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Prediction: Writers Will Be The Marketing Team MVP’s

Content Marketing

Prediction: Writers Will Be The Marketing Team MVPs image writers wanted resized 600Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last half-decade or so, you’ve heard talk about how inbound marketing - and the strong role that content creation plays in it – have become an increasingly important part of the marketing and business mix. Inbound leads cost less, convert at a higher rate, and have higher average customer values – so why would businesses not invest in generating more of them?

As someone who’s consulted with hundreds of companies about their marketing programs, the most common roadblock that I’ve seen is the ability to create a high velocity of keyword-rich and persona-oriented content. Just saying that sentence hurts my head! The latest research indicates that producing enough content marketing is the biggest challenge for North American marketers.

The Three Components of Success

  1. A high velocity of content keeps the site fresh and keeps both readers and search engines coming back to look for new content. It also gives you the chance to pursue multiple keyword phrases and value propositions.
  2. Keyword-rich content allows search engines (and real people) to extrapolate the context that defines your website and your business, and improves your ability to drive relevant traffic from search engines.
  3. Orienting your content around buyer personas allows you to attract the types of website visitors you want and influence them to become leads.

That’s no picnic!

What We Know for Sure

There are a few things I’m willing to say with absolute certainty: One of them is that companies that don’t create a high velocity of keyword-rich and persona-oriented content will fail to be competitive in coming years. Since blogs are really the only feasible method of creating such a diversity and velocity of content, companies that don’t heavily and effectively invest in blogging are going to fail. The pure, naked unit economics of inbound marketing make it so that – even if large organizations can make revenue without blogging – organizations that invest in blogging are going to be more profitable and competitive. They will eventually overcome even the largest firms by being more profitable and therefore will be able to invest more heavily in their marketing.

It’s Freaking Hard

There’s a lot more to it, and I can (and have) tens of thousands of words on the topic, but here’s the rub: It’s freaking hard. Creating that much content is really hard. Which is – partially – why it’s so effective. Google and the other search engines are focusing on content partially because it is so hard. It’s difficult to game, and it does an excellent job of separating companies into tiers of expertise and quality results – which is improving the usefulness of search engines themselves.

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Blogging is Like Jogging

I frequently say that blogging is like jogging: It has to be done frequently, consistently, and it takes a little time to see the results. Also, most companies don’t blog for the same reasons that most people don’t jog! Fortunately, unlike jogging, blogging can be outsourced to expert marketing agencies (*coughcough shameless-self-promotion coughcough*). Although, how cool would it be to outsource jogging? I’d totally pay someone to go jogging for me if it meant that I got healthier and lost weight.

But I digress. Because it’s so hard, writers are becoming a more and more significant part of major marketing teams. In fact, it’s my prediction that writers may soon become the highest paid members of modern marketing teams. Which is great for them because – let’s face it – for the last few decades there have been a massive surplus of writers and a shortage of decent paying careers for them.

Writers Needed

Writers are just so incredibly valuable! Let’s walk through some basic math here: Let’s say you get 200 readers for each of your blog articles because you’ve been writing consistently and doing a decent-but-not-awesome job. Let’s say you have a 5% visit-to-lead conversion rate which is – again – decent but not astounding, so you’re getting 10 leads per blog article. Then let’s say you have a 5% close rate so you get one customer from every two articles. Let’s continue pulling random numbers out of the air to illustrate my train of thought and say you have an average customer life-time-value (A.K.A. LTV) of, oh, $500. My fuzzy math says you make roughly $250 revenue per article! (don’t bother trolling the comments arguing about the math – I just wanted to illustrate how we calculate the ROI of blogging).

Nowadays you can expect to pay about $30-$40 for a pretty good blog article. That’s a pretty amazing ROI! Way higher than most people see with PPC and unfathomably higher than most people see with outbound marketing such as direct mail. You can see why I think that that price will self-regulate itself upwards as more sophisticated companies invest in blogging and a higher quality of blogger emerges.

Right now, though, there’s a shortage of really great writers who can take often ambiguous customer specifications and create a high velocity of educational, valuable, persona-oriented content that generates leads for customers.

And I want them all.

Comments on this Article: 12

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  1. Lorraine says:

    I beg to differ on the copywriter shortage.

    With editorial desks and ad agencies divesting themselves of staff, there is no dearth of excellent, experienced copywriters.

    There is, however, a shortage of excellent copywriters willing to settle for “$30-$40 for a pretty good blog article.”

    Back in the day (as recently as 5-10 years ago), when writers earned a living wage, a 500-word feature (i.e., blog post-length piece) paid good writers $250-$700.

    Up the pay scale and you’ll plenty of superb copywriters.

    • Sam Mallikarjunan says:

      High quality definitely count – but even great writers at companies that get thousands of views per post get paid around $50k-$60k/year. To get a writer at $182,000/ year for $700/article five times a week (assuming they can only writer 500 words per day – which is incredibly pathetic) is just the height of stupidity.

      Of course, the math is all up to your own unique business. Lorraine, Compete.com shows your site has ~500 visits/month on average. Assuming all of those are organically influenced by your blog, and you look like you’re writing about two blogs a month-ish, We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say 800 to keep my math easy. That’s 2 new customers per month at 5% visit-to-lead and 5% lead-to-customer (which are really generous estimates) which gives me a COCA of $700. If I have a mediocre business model and will settle for a COCA:LTV of 1:3, that means that each customer has to be worth $2,100 – which isn’t true for the VAST majority of the B2C world. If it’s true for a certain business though, that’s totally up to them. It’s all dependent on your unique unit economics, and I’m not setting out to model every possible permutation lol. This, of course, isn’t accounting for diminishing probability of conversion from repeat readers but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

      Your articles aren’t bad Lorraine, certainly not, but to hire you as a full time writer at $182,000/year (assuming any of my writers could get away with writing about 1 word/minute even counting research) would just be silly when I could get three great writers for that price. I’m all for paying great writers what they’re worth, but that’s just nonsense.

  2. M. McKenzie says:

    Companies that pay $30-$40 for a “pretty good blog article” are already running a race to the bottom. Really good writers won’t touch a project that pays like that — I know, because I hire writers for dozens of projects every year.

    I know that I get what I pay for. And agencies that pay like this make me very, very happy — they pose absolutely no competitive threat because they can’t deliver quality work.

    • Sam Mallikarjunan says:

      Avoiding the fact that a race to the bottom is based on price competition not subjective price setting, as I mentioned to Lorraine it depends on your unit economics. Of course, if you can swindle businesses into not knowing the value that your work is driving then of course you can charge whatever you want and they’ll be none the wiser. Blogging 5 times/week for our clients, as I mentioned to Lorraine above, I’m not going to charge them $14k/month just for content creation unless their business model can support it. If it can, odds are their space is more competitive and requires better writers and they can sustain a higher COCA.

      Do math, people. That’s the point of this article. Pay writers what they’re worth in a given space.

  3. Jason Ball says:

    To echo the other commenters, high quality content costs. More than this, poor quality content also costs – it damages your reputation and turns away potential customers.

    Having said that, the basic math does stack up. In B2B and tech where I specialise, you can often multiply the LTV in your example by a thousand or more (and no, I’m not trolling on the data). At this point, investing in high-quality, reputation-building content makes sound business sense.

    Finally, blogging is useful but only a part of the picture. A more blended approach that combines inbound and outbound and which delivers useful content in multiple formats will almost always outperform an inbound-only approach.

    • Sam Mallikarjunan says:

      Great comment Jason. You’re definitely right that in the B2B space the average customer LTV is higher and you can afford a proportionately higher COCA.

      Also, outbound marketing can be modelled to work effectively. The point of this article, as I mentioned to “M. McKenzie”, is that people should do the math to drive value for their clients and businesses and pay writers accordingly. If you’re selling $100,000 software with 80% margins you can afford much higher COCA than if you have a 15% margin at a B2C eCommerce company with an ASP of $150.

      Poor content is worse than none in my opinion (no math there, just opinion), but the marginal benefit for most companies from paying, say $50/article to paying $700/article just isn’t there. I haven’t met a $700 writer who’s an order of magnitude better than the writers I know making $60l-$70k.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. T. Bowman says:

    Excellent responses! Thanks for adding sensibility to this over-generalized piece. Sam may in fact be looking for quality Writers at $30-$40 per article but I believe he needs to define his measure of quality. $30-$40 per article gets you a 2nd year Journalism Major without a working wristwatch. Thanks again for the honesty!! TB

  5. Sam Mallikarjunan says:

    See above comments lol. I’m not doing every permutation of every business model to placate lazy minds. The point is that you should invest more in content creation based on your unique economics. I used one example of a company with a specific LTV and I knew I’d end up with math trolls in the comments lol.

  6. Lorraine says:

    Golly, Sam, thanks for letting me know my articles “aren’t bad.” Your opinion means a lot.

    I guess I hit a nerve–and got you busy writing big phrases like “diminishing probability of conversion,” looking up blog stats and tossing out acronyms.

    (Associated Press [AP]style tip: “Never use an abbreviation that will not be easily understood.” COCA??)

    Sam, I disagree that “great writers at companies that get thousands of views per post get paid $50k-$60k/year.”

    Where do you come up with these figures?

    $50K-$60K is the LOW END for senior copywriters in the corporate world.

    • COCA stands for Cost Of Customer Acquisition. I did define LTV, but not COCA, and I’m sorry for that. ASP = Average Sale Price, LOL = laughing out loud. If you find any more that I didn’t define, feel free to let me know – you’re absolutely right that big words and acronyms are useless when people can’t understand them. I assumed that, as this is a business blog, most readers would be familiar with common business acronyms, but that’s not universally true.

      At any rate, what hit a nerve is that I wrote an article talking about how writers could should get paid MORE based on the value that they contribute to a marketing organization (which has been horrendously undervalued) and people latch onto the math and troll that instead of reading the article for what it was – a methodical examination of the value of writers. The purpose of the math was to demonstrate the train of thought that businesses can use to determine how much they can invest in content marketing – not to be a universal statement of the only value that writers should get paid. Hence the qualifiers, like “pretty good” and “around” etc. The purpose was to illustrate the way that value can be calculated, not feed egos.

      Given that most good business bloggers are producing at least two pieces of content a day (almost always longer than 500 words), that’d be $364,000/year in salary for a single writer at $700/article (and yes – you can take this opportunity to troll this math as well and say I’m not counting the fact that they get Christmas off or you can accept that even if they’re getting $300k/year that’s still pretty high). If you can show me any business that’s paying their website copy writers that much, I’ll gladly retract my statement. Actually, if you have data of any kind I’m always happy to see it. My suppositions here are theoretical replacements of variables with solid numbers to illustrate a principle, not sweeping assertions of fact, and therefore I’d honestly be happy to look at real data modeling the revenue generated by bloggers versus their pay.

      Although, as Jason pointed out earlier, you could easily justify those kinds of salaries in the B2B SaaS world, for example, where customer LTV can easily range into six figures. When you have those kinds of values, and those kinds of competitive environments, investing more heavily in content makes total sense.

      I’m sorry for being so condescending, but nothing makes me angrier than businesses getting ripped off by those who refuse to justify their value as employees or contractors. My goal is to teach businesses that they can probably afford to invest much more into content than they currently are – not reinforce writers’ lofty opinions of themselves while scaring smaller businesses away from investing in content with sticker shock by using ego-inflating numbers that may not apply to their industry.

      As a gesture of goodwill and apology, I’ll let you get the “last word” here if you want – but I think you’re arguing against a point that I’m not actually making. All you did was pick out one sentence from the article and attack that instead of really reading it and see that I’m actually arguing FOR the fact that the overall values of staff writers will self-regulate upwards as their value to marketing organizations (as MVPs – which means most valuable players) becomes more evident and trackable. That would seem to support your opinion that their values should be higher – although I still doubt the validity of your apparent optimism that most industries will ever see the average salary of copy writers pass the quarter million a year mark at $700 for 500 words.

  7. Susan Breidenbach says:

    It’s a conundrum: Content is king….but no one wants to pay much for it. Companies that were paying $1.50/word in the mid-1990s now want to pay about a tenth that much. I think we are still trying to apply an old business model to a new reality. A study a couple of years ago found that the half-life of social media content was 3 hours and dropping. No matter how much great content distinguishes a business, who is going to pay much for it when it is that fleeting? Or do we need a new way to measure its value–and thus what writers can be paid to produce it? I don’t have the answer; I’m just a member of the hoard of writers who have trouble reconciling the content-is-king mantra with the dearth of real (e.g., reasonably compensated) opportunities.

    • I think it’s honestly an issue of the industry just lagging behind. We’re still trying to beat into people’s heads that content IS king – even though I’m sure you’re already one of content’s loyal subjects :)

      I think that over the next several years content prices will regulate themselves upwards. The B2C space is going to have to get good at creating it themselves or crowdsourcing because of the lower average customer value, but I can see writers in the B2B space getting $80k-$90k/year within the next three years. Given the large supply of writers I don’t think it will go much above that, but I could be wrong about that.

      Keep it up! Whenever you have a writing job measure and demonstrate the value you’re bringing to the organization. It’s hard to argue with math, but many marketers don’t know the math they’re supposed to be using when deciding how much to invest in content.

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