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Joe Pulizzi Kills Marketing, Wins Over Room

Courtney Beasley

Courtney Beasley

This week we hosted our fourth annual marketing book club event, Just a Book, and we were excited to have Joe Pulizzi as our featured author. Over the past month we shared around 100 copies of his book, “Killing Marketing,” with marketers throughout Chicagoland, which culminated in an in-person discussion with Joe at the American Writers Museum.

“Killing Marketing” is all about how businesses can apply the media business model and audience-building initiatives to monetize marketing and turn the traditionally costly department into a revenue center. Prior to the in-person event with Joe, we broke down some key concepts from the book, including guidelines marketers should follow to begin this process and the importance of investing in your audience.

Then at the event we were lucky to hear from Joe himself on the book’s concepts. Here are a few of our top takeaways from the discussion:

  • Narrow your audience. Bigger isn’t always better – especially when it comes to audiences. According to Joe, you can’t go small enough with your niche. Joe recommends starting with a minimal viable audience and becoming an expert for them. Then scale. To start this process, “Killing Marketing” recommends finding your “content tilt” – an educational or informational area of little to no competition where you can break through the clutter.
  • Become an expert in ONE thing. From Joe’s experience, most companies that fail at adopting this model make a critical error when they immediately start doing everything all at once, ultimately diluting their message across too many channels and confusing their audience. The trick is to start by doing one thing exceptionally well – whether it be a newsletter, blog, email marketing, podcast, etc. – to create a minimum viable audience. After you have that, you can begin to diversify and monetize your content across other channels.
  • Commitment is key. If you’re not willing to give the audience building stage of this model at least 15 months, Joe says don’t bother starting. A study from Content Marketing Institute found that the average timeframe to build a minimum viable audience and begin to see an impact from a powerful owned media program was 12–18 months. It’s essential that you set realistic expectations within your company from the start, which may ultimately mean that they should have no expectations at all for the first year. If you do need to measure something, Joe recommends simply setting audience build goals at the 6 and 12 month markers. But from the start, you need to convince yourself and your team to play the long game in order to grow an engaged audience that can later be monetized. However, if you’re finding buy-in difficult, start by testing. Take 10–20% of your time and dedicate it to building this new model. Once you start to see traction, even if small, in 12–18 months you’ll start building trust and will have something to scale.
  • Bridge the sales and marketing gap. Marketing creates a lot of valuable content, but sometimes this content doesn’t live up to its full potential due to a lack of awareness or interest from internal stakeholders. At one company where Joe performed an audit, the marketing department decided to solve this problem by sending their sales team weekly updates with content abstracts and a bulleted list of how each piece could be used in the sales process. However you do it, it’s essential to open communication between the sales and marketing teams. Don’t know where to start? Do an audit of the content your sales team is actually using. Go on a sales call to see how they’re communicating. Then revise or create content that matches their needs. You need to make them care about your content by showing how valuable it can be in helping them make sales.

Thank you again to everyone who joined us for this year’s Just a Book event. We were thrilled to host Joe in a room full of smart marketers and hope to see you again next year! You can check out photos from the event here.