By Heidi Cohen published March 10, 2014

5 Tips for Quality Content Creation That Won’t Bust Your Budget

bow-arrow image-quality content creationWith more marketers focusing on content creation and more people communicating on social media, every piece of content you distribute has to break through the clutter and grab your audience members in a way that predisposes them to choose your message over one that comes from your competition.

It’s not just about capturing attention — if it were, all you would need to do is consistently post a bunch of cat videos; but that’s not exactly going to help you achieve your key business goals, now is it?

Content quality sets your content marketing apart

While cute cats are great, if your business is serious about attracting more readers — and higher rankings on search engines — you need to focus on content quality.

Research by Disruptive Communications in 2013 revealed that audiences care about the quality of your content. Here are two key findings that underscore that point:

  • Forty percent of respondents admitted that poor spelling and grammar reduced their favorable impression of a brand. Yes that’s right. The writing you studied in grade school really does matter to your target audience.
  • Twenty-five percent of respondents feel that brands’ social media updates are too salesy. What’s surprising here is that the percentage isn’t higher. Both content marketing and social media communications should be void of any promotional message. In other words, skip the sales talk.

As a marketer with a limited budget, the good news about focusing on quality content creation is that you don’t need to think in terms of producing more content but rather in terms of making each piece of content more effective.

Therefore, it may be time to rethink your organization’s processes to enable higher-quality content creation. For example:

  • For larger organizations, this might mean working to bridge your organizational silos. With better team alignment, you can eliminate duplicated efforts and produce content that addresses higher-level marketing goals.
  • For smaller organizations, this might mean planning ahead to find opportunities to create multiple pieces of content simultaneously, which will reduce your content creation costs.

5 tips to improve content quality without busting your budget

Here are five content marketing tips that will help you raise the quality of your content without significantly increasing your costs:

1. Perform a company-wide content audit: The aim here is to determine what effective content your organization has, what content is outdated or needs freshening up, and what information is missing from your existing offerings. To do this well and keep content costs down, think holistically across your entire organization:

  • Catalog all of your content to determine what you have: Include content and communications from outside of the marketing department. You may have useful information in your sales manual, but it’s not going to do your company much good if no one knows it’s there, just waiting to be leveraged.
  • Assess each piece of content to determine what to delete, what to revise, and what works well as-is: Examine your existing content assets with a critical eye. Think about low-cost ways you can enhance what you have or make it have greater impact.
  • Determine where there are gaps in your current content assets: Are there topics you aren’t covering, or information that you aren’t providing for your readers? Based on what you’ve learned during your audit, make a list of new ideas that you might want to focus your next content efforts on.

2. Develop a company-wide editorial calendar: In many companies, only the marketing department uses an editorial calendar to track its content creation efforts. But to improve content quality cost-effectively, it’s helpful to develop a calendar that tracks your content activities across the entire enterprise. This higher-level view of your company’s content creation efforts will help you identify opportunities to unite the efforts and resources of various teams, eliminate waste from duplicated efforts, and extend the value and impact of the content you do create.

In larger firms, coordinating an enterprise-wide calendar may require a chief content officer — someone who would have first-hand knowledge of company-wide goals — and access to the team members who will be most essential in coordinating everyone’s efforts.

To develop an editorial calendar that functions across the entire organization, start with these three steps:

  • Determine what types of content will work best to support your overarching promotion goals
  • Examine the content, social media, and other marketing-related assets you have at your disposal.
  • Identify all areas of your organization where information needs to be shared, such as sales, customer service, product development, website development, human resources, and investor relations. The object is to turn all communications into effective content marketing pieces, thereby increasing your content production without adding costs.

For example, instead of a traditional annual report, Warby Parker found a great way to turn a dull annual report into an engaging piece of content:

image-warby parker history

3. Plan your content creation efforts in advance: The goal is to create multiple pieces on related topics all at the same time. Where appropriate, develop marketing and corporate content simultaneously — this reduces costs since you are combining your efforts. You can also break a larger piece of content down into multiple, smaller pieces, thereby further extending your budget.

For example, Kelly Services repurposed one of its white papers into three different SlideShare presentations, each focusing on a different part of the conversation. In total, these three presentations generated 10,000 views, 1,000 new subscribers and 250 sales-accepted leads. Results that you can take to the bank!
4. Develop a plan for distributing content efficiently and effectively: Don’t just publish! Have a plan to ensure that your content will reach the broadest audience possible:

  • Make each piece of content contextually relevant to the platform on which it will appear: Also, consider whether the content will render well across most commonly used devices and screen sizes (think smartphone and tablets).
  • Include a relevant call-to-action: Remember your goal is to get readers to take the next step in your purchase process.

5. Be prepared to track your content marketing results: Check that your content quality efforts are improving your response and decreasing your costs in other marketing areas. Specifically, consider the number of leads your content is generating, as well as measuring the number of qualified leads and sales against your content marketing expenses.

Streamline your content creation across your organization to ensure that you create top-quality information that your target audience wants and needs, while eliminating duplicate and other wasteful efforts. By doing this you should be able to reduce your content marketing costs considerably.

What has your experience been with streamlining your content creation process across your organization? Has it resulted in lower costs and improved content quality?

For more great tips, ideas, and examples for creating quality content more efficiently, read Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi. 

Cover image via Bigstock 

Author: Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is an actionable marketing expert. As president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi works with online media companies and e-tailers to increase profitability with innovative marketing programs based on solid analytics. During the course of 20 years, Heidi has obtained deep experience in direct and digital marketing across a broad array of products including soft goods, financial services, entertainment, media entities and crafts-oriented goods. Heidi shares her actionable marketing insights on her blog. Find Heidi Cohen online at Twitter @heidicohen, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Other posts by Heidi Cohen

  • http://hashimwarren.com/ Hashim Warren

    Heidi, I wholeheartedly agree with batching content production. It also makes approvals easier, because even if it gets stuck with a decision maker once she says “YES” you have multiple pieces to publish.

    I do quibble with this point:
    “Both content marketing and social media communications should be void of any promotional message.”

    High quality content is welcome, whether its relationship building marketing or straight commercials.

    More salesy does not equal less quality. To back up my opinion I point to the survey you cited.

    What do you think Heidi?

    • heidicohen

      Hashim–

      I disagree. Salesy content is NOT quality content.

      Both content marketing and social media should be void of promotional messaging. Pushing your marketing message is the fastest way to loose your audience. If no one reads your content, it’s useless.

      Consumers, B2C and B2B, don’t like advertising and promotion in any form. They’re good at filtering it out. The Nielsen chart in my last column supports this point. People trust quality editorial and other consumers.

      Instead of salesy content, provide the 5 types of content your customers seek before, during and after purchase. They are product information, answers to their questions, how-to’s, styling help and ratings and reviews.

      Check out River Pools and Spas where Marcus Sheridan did this by answering every customer question and improved sales of in ground pools at a point in time that people were loosing their homes.

      But don’t take my word for it. Create two pieces of content–one filled with your push sales message and one void of any sales message. They should be the same except for these points and have the same calls to action. Test them by sending to equal segments of your prospects and measure the results.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

      • http://hashimwarren.com/ Hashim Warren

        Thank you for the reasoned response, Heidi.

        My experience with this is personal and painful. I spent 2 years pushing out relationship building content on my old site. The result? Lots of “Thank you! You’re awesome!” emails, but very low sales.

        After getting an earful from my service professional colleagues (thank you Third Tribe community!) I finally did a 4-day, very salesy, high quality content campaign over email.

        The result? The most unsubscribes I’ve ever received in one period.

        The other result? So many emails of people who wanted to buy that it dropped my jaw during lunch. I showed my wife the long list on my phone and she cheered.

        Heidi, have you checked out “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” by Gary VaynerchuK? If so, what do you think of the “Right Hook” portion of his advice, the part where you go hard for the sale?

        • heidicohen

          Hashim,

          I haven’t read Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest book so I can’t comment on that.

          Based on your comments, it sounds like salesy content didn’t work for you.

          What you need to appreciate is that emailings to sales conversion aren’t a 1-to-1 ratio. It can be less than 1%. This means that if you send 100 emails, you may get 1 sale or 0 sales.

          People who generate high conversions have a very large base of prospects.

          Happy marketing,
          Heidi Cohen

  • Tamar Weiss

    I’d love a post on how to develop a company-wide calendar. It sounds pretty simple but depending on the company structure I bet it can be a real challenge figuring out what goes on in each department and if it is relevant to company goals.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Thanks for the idea, Tamar! You’re right that this seems simple in theory, but it can be a challenge to execute.

      If helpful, we have a guide on content collaboration tools, some of which have a calendar feature: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/research/content-collaboration-tools/

      • Tamar Weiss

        Thanks Michele, I’ll take a look!

        • heidicohen

          Tamar–I agree with you that a company-wide content calendar can be difficult.

          It’s not the calendar that’s hard but rather working across the silos and the politics of who manages the resources.

          The issue is that without making every customer communication quality content, it’s difficult to get real savings.

          Happy marketing,
          Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.makementionmedia.com/ Jen Havice

    Great post! Being able to repurpose content is so key. There’s only so much any of us can do. You’ve got to work smarter considering creating high quality content can be so labor intensive.

    • heidicohen

      Jen–

      To clarify part of the power of these suggestions is to re-imagine your content in advance to create powerful information. This is especially important for communications that your business creates without thinking about such as customer service emailings.

      Take it one step further and make it quality content.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.texas-careers.blogspot.com/ Dr. Anthony C. Edwards

    Thanks, @heidicohen:disqus. I need to work with my team to develop an editorial calendar and content repurposing plan. Great ideas!

    • heidicohen

      Anthony–

      Take a page from Todd Wheatland’s playbook and create different versions to attract more leads.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • Chelsei Henderson

    “Both content marketing and social media communications should be void of any promotional message.”

    I imagine quite a few people will have qualms with this statement. However, I whole heartedly agree, especially when it comes to B2B service providers. (Mainly because I’m all for occasionally hearing the great deal I can grab from B2C companies.)

    The confusion seems to set in when service providers don’t understand quite where content marketing / social media fits into their sales cycle. I’ve seen countless tweets from these companies that go something like, “If you need help with X, give us a call! 888-555-5555″ You know what I’ve never felt inclined to do? Give them a call.

    However, when they tweet a great headline that leads me to a blog post
    … which has a promo in the sidebar for a free tool in exchange for my email address
    … which really works and adds value to me
    … which I then receive a followup email about in a couple of days
    … which leads into a conversation about their staple product…

    THEN! I might listen if it’s relevant to me and it’s the right time for me to buy (something that the whole process should have told the email sender based on my behavior). And it doesn’t stop there, but I will for the sake of time.

    Needless to say, it’s a huge process with a lot of science behind it. People don’t get that, which is why they will disagree with your statement. But the truth of the matter is: your Twitter account isn’t the bottom of the funnel. It’s barely at the top. It’s kinda like the air above the top of the funnel. And it needs to be treated as such. :)

    - Chelsei

    • heidicohen

      Chelsei,

      Push marketing and promotion don’t have a place on social media and content marketing.

      That said, you can still provide a call-to-action and/or a link that leads potential customers into your purchase process. The premium version of Slideshare is good for this as is answering your customers’ questions on your blog with links to the product pages.

      While offering a great sale once in a while is something that entices prospects, beware–you don’t want to train them to wait for your sales.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    As well as publishing fresh, new content on your social media pages and blog, you should also think about re-purposing existing content. For example, if your products or services have been featured in the press, you should be maximizing the return on investment by re-purposing it.

    • heidicohen

      Barbara–

      I recommend thinking about the information across your business. Look at all customer communications and think how can I improve these?

      Also, when you create new product related content on your blog or elsewhere, have a process in place so that it’s associated with the product on your website and other emailings.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • https://www.kwalityhost.com/ kwalityhost

    thanks for the pretty knowledge.

  • http://radix-communications.com Emily King

    Definitely agree with the need to create a company wide editorial calendar. I recently set one up for where I work and have allowed everyone who will be contributing to content, from director level down, to have access – but we’re a small business.

    And while I understand that in larger businesses it can be pretty hard to get everyone to co-ordinate on these things, and there’s solutions out there to help with it, I want to make a recommendation for smaller businesses if something like Google Calendar isn’t working out for them – Trello, which is free. Been finding it really useful to help assign content to people and give all stake holders an overview of what’s happening and when so that we can plug gaps in content and make the use of everyone’s knowledge. Also handy for people to drop in content ideas that we can eventually add to the cal.

    Now that we’ve got the calendar in place, and having already completed a content audit; know our distribution channels; planned a fair amount and set-up for analytics, we just need to help people find the time to create. We’re a copywriting agency, so the writing part isn’t something we struggle with. So I want to add one final tip: make time for content creation.

    • heidicohen

      Emily–

      Thank you for chiming in. I’ve heard that Trello can be a useful tool.

      You do make an important point that can’t be minimized. You need to find time to create content. It’s like the idea of paying yourself first. You need to realize that without your own content, it’s difficult to reach new audiences.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.ovlg.com/ Amy Nickson

    Excellent article on quality content creation! Kudos Heidi! However, I would like to add that Google is now scoring websites as per its freshness of content. If a page, that could have been improved and modified with latest information, lies unchanged since 2004, this will indeed have a bad impact on the website. Instead, if you try to modify articles with relevant information, statistics or infographics that clearly matches the theme of the website, this will certainly have a positive impact on your website. Remodeling your content and adding freshness to it is the new key to success for all the Content Marketers! :)

    • heidicohen

      Amy–Thank you for adding your insights! I love the idea of remodeling your content! Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.krishtechnolabs.com/ Krish TechnoLabs

    Concentrating on quality content is always the best direction, in any case the Venue of Social Media.