When you’re online, well before money enters the scene, there is another kind of exchange rate: time and attention for content.
Recent surveys reveal that 90 percent of B2B buyers prefer to do their research online. There is certainly no shortage of material for them to peruse. Businesses provide content in exchange for a prospect’s time and willingness to consider them a supplier source.
This exchange is a powerful form of marketing. But how much is this content worth? As a writer, many people call me with vastly different perceptions of a content budget, expectations, and needs. As someone tries to solidify an action plan and budget I recommend they factor in the answer to this one question: how much value will you get from your content?
Here are six things online content accomplishes:
- Increases online presence. Content alone achieves this. More importantly, content allows you to develop a social media strategy. In B2B marketing, a social media campaign without content is not social media; it’s broadcast advertising. If you don’t want to be perceived as the one-sided broadcast advertiser you need content.
- Improves SEO rankings. The one constant about SEO is that the determinants of page rank are always helped by a large web site footprint, content relevance, and activity. The one absolute truth about SEO is that it is always evolving. If you want your content to be written for long-term SEO, focus on relevance and quality.
- Establishes credibility in an industry. Interesting content with educational value certainly gives you more credibility. Credibility breeds trust – a fundamental necessity in any business relationship.
- Increases name recognition and visibility. This is a no-brainer. The more material you have floating around the internet the more chances you have for exposure. Every piece of your content is a possible first impression.
- Enhances brand identity. For better or worse every piece of your published content reinforces your identity. Better make sure it matches.
- Makes money. In B2B sales, most buyers (up to 90 percent according to some studies) are influenced by multiple brand exposures rather than a single ad or medium. Your content is part of these “multiple brand exposures.”
So now for the real question: what will all this content cost? Assess your costs with the end in mind. Content is published to attract prospects to your business and convert them into customers. The overall cost of content should reflect how you want to portray your business and the type of customers you want to attract.
If you’re singularly focused on high volume you can get away with paying very little for your content. I can’t speak from direct experience but you can get articles from content mills or elance.com for as little as $35 each.
These articles are generic in the information they provide as well as their look and feel. Generic content doesn’t set you apart from your competition. It positions your company as a commodity and generally attracts prospects interested in the lowest available price.
If your company differentiates itself from the competition by providing a higher level of quality and service your content needs to reflect this. Specialized content tends to attract prospects who value expertise along with personalized, reliable service and they are willing to pay for it. Producing content at this level costs more. There is typically more research involved and the writer will take care to make sure your company shines.
You have several options for acquiring this higher-level content. In fact, I used LinkedIn to ask marketing leaders how they handled implementing their company’s content strategy. They agreed if you have a platform that requires regular content you should hire or use someone who sits within the company. This allows the writer to be up-to-date with product service and knowledge but saves the company the expense of an offical employee. What I found interesting is that I’m in this exact arrangement and it works great for all parties. You can go to a marketing agency who will assign you a writer or you can hire a writer directly.
In the end, it’s important to pay attention to what your competitors are doing. If they are publishing zero content then even generic information is going to put you ahead.
Assess your needs and what you value. Financial considerations, visibility, brand identity, credibility, and attracting the ideal prospects: the cost of content may be high but the cost of poor content is even higher.