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Content Marketing Enables Businesses to Sell Expertise

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – What is content marketing and why is its deployment essential in this age of information overload? That’s what 200 businesspeople and students wanted to know Thursday as they gathered at Youngstown State University for DOYO Live.

The conference, created by Dennis Schiraldi, founder of CYO Marketing based in the Youngstown Business Incubator, featured speakers and break-out sessions designed to help organizations navigate “unprecedented times [and] unfamiliar territory where consumers have unlimited sources of information, making our jobs more difficult in marketing and sales,” he said.

As the keynote speaker Joe Pulizzi began, “Before 1990, there were only eight ways consumers could get product information: events, direct fax, direct mail, direct telephone, television, radio, print and displays.”

Today, with the rise of the internet and its infinite storage of information, “Advertising does not work as well because consumers can afford to ignore everyone,” Pulizzi said.

Content marketing, he explained, “means instead of communicating through someone else’s channel, we create and distribute our own amazing information and build audiences who are more likely to buy.”

Pulizzi is the founder of the Cleveland-based Content Marketing Institute, the host of Content Marketing World, a conference that takes place Sept. 6 to 9 in Cleveland and is expected to draw upward of 3,000 marketing professionals.

His address Thursday cited a survey that found 90% of businesses say they use some form of content marketing but only 30% said they use it successfully. This failure results from using content as advertising and anticipating quick results, he said.

“Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint,” Pulizzi said. “First build an audience, then monetize it.”

He pointed to John Deere & Company, the Illinois-based manufacturer of farm equipment founded in 1837 that began publishing its own magazine, The Furrow, in 1895 and now has 2.5 million subscribers. Pulizzi recalled his conversation with a Deere executive. “He told me, ‘Over 120 years, we probably fit our product into our [editorial] content maybe 15 times.’ “ Instead of making a direct pitch, “ ‘We talked to our audience about what they need to know.’ ”

By successfully deploying content marketing, “The largest company covering the farm industry is not a media company but John Deere,” Pulizzi said.

He offered a formula to significantly boost revenue over time — “a three- to four-year average for monetization” – for any organization: Define your audience, what type of content you want to deliver and the desired result.

“Find a niche where you can be the leading expert in the world. Develop your content mission. Focus on content type and your platform, and deliver consistently,” he said.

To build an audience – for example, with an email newsletter, blog or YouTube channel — begin by curating content. Summarize and link to news articles and research reports pertinent to the particular industry. Then “tilt” the content by creating information unique to the organization.

Pulizzi cited Ann Reardon, “known as the Baking Queen” in Australia, he said. Reardon began her YouTube channel with 100 subscribers in January 2012 and now has 2.5 million subscribers. Her “content tilt” is baking and assembling unique confections such as the “Pokemon Go Giant Gummy Pokeball.”

He advised against using Facebook or GooglePlus, where the user has no control over distribution algorithms.

“Don’t build your house on rented land. Email is where we have the most control to communicate with our audience on an ongoing basis. Build an audience of opt-in subscribers with an amazing e-newsletter and remarkable downloads,” Pulizzi said.

Then diversify with what he called the “rule of three” – enticing customers to subscribe to three content streams (i.e. email plus a podcast, blog, YouTube channel, or Twitter feed).

“You must create value and be the leading expert in your niche,” he said. “A loyal audience leads to revenue.”

Pulizzi has written four books and his most recent, Content Inc., was provided those at the conference courtesy of one of the event’s sponsors, the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. His third book, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less, was published in 2013 and named one of Fortune’s five must-read business books of the year.

Said DOYO Live founder Schiraldi in introducing Pulizzi, “It is truly amazing that we have someone like Joe Pulizzi speaking at this event. It is beyond my wildest expectations.”

Schiraldi plans to make the digital marketing conference an annual event.

He joked how many questioned its name, DOYO, as he was organizing the event. “What is this DOYO thing?” he laughed. “Let me put that to rest. It stands for Do-Youngstown,” Schiraldi said.

“I want to help with the revitalization of Youngstown, leave the city in a better place than I found it and do my part in contributing to the growth of this great American city.”

Pictured: Joe Pulizzi addresses the DOYO Live digital marketing and interactive design conference Thursday at Youngstown State University.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.