A very common frustration we often encounter when helping clients launch their inbound or content marketing efforts is related to the content itself — it’s too basic, or it’s not basic enough, it doesn’t capture my voice, it doesn’t speak to our brand, etc. Projects get held up in the ideation process or in editing, and then, well, it just kind of stays there, floating in content purgatory.

These are reasonable concerns!

Your content needs to be good, whether you’re selling widgets or consulting services. We work with a lot of very smart people working in very technical fields, and they’re often highly protective of their content and concerned about what their peers or mentors might think of what ends up on their website (those people are not necessarily the audience for your content, but that’s a topic for another post).

Still, something is generally better than nothing, and if you’re still trying to find your voice or build your brand, you have to start somewhere.

When it comes to creating content, how do you decide when enough is enough? 

How many rounds of edits and revisions do you send your content through before it’s “done”? How do you learn to let go of your beautiful, imperfect content and set it free into the world? There’s no easy answer here, unfortunately, but we’ve been at this for a while, and here’s what we learned about publishing content that’s just right:

The first thing you need to understand is that you’re asking the wrong question. You need to be asking yourself “how much content should I produce?” and not “how good does my content need to be?” I know, you want to shake the foundations of your industry with your insights and thought leadership, but bear with me for a moment. Consider the following:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Not Actually Aristotle

I’ve always liked this quote, though in researching this article I discovered that it’s entirely a fabrication (I had heard it attributed to Marcus Aurelius, but it’s more commonly believed to be a quote from Aristotle. Neither is true). 

Historicity aside, this is a good way to think about your content. 

You’re not going to break new ground or change the conversation with every article you write — even Shakespeare had some duds (I’m looking at you Troilus and Cressida). Striving for perfection or innovation with every piece of content you produce is a good way to burn yourself out, frustrate your team, and end up producing less, worse content over time. You aren’t Harper Lee or the Proclaimers, you’re going to need more than one big hit.

Thought Leadership vs. Content Marketing

Furthermore, unless you’re already a thought leader brimming with brilliant insights, you’re not going to immediately start producing world-shattering content. We work with a lot of people who have really excellent ideas and unique products, but that doesn’t always translate into content (it rarely does, in fact). 

To get from ideation to perfection requires time, practice, and commitment, whether you’re producing it yourself or working with your team. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Joe Rogan Experience.

The truth is that unless you get very very lucky, it’s a lot more important to your brand and your marketing efforts that you produce consistent content than good content. Please note that this does not mean that you should produce bad content (absolutely do not do this), only that you’re going to need a combination of quality and quantity to succeed. Consistency is much more important to success when it comes to content creation.

Every minute there are four hundred new websites being created, five hundred hours of video uploaded to YouTube, and 250,000 photos added to Facebook. We are living in a cutthroat attention economy, and you need to be good, smart, and diligent to compete.

Content Creation is an Ongoing Effort

Content creation in an environment is better understood as a craft — think of this work as akin to building chairs. Each piece of furniture is unique, valuable, and hopefully beautiful, but none of them are masterpieces in their own right. Perhaps sometimes, when you’ve got a good stock of ordinary chairs, you take a little extra time to build a ultra-luxe, performance-enhancing, pinnacle of chair-ness, like the Aresline Xten.

(The chair is a metaphor for content)

The advice that we give is the same advice that you should receive about a new exercise regimen or diet — the best plan is the one that you’re going to stick to, and just like commitment to healthier living, it takes a while to pay off.

Content marketing is a long game

Content marketing is a slow-burn, long-game kind of project, which is great if you’re serious and passionate about your business, but what it isn’t is a strategy for getting “quick wins” (one of my least favorite terms).

Sorry to be blunt about this, but everyone wants to be a thought leader but not everyone wants to think. Creating truly exceptional content — whether it’s a profound article, a thrilling video, an insightful podcast, whatever — involves a lot of behind the scenes work. It involves research, listening to other people, consuming content in your field, and it involves a lot of idle time thinking and letting your mind rest so that it can form those critical connections and build those creative muscles. There are no shortcuts, and you aren’t going to become Neil Patel or Tim Ferris overnight.

Which is why, to bring us full circle, asking “how good does your content need to be” somewhat misses the point. 

Rather than focusing on the quality of your production, focus on the consistency. Better to be able to produce regular, reliable, solid work than to produce one masterful piece whenever the stars align. It’s OK to focus on “good enough” for a while while you’re getting things off the ground — if you’re committing to deliberate practice and excellence as a habit, your content will start to align better with that more perfect ideal.

So, as with so many things, the most important things for anyone to do when committing to a new project are:

  1. Start
  2. Don’t quit

There’s a lot of room for expertise and innovation beyond that, but the creator who sticks with it is going to have an advantage over the one who doesn’t nine times out of ten. Once you’ve formed that habit and developed that consistency is when things get really interesting, and when your content efforts really start to shine.

Want to talk about content marketing, thought leadership, SEO, or branding? We love to talk, so contact us and we’ll be happy to.

Beautifully Imperfect: How Good Does Your Content Need to Be?
Robert Guthrie

I’m from Texas originally, I went to school in Colorado and then grad school here in Portland (I studied history, specifically piracy and public perception). I’ve got a podcastabout Dungeons & Dragons and I give weekly (ish) history talks on Twitch!