The blindingly orange business suit Joe Pulizzi will wear for his keynote at next week’s Content Marketing World at the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland tells a great story.

Sure, it signifies the founder of the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) obsession with the color. But it also embodies the core message Pulizzi and his CMI team will deliver to the gathering of about 4,000 attendees: in short, dare to be different.

The orange suit is unique to Pulizzi — and his brand’s color scheme underscores his identifiable connection to his audience of content marketers. “We’ll break out as much orange as we can without annoying people too much,” Pulizzi told CMSWire.

Focus Your Content Marketing

Pulizzi said content marketers need to target their messages and tell a differentiated story.

“Most of content marketing is so complex because there are so many silos in the enterprise,” Pulizzi said. “How do you integrate it? A lot of enterprises aren't focusing on one audience at a time. They’re still trying to broaden their messages to reach more than one audience at a time, which is not going to work.” 

Pulizzi said content marketers need to ask two questions:

  1. Who is your specific audience? 
  2. What’s the differentiated story that you’re going to tell that’s going to cut through clutter?

Cultivate a unique audience and build a relationship with it, he said.

“Let’s say you’re launching a blog, a video series or an audio series,” Pulizzi said. “The audience still doesn't have a differentiated message. It’s just like content they can get anywhere else, and that’s not going to work for them.”

CMI Claims Largest Content Marketing Conference

Pulizzi's CMI has grown steadily, with its conference ranking as one of the largest focused solely on content marketing. The conference attracted around 3,500 last year, even when it went head to head with HubSpot’s Inbound 2015 conference in Boston, which attracted 14,000. 

“Most of the people are coming from large enterprises sending about 10 to 15 people from their team, which is exactly what we’re shooting for. The good news is with the approach of content marketing, you don’t have to sell it anymore in the enterprise. It’s accepted. Enterprises believe they need to  to do something to communicate more value to their customer base. That’s the good part. We’re not educating on the buy-in, although we do have sessions on getting buy-in.”

In June, London-based UBM, a global business-to-business events organizer, acquired CMI for $17.6 million.

Content Marketers Struggle to Meet Objectives

Content marketing is nuanced, and it takes time to do it right, Pulizzi said.

According to CMI’s own survey this year, almost all B2B technology marketers use content marketing, but very few of them — only 30 percent — rate their programs as effective or meeting overall objectives. 

The majority of the 392 B2B technology marketers surveyed concede their content marketing efforts are, at best, average.

"It’s not easy. It’s not just an advertising program. This is a commitment and you have to make changes internally if you want to make it work," Pulizzi said.

Some enterprises have been “religiously attacking a strategy” for content marketing, Pulizzi said, and those are the ones that are market leaders.

“Then there are lots trying to see returns in six to nine months. They’ve gotten frustrated with it because it takes a long time to build a relationship with an audience. We’ll have a lot of talk about patience and setting expectations in the enterprise.”

Where Tech Fits In

Of course, there are challenges with toolsets. Scott Brinker, in his 2016 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic found 160 content marketing technologies and admitted that was a “broad category.”

“You could do an entire landscape solely on the subcategories within content marketing — and, indeed, people have,” Brinker wrote.  

Pulizzi said he’s seen fewer pure-play content marketing technologies. He finds content marketing initiatives that happened off older, legacy systems like WordPress when an enterprise has implemented a new content management system.

He finds teams “trying to get IT approval to do something and be agile and they simply can’t do it,” Pulizzi said. “They’re just grabbing technology wherever they can.”

Title image of Joe Pulizzi from CMI.