because you already have built your database of customers.
[00:13:15] They're your subscribers. So if you work for the last year and you have 10,000 email subscribers, which is what we're getting to on The Tilt. I already know, they open our emails. They love us, they share our stuff on social media. They already have told us what products they want to buy. And as soon as we launch, I'm expecting them fully to buy those products.
[00:13:34] And then here we go. So that's the idea. It's a scary business model, but I think it's, it's one of the best ones out there.
[00:13:41] Greg Mills: Okay. Now in your book Content, Inc, you talk about the seven steps of starting a business using that model. Can you walk us through those?
[00:13:52] Joe Pulizzi: sure. Yeah. Briefly I'll walk you through the seven steps. So the first two steps are figuring out your strategy. So the first is a sweet spot. So basically, what are you going to talk about? What, what are you going to create content around. The sweet spot is the intersection between what your expertise is your knowledge or skill area that you have that you know, and what is your audience's desire on the other side, what's their pain point.
[00:14:14] So you have to figure out who is my audience, who are we going to target very specific. And then what can we deliver that special to that audience? That's going to solve a pain point. Great. That's step one, step two, most important one where everybody gets it wrong is the content tilt is worth heads, obviously where the tilt comes from with the new business.
[00:14:33] It's where can you find an area of differentiation? What is your area of differentiation that you can cut through all the clutter and all the content out there to break through and build an audience? So what most organizations do is they create. Very similar content to 20, 30, 50, a hundred other companies out there.
[00:14:53] I mean just Google cloud computing and you'll find out, oh, Salesforce and Amazon and IBM, they all basically talk about cloud computing exactly the same way. There's really no differentiation there. Well, as entrepreneurs, we don't have a billion dollars in marketing like these companies do, we have to be smarter in order to break through what's that differentiation area.
[00:15:13] So maybe it's focusing on a niche audience more than, than nobody else's focusing on. Maybe you're, uh, you've got a point of view or a sense of humor. That's different. Maybe you're going to a platform like Twitch and you're going to stream and nobody else is on that platform. So you have to figure out some hooks, some differentiation.
[00:15:30] Those are the first two sweet spot, content tilt .The next is building the base. This is where you're doing the work. You're creating the content and you pick for the most part, one platform, one channel to do this, you are a podcaster or you are a YouTube. Series creator or you are a blogger or a writer or an email newsletter provider or whatever the case is, you focus on one and you're great there. Where a lot of people go wrong is they want to be everywhere on the internet at one time. And you're basically become Jack of all trades, master of none. You're not great at anything. You can't build an audience. And then you're like, Okay. that didn't work. So what we heard teaching people is focus on one that you can be great at, and you might test it out for a while.
[00:16:15] But ultimately with all the hundreds of case studies we looked at for the Content, Inc book, we found that focusing on one is where it happens and you diversify later and I'll get to that. So you have sweet-spot content tilt, then you build the base, then you're all about audience building. And when I say audience building, I'm not necessarily saying build Facebook followers or, um, or YouTube subscribers or anything like that.
[00:16:40] Which is fine. There's no problem with that, but really what we want to do. Get them to become email subscribers of yours. If you can, if you have an email offering because you have the most control over that channel, whereas in Facebook and YouTube and Instagram, and tick-tock, you have no control over that audience, you have no data.
[00:16:59] You have no direct connection with your audience. Basically that's YouTube, that's Facebook. That's Google. They have all that power. So we want to make sure it's fine. You can start there, but you want to move over and build your audience. So that's the fourth step is you're really focusing on building an audience of hopefully email subscribers, and then you generate revenue.
[00:17:18] So that's where we get to the point where, okay, you should know your audience well enough. What, what types of revenues are you going to launch in the book? We talk about 10 different ones. So are you going to launch an event or a conference? Is it paid training? Do you have a product you're going to launch?
[00:17:31] Is it a consulting service? Uh, is that affiliate program? There's lots of different ways to generate revenue. So we're going to figure out, okay, what's the revenue. That's going to make sense, starter revenue, and then ongoing. How are we going to really make a truly profitable business from this? And then once you find your revenue, you get to step six and that's diversification of channel.
[00:17:52] So that's where I said in the beginning and building your base, you're just focusing on one. Well, once you get to the more mature content entrepreneur level, that's when you're saying, okay, well, I have a blog and an email newsletter. Now I'm going to launch a podcast, uh, from that podcast I'm going to do for maybe launch that it takes six to nine months to really make things go.
[00:18:11] And then I'm going to launch a YouTube series. So basically you're doing what all the media companies have done since the Dawn of time. You focus on one area and then you diversify into others. Why do we do that? Because what we found in all the case studies is is that if you get, uh, audience members to subscribe to multiple things that you offer, they become better customers.
[00:18:30] They spend more with you, they stay longer with you. And so that's why we then diversify. And then the last step, this is where you make a decision. And this is where all the entrepreneurs make the decision. Are you going to sell or are you going to go big? We decided my wife and I decided to sell.
[00:18:46] That was always our goal. We knew the number we wanted to sell it. We went through the process of selling. Uh, we knew what the valuation should be and ended up going that direction. Or do you want to go big? Do you want to scale up and become a truly big business? There's a lot of things that go into that maybe you want to do that maybe you don't.
[00:19:05] I decided I didn't want to, I didn't want to go through all the mechanics and, and hiring the amount of employees and HR and doing the things that, you know, people that have 300, 400, 500 employees do. So we ended up selling, but we talk about in the book, you can go either way, uh, how do you do that?
[00:19:22] How do you get to the next level with those steps? So that's the seven steps of the Content Inc model from start to finish, you're talking about a four or five year period. Uh, if you stick with the first nine to 12 months, which are the hardest, which is the hardest in any entrepreneurial startup,. That's, when you're building the audience, you're finding your voice, you're figuring out your differentiation in your content tilt.
[00:19:44] That's where it does take some time. But if you can get to that level and get to. Months 16, 18, you start driving some revenue month, 24. You really starting to look at diversification and then, you know, months, you know what? 32. So basically into years, three, four, and five that's when you're starting to say, Hey, this thing is working, what are we going to do?
[00:20:03] What's the big picture? Are we going to sell? Or are we going to create this amazing larger enterprise?
[00:20:09] Greg Mills: Now for somebody that's just starting out. how do they know who their audience is?
[00:20:14] Joe Pulizzi: First of all, you just start with a hypothesis is an educated guess. So when you start with your sweet spot and you figure out what you want to talk about. So for example, um, indium, they manufacture industrial soldering equipment, you know, so they w they want to target engineers. Okay. But as engineer specific?
[00:20:33] No, no, no. They want to talk about mechanical engineers. Okay. Well, is that specific enough? No. We want to talk at mechanical engineers who work in companies of a hundred employees or more that are located in the Northeast of the United States. You know, that's where we go and we want to get more services.
[00:20:50] Hopefully if you're going this direction, you know something about your audience, but then as you start to do your research use social, we call them in the book, listening posts. So you set up listing posts on LinkedIn. Um, you maybe get some survey data, you know, call some people that are in the industry.
[00:21:07] That would be your audience members, um, uh, figure out on Twitter, you know, are they using Twitter? Can you get information that way, whatever you need to do to get information about your audience, then you start with, okay, this is the base audience. And then you want to figure out how you can go more niche and more niche , more miche.
[00:21:26] Just get down to the point where you can answer the question positively when they say, can you be the leading expert in the world on that topic, to that audience? And you want the answer to be yes. But generally people don't focus on a niche audience enough. So that's really what we want to focus on. And it takes time to get there.
[00:21:44] When we started content marketing Institute, we were just targeting marketers who were involved in content. Okay. That's fine, but not good enough because we couldn't be the expert in that because there were a lot of big software companies that were focusing on that area as well. So what could we be the expert at?
[00:22:01] We focused on, content marketers in large enterprises, internationally that have real complex content issues. That's where we felt that we could be the leading expert in the world. So we said, you know what? We're not for small and medium-sized businesses. We're focusing on large businesses. We probably made that decision six to nine months in.
[00:22:20] It was a really good decision. We could focus on being the best there. So as you go on, you need to learn more about your audience. You'll get there, set up your listening posts. So everyday you're learning more about that audience.
[00:22:31] Greg Mills: Now, what kind of mistakes , should someone be wary of when they're getting into content marketing, especially for the first time and picking a niche or a topic?
[00:22:41] Joe Pulizzi: Well, the first thing is we talked about, you have to be patient. If you expect major results to happen in six to nine months, you're going to be severely disappointed. It takes a long time to build an audience, generally that nine to 18 month mark. So that's one, the second thing is they don't, they don't have a content tilt.
[00:23:01] You have to really ask yourself, what's your differentiation. Why you? Why should people care about what you're sending out? Why buy your podcast, your blog, or your email when there's a hundred other ones out there like it. It frustrates me, Greg, so many people that say, oh yeah.
[00:23:16] I'm going to do a podcast for entrepreneurs.
[00:23:21] Great. What kind of entrepreneurs? No, just entrepreneurs. Oh, come on. You can't be specific enough if you do that. Like even you're doing focusing on over 40 entrepreneurs or you're focusing on an area that's differentiated that you can be the expert in the world. So finding that tilt is really important.
[00:23:36] And then the last thing I would say is consistency is where so many content entrepreneurs fall down. So if you have a podcast and it's a weekly podcast, you deliver that podcast the same time about the same, like every week and you're going to do so for the next five years. Most likely. Now you could change it a little bit.
[00:23:56] You could tweak it. You may have gotten some feedback. The format's not right. Um, so let's say you do an email newsletter. You do, you put that out? Every we do every Tuesday morning and every Friday morning. And we send that out at seven o'clock and we haven't missed it since I haven't missed a second.
[00:24:13] Since we launched in April, we know that we're going to have to do that for the next year, two years, three years, to build that audience, that's a promise you're setting for your customers. And if you miss that, you break that promise. You might never get that audience back again. I would say consistency in that content tilt are probably the two biggest areas that people fail on other than the fact that they want to be everywhere on the web. Oh, I got to do we on Twitter. I gotta be on Facebook. I gotta be on Instagram. I gotta do email. I gotta do podcasts. And my answer is no, you don't be wherever you can be great. So that may be, you're going to, you might create the podcast and you're going to focus on Twitter.
[00:24:51] Great. Do those things well, and then forget everything else for a while, until you have the resources to be great in otherways.
[00:24:59] Greg Mills: okay. Now you've, you've talked about the content well, and you define it as a area of little to no competition on the web that can give you a chance to break through the noise and be relevant and be heard. And you talked a little bit about, about this, but what are some good ways to find and test.
[00:25:22] Joe Pulizzi: So the, my favorite tool in the world is Google trends. And a lot of people just either don't know about it or don't use it. So basically Google trends, uh, is a bunch of data that Google puts out on what people are searching for and they have. Terms of say, okay, these terms are solid terms. Use the terms that are used by most people and other ones are breakout terms.
[00:25:46] And I love to look at the breakout terms. So for example, if I put in, uh, you know, for me it was custom publishing and I typed in custom publishing and they'll say, oh yeah, custom publishing is very popular here. Here's over the time, uh, over the last two years, how many people have searched for it? But on the bottom right-hand corner, it'll say, you know, emerging top associated topics.
[00:26:09] And there, one of them would have been, oh, content marketing. Wow. That's interesting that that's associated with it. And so it'll, it'll talk about breakout terms. So I love to look at breakout terms. So that's the one area I would look at. The other area that I love is to actually create your own category.
[00:26:27] Staying on the topic about what we did, you know, we chose to go after content marketing, not a lot of people were going that direction. We felt that that was going to be the thing and it worked out really well. And what's great about that is when it's popularized and people start to search for stuff, they're going to find your stuff because you were talking about at first, we've tried to do the same thing at The Tilt with content entrepreneur content entrepreneur was not a phrase used by anybody, but I believe it at best encapsulates what we're trying to do.
[00:26:57] It's like, oh, it's an entrepreneur or they're using content, great God that entrepreneur put it together. So that's where we're trying to popularize so that when people start to associate themselves, by that they end up finding our resource and going that way. So I would look at those types of things and again, surveys are must, you know, talk to your customers.
[00:27:17] I cannot tell you how many people just don't. I mean, I maybe can't get on the phone today anymore, but you can certainly message people. You can send out formal surveys, you can get data, so get some information about what's going on and then take it another step and say, Okay. this is the opportunity.
[00:27:36] This is the opportunity. Probably the number one opportunity then with really finding that content tilt is taking your audience and going a little bit deeper and a little bit more niche. So if you are just use the engineering example, you know how you can't be the leading expert in the world to just engineers or consumers who like to travel or entrepreneurs, but that's where most people start.
[00:28:00] So you really have to take it and start to break those down into small niches and say, w we, you need to get to a point where we can actually be the resource for the industry for that audience. And you have to break your audience down there into, uh, into some targeted niches, or it's not.
[00:28:18] Greg Mills: You talked a little bit about Google trends and I've used that before. What are the number of hits that would be relevant that would be worth pursuing and how big would be too big.
[00:28:31] Joe Pulizzi: So tough question to answer, I guess, the way that I would put it as you can't go too niche. Most people think that, oh, I can't focus on if there's only an audience of, you know, I only think there's a thousand of these out there. Well, maybe, maybe they're all a thousand now, but maybe, maybe in a year there's going to be 10,000 or 20,000 or whatever.
[00:28:53] I don't want necessarily concerned about the numbers. What I want to make sure is. Breakthrough with all the competition that's going on. So that's what I'm more concerned about. So if there's, and that's where you can figure out and do easy things like Google trends and Google searches to figure out. So if you typed in something like, traveling in Florida. Well, how many people are creating content about traveling in Florida?
[00:29:19] It's ungodly. I mean, there's, there's big.
[00:29:22] media companies. There's small content creators, there's influencers, there's thousands and thousands of people creating content full time to help people who want to travel in Florida. But what if there's just to traveling to Bradenton beach all well more now I've now I've got, um, maybe 50 people.
[00:29:41] What if I'm talking about traveling to. Part of Bradenton Beach, you know, that's the kind of thing I'm getting to and Google can help you get there and really look and help say, Okay. Well, these, and you can figure out who's advertising to those areas who paying for ads in it. How many people are there, how many pages are around there?
[00:29:58] Put it into Google trends and figure out, you know, what are some of those different searches? That's where you find the gold nuggets, where you'll put in a type of, about traveling to Florida. And then you'll go down in the lower right-hand corner and we'll say, well, these are the breakout terms. Look at those breakout terms.
[00:30:12] And then, but also at the same side, you know, what are, what are you proficient in? What's your skill and your expertise so that you want to combine those two, those two come together with your audiences need, they want to travel to Braden, to the beach, let's say. And then what your expert is, you're you understand, people who liked the boat or people who, uh, you know, like to kayak or can, now you're starting to come together and you're starting to figure out something where you get them content mission statement that is focused on a very particular audience on a very particular topic that you can be an expert in.
[00:30:42] Greg Mills: You've talked about focusing on a platform that you can control and that you have control over and driving traffic to that. What's the danger of not doing that.
[00:30:54] Joe Pulizzi: Well,
[00:30:54] First of all, yeah, you, you can make your decision on which platforms you want. And The Tilt, our platform is our website and our email newsletter. That's great because we control both of those things. The problem is there is no audience there. We have to do a lot of work to get people there. Would it be a better decision for us to start on let's say a YouTube series where we know our audiences already there searching for videos. Uh, should we do a podcast where we know people already listening for things like that? The issue is Okay, Well, let's say we decided not to do an email newsletter and we wanted to go and do a YouTube series.
[00:31:30] That's great. We can build subscribers. We can build an audience there, but let's say somebody goes and subscribes to The Tilts, YouTube channel. Great. Does that mean that YouTube is going to show that necessarily to that person that's subscribed? No. YouTube. Doesn't have to show that even if you subscribe to it, um, let's say that we say something that YouTube doesn't like, and they, and Google wants to kick us off.
[00:31:53] They can absolutely kick us off and block us. The next day. We've seen that happen on Twitter all the time. People get blocked on Twitter and they don't know half the reasons why they get blocked on it. And then, you know, YouTube or whoever will change the algorithm that's happened a ton on Facebook where somebody has built a Facebook following.
[00:32:09] And then all of a sudden Facebook changed the algorithm. And instead of 50% of your audience seeing your posts, like they used to five years ago now, less than 1% of those people see what you're posting. So. Your audience might be there and you can build an audience there and that's fine. But then if you do that, you have to have a secondary strategy to move that over to something that you can control.
[00:32:32] And right now, the best thing we have going is email a website and owned a membership site that you can control. Those types of things are very important. So again, I'm not against building your platform on what we call rented, land, social media properties, but you got to remember at some point, it's all gonna go wrong.
[00:32:51] And I I'll tell this one story. So there's a very, very large company that sells most of the routers in the world right now. And they created an amazing, uh, content, repository and community on Google Plus. They put millions of dollars into this place on Google Plus, and then Google Plus came along and said, we're closing Google Plus, we're done. So they invested years of time and resources to build an audience on Google Plus. And then the next day Google says, we're done. We're killing all. Well, don't put yourself in that position. Hopefully it'll all work out and everything will stay like it is, but it never does just like the MySpace's of the world at some point they end. So we've got to take that Goodwill that we built on those platforms and try to get them over to something where we have more control
[00:33:42] Greg Mills: That makes sense. You've talked about in your book doing a content audit and how important is that for a solo preneur?
[00:33:51] Joe Pulizzi: for solo preneur, not as important when you're getting started, because the content audit, you're trying to figure out what content resources you have to work with so that you can create lots of different content. If you've been creating content for a while and you want to start, let's say you've been doing a blog for a while and you say, oh, I want to do something.
[00:34:08] Full-time. And I found an area that I love. I found an audience and I'm going to create a business out of this. Well, maybe since you've been blogging for the last couple of years, you have a lot of resources and you haven't really taken a look at it. So that's where it's good idea to say, Okay. we have these blog posts.
[00:34:25] These are the ones that are being ranked in Google on these key words. Um, here's different categories. We can start to put them in here's ones that should be updated. Here's some ones that we can reuse. So a content audit is just about a one point in time, figuring out what content do we have to work with and what do we need to do moving forward in order to build an audience?
[00:34:46] So what, one good thing that I did with a content audit back? This is back in like, oh, 8 0 9. I was writing my second book and I was trying to figure out, okay, I didn't want to start from scratch. Let me do an audit of all my blog posts. Did an audit or all the blog posts figured out all of them what's which ones did well, which ones didn't.
[00:35:05] I took all those and I put them into a table of contents and I said, oh, I've got 50% of a book here. So a lot of people wouldn't do that. They start fresh, but you might have some of that content already. So in that case, it's really important. And in another case, it's to figure out, okay, I been creating content for a long time.
[00:35:22] Some of this content needs to be updated. So we have to make sure that on a, like, for the really important content we have, especially on our blog, um, or let's say for it's an old podcast episode and we really should re update something. We've got old content that people don't know as old. If they find you on, on Google and they go to your article and I have thing hasn't been updated in four years, well, shoot, Google's giving you a present.
[00:35:47] You have to update that. And a lot of people don't set the schedule to do that.
[00:35:51] Greg Mills: Okay. Now, what are some good ways to come up with content ideas. We had to kind of brainstorm.
[00:35:59] Joe Pulizzi: Most important, number one that nobody does is talk to your prospective audience. Who's the audience you're targeting, figure out what their pain points are and what keeps them up at night. I love surveys. So if you have an audience already, and also let's say that you have an email list of a couple thousand and you can do a free Google survey and figure out, Okay. here's the things I'm struggling with and get some answers.
[00:36:23] That's great. I'll give you an example. We have a discord, a group, which is if you're not familiar with discord, it's like online chat group as part of our, Tilt organization now, And whenever I have a question and I'm trying to figure out something for my content, I just ask them, Hey, uh, this is the thing I'm looking for a case study on this.
[00:36:42] Can somebody help me? So whenever you can get that direct feedback. So from surveys, from social media, like we talked about before from asking them when I was, when I started in publishing. I started in sales and we were required to do reader calls for the magazine that I worked on. I mean, the every week I had to call five people that were actual magazine subscribers, and I had to ask them, what were their pain points?
[00:37:07] What were they struggling with? What are the things that we should, know? What are the things that we need to cover that we're not covering? Those were the most valuable things for me as a salesperson. And then I could take that information and pass that over to editorial. We don't do that enough. We make it so complicated.
[00:37:22] Or we're just trying to, you know, guess about this stuff in the dark, when we've got the people that are more than willing to help us, we just have to go forward and ask them.
[00:37:30] Greg Mills: Now, when should a solo preneur or someone just starting out? When should they even think about outsourcing and what can they outsource, I guess is probably a better, better question,
[00:37:44] Joe Pulizzi: Sure. Yeah. can outsource almost anything.
[00:37:48] Greg Mills: right?
[00:37:50] Joe Pulizzi: as you know, and what I would recommend doing, and here's the thing is when you start as a solo preneur, you do everything right? You're doing the billing you're doing. And on the content side, you're creating the content. You're editing the content like for a podcast you're producing the podcast, you're distributing it, you're doing all the things.
[00:38:09] But what you want to do is get to some point very quickly where you're saying my time is more valuable, doing certain high value things and not doing some things. So I would make a list and I've done this for myself many times. What are the things that you're good at as a entrepreneur and or a content creator, and what are the things that you really love to do?
[00:38:29] And you list those things on one side. Great. I love to write, I love to write articles. So I'm going to keep writing because I love doing it. I'm good at. Wonderful. Let's take on the other side. What are the things that you're not good at and that, uh, and things that you just hate doing. List those things, anything that you list on that column you need to outsource.
[00:38:53] So if you're not good at keeping a calendar, you need a virtual assistant to help you create your calendar. If you're not good at setting up podcast interviews, you need somebody to help set up those podcasts interviews for you. And by the way, those could all be different people, or they could all be one person.
[00:39:08] When we started to do this at content marketing Institute, we ended up working with hundreds of different contractors and freelancers to do. I need somebody to do this design. I need somebody to do this type of content. I need somebody to do this audio. I needed somebody to do this YouTube video.
[00:39:28] Those are all outsourced by different people over the, over the time, because we just either didn't have the expertise or weren't good at, or didn't enjoy doing it. So we only had a core team of a very few people, but we had a very large team of contractors. So you can do a lot of things and you can figure out what is your time worth.
[00:39:45] So if you figure out, oh, my time is valuable. So you do consulting, oh, my time is valued at $200. Well, if you're doing a transcription job that basically you can outsource for $20 an hour, please go and do it and outsource it and don't keep that. So you have to make the tough decisions as quickly as possible to outsource those things.
[00:40:07] So you love it. You're good at it. Keep it. If you're not outsource as quickly as you possibly can.
[00:40:13] Greg Mills: Okay. Now once we're driving consistent traffic to the site that we own. How and when should we monetize it?
[00:40:23] Joe Pulizzi: So you want to monetize as quickly as possible. Most we just did some research, on The Tilt. We, we talked to 1400 content entrepreneurs, which is, if you go to The Tilt.com/research, you can find it. And we talked to them and generally it takes nine months. The first one. Well, shoot, you have a heart attack, right? You're like nine months.
[00:40:44] I'm not getting any revenue. What do I do now? We don't do that purposely. We don't want to wait and say, oh, we're not going, but we probably have to in a lot of cases, because you're not going to monetize until you build that loyal audience, that they have enough information to launch some kind of a product.
[00:40:59] So you have what I call survival monetization in the book. What is the thing that you can launch that you can keep the lights on with us? When I was starting out with the business that was consulting, I can do consulting for a few hours a day. I could get paid so I could build what became Content Marketing Institute.
[00:41:18] Some people do affiliate links, some people do advertising and sponsorship, whatever that is. Go ahead and do that. Knowing that long-term, this not, might not be something that you know you're going to do, but this is something that's going to keep the lights on and keep you moving forward. And then you get to a point where you can monetize them multiple ways, most content entrepreneurs who are doing really well,
[00:41:39] monetize over four different ways. So that's, what's really great about these businesses. It's a really diversified from a revenue source standpoint. So if something happens, let's say a worldwide pandemic, we don't get hit with the one revenue source. That's not going to work during that time.
[00:41:56] So we want to diversify out just like Amazon does, where they have a thousand different ways that they generate revenue so quickly. As you can. You want to find some kind of a revenue source, but then long-term you get to that 9, 12, 15, 18 month mark. Then you start to add those longterm revenue and revenue initiatives.
[00:42:14] That's going to take the business to the next level.
[00:42:17] Greg Mills: Okay. So you don't think that there's any danger and kind of alienating the few fans that, you might have early on with doing that?
[00:42:27] Joe Pulizzi: No, there is. There absolutely is. Especially with advertising. So if you let's say you have a podcast and people like listening to your hour podcast, and you're going to add a sponsorship and there's, somebody might not be happy with it, but you might not have a choice with it. Like if you're, if you're asking me Greg, if you could possibly wait, if you've got millions of dollars in the coffer and you can wait, then wait until you get to that point where you say, okay, this is the revenue we're going to launch.
[00:42:53] We've got all the data, we've got the audience, everything is great. I work with mostly entrepreneurs that aren't in that position. They have families, they have kids, um, they bills, they have mortgages. They need to pay money. They need money to do this thing and make it work. So yes, you have, you have to take that chance.
[00:43:13] Right. So sometimes, yeah. And then, so, so figure out maybe the one, that's the least intrusive work with a sponsor and that's where. I would recommend what really worked well for us was I went out to, um, companies that I knew that I had relationships with. And I said, look, here's what we're trying to do.
[00:43:31] Long-term we're going to build this. Would you like to be on the ground floor of this business? And, uh, I'm, you know, I'll charge you this, this is what you get. I'll be great for you. I'll talk you up because I believe in your product and you can kind of be with us on the way. And at the same time, you can help me get my business off the ground. Have that Frank conversation with some people you'll be surprised.
[00:43:51] And how open they would be because they want to be on the ground floor of something that's going to be, you know, this you're going to build this big audience, or maybe you have a mission that really aligns well with their business, or maybe they say, okay, good. I'll sponsor you. And I'll provide that. But then can I take one of your articles and syndicated on my site and on my blog?
[00:44:09] And you might say, yeah, that's great. Let's work out that deal because now I can pay my bills and I can even get my name out to your audience in that way. So there's a lot of creative ways to do this and you just have to be open to that.
[00:44:22] Greg Mills: So once things start rocking and rolling and know you've got some consistent income coming in. How do you take things to the next level? Business-wise.
[00:44:33] Joe Pulizzi: Once you get to that point where you've built that base and you have one or two revenue options. So that's where I like to start find the one thing we talked about is it the podcast? Is it the email newsletter? And then you have a couple different revenue sources off of that. And you're starting to get to a point where you can hire people or contract out.
[00:44:55] Now you're in the point where we get to diversification and that's where you really start to make the money. So for diversification level, which is the, you know, the six step for us, that's where we made all of our revenue and profits, because we only started with a blog. All we did at content marketing Institute was just 22 months.
[00:45:12] It was just blogging. It was blog. We had an email newsletter. We're great. We did that for three years. Well, now what? Well, then we added a print magazine. Then nine months later, we added our event. Then we added podcasts and then we added more research and we just added an added, added, not all at once, but every nine months we would add a new.
[00:45:32] Content product. And that really took us to the next level. Our audience just went crazy. We went from about 10,000 opt-in email subscribers to well over 200,000 in about a three-year period that worked really well for us. The event, as I said started just a couple of hundred, went to 4,000. That event was a $6 million event all by itself.
[00:45:54] Those are the things that would have never happened if we didn't get to diversification. So that's why you get to the point where great. I built this thing. I built the podcast we're working. I can, uh, I can be financially free just from this. Now we need to go big. And how do we end up going big? And we need to add on these new channels.
[00:46:15] Greg Mills: Now taking a little bit of a leap. Why did you start your own cryptocurrency? A Tilt Coin.
[00:46:23] Joe Pulizzi: We did. Yes. I started. So this is an October. I said before we even decided to launch The Tilt.
[00:46:31] uh, I was looking at social tokens, creator coins, and I'm a big crypto guy have been for many, many years now. And I started seeing some of these individual creators launch tokens and I'm like, Okay. well, what, what is this all about?
[00:46:46] So I started to research with it. Found a platform, which is rally.io. So they handle all the mechanics of it. And we'd launched Tilt Coin in March of 2021. And basically. I would think about it like a loyalty reward system. Like you get Marriott rewards, but a thousand times better. Where you, people that are really good subscribers, really good audience members, really good community members.
[00:47:12] You can give them your creator coin, for being good audience members. And you start, uh, you know, we started at 36 cents. I think we launched it right Now I think it's about $38 or something like that. So those people who got initial, uh, Tilt Coin have done very, very well. And at the same time, we've created membership levels out of it.
[00:47:34] So we've created more loyalty through that where people want to be TILT VIP, you have to have 20 Tilt Coin. So some people will end up buying that into the community. Uh, if you want, every month you want an exclusive content report. You have to be. So at five club, that means you have to have at least five Tilt Coin.
[00:47:51] And Greg, I gotta tell you, I've never seen anything like it From a, a loyalty and a communication and a really community building tool like we have because we, we integrated the, our Tilt Coin with our discord channel. So that's where we get the different levels of membership. So only if you're at certain levels, you can only see certain things.
[00:48:12] I've never seen anything like it, people are loving it. They're trying to figure this whole thing out. And I, I think that we know we're early. A lot of them were, were only one of, I think 180 content creators on the whole Rally platform that have their own social token. So we were lucky to be early enough.
[00:48:29] I think in the very near future, you're going to see brands, individuals start to tokenize, uh, because they can, because the technology is there and. You, you can now have something that your audience, your community can start to profit with you along the way. Now, I don't ever pitch that Tilt Coin is going to the moon or anything like that.
[00:48:53] I talk all about it about, we want to hold this thing together and you get membership, you get value from a membership, just like you would with any kind of loyalty program. That's how we're pitching it. But if they can also benefit financially from it all the better. So it's worked out fairly well. And, uh, and I think that we're, we're just at the very first ending of this thing.
[00:49:15] And there's something huge where you're going to see brands, tokenize, content, creators, tokenize, and we're already seeing it with NFTs there that have just taken off. Um, there, there there's something here that hasn't been done.
[00:49:27] Greg Mills: Okay. Now I know we're coming to the close to the top of the hour. Do you have time to talk about community marketing or.
[00:49:34] Joe Pulizzi: Yeah. So I've been, so as we've talked about for this last hour, I'm a big believer in building your own audience. I think that if you talk about building a community or being part of a community that is more powerful. So I think that you have levels of making this Content Inc model work. The first is I'm going to build an audience of subscribers.
[00:50:00] I totally think that that's the way to go, but then how do you get. These audience members to become part of a bigger thing, a collective, a community. And if you can, if you can really be part of a community that everyone can be financially rewarded in some way, a little bit like we were talking about with creator coins, but I think this is more of a philosophical discussion where I really believe the next business model for content entrepreneurs is everyone can make money off of this thing.
[00:50:31] Everyone can have an ownership. I'll give you an example. So Gary Vaynerchuk launched V friends, which is his NFT program. So he, he wanted to launch an event. He called a V con. So he's like, Okay, what do I do? So he created 10,000 NFTs, non fungible tokens, which are like, you know, unique certificates to get into the event.
[00:50:52] And he launched them at like, I don't know, cost like a thousand bucks to start a piece. Well, if you want to go to Gary's event right now, it's going to cost you about $60,000 for one. If somebody was early in on that process as part of Gary's community and they bought it for a thousand, they could resell their ticket right now and make $50,000 in profit.
[00:51:13] And a lot of them have done that or more. And they're, it's a rabid community. If you go on his discord channel, he's got, I think 150,000. People that are constantly talking they've and they all have a little bit of ownership because they don't just have a ticket to event. They have NFT and an NFT. You can deliver value on that forever because if somebody has it in their wallet, you can drop content.
[00:51:35] You can drop exclusive offers. You're going to drop tickets to events. You can do lots of things that you can't do. And I think that's the community marketing model now that I think we're talking about is moving from audience to community where everyone is on the same mission. Everyone lifts up and you've got people that don't just take the content and they try to do something with it.
[00:51:55] Now they're giving back. We're seeing people in our community, they're creating stuff for us, with us all together. We're all on the same page. They're helping us on social media. They're sharing our III newsletter because they want to be more valuable part of the community and. I think that's probably a better way to do it in the future where you're going to see more of a collective approach where it's not just, oh, here's the content creator content grader is going to build an audience and content creator will have a successful exit.
[00:52:24] And then do maybe do it all over again or retire. I think the content creator is, oh, I can create this thing. I can get a community involved. We can make real change happen in some area and everyone can financially benefit. I think that's where we're going.
[00:52:38] Greg Mills: Now let's get ready to wrap this up. Is there anything I haven't asked that you'd like to talk about or go over?
[00:52:44] Joe Pulizzi: I really think that,, because of what's happened with the pandemic, we've seen this whole thing accelerate. I mean, we're seeing if you, if you were to look at. How many entrepreneurs have launched businesses in the last year. And you've seen wall street, journalists covered it. New York times with millions and millions of people are launching businesses that never did before.
[00:53:05] We're seeing a boom in entrepreneurship. I think most of these businesses are based in content creation, content entrepreneurs, because it's the easiest business to start not to go forward and make something of it to start because all you need is a smartphone today, depending on what you're doing. And, uh, I would just say there is a path that thousands of us have taken before that is proven.
[00:53:30] So you don't have to make all those mistakes. I just appreciate your time talking about it, Greg.
[00:53:34] Greg Mills: What's your number one piece of advice for the Entrepreneurs Over 40 audience.
[00:53:41] Joe Pulizzi: I think that, you're in a good spot because I think the majority of the entrepreneurs right now, In that gen X plus age bracket? It's so funny. There's a lot of support out there for a group of people there. My number one advice would be probably besides just doing the Content, Inc model is, do something that can make a difference, create a bigger mission than yourself.
[00:54:11] And that's what I think really to your point about community marketing before that's where I think you can really make a difference. I think if you have a small mission, oh, I want to sell these products to this group of people. And it's a product based mission and it's not something that's really can make a difference in the world.
[00:54:28] I think we got to think bigger. So that would be my recommendation. Really look down at your mission statement of why you're doing this and create a bigger, why assignment Sonic always talks about What Is Your, why? What is your why? And then how does. Um, make a positive impression on the most people with that, why, and really make a difference.
[00:54:48] And, um, that's our opportunity today because you can, because a lot of people you'll, if you do this thing and you start building a following, you'll find out there, there are a lot of people that have your why as well. And then if you get more and more people going that same direction, that's when change happens.
[00:55:04] Greg Mills: Okay. What's the best way for people to find you online or get in touch with.
[00:55:09] Joe Pulizzi: Yeah. I'm at Joe Pulizzi everywhere. Twitter's probably the best place. Joe P U L I Z Z I, and then The Tilt.com is where all of our stuff is at. And then, um, if you want to check out our Tilt Coin, you know, go to Rally.io and you can search for Tilt Coin T I L T. And, uh, yeah, I mean, if, if anyone out there is interested in getting started, I always like to help people get started in crypto because a lot of people don't know how to.
[00:55:33] If you want to get started. My email is J email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me a note, say, Hey, I heard about, um, you know, getting started on crypto and I'll be happy to send you some tilt coin and just to see for free. So you can figure out how to get through this whole thing and say, Hey, no, I've got some crypto, so there you go.
[00:55:53] Greg Mills: Alright, that's a wrap. Thank you, Joe, for being my guest on Entrepreneurs Over 40.
[00:55:58] Joe Pulizzi: Thanks Greg. Appreciate it.