The reality these days is that the best product doesn’t always win.

The best KNOWN product tends to win. But how do we get our product or service to be the best known and most familiar option in a crowded marketplace?

We’re all doing more than selling products. Unless we want to be just another commodity on the shelf, we have to create content around our products and services.

But that can be a challenge for companies that aren’t set up to create posts, videos, articles, brochures, and even product sheets.

John and I discuss the book, and completely digress into the topic of AI-generated content and what it’s going to do to the marketplace as well!

Paula: Welcome to this week’s episode. Today we have a book club conversation about Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc. Joe is nice enough to leave us a nice little video.

Joe Pulizzi: Hello! Paula and Book Club. First of all, I’m so honored you chose my book. There are so many marketing and sales books out there. I appreciate that you chose Content Inc. I guess, if I was to give one piece of advice, as you run through this and talk about it, the focus is probably more important than anything in building an audience. That’s what we see out there for a lot of businesses and content creators. They’re a little bit all over the place. There on TikTok and Twitter. They’re doing podcasts and emails, newsletters and blogs, and everything. They become mediocre at all of it and not exceptional at one thing.

So, what I would say is in 2023 to something choose something that you can be great at. You can be the leading informational expert in your industry at this thing. It’s a podcast. It’s a YouTube show. It’s an email newsletter. Whatever the case is. So, that’s what I would probably focus on where you kill off some things. You can focus on being great. In the book, we talk about the content tilt. Figure out your differentiation. If your content went away, would your customers even notice?
What’s the thing that you’re giving them, that set you apart from everyone else? So, some things to think about. If you need anything else, please reach out to me again. But again so thankful. Have a happy holiday and enjoy the book and the discussion. Thanks again.

Paula: I really love it when authors decide to jump into our book club for whatever reason and jump in. So, I read the Kindle version and not the physical version, right in the paper book. All right, so this is actually, what I thought was really really cool and it was a very much tactical how-to kind of a book. We try to alternate those with the more theoretical thought-provoking but not really tactics sort of books. Strategy tactics, right?

John: Yeah, somewhere within this discussion I suspect we should talk about AI.

Paula: Yeah, we certainly should and that has changed everything including content.

John: Yes.

Paula: I just went to a seminar yesterday that was talking about how the internet in particular is being flooded with AI content. How that’s going to change the way, all of this works? So, you want to think about that as well. So, to start with just talking about like the Content Inc model. I love it when people give you a kind of high-level diagram of how they’re thinking and how it fits together. Because that kind of gives you a way of thinking about it and a way of making sense of it. In general, this is just kind of a nice round circle of starting with the sweet spot, the content tilt, the base audience, building revenue, diversify, sell, or go big. So, if you think in terms of the big picture of what you want to do with content. A lot of you guys are probably thinking, well, “I sell rivets, or I sell a commodity, or whatever. Do I really need to do content?”

John: Yes.

Paula: The answer is, yes.

John: Yeah. I mean, there’s really no choice.

Paula: Right? If you are selling rivets. As is everybody else at least five other companies on the planet you got to figure it. Then you have to be the best rivet maker on the planet because you’re in competition with everybody else now. The only way to be the best rivet maker on the planet is to let people know why you are the best rivet maker on the planet.

John: True.

Paula: So, are your rivets more uniform or made of better materials or easier to use because they come in better packaging? I mean there’s got to be something about your rivets. That is better than everybody else’s rivets or else you’re in a race to the bottom in terms of just commodity pricing, right?

John: Right. That’s the only other choice you’ve got, is the lower-priced and then for everybody.

Paula: Somebody can always beat you by a penny on the price. So, the only thing you can do is add value and the easiest way to add value is to add content.

John: Yeah, because the knowledge about your product, and/or service, something in there is going to provide something that you need more than the competition’s got.

Paula: Right. So, you could do a video on how to install your rivets or five ways that your rivets, withstand some sort of acid test or something like that better than the competitors.

John: Or even the composition of the rivets. It’s Alloy.

Paula: Right. Do one of those How It’s Made videos as we do for Turbines Inc, right?

Paula: One of our appraiser friends runs a podcast. The Contrails and Cocktails Podcast and doesn’t necessarily talk about appraisals, but talks about interesting aircraft and other things that his audience wants to learn about. So, I think that’s a really cool idea as well. Another one of the really cool if we only go by and of course, there’s great content in this book. One of the things that I love is the diagrams because it really kind of gives you a way of thinking about it and then you dive into the text, and get more information. But looking at figure 3.1 where he’s talking about the sweet spot, right? So, you have your expertise and you have your desired audience.
So, you got two circles, right? You’ve got the things that’s about and then you’ve got the things that your audience is interested in. If you are in the right sort of career, those two things have some kind of overlap, right?

John: They mesh.

Paula: If they don’t match, you’re in the wrong job because there is nothing that the people that want to hear about, and then you are the most boring person that has ever been at a holiday party, right?

John: Right.

Paula: Because you’re talking cryptocurrency and they’re all talking paper airplanes. I mean there’s a myth of what you have expertise in and what they want to hear about. One thing that was a hard truth for me, when we started doing aviation copywriting, which is what we were doing was I started trying to teach everybody on the planet, how to do aviation copywriting. I’m like you could do this so much better. Let me tell you how to do this better, and let me give you this workshop on how to do aviation copywriting.
Nobody cared, right? They just wanted to hire somebody to do the copywriting for them. They wanted to do their thing but there was a little sliver of sweet spot in there that we had to find and that is, what did they want to know that I am really good at? That is where is that? What can I do with copywriting that’s going to help me sell more stuff that’s where we spend all of our time doing content now, right?

John: Right.

Paula: Is teaching people how to sell more stuff. The fact that we have to use copywriting or that we have to use Google ads or that we have to use Facebook ads or that we have to use SEO as a means to an end. People don’t really care about it. They just care about the result, right? So. that’s that sweet spot that he’s talking about. You need to stop thinking like a nerd and stop thinking about the rivets and start thinking about your customer and how they’re going to use your rivets.

John: Hitting the sweet spot is always a good idea. Finding it is always interesting. It’s not always straightforward. When you run across it typically most people don’t recognize it. I think you were guilty of a while.

Paula: Yeah. It’s not like you’ve ever done that.

John: I’m not talking about me, we’re talking about content.

Paula: So, one of the things that I really liked, also in that whole content tilt idea is Amazon. When they want to sell a new product, or when they want to develop a new product internally in their company, they make the person who’s proposing the product write a press release as if that product had been just released. So, you have to have a great headline. You have to have a great, here’s the problem that it solves, here’s how it solves that problem better than anything else on the market. Here’s what you should do in order to use this product. So, by writing that press release before they develop the product, they’re leading with content first. Then they build the product as a result of that press release. So, they lead with content, follow with the product, and that is so much cheaper because it is so much easier to make changes to a product when it’s just on paper, right?

John: Yeah. Oh yeah.

Paula: Pat Flynn talked about that in “Will It Fly”? He talks about doing a product on paper which is essentially content and that is a thousand times cheaper than building up for real. What I’ve seen a lot of people do and what we’ve been guilty of as well, is building a product that we don’t really know for sure that anybody’s going to actually want and then you wasted a ton of energy and resources, and everything else, you have a bunch of them in a closet somewhere that you’re not going to sell because you haven’t done that content first or content forward approach, right?

John: Yeah. Did a lot of that, years ago.

Paula: Right. Exactly. So, I love the idea of leading with content and following with product for two reasons. One is because it’s cheaper and the other one is because then your content is already done and you’re ready to launch that product. By the time you get it done, you [inaudible] all the marketing materials already created, right?

John: Yeah.

Paula: Cool.

John: Well, of course, the book was written before the Advent of AI. I would like to sing into dress that fact.

Paula: Yeah, I think so too, and we’ll talk about AI before we sign off. But the last thing I wanted to talk about was the revenue options and that’s figure 18.1 in the book. We have always in the content that we built, used the white circles, right? The direct revenue options.

John: Okay.

Paula: The reason for that is because we want to keep our content clean we don’t want to be running other people’s ads in our podcast. As an example, our podcasts’ sole purpose is to promote our own business and our own products. So, you can always have a flagship content engine, and he recommends having one rather than having five, which is kind of what we’ve been doing for our clients. I’ve noticed though since he wrote the book and since there have been some issues with Twitter and TikTok that he’s kind of backed that off a little bit and he actually put out a LinkedIn post, not too long ago. About how you want to make sure that you are not building your business on rented land. We have this argument all the time.
In the book, he talks about having one primary platform that is your specialty and using that all the time and becoming an expert on it and everything else. There’s a lot to be said for that because like LinkedIn right now is working really, really well for us. We kind of did a 90-day experiment. We’re in the middle of a 90-day experiment to get that together and make that work better for us. But the other side of that is that you have LinkedIn, sorry TikTok having some issues. I guess they just issued an executive order saying that government employees can’t have TikTok on any device that is owned by the United States government. So, that makes sense, but it does mess up your whole world. If you are selling anything that maybe aerospace related or anything else, where one of your customers may be the government, and you’re using TikTok to promote that product. So, I’m still going to stick with my five.

John: Particularly, if TikTok is your primary right?

Paula: Right. Exactly. You can have a primary but I think you should own property in at least five places on the internet. You know being your website and at least for social media that you’re syndicating that content to because that just gives you a nice broad reach and you can always pick ones that make sense for you. You add one, drop one, whatever as they go up down, backward or sideways if you find it,

John: [inaudible] But if you have your website as primary, then you’re always good to go.

Paula: Exactly. You can even have a favorite among the other four. You know where you’re deciding, these are the things that we’re doing. But you definitely want to not be relying on anyone that you don’t control, and that includes LinkedIn. So, all of that content that I produce for LinkedIn and producing other places at least as well. Okay. So, back to the revenue model. I love the idea of owning multiple channels for content, and I think this is probably a solution to some of the problems that we’ve been having in the marketplace, especially in the aviation industry. Because the publications are struggling, right?

So, consider in your five-year Plan, your 10-year plan, or whatever it is that you’re considering consider purchasing a content outlet. Whether that’s a podcast or a magazine or another website, a directory, an event, or in a word some kind doesn’t matter what it is. Consider purchasing another content outlet and using that for any number of things you can advertise for other people who are not competitors, use it for donations to a private organization. You can use it for affiliate marketing of your products and services, affiliate marketing of associated products and services, and things like that.

You can do sponsorships, you can do subscriptions. There are lots of ways that you can earn money from a content channel that is direct revenue rather than the indirect that we were talking about with like our podcast is always been an indirect revenue model because it’s simply there to support our company. So, if you think about that there’s a little bit of an ethical dilemma going back to my college days in media ethics and so on. Who owns the media? The answer is always a private company, right? You don’t necessarily want government-owned media least not in the United States. We like to have that separation and we like to have lots of different companies owned by lots of different media because the marketplace of ideas depends on diversity, right?

John: Yeah.

Paula: So, you’re actually helping journalism as an example. If you purchase a magazine or a news outlet or something along those lines. You are able to leverage that in a way, that makes sense.

John: So, you are a journalism major?

Paula: I was a journalism major until life made me decide that I didn’t want to be writing obituaries all night for five years before I got a real job. It was always the graveyard shift and I had little kids so that wasn’t…

John: So, just had to dock that in.

Paula: Right. My life took a left-hand turn into marketing, and I never looked back. But I still feel very passionately that journalism is an essential function of democracy and I still feel that aviation journalism is an essential function of the industry. So, that would be something that I’m really interested in for more than one reason, is supporting a media channel of some kind. So, that’s going into our five or ten-year plan as of Monday, next week, when we have our meeting. So, early morning, that’s going on.

John: Cool.

Paula: Okay, so let’s talk about AI. It’s changing everything, right? So, if the world is flooded by AI content, you need to start thinking about what is content or manufacturing, or anything else. What can you do that A I cannot do? Right. The primary thing that you can do that AI cannot is relationships. So, if you have relationships with customers. If you have a network in the industry of people that like and trust you. You’re a broker or you’re a consultant, or you are whatever it is that you, you have a commodity or you have an asset that can’t be touched by AI. If you do not have that, it’s time to start working on it. Long past time to start working on it. Because that is about the only thing that can be done with that.

John: You got to be careful when you delve into AI. Make sure If you use it and there’s no reason not to. But you need to make sure that its output is in keeping with whatever your objectives and goals are.

Paula: Right. I think we all should be dipping our toe into AI for things that we could do, better faster, cooler, neater, cheaper. By using AI to provide better products and services to our customers, but we’re not replacing our writers anytime soon. We are not replacing our social media people anytime soon because that human relationship is really all we’ve got. It’s so important in the aviation industry in particular. Yeah, that’s not something that we could ever replace. But we are competing against it too.

John: Most people that have AI to sell to you or us will tell you. You have to have a good writer take a look at it after it’s done.

Paula: Yeah. Everybody says that and even if you have AI art done, you want to have a real artist look at it and tweak it and make sure that it’s perfect. In fact, I was playing with an AI art tool yesterday. I might share some of the results of that and they are at any level from fantastic to awful. But none of them is perfect as it comes out of the machine.

John: Yeah.

Paula: Yeah. I mean, it’s going to be interesting because it may totally revolutionize. For example, in stock photography, you can just tell an AI image builder I want a G650 facing to the left with my head coming out of the window or whatever. You can tell it what you want and it will do a pretty good job sometimes of making that work. So, it’s going to be really interesting what it does to photographers. It’s going to be really interesting what it does to artists. It’s going to be really interesting to see what it does to all of our professions. But in the meantime, there are some things that it cannot do. Probably will never be able to do it. So, the punchline of the seminar I attended yesterday about AI is to build a moat around your products and services. Decide what can you defend against AI competitors especially. That’s thing number one, in the AI world thing.

Number two, in the AI world, is how can you augment your products and services to deliver them better without losing that human touch. So, you’re always the project manager, you’re always the face and the hand that shakes the hand of your customer. But if you have behind the scenes, some AI that is working some magic to make your customers’ lives better. So, much the better as long as its quality is checked into so long as you as a human being are standing in front of and behind that AI product, right?

John: Just to emphasize what she just said about quality checks and standing behind and in front of it. I mean, that’s why it would have been nice. He is probably going to have to come out with other versions of this book ones. And also chapter the last for whatever, talks about AI with respect to content.

Paula: This is job security for all of us because we’re all going to have to rewrite all of our books after AI. I mean it changes everything and it’s probably going to be the biggest thing since the industrial revolution.

John: You’re going to find variously priced AI versions, and what that’s going to do is not just the programming but the database they used to teach it with. The more in-depth, the pricier it will be.

Paula: Right.

John: It’s going to be interesting to see how that price, versus their product, versus a real person, versus the product.

Paula: Yeah.

John: It’s going to be that way.

Paula: If you’re Rockwell Collins, of course, you can think about this in terms of building your own AI tools. If you are a DCI, then you’re thinking in terms of tools that are already built that. How do we use a subscription service or something like that where we’re not buying monster computer that’s going to sit in their attic or something like that. That’s not something that a lot of us are going to consider but there are still services available that use AI that you can use for $30 a month without being a huge pain in the neck. We’ve got some that were experimenting with that are in the $300 a month range. So, we will be reporting on them as well. So, that’s a huge departure from the book.

John:  Should be in the next version of the book though.

Paula: Yeah. So, very much in keeping of course with the premise of the book and that is how do you adapt your business to the reality of the world now? That is always been through content and that’s always been through human-generated content and it may now be through hybrid content as well. So, cool, anything else we want to talk about?

John: Probably but I don’t think of it right now.

Paula: Okay. I will think about it as soon as we close out this podcast episode. Thank you for joining us and we’ll hope you will join us next month when we are talking about John and Martha’s book “Lift” which is a brand-new book. They were nice enough to autograph copies personalized for all of our book club members. You’re getting those in the mail now hopefully. If you haven’t got yours let me know, and that is really exciting. I’m really looking forward to talking with the Kings in January.

John: You bet.