How to use content to create radically successful businesses

The godfather of content marketing, CEO and founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi, has just released his latest book, Content Inc. In it he shares the secrets to entrepreneurial success. And they are not what you’d expect. He says the most successful start-ups, entrepreneurs and masters of business have turned conventional wisdom on its head. Instead of striving to launch a product or service, he says the most successful entrepreneurs have focused on creating great content first.

Radical? Not so says Pulizzi who quotes the US Census Bureau which states that most new businesses fail in their first five years. He attributes these failures to lack of originality and creativity. Conversely, he cites dozens modern entrepreneurs (including himself) that he’s interviewed for the book who have gone to the market with the intention of building an audience before building a product. The common denominator with all the case studies he quotes is that they all believed that a large and loyal audience would reward them eventually with custom. Many who’ve adopted this approach have gone on to make millions of dollars.

We’ve read the book and gleaned the secrets of this approach and here share the six steps to creating your own Content Inc Model:

#1 Find your ‘Sweet Spot’: This is your content specialism, something you’re really knowledgeable about or skilful at combined with something you have a passion for. Take Atlanta-based Andy Schneider as an example. He was just an ordinary backyard poultry farmer with a passion for his chickens before he went on to become America’s leading authority on keeping poultry. He started a regular club on meetup.com which morphed into his now alter-ego The Chicken Whisperer. This spawned a book, a magazine (which now has 60,000 subscribers), a radio show as well as a country-wide roadshow sponsored by Kalmbach Feeds. He turned his hobby into his main source of income, within five years, just by sharing his knowledge and passion through his content.

#2 Next you need to find your Content Tilt: Something that will differentiate your content from the rest, something that will make you stand out. Your content needs to tell a different story. Pulizzi cites Danish phenomena Claus Pilgaard as a great example. As well as being a musician Pilgaard has a passion for chilli peppers. But knew that there were already hundreds of people talking about chilli peppers’ heat, but none talking about their taste. This is the ‘tilt’ that made Pilgaard famous. He created funny YouTube videos, garnering millions of views, of him tasting chilli peppers. His most famous is of him and members of The Danish National Chamber Orchestra eating a chilli pepper while conducting & playing ‘Tango Jalousie’.

#3 Build your own base: Create your own platform, a place where you regularly publish. Pulizzi says it’s better to focus on building one clear channel, with consistent content, than spreading your efforts. He uses his own business as an example. In 2008 he started a blog – which he wrote three times a week for two years and was the sole author of. In 2010 he opened it up to contributors and published five times a week. In 2011 the blog went daily. It was then Pulizzi diversified to other channels.

#4 Harvest your audience: The aim of your content efforts is to create one-time readers into loyal subscribers. There is too much focus on web traffic metrics and not enough on conversion says Pulizzi. An increase in traffic is only worth measuring if it increases your subscriber rate too. A loyal audience is your most valuable asset. CEO of Social Media Examiner Michael Stelzner explains in the book: “I knew email acquisition was the key metric and that we weren’t going to promote anything until we had at least 10,000 email subscribers.” SME made over one million dollars in the first year in business. (without selling anything for the first four months!). It now has 340,000 subscribers and more than 15 million unique visitors a day.

#5 Once you’ve a loyal audience, then you can diversify: Media company ESPN started out in 1979 as a sports only cable channel with a $9,000 investment. Forty years on it’s one of the most profitable media brands worth in excess of $4bn. But it spent the first 13 years of its life dedicating its coverage to one channel before expanding to radio. It followed this up three years later by launching its website ESPN.com in 1995. In 1998 it launched a magazine and now in 2015 its content can be found on Twitter, in podcasts and TV documentaries. The point being, ESPN didn’t diversify until it was successful at what it first set out to do.

#6 Monetization: If you’ve followed the five former steps Pulizzi says you’ll be ready to monetize your efforts. Your qualitative and quantitative data insights will help make you money. The monetization model will vary depending on your business, says Pulizzi. In his book he suggests several tactics you can adopt to experiment with different ways of making money from your content assets.

For more insider knowledge, tips and amazing success stories of following the content-first approach to business read Content Inc: How entrepreneurs use content to build massive audiences and create radically successful businesses, out now.

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