Content Inc. – Book Interview

Heidi Cohen Interviews Joe Pulizzi

Content Inc. Front CoverQ: What’s your best piece of advice for readers looking to improve their marketing?

Build a loyal audience first over time, and then sell your products second. This is critical because so many brands are looking for short-term sales wins instead of building credibility and authority over one area. By monetizing too fast, it’s very difficult to build an audience over time.

Q: What was the inspiration for your book?

At Content Marketing Institute, we become the fastest growing business media company in North America by focusing on building an audience first, then selling second. I wanted to tell this story, but really wanted to find other companies and entrepreneurs that did the same thing. We found exactly that. At the same time, we found that each successful “content-first” business followed the same six steps in creating their dominant brand. This is called the Content Inc. model and is the basis for the book.

Q: What is the key concept behind your book?

This audience first, product second concept contains six steps –

  1. The “Sweet Spot”: Identify the intersection of your unique competency and your personal passion
  2. Content Tilting: Determine how you can “tilt” your sweet spot to find a place where little or no competition exists
  3. Building the Base: Establish your number-one channel for disseminating content (blog, podcast, YouTube, etc.)
  4. Harvesting Audience: Use social-media and SEO to convert one-time visitors into long-term subscribers
  5. Diversification: Grow your business by expanding into multiple delivery channels
  6. Monetization: Now that your expertise is established, you can begin charging money for your products or services

Content Inc. Model

Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Two things. First, for entrepreneurs and startups, that there is a better way to launch a business. I really believe we’ve found a better way to start a company with Content Inc. Second, that change agents within larger brands can launch a Content Inc. initiative within their larger company to position their brand as the leading informational expert around a particular niche.

Q: How do you describe yourself professionally?

I’m a content marketing evangelist. It’s my job to travel around the world, speaking and teaching to brands of all sizes, to help communicators understand the art and science of content marketing.

Q: What are 1-3 books that inspired your work/career?

Specifically as an entrepreneur, I leaned on Bootstrapper’s Bible from Seth Godin, Art of the Start from Guy Kawasaki, and Think and Grow Rich from Napoleon Hill. The first two are easy – how do you launch a business. The third one from Hill covers the mentality it takes to become successful in life. It’s one of my very favorite books of all time.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

In 2009, the original business model for what is now Content Marketing Institute wasn’t bringing in enough profits to support our young family. I was literally a few days away from quitting and going back to find a “real job”. Fortunately, I stayed patient, and started to open my ears to what our audience was saying. They didn’t need what we were selling…they needed training and education. So we pivoted to education and training and relaunched the company six months later. The rest, is history. Patience and listening were the key.

Q: What’s something unusual or fun that most people don’t know about you?

Everyone knows I’m obsessed with the color orange, so that won’t work. I run two half-marathons per year and love to play golf. I scored my first hole in one ever last month (which I still can’t believe). I’ve also all but given up desserts unless it’s a really special occasion.

Q: Is there a piece of content or a marketing campaign that you worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

In January of 2008, we launched the Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs. This was the first research piece we produced that really put us on the map as a leading voice in the content marketing industry.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Sure. Here’s a free chapter –

And, here’s a slideshare with examples of the content-first model:


Joe PulizziContact information

Thanks, Joe.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen