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B2B Marketing Expert Interview Series: Feeling B2B with Joe Pulizzi #MPB2B

Posted on Aug 21st, 2023
Written by Katelyn Drake
  • Blog
  • B2B Marketing
  • B2B Marketing Expert Interview Series: Feeling B2B with Joe Pulizzi #MPB2B
In this article

    Ready to elevate your B2B brand?

    TopRank Marketing drives results with content, influencer, SEO & social media marketing.

    Are you ready to dive into the world of B2B marketing like never before and hear exclusive interviews with some of the top voices in B2B marketing today?

    Last week, we shared the Top 10 Reasons to Attend MarketingProfs B2B Forum, and today we’re thrilled to unveil an exclusive video series called “Feeling B2B,” bringing you candid and insightful conversations with the foremost voices in the industry who aren’t just “doing” B2B marketing, they’re “feeling” it – and hoping to inspire you to feel it too!

    This series is created by TopRank Marketing in partnership with MarketingProfs B2B Forum, an event that gathers the brightest minds in the B2B marketing industry.

    To kick off this series of interviews, we’re honored to present a captivating conversation between Joe Pulizzi, founder of  Content Marketing Institute and The Tilt, and Co-Founder of TopRank Marketing, Lee Odden. Join us as we delve into the mind of the “godfather of content marketing” himself. As one of the world’s foremost thought leaders in marketing, Joe’s insights into the world of B2B marketing are not just knowledge, but passion in motion.

    In this Feeling B2B interview, Joe and Lee talk about the connection between live events and content, top B2B marketing lessons Joe has learned in his career and a preview to his MPB2B presentation on Unconventional Content Marketing Approaches. And of course, what Joe loves most about B2B Marketing.

    “If we did marketing correctly, if we published the right content to the right person and focused on their needs and pain points, we could truly make a difference in their lives.” — Joe Pulizzi @joePulizzi Share on X

    Watch the video now and make sure to let us know if YOU are feeling B2B!

    In this exchange, Joe and Lee explore the heart of B2B marketing, shedding light on unconventional yet remarkably effective approaches. Joe shares his journey, from founding the Content Marketing Institute to pioneering innovative strategies that have reshaped the B2B landscape. Lee’s thoughtful questions elicit profound insights, making this conversation a treasure trove of wisdom for marketers and enthusiasts alike.

    Join us on this exciting journey as we continue to uncover the nuances, challenges, and opportunities that lie within the realm of B2B marketing. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just stepping into the field, we hope you are feeling B2B!

    “B2B does not get enough credit for innovation in marketing. B2B has become great at identifying what's missing.” — Joe Pulizzi @joePulizzi Share on X

    Stay tuned for more exclusive conversations in the #FeelingB2B series, and mark your calendars for the upcoming MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023. This is where the industry’s trailblazers gather to exchange insights, share experiences, and propel B2B marketing into the future.

    Visit to learn more!

    PLUS: Get $200 off individual registration and $400+ for groups of three or more by using our special code, “TOPRANK” when you register here.
    MPB2B Forum 2023 Discount Code Image

    How to Connect with Joe:
    See Joe Speak at #MPB2B:
    October 5 – 2:50pm to 3:35pm
    5 Unconventional Content Marketing Approaches


    Here is the full transcript from this conversation between Joe Pulizzi and Lee Odden:

    Lee: Welcome to the Feeling B2B show, a limited interview series of conversations with some of the top voices in the B2B marketing industry, brought to you by the fine folks at MarketingProfs B2B Forum.

    I’m excited to kick off this series with none other than the godfather of content marketing himself, Joe Pulizzi. Joe is a longtime friend, fellow runner, a serial entrepreneur,  and I think someone that you could argue is probably the most passionate about the topic of content marketing in the industry.

    He’s the founder of Content Marketing Institute, the organization behind the famous Content Marketing World conference. He’s also founder of The Tilt, the organization behind the Creator Economy Expo, and together with his amazing wife Pam, Joe is the co-founder of The Orange Effect, a non-profit focused on autism and research into speaking disorders.

    Joe: I’m thrilled to be talking to you today — thank you for having me. Anytime you want to talk B2B marketing, you know I’m ready,  so bring it on.

    Lee: What is it that you love most about B2B marketing?

    Joe:  I love B2B. First of all, I grew up in B2B marketing. I started in 2000 with Penton Media, which was all around B2B publishing and marketing. I actually thought it was the best place to start versus consumer, because I really felt if we did marketing correctly, if we published the right content to the right person and focused on their needs and pain points, we could truly make a difference in their lives. And I know that’s kind of like fuzzy and feeling, and I know we’re sort of talking about that, but I really do believe it.

    And I’m like, OK, who is that person you’re really trying to talk to? What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? Can you deliver ongoing communications to them to not only help them in their jobs — and of course, that’s what we’re here, we’re B2B talk — but you can also help them in their jobs and their lives at the same time.

    It’s a little altruistic, but I certainly believe that’s a possibility, so I’ve made it a passion of mine for the last 25 years to focus on that. I don’t think B2B gets enough credit for innovation in marketing. And really, if you talk about, maybe you call it one-to-one marketing like Peppers and Rogers used to call it — or integrated marketing communications from Don Schultz, but if you’re talking about true content marketing programs over time, I think you’ll find most of them have happened on the B2B side.

    Most people don’t know that, because why would you know it? You don’t see them on newsstands, you don’t see them on television. They’re not big flashy ads, but it’s happening, and a lot of that innovation and content marketing happened first on the B2B side, and continues to happen.

    Lee: That is exciting, and you’re right on that innovation point. The great thing about it of course is that the sky’s the limit in B2B — there’s so much more opportunity, because of the longer sales cycles and so many other opportunities. Content marketing has become a very different thing since you’ve founded Content Marketing Institute and obviously in the last couple of years since you founded The Tilt. I’m wondering what you feel is a lesson that you’ve learned in that experience that you’ve had that’s still true today when it comes to content?

    Joe:  One of the things that I keep preaching about content marketing and have for a long time — and people still aren’t doing — which I hope they get to, and I learned this lesson when I started at Penton Media when I was in charge of profit and loss (P&L),  you had to come up with two ways to grow revenue. One was organic growth. So who are the employees you’re going to use, and what are the initiatives, strategies, and the money that you have to build your revenue lines from that standpoint.

    And then the other one was acquisitions. Can you go out and find somebody who’s doing something that, so you don’t have to spend two or three years build it up? You can see results right now if you have the cash to do that. So when I talked to a lot of content marketing directors out there, and vice presidents of marketing, I always say, look, we’re always trying to do things organically and we should absolutely — we’ve got wonderful, amazing people who understand B2B marketing.

    We want to do that when it comes to content marketing,  but you also have to look at acquisition. So I want you as a content marketer to look at, OK — what are the blogs out there that are already targeting your audiences and already saying the things you want to say, and who have already built the audiences. What are the podcasts, the YouTube channels, the Twitch streams — whatever it is, right? It doesn’t matter, but they’re already there. Those audiences are built, and those content brands are already built. We need to look to those for opportunities. And those deals are happening right now. I think there are a lot of marketers out there in executive positions who aren’t thinking about, “Wow, I could go out and buy that blog, that podcast, that e-newsletter, instead of spending three, four years.” It’s tough — you know this Lee. It’s tough to build an audience today.

    So what’s out there? There’s a lot of amazing content creators and entrepreneurs out there who have already built these things, who are maybe a little bit spent with the whole thing. They’re looking for an exit. Well, you can be that savior to them and come in and say, look, we want to keep your thing going, but we want to invest in you as a content creator, or we want to take that audience off your hands, or we want to buy this for x amount of premium. And that’s what I want content marketers to do, and I’ll talk a little bit about that at the MPB2B Forum event as well — how there’s still an opportunity that a lot of B2B companies haven’t come around to.

    Lee: You know, it reminds me of the expression in PR of borrowing to build. Borrowing someone else’s credibility to build your own. And you’re talking about buy to build. It’s very interesting.

    Joe:  Absolutely. And, and it’s so simple. We’ve been talking about this for two decades, and you get it right Lee, because you work with senior marketers all the time, and they automatically think, “What do we need to do? What do we need to create?” And there’s nothing wrong with that. We can create some amazing things, but if it’s already created out there, what are you doing? What are you wasting time for? Do your competitive analysis, see what’s already out there, and then if it doesn’t work, go ahead and create your thing. But, but look at both avenues.

    Lee: Exactly. You know, there’s recent research from LinkedIn* citing real world events as one of the most effective current B2B content marketing tactics. Obviously events have been incredibly successful for you, so what would you say the connection is between real world events and content?

    Joe:  If you want to truly make an impact in your industry and be a leading expert, events are one of the most powerful ways to do that. I would say in-person events and writing a book are probably two things that marketing departments aren’t thinking enough about.

    And here’s the truth when it comes to AI — you and I are spending a lot of time figuring out this whole AI and marketing thing today. What is going to distinguish you as an organization and an individual in the next three to four years, with everybody being able to produce content? Are your interpersonal relationships and your interpersonal communication and your one-on-one interactions at events, and you getting up and speaking in front of people and you as an organization putting on an event and being the thought leader over a particular area of expertise? I think it’s a wonderful match.

    If you’re out there putting together a content marketing program and you have an e-newsletter or a content brand and you ask, “What’s missing? How do I bring these buyers and sellers together and not only raise up the industry’s level, but raise our own brand up?” There’s nothing better than putting on an in-person event. As you know, with Creator Economy Expo or Content Marketing World — I’ve done 30 events in my day — and there’s always a next level that you don’t realize when you’re putting on and getting ready for an event.

    But once you get those people in, you realize that, oh my gosh, this is going to affect our entire business. If they’re a just a lead or a name in your database, it takes them to the next level. They will buy more quickly, and stay longer as customers. You might be able to increase the yield — there are all sorts of marketing benefits to this, but it isn’t easy to do. In content marketing, we always say, if you’re going to do this, how do you become the leading expert in your niche? You have to consider an in-person event as part of that program.

    Lee: Digital is exciting, but in-person is powerful, and at MPB2B Forum, you are going to be speaking about unconventional approaches to content marketing. Could you share one of those?

    Joe: Absolutely. I’m going to share as many tangible, unconventional content marketing approaches as possible. We talked about one, which is the idea of buying, and a lot of marketers don’t understand how do I actually go through the process of buying content marketing programs? You are buying a newsletter, or buying a podcast. We’ll talk about that and unpack how you’ve actually do that. I think some of the research that we’ve been finding at the Tilt, and I’m gonna share as well, is less is more. Mm-hmm. I think a lot of, um, marketers are mistaken out there in B two B got to be everywhere. I’ve got to be on LinkedIn, I’ve got to do the newsletter, I’ve got to be on the webinar series. I’ve got to do the book program. Those things are all good, but generally what happens is a B2B program will be a jack of all trades and master of none when it comes to content marketing.

    They’ll be like, “Oh, we’re sprinkling our content everywhere,” but they actually don’t build an audience in any one of those channels. So what we found out is really focusing on one or two instead of say 12 or 13 is the way to go.

    I’m going to talk about kind of how to right-size your content marketing approach for winning. I think the last thing I want to talk about too — and I’ll talk about many other things — but I think we’ve been talking about this forever, you and I Lee, and that’s the importance of email. If you really go and do an audit of most B2B marketers’ email programs, they’ll say, “Oh, you know, we’re getting a 4% open rate. We’re getting an 8% in open rate. We’re getting 12%. We’ve got a lot of promotions in our email, or we don’t have a really good ongoing editorial strategy, or it really doesn’t make an impact on our customers, or nobody does email anymore.”

    Or, “It all goes to spam, and who cares — we want to be on social.” All that stuff aside, email is still the most important channel because that is your first party data, and Twitter or X, TikTok, or YouTube can’t take that away from you. That direct connection, that permission for them to say, “I want you to contact me, company — brand.” And if we get that permission, we have to be better about that. We have to do better with that information, and you have to create email communications that actually will make a difference in their lives. Yeah. So don’t give me those low open rates, instead give me 20, 25, 30, 35, 40% open rates, and then wow — those things will really start to make a difference in your program. And we’re going to talk a little bit about how to take your email more seriously as a core of your entire content marketing program.

    Lee: That’s exciting, and I can’t wait to see your session. You’ve spoken at and attended quite a few — maybe all — of the MPB2B Forum events, so can you share a moment that really stands out for you personally that you’ve had at the event?

    Joe: Well, what I love about MarketingProfs B2B is that the best of the best B2B marketers are always there. Whether you run into you, Lee, or Anne Handley or Jay Bear, and you’re walking and see Andrew Davis or are walking down the hall, and I’m like — oh my gosh, these are my people. This is why I came up.

    Now the content is first rate — it’s always been first rate. The sponsors are wonderful. I always learn about a new technology or tool or whatever, but the best part about MP B2B Forum is the relationships you leave with. There’s always one or two, or five or six people who I’ve just met there for the first time, who I can take and we can grow some kind of relationship together. You’re not alone in B2B. What’s great is once you get on premises, you all realize that we’re not really competing with each other, and we all have very similar problems. It’s different than if you go to a very large event, where who knows who’s dealing with what, whereas when you go to a B2B marketing event like MarketingProfs B2B Forum, you know we’re all dealing with the same stuff. So I love that aspect — that you’re going to meet some real people and it’s going to make a difference in your life.

    Lee: It’s definitely a community-focused event, with the feeling of community for sure. For this year, what would you say you’re looking forward to most at MPB2B Forum?

    Joe: I’ve got to tell you, I was a naysayer on the whole AI thing for a long, long time. I wanted to deny this. And now I’ve come to the point where this is an inevitable part of our job as B2B marketers — to understand this not only about the impact that it’s going to make in our business and our lives, but that we really can use these tools. It’s going to be a differentiator for us as individuals in our career. For the last six months, I’ve been going down rabbit holes to figure out what AI in marketing means? How do I need to use it responsibly? How do I need to train on that with my team and my colleagues, and I know a lot of the content at Marketing Profs B2B Forum is going to be focused on that.

    And even in those sessions that aren’t AI-related, everybody seems to be touching on it these days, which I think we have to. The good part is if you talk to just regular human beings who aren’t in B2B marketing right now, they don’t really understand the impact that this is going to have on our society. I think we have an opportunity to learn this stuff, to get ahead of it and to understand, OK, how are we going to use this and how are we going to be users of it? Which may be the most important thing. Just because we can use it doesn’t mean we should, right? So we need to focus on how do we use it in a responsible way, and then we can teach other people how to use it. But if you’re just selfish and you just want to be better in your career and you want to rise up the ladder, this is going to be great as well, because you’ll learn how to do that. But that’s kind of what I’m most interested in, and I want to pick up on how some of the leaders in the industry are using AI, and what I can take from it and then share with my team.

    Lee: I love that attitude and perspective. I mean, AI is a tool, right, and it reminds me of the early days of social media, only accelerated. There’s something I’ve always said, that a tool is only as effective as the expertise of the person using it. We have an opportunity and an obligation, as you say, to learn about these tools and help others understand how AI is going to impact them, because it’s going to happen with or without us or anyone else. Things are moving forward, so there’s a lot that I love that you brought attention to, because there are a lot of sessions and a lot of opportunities for people to learn about AI. Well, answering the question, what is generative AI — what does it mean to me as it relates to B2B? You’re going to get answers about that at this event.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Joe. You can see and learn more from Joe and a whole host of other top B2B marketing experts at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023 in Boston and online. October 4th is when the workshops are happening, with the main conference on October 5th and 6th.  You can check out the full conference agenda and see who all the speakers are on the conference website. MarketingProfs is famous for organizing, and I think there’s even a run scheduled one morning. We’ll be there together, Joe.


    I’m happy and really excited to see you at MarketingProfs B2B Forum, and also to have everyone come to my session where we can talk about some of these unconventional approaches that I think are missed opportunities by a lot of companies.

    Where to Connect with Joe and See Him Speak at #MPB2B
    Joe Pulizzi –  @JoePulizziThe Tilt
    October 5 – 2:50pm to 3:35pm
    5 Unconventional Content Marketing Approaches

    *LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.