B-to-b media companies need to step up marketing expertise

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Custom media is part of the long-term business plan for almost every b-to-b media company today, as it has been for many years, said Joe Pulizzi, president of Z Squared Media. What's changed, though, is that over the past decade the expertise and proficiencies that historically gave media companies their edge in custom publishing are no longer unique to them, he said.

A former VP at Penton Custom Media, Pulizzi founded Z Squared Media earlier this year as a consulting firm with "a singular focus on content marketing—otherwise known as custom media, custom publishing or branded content."

He is also the chief content officer for Junta42 (, a vertical search engine focused on content marketing and custom publishing that debuted Aug. 1.

MB: What has changed to make b-to-b media companies more vulnerable than before in the custom media marketplace?

Pulizzi: B-to-b media companies are losing all the assets that once made them special. Traditional media players are dumping experienced editors who know their markets inside out. They're not investing in reader research. And thanks in part to the leads and data enhancements media companies have provided, most corporations have customer databases that are more current, more detailed and more qualified than the media companies have.

MB: What about the media's third-party credibility and objectivity?

Pulizzi: Corporations, agencies, direct marketers and associations have learned how to create really, really good content. They can hire great writers and editors. They have the budgets to do great research. They can bring in top experts from outside their companies. And as far as media credibility, that's changing, too. Some younger people have come to trust corporate brands more than media brands.

MB: What options do b-to-b media companies have if they want to keep and improve their custom content businesses?

Pulizzi: They have to make a commitment to provide turnkey marketing services. They have to commit the resources to research and content development. They have to develop true marketing expertise. They have to train salespeople to sell differently. In custom, you go into a meeting to listen, not to make a sale. Then you come back to clients with a custom solution to their marketing communication issues. Media companies need to develop proficiency in marketing, not delivery, because technology has enabled anyone to distribute content.

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