Ashley Zeckman

Good Content Marketing vs. Great Content Marketing: Learn the Difference From Joe Pulizzi #OMS12

If you are part of the online marketing or content marketing industry you have undoubtably heard of Joe Pulizzi and his company the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).  Joe has been a member of the content marketing community for over a decade, and has made it his mission to help brands create quality content and distribute that content through multiple online channels.   This was my first time seeing Joe speak and he made it a great interactive experience, and was of course wearing his trademark Orange.

I enjoyed the history that Joe shared with the audience as well as his practical tactical tips that can be implemented by an organization of any size.  However, I think the true takeaway is determining a way to differentiate yourself from your peers and your competition.

A Brief History of Content Marketing

Content marketing is not a new concept.  In fact, one of the first slides in his presentation showed a newsletter from 1931 published by John Deere.  Their print publication the “Furrow” was created as a way to educate their customers about their products and services, and provided a way to solve some of the common technology issues that they were facing.  One quote from Joe that stuck out in my mind during the presentation was:

“From the days of cave men writing on the walls, brands have been creating stories to sell their product and form a connection.”

The Barriers to Entry are Gone

The issues that our content marketing forefathers faced are far different than those we face today.  The barriers to entry or our ability to get in front of potential customers is no longer a hurdle.  Where are we now?

  • Content Acceptance: prospects and customers can accept a piece of content online within 3 seconds.
  • Talent: Journalists that would have previously worked as editors or writers for major publications have now shifted to the brand side.
  • Technology: We can now execute a content strategy that will not cost an extravagant amount of money to distribute.  Often times the technology we use is at no charge.

Pulizzi stressed that we must do what we can to make a difference for our audience.  But how can we accomplish this seemingly difficult task?  Through storytelling!  A well-formed story is an essential part of an online marketing strategy.  If you are trying to figure out why you aren’t having much interaction, it’s probably because you don’t have compelling stories.  Online tactics including search engine optimization, lead generation, and social media should al be focused around telling a compelling story to engage your audience.  After all, we know that facts tell and stories sell!

One of the examples shared was that of Coca-Cola.  The brand has recently released a series of videos that provide their take on the future of content marketing and more specifically the importance of storytelling.

If you’re interested you can find links to the videos below:

Content Marketing 2020: Part One

Content Marketing 2020: Part Two

Six Characteristics That Separate the Good to Great Content Marketers

#1 – The focused Non-Sales Content Mission and Platform

People do not want to be constantly bombarded with sales material.  If you are in a competitive industry (which lets face it most of us are) try to find a super niche way to attract your customers.  Create content that is not sales focused but customer centric.

#2 – Opening up New Content/Media markets

Create content that doesn’t pitch your product but focuses on what the audience wants to know.  Try experimenting with different types of content.

#3 – The Chief Storyteller

We are seeing great brands that are hiring people to tell some great storytelling.  Many teams are now made up of managing editors, content producers, chief listening officers, and content creators.

#4 – Leveraging Employees in Content Creation

By encouraging they participation of your employees in content creation you can accomplish a few things.  First off content creation on a regular basis will continue to educate your employees on the industry and provide them with increased exposure online as an advocate for your brand.  Secondly you can eliminate the need to hire a content creation team all at once.

#5 – Removing Your Brand From the Story

Joe said that someone once told him “your story travels further the less you mention your brand.”  Therefore, the more you provide quality content that is relevant to your readers the more likely they are to read and share that information.

#6 – Building the Influencer or Customer Community (a focus on referral traffic)

Search is still very relevant but we are seeing the switch to increased referral based business.  If you have an influencer ripe for you on your site and they share with their network and that will in turn send even more people back to your site.

Key Takeaways: Social Media 4-1-1 From the Content Marketing Institute

Content Marketing Mix: For every 6 posts shared on Twitter or Facebook CMI follows the following formula:

  • 4 shares of other influencers/company content
  • 1 original piece of CMI content
  • 1 sales pitch

Make It Easy to Share: Have you ever wanted to share an article and spent more time looking for the social share buttons than you did actually reading the content?  Place your social sharing buttons in a visible place that makes it easier for your audience to share your content with their network.

Start Small:  If you focus on creating a lot of content versus quality content it will hurt your brand.  If you believe that it is more realistic to post great content once a week you will be far better off than posting mediocre content five times a week.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (3 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)

Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.


  1. Avatar Vikrama Dhiman says

    All these “no-sales” content creation messages sound hollow.

    Where is the data to back these claims? People are pissed off with this. Really? Where?

    Dan of HubSpot claims otherwise. Most people devour content only for offers, deals and like. How many people are really interested in quality content anyways?

    -Vikrama Dhiman
    Heads Online courses on WizIQ

    • Hi Vikrama – there are plenty of hard stats around to support the power of content marketing.

      Talking from personal experience, we are a content marketing agency in the UK (fairly new brand) and we can attribute almost every one of the customers we have brought on board to content that we have produced such as blogs and white papers. It absolutely, categorically works.

      Businesses that churn out thin content for the sake of content (and there are plenty) will never see these results though. The crucial element is the type of content that you produce: if it’s original, thought-leading, fresh and deemed valuable enough to share then you will see results.


      • Avatar Vikrama Dhiman says

        Please point to hard stats.

        Facebook, Groupon, Twitter – all recent successes never employed any content marketing strategy. In fact messages from all the deal websites that have done well are anything but “whats called” SPAM.

        But, happy to see links that prove that “offers only” strategy does not work.

        • Hi Vikrama…just some clarification, the three companies you mentioned all employ content as their product in one way or another…essentially they ARE media companies. Groupon, in particular, drives people to their site because of their content (here’s more on their content strategy here…

          Regarding hard stats…here are some case studies here ( and here ( Also, according to Roper Public Affairs/CCC, prospects are 67% more likely to buy a product or service when delivered relevant content from the brand.  Companies like Copyblogger, Social Media Examiner, Hubspot have built themselves on the back of original content creation.  JELLO is a billion dollar brand today only because it gave away recipe books door to door.  American Express’s OPENFORUM is transforming how they communicate with small businesses. 

          Hope that helps.

          • Avatar Vikrama Dhiman says

            Well, I get that. But at the end of the day they are selling. I have yet to see them send me a newsletter on “Benefits of drinking wine” “How wine reduces risk of cancer” and then send me the newsletter for “50% on wine”. Its straight 50% off on wine. 

            And Groupon being in the business it is will need to employ people for sales copy. Nothing amazing or different about it. Actually, Groupon page/ newsletter focuses more on offer [50% off or whatever]. Would content sell without the offer?

            They are not in the same league as say Hubspot. And, especially in B2C segment, there doesn’t seem to any evidence that people scout or prefer great content vs. great offer.

          • Hi Vikrama…yes, but without the great content, no one will pay attention to the offer.  That’s Groupon’s hook…straight from their writing team…if the initial content isn’t relevant and entertaining at first, very few sign up to the offers.

            As with all content marketing, you cannot afford to sell a customer until you’ve developed a trusted relationship with them.  Once they trust you, customers are more than willing to let your offer in.

  2. Avatar Greg Elwell says

    Thanks for sharing these insights from Joe’s presentation. I’m especially delighted to hear the exhortation to include storytelling in content creation. I believe it’s the missing ingredient in persuasive communications. Stories evoke an emotional response and is the catalyst to move someone to want to change. #storytelling

    • Thanks so much Greg. Without storytelling, how do we connect with customers.  Seems so simple yet some brands still don’t get it.  They will…they will.

  3. Avatar Greg Elwell says

    Vikrama –

    What makes Facebook, Groupon, Twitter attractive is the content one finds engaging with these channels – and the buzz they’ve created in the marketplace. Isn’t this a content strategy too?

    But if you want hard stats check out those HubSpot has published, such as:
    – 434% more indexed pages for companies that blog
    – 55% more website visitors for companies that blog
    – 97% more inbound links for companies that blog
    – 88% increase in median monthly leads for B2C companies who blog
    – 67% increase in median monthly leads for B2B companies who blog

    These and more can be found here:

    • Greg-
      I appreciate you sharing this information with our readers and for your opinons on content marketing engagement and storytelling. Great perspective.


  4. Thank you Ashley ! I liked the article, I will check in the future, in practice some of your tips. 

  5. Ashley…wow…what a great summary.  Thanks so much for putting this together and it was awesome to meet you in person.  Keep up the great work.

  6. Thanks for giving me another person to connect with on Twitter!  Wow, it takes 3 seconds now and attention span gets shorter when it comes to content acceptance.  I guess, it all comes down to the power of a great story… and the rest are like icing to your content cake.  Nicely written, Ashley! 

  7. Way To Go There Ashley!  Great straight up kick butt value right there!:)  Keep up the great work!

  8. I agree, whether or not large media companies blatantly sell – many start ups and generic brands need informative and helpful content that provides answers to the questions they seek, as opposed to content with a not so hidden agenda to sell.

    Readers are getting savvier by the minute, good content might give you a sale here or there, but great content will get your users to share content with those who are already in the buying stage.

  9. Realy if we want to share our article then we have to keep an eye as much as share buttons we can by the way its very informative post and also give me a lot of things to learn.

  10.  Content marketing that make the marketing formats which provides creation and sharing of content in order to engage with customer bases. Content marketing that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving  brand loyalty.
     Many content marketers choose to create new information and share it via any and all media like custom magazines,print or online newsletters , websites, digital content, video portals, in-person roadshows, interactive online, email, events.

  11. I think
    there’s still a lot to learn for many marketers. There is so much content out
    there, but attracting readers and creating engagement is difficult unless you know how. It is extremely important to understand who your target audience are; what content would they find interesting? Is what you are writing worth reading?

    We wrote an article about connecting through content which follows
    up this article nicely!

  12. This is a great post. I like the idea of creating content which demonstates the problems, which customers face, along with ideas on how these problems can be removed, but without the need to put your product in the face of the customer as a possible solution.

  13. Avatar Jessica Shailes says

    I hadn’t thought of #5 but it really makes sense, thank you. One of the key skills I want to develop is better story telling. You can have valuable content to share, but unless its engaging, people just don’t stick around do they?