Joe Pulizzi is the content marketing guy (with all due respect to my boss, Ann Handley, who, to be fair, is the content marketing lady). Joe will be speaking at the upcoming MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boson, October 3-5 (register here and use the code "SMARTB2B" to get $200 off!); and, as a preview of that appearance, I invited him to be the guest on this week's episode of Marketing Smarts.

Listen to it later:

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Joe has quite a bit to say about content marketing in general, but I was most curious to find out how he has used content marketing to grow his business at the Content Marketing Institute. The resulting conversation focused a lot on what the CMI does to ensure that every piece of content is tied to a specific call to action (CTA). 

Content and Behavioral Change

"Content marketing is all about maintaining or changing some type of behavior," Joe says, "We're not just doing content for content's sake, we're creating content because we want something to happen."

The process of creating content, especially if you are trying to do it on a regular basis, can quickly become an end in itself. Under pressure to produce content at a constant "velocity," as Joe puts it, it's easy to forget that this content is supposed to be doing something for our business by getting our customers/readers to do something. Unfortunately, in the hubbub of content creation, we either give our pieces too many CTAs or none at all. 

One Key Call to Action

As you might expect, Joe and his colleagues at the Content Marketing Institute produce a steady stream of content. There's a daily blog post, a daily email, a weekly round-up email, a webinar once or twice a month, and then every quarter an e-book or a research-based whitepaper. 

And yet, when recently performing a content audit and looking specifically about how that content is performing, Joe realized "our calls to action were all over the place." Indeed, it seemed like they were trying to get every piece of content to do, well, everything!

Instead, Joe and his team decided that they would create a unique landing page for each new post, and each post would be linked to one key call to action. 

The Story Explosion

Making sure that every piece of content is tied to a specific action, and making sure that you are producing enough content to drive the several actions you may want readers to take, requires planning. Joe described the planning process that he's using at the CMI, and it involves a concept he calls the "Story Explosion."

The idea is this: Start with a substantial piece of content—a research study, for example—and then figure out the "50 different stories and content products" that you can build off that one piece. Next, take all those ideas and map out where they are going to appear, when they will appear, how they will connect to other pieces, and who will produce them. Finally, assign a specific CTA to each piece.

"We have one behavior" Joe explains, "that sits on top of every piece of content and that's what we want to see happen."

To Every Piece of Content, Its Own Life

This may sound simple, but as anyone who has created email campaigns or landing pages can tell you, deciding on the one specific CTA you want to hammer home can be harder than you think, especially in larger enterprises where you are pursuing many goals at once. 

The key, says Joe, is to think about how "every piece of content has its own life" and what you want "that life to be."

"It's a lot more work to do it this way," Joe confesses, but if you want your content strategy to effectively drive the customer behavior you are looking for, this level of focus, planning, and effort may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

To hear my entire conversation with Joe, you can listen above or download the mp3 and listen at your leisure. You can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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