How To Improve The Quality Of Your Content
Bogdan Zlatkov Monday, March 5, 2018
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If you’re a B2B company with limited resources, how much content should you be aiming to create?
There are merits to both a quantity-heavy and a quality-heavy approach. First, let’s take a look at quantity.
Those who favor a quantity-heavy approach will typically cite stats like, “Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5X more leads than companies that published 0-4 monthly posts.” Then they’ll add a fun chart like this…
Source: Hubspot benchmark data
This data is super useful and definitely something you should consider when planning your content marketing strategy. The issue that I take with this data, however, is it only measures quantity of blog posts and quantity of traffic. Most importantly, it leaves out the quality of the traffic and the quality of the leads.
For example, working with one of our recent clients at Pixel Press, we decided to do a collaboration with another company on an e-book we were putting out. Our client, a B2B company of about 200 people, was going to partner with another B2B company of about 2400 people. Clearly there was a huge upside to working with a company larger than us and with far more reach than us.
So, we spent about a month producing a quality e-book that addressed both companies’ target markets and we pressed publish. We estimated that we would receive about 3,500 leads from the e-book.
We were wrong, very wrong.
Not only did we surpass our 3,500 lead goal but we smashed it by securing over 14,000 leads in just 1 month! Wow! Huge win! High fives all around! If we only took a quantity metric of this e-book it would be counted as the best piece of content we had made all year. But, being responsible content strategists of course, we also measured the quality of the leads.
We do this the old school way. Not by measuring conversions (again that’s a quantity-based approach) but by talking to the actual sales team. Yes, we had real conversations with real people which, from what I understand, is pretty rare in the content agency world. When we spoke with the sales team we found out that the majority of the e-book leads were grossly unqualified. There were people who didn’t even recognize the company name, let alone what they actually did.
Having poor quality leads can be attributed to a few things:
- Misleading subject titles
- Over promotion to the wrong audiences
- Under-nurturing leads
- Misleading CTA
- Lack of brand placement
When creating a piece of content, there are a million quality metrics that contribute to making that piece of content successful or not. I think this is why everyone likes to fall back on the quantity metrics. They’re clear. They’re easy.
But if you only measure the amount of traffic and leads you’re generating, chances are you’ll be wasting your sales team’s time and thus wasting your money.
So, while it’s true that creating more content is a good thing, creating content simply for boosting numbers isn’t necessarily the smartest strategy.
Taking that into account let’s look at...
A Quality-based Approach to Content Creation
For a B2B business, the amount of content you create should largely be based on:
Position in the market
Efficiency of the Sales Funnel
Size of Sales Team
Giving blanket advice like “this is how B2B businesses should…” is never a smart idea. You always need to adjust your advice based on variables of a business, and that’s why we developed the above variables when advising our clients.
Most other content marketers agree that content strategy depends on a lot of factors. But rather than stopping at “it depends,” let’s look at exactly what to do at different stages in the growth of a B2B company.
Position in the Market
Where you are in the market should be your first step in determining how much content you produce. Ross Simmonds, an expert on digital strategy, stated it perfectly when he said, “If you're in a competitive space where every ideal keyword has been claimed with 10x content - you're walking up a steep hill with 50lbs on your back. In this case, it's possible you're going to need to take an aggressive effort as you're truly playing catch up.”
If you are playing catch up to competitors who have a ton of content out already, then yes, you should churn out a content library as quickly as possible. Having a good backlog of content not only helps boost your SEO for keywords, but it also begins the process of compounding returns.
According to Hubspot, 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning organic search increases their traffic over time. So, the sooner you can create blog posts, the better chance you have of hitting that 1 in 10 shot of one of them taking off.
When you’re first entering a market, you don’t really know what works and what doesn’t from a content perspective. You need to experiment and see what resonates with your audience. So yes, if you’re new to content marketing, write and write often.
A good benchmark we recommend for new companies to hit is about 4 blog posts per month without a dedicated content writer, or 8 blog posts per month with a dedicated writer. This guarantees that by the end of the year you’ll have 48 to 96 pieces of content.
Efficiency of the Sales Funnel
If, however, you’ve been in the content marketing game for at least a year or two, it’s time to take a more qualitative approach to your strategy. How qualitative your approach should be is largely determined by how good your sales funnel is already.
Continuing to churn out blog posts just to increase traffic is a fool’s errand if you’re just taking that traffic and chucking it into an inefficient sales funnel.
The internet is full of clever ways to increase your sales funnel conversion rates. From A/B testing, to copywriting, to page formatting, to the color of your submit button, the list is endless. But from a content marketing perspective, the absolute best way to increase conversions is by improving your content to attract higher quality leads.
According to DemandGenReport, 47% of buyers view 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. That means if you’re just churning out content, rather than curating content carefully, you’re actually increasing your chances of someone leaving your site. Sure, they came for that first great blog post, but as they read more they realized the content wasn’t actually that great and so they leave.
On the flip side, if you slow down how much content you put out, but make certain each piece of content is incredibly good, you’ll begin to see an increase in MQLs (marketing qualified leads) even if you see a drop in traffic.
Increasing conversions is far more effective than increasing traffic. Why?
As the smart people at Unbounce explain, “increasing your conversion rate is usually a one-time cost.” Which means spending a little time and money at the beginning, provides you better results well into the future.
From a content marketing perspective, if you spend 30% more time on your next blog post, sure you lose that time, but then that blog post is published for all eternity. So, if that blog post brings in 5% more conversions, it does so long into the future.
If, on the other hand, you concentrate on putting out two so-so blog posts instead of one quality post, sure you saved time and increased traffic, but those blog two posts won’t have nearly as much longevity.
This is going back to the idea of the compounding blog post. Hubspot has done a ton of studies on this and, after surveying thousands of customers, they’ve found that over its lifetime, one compounding blog post creates as much traffic as six decaying posts.
In fact, 75% of HubSpot's blog views and 90% of blog leads come from old posts. Which means if you spend more time making quality content, not only will you enjoy more leads but you’ll still get those traffic numbers that you so desire.
A good benchmark for judging the quality of your content is its compounding lead generation. We recommend taking a look at your highest performing content and see how much time you spent creating it, how long it is, and how much detail went into it.
The Size of your Sales Team
Despite what people tell you, size matters when it comes to content marketing. Creating a B2B content strategy for an organization with 2 sales people is vastly different than for an organization with 30 sales people.
While it would be nice if we could make sure that every lead is highly qualified, sometimes it does just come down to a numbers game. In the scenario we spoke about at the beginning of this post, we generated over 14,000 leads in just over a month.
The reason this wasn’t great was because it simply overwhelmed the capacity of the sales team. With a sales team of 9 people, it was impossible to reach out to all those leads in a meaningful way. This resulted in sales people trying to qualify each lead over the phone which takes quite a lot of time. As a consequence, not only were the salespeople frustrated, but they were also jumping from call to call pretty abruptly and possibly creating a negative impression of the company as a whole.
It’s important to realize that lack of sales is not always the sales team’s fault. If we, the content marketers, had done the dirty work for the sales team and qualified and disqualified leads within the content itself, we would have saved a ton of time and generated far more conversions.
Your approach to content should be determined by the sales process as a whole. If your product requires a direct interaction between a salesperson and a customer, then you need to create content that’s highly targeted and only attracts the right leads.
If, on the other hand, your sales can be directly accomplished on your website, without the need for a sales person, then you want to create a wide range of content that attracts all kinds of demographics.
Either way, you should be thinking about your sales process every time you create content. You ideally want to create content that brings the correct audience, to the correct place, for the correct reasons.
A good benchmark for determining the amount of content you create is based on the capacity of your sales team. We always recommend keeping the sales team busy with qualified leads, but not overly busy, so they have time to do prospecting and outbound sales as well.
One Takeaway: The Magic Hour
If I could gift every content marketer here one action item to take home, it would be the Sales & Marketing Happy Hour.
One of the most common problems in any organization is this fight between sales and marketing. No matter how many clients I've worked with at Pixel Press, I've never once seen sales and marketing be 100% aligned. There are various reasons for this, but I think it usually comes down to the way success is measured in each department.
Marketing teams tend to be measured on their overall lead generation for the quarter, for six months, or for the year. They are thinking at least a few months ahead and trying to create assets for the future.
Sales teams, on the other hand, tend to be measured by number of deals closed on a monthly basis. They constantly need to hit monthly quotas and, as a consequence, they are forced to think month-to-month.
To remedy this, we created the Sales & Marketing Happy Hour, which is a scheduled hour of time, every week, where the sales and content marketing teams catch up and talk about what they've done. It is by far the easiest way I've seen to improve any content marketing strategy immediately.
This idea certainly isn't new, it's just very rare. Most content marketers will chat with sales on occasion but rarely do they hang out on a regular basis. However I've noticed lately, especially on the Inbound community, that this practice is becoming more and more common.
@TrevorAcy talks about how he does this in his excellent post on Aligning Sales & Marketing, as well as @benjihyam in this awesome talk at Google.