If content is King, revenue is Queen

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Here are a couple things you may not know.

One: Bill Gates coined the phrase “Content is King”.

Two: the king needs a lot of help.

Content is important for getting people to your site, from search algorithms to social share to links to your site, but content alone doesn’t make you revenue. Content without conversions is just free publishing.

If content is King on the chessboard of online business, revenue is the Queen. The Queen can do all of the things that every other piece on the board can do, but faster. Revenue can buy good content, but good content cannot guarantee revenue.

Currently there is a tempest in a teapot about content marketing (or “Inbound Marketing”.) The problem is most of the “Great Content” drives junk traffic for the creator, or builds brand awareness associated with subjects that don’t produce business value. And much effort is used to create reams of content that don’t produce revenue.

This is a game where the 1% truly rule. Those who can get the biggest mind-share for the right topic generate great business. The rest just waste their marketing budget creating noise.

There are some amazing models for using content to make revenue. People like Mitch Joel, Scott Berkun, Hubspot, and Steve Snell all make great content, and they make money—because their great content has a purpose. Mitch and Scott make great content for the purpose of collecting up their content and selling it to you as a book, poster, t-shirt, or live presentation. Plus, Mitch builds business for his web agency. Hubspot has positioned themselves in front of the “Inbound Marketing” topic, so, yeah, content marketing makes sense. Steve makes great content about a product that someone wants. They ALL make great content about a product that they sell to you, and that makes them revenue.

When you start your content plans, when you do your content audits, and whenever you think about content, think about the revenue the content brings to you. If you are an e-commerce site, having an amazing blog is only useful if drives people to view and buy your products. If you are blogging about what you sell, maybe you should be rewriting your product descriptions too.

Let’s not tiptoe around the fact that you’re doing all this content marketing to eventually turn a profit. Business isn’t an altruistic venture. So, if your inbound marketing department can’t point to the marginal revenue you’ve produced, how long do you think you’ll be warming your seat?

If you need to goose revenue, I’d suggest revisiting outbound marketing too. (I know… the heresy!) As it turns out, inbound and outbound marketing can get along!

Long live the QUEEN!

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  • This is true, content has a purpose and should always be written with a specific goal in mind.

    Though sometimes the content itself has revenues only as a secondary objective. Such cases can be seen in seo efforts for companies trying to rank for keywords, the main objective is the rankings while derived from those rankings are the revenues.

  • Hey Chris, I have to disagree a bit on this one. I do believe that content marketing can be used effectively without it's contribution to revenue generation being measured directly. You can get a lot of "long-run" benefits from producing great content, such as better brand awareness, better reach or shift in desired brand positioning, that affect all of your marketing efforts and communication channels in a positive way – these of course affect revenue too, you just can't measure it directly in Google Analytics or similar tools (because all of them lack in the attribution department).

    Even if you can measure direct impact of a particular piece of content (eg. blog post), you can never be perfectly sure of it's real contribution to revenue, because you can't effectively separate various communication channels from each other (especially in industries where it takes customers weeks to make a buying decision).

    • It's true, attribution can sometimes be difficult to assign, Lukáš. On the other side, the "brand awareness" argument is often used to support pointless efforts too.

      I would question whether there's enough value in producing content that doesn't have measurable, revenue-associated actions, beyond just brand awareness.

      For example, we spend a lot of time and effort writing content for this blog because we know that a certain percentage of readers will request information about hiring WiderFunnel, some will join our webinars and read our content, leading to the same result. Some of these are early stage micro-conversions, but we see them lead to revenue.

      Some marketers are taking an un-disciplined approach and simply hoping and praying that all the social attention (e.g. "Likes") will produce value some day. Now, many are realizing that they've wasted a lot of effort on the wrong things.

      The un-spoken reality is that many of the proponents of Inbound Marketing are also some of the biggest users of Outbound Marketing too, because they've measured what really works.

      Each business is unique, though, and a unique strategy is needed. My message is to keep trying to measure results and tie to revenue rather than promoting the latest "faith-based" marketing tactic.

      Thanks for raising the point and for disagreeing! I appreciate the discussion.

  • A great article, thank you for sharing!

    Just found my way here through your old article about how conversion rates don't matter. Good stuff 🙂

    People definitely should think about their revenue and bottom line more. You might be interested in this little helper sheet that converts metrics into comparable revenue: http://www.happybootstrapper.com/2013/traffic-con

    It helps people think about their process improvements through revenue instead of individual metrics. Cheers!

  • A great article, thank you for sharing!

    Just found my way here through your old article about how conversion rates don't matter. Good stuff 🙂

    People definitely should think about their revenue and bottom line more. You might be interested in this little helper sheet that converts metrics into comparable revenue: http://www.happybootstrapper.com/2013/traffic-con

    It helps people think about their process improvements through revenue instead of individual metrics. Cheers!

  • This is a good reminder. Sometimes I forget why I am creating tons of great content. If I'm not showing a CTA or what to do next, the visitor surely won't know and will click the back button on their browser.

  • In business sites or blogs perspective I agree that content should make a revenue. I believe that the purpose of content marketing is to get more people to read what you write about your business/products that eventually will become your customers.