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Content Marketing Institute launches paid membership model

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When Joe Pulizzi, previously VP-custom media at Penton Media, branched out on his own in 2007, he knew his next business venture would be based on his expertise within the evolving discipline of content marketing, a term he had begun to evangelize.

Taking a cue from such companies as AgencyFinder and Mfg.com, which had adapted the Match.com model to b-to-b lead-generation, Pulizzi launched Junta42 Match in June 2008 as a service b-to-b marketers could use to find vendors to implement a content marketing project. Junta42 made the service free to b-to-b marketers and association professionals, and brought in revenue by charging prequalified vendors a monthly or annual fee to be part of the database.

Following his own principles, Pulizzi used content as a vehicle to attract his own customers, as well as customers for those clients. He blogged, identified and linked to top bloggers, provided research and white papers, built an online community and published an e-newsletter, among other things.

With content, Junta42 built up a loyal following among b-to-b marketers, but revenue was coming solely from custom media companies, consultants and agencies. Pulizzi saw an opportunity to monetize the b-to-b marketer side of his audience and put together a plan for the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), which he originally envisioned as a paid membership-based online education site. He introduced contentmarketinginstitute.com in May as a free site to start building the brand.

“We talked to our target customers—senior-level marketers—and they loved the idea,” Pulizzi said. “Then I asked, ‘Would you use it?' That was the right question. They said they probably wouldn't make time for it.”

Marketers told Pulizzi they needed help figuring out what to do about content marketing, but they needed help on an individualized basis and were willing to pay for it. In need of another monetization strategy, Pulizzi immediately went to work developing a new plan.

Earlier this month, he opened up membership in CMI using an entirely different model. Members, now companies or other organizations rather than individual marketers, pay a charter membership fee of $9,500 annually, which provides full access to CMI's information resources for up to 15 people.

“The ‘secret sauce' is individualized, customized help,” Pulizzi said. That comes in multiple forms. All members are assigned to a member services manager as a single point of contact to the institute. Each company is taken through an assessment process, then assigned to a consultant. Ten hours of customized consulting services are included in the membership fee.

CMI doesn't employ the consultants, Pulizzi said. “We have built relationships with top experts in content marketing. We know their work. They are prequalified,” he said. “Once we have evaluated the marketer, we go into our database and identify experts and check availability. Pricing is an issue we work out.”

The content that underlies the evaluation and consulting process, such as benchmark research, becomes a resource for all members on the CMI website.

“We started as a brand with an online product, Junta42 Match, but we're evolving into a media company with products and services, which is what we recommend our clients do,” Pulizzi said.

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