Joe Pulizzi Shares His Secret to Success

Here at Niche HQ, we believe industry event attendance can make a huge difference to your company growth (I mean…it’s our business model!)

And while we have a vested interest in event growth, we can also trace our own career success and knowledge – and the positive impact on our companies – to attending events and meeting up with publishing peers and experts.

Joe Pulizzi, the godfather of content marketing, agrees. Check out Joe’s story on why live event connections matter, and get his checklist for maximizing interactions and learning at your next industry event. (We know of a few coming up…)


This One Thing Made All the Difference

Last week was the 9th Annual Content Marketing World, held again in my home city of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s hard not to get nostalgic about the event. Almost 4,000 attend this event every year, coming from well over 60 different countries (as well as every state this year except Alaska). It is now the largest annual business event in Cleveland, bringing approximately $4 million dollars into the city each and every year (according to Destination Cleveland).

Today, for some reason, I asked myself “how did this happen?”

I mean, I know how it happened. I remember the plan. Hired the right people and contractors. A truly amazing team. I also remember how we never thought people would actually come to Cleveland for a business event (We reserved a room that fit 150 people in 2011. 660 showed up and we took over the hotel.).

But more specifically, what were the events that led to the creation of Content Marketing World, inarguably the most successful thing I’ve launched in my entrepreneurial career?

It took a few minutes…but then it became clear. The answer is attending marketing and other industry events. Yes…it’s that simple.

Let me explain.

In 2009 I was sitting at an American Business Media event. While watching a presentation from Peter Hoyt, I came up with the idea for Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Later that year, I presented at a Web Content event in Chicago hosted by Scott Abel. I spoke on this concept called content marketing. Two speakers after me, a gentleman named Robert Rose spoke about the same concept. Robert and I talked afterward and immediately became friends. In 2010, he took over CMI’s consulting practice and now hosts Content Marketing World. We’ve written two books together, most recently Killing Marketing, and still have loads of fun with our podcast, This Old Marketing.

In early 2010 I attended a Custom Publishing Council meeting in Florida. There was one person who asked multiple questions to every (and I mean every) presenter. That person was Andrew Davis. He went on to speak at every Content Marketing World, keynoting twice (btw, I met David Meerman Scott at the same event, the CMW keynote our inaugural year).

A few months later I attended Web Content Chicago again and met Kristina Halvorson. Kristina, a future Content Marketing World keynote, helped me shape the idea of content marketing. Kristina doesn’t know this, but I owe her an incredible amount in challenging me to think deeper about the practice area.

Later that year, I attended my first MarketingProfs event, and made it a point to meet Ann Handley. Ann, the queen of content marketing, became another CMW keynoter and nine-time speaker. At the same event a few years later, I watched Tamsen Webster speak (2019 CMW Keynote).

One key moment came at Content Marketing World 2012, when an enthusiastic Andy Crestodina came running up to me, book in hand, asking me if I would read his book (it was spiral bound and printed on a home computer). I still have it today. By the way, Content Chemistry is now in its fourth edition. Andy later became a CMW keynote speaker and is almost always among CMW’s most popular speakers.

I would go on but I’d probably lose you. The point is, without going to and being active at events, there would be no CMI or CMW.

Meeting people and building relationships through in-person events will take your career to the next level, whether you’re in marketing, retail or a stay-at-home dad. I cannot stress how important this is.


Here are a few tips.

Every October I make a list of upcoming industry events and choose the ones I absolutely must attend.

From the chosen ones, I select a minimum of three speakers of which to meet and start building a relationship. While most people approach speakers after they talk (generally very crowded), I approach speakers before they go on stage (they are usually bored and just waiting to go on stage).

Tweet or share at least one valuable item from the speaker you are trying to build a relationship with (believe me, they notice).

When attending a session, I make it a point to introduce myself to at least one person in the audience. Most people attend events by themselves, so it’s never seen as weird to do this.

Hey, guess what? It’s now October. Time to get to work on what events you are going to attend in 2020.


Editor’s Note: Inspired and ready to get to an event? Upcoming Niche Events include Camp Niche Sales Training (Los Angeles, Oct 29), Niche Consumer CEO Summit (Charleston, Nov 12-13), and Super Niche, with tracks for all your revenue teams (San Antonio, Mar 23-25, 2020).



More about Kristi: Kristi Dougherty is the Content Queen (VP, Marketing & Programs) for Niche Media’s unique and dynamic conferences and resources for niche publishers. She has worked in media since the heady days of dot com magazines in the 90s and managed B-to-B, consumer, and association publications and events. Kristi has spoken at many media conferences, including Niche. When she isn’t obsessing over email design and building the perfect event agenda, she is hiking, snowshoeing, cooking, reading and napping. Sometimes all in one day.


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