When utilizing a content marketing process to grow your business online, there are two forms of inputs to account for: quantity and quality.
Should you focus on creating tons of content? Or focus on high-value content?
How often should you produce content?
What’ll give you the most significant amount of success?
These questions create concerns that your content creation approach isn’t good enough or effective for driving business results.
In this article, I intend to help you shift this anxiousness into self-confidence.
The headline of this post implies the solution: it’s a blend of the two.
But blend them incorrectly (and in the wrong order), and you’ll receive sub-par results.
By the end, you’ll have a framework for producing valuable content by blending quality and quantity.
Over time, you’ll be able to generate more views, trust, and true fans of your content.
Quantity Alone Creates Unfulfilling Results
In August 2013, I started my first semester in college.
Filled with excitement, I was ready to explore this new world. I’ve always had an appetite for learning, so I was curious to experience “higher learning.”
Since General Education classes were required for credit, one of the classes I took was English Writing.
It was at an off-campus location, so I had to drive 45 minutes twice a week to get there!
I’ll never forget my professor.
He had us read challenging, mentally stimulating ideas from Montessori, Jung, Machiavelli, and other great thinkers.
It was hard. But it wasn’t overwhelming or impossible.
He didn’t require us to read through the whole book. We skipped around.
He picked sections that he thought would provide the highest quality learning experience for us, given our learning level.
I’d always come out of that class with some insight or improvement in my critical thinking skills.
It was effective because the priority was quality over quantity. Quantity played an important role, but it was done deliberately to enforce quality.
The number of writing assignments was instilled with intention.
Rather than assign meaningless assignments, each one focused on quality outputs.
After finishing that semester, I was excited about the following sequence of classes. My expectations were high.
But what I experienced next was sobering.
Classes became boring and uninspiring. Professor after professor would be dull and stale.
They needed to cover every chapter. Read every single lecture slide. Do every single activity.
The focus was on maximizing quantity. Quality learning didn’t seem to be a guiding principle in the lesson plans.
I quickly realized that my English Professor during my first semester set the bar high.
Truthfully, this was frustrating. And towards the final year of my 5-year period of being a student, I was mentally tuned-out of most classes.
I decided to go through the motions, do the minimum required work to get by, and eventually get my degree.
With the extra time on my hands from doing the “minimum required work,” I got back into self-education (something I stopped doing because of my school schedule).
I re-visited content from Tim Ferriss, Neil Patel, Pat Flynn, and many other entrepreneurs and marketers I felt created high-quality content.
And today, I find myself in positions where I share my knowledge and experiences with others.
You could say I’m on the other side of the learning aisle.
And I’ve discovered something interesting.
It’s tempting to focus exclusively on quantity.
If I’m honest with myself, there’s a payoff when you focus on quantity over quality (especially when I found myself teaching or creating content).
Focusing exclusively on quantity creates an illusion that you’re making progress.
You get to feel like you’re getting results. And since you’re not experimenting with different quality approaches… you don’t have to experience nearly as much rejection.
And it’s much easier to be judged by the number of outputs instead of the quality of your ideas.
Unfortunately, the success of some teachers is measured on quantity.
“How many students “passed?”
“Did you cover the full curriculum?”
“Did you finish all the classroom activities?
These are all important, to a degree.
But how would you measure a successful teacher by quality?
“Did the students learn?”
If the answer is no, then we’ve failed the students.
This is how it is in business. And this is how it is with content creation.
Quality is how you provide results. Impact.
Quality is directly related to providing value.
But there’s a paradox here.
I’m not going to admit that quantity doesn’t play an important role.
A teacher needs to put in the reps to build skills that create a quality learning experience.
I’ve come to learn that quantity as a “knowledge worker” should be a supporting function (not the focal driver).
So next, I’ll explain the nuances between how to leverage quantity and quality.
This will support you in developing content that actually helps your business grow and become more profitable.
If You’re Reading This, Then You’re Probably A “Knowledge Worker”
Whenever we have challenges or problems, our instinctual response focuses on adding quantity to solve them.
And this is largely due to our history as a species. For the longest time, manual labor (versus knowledge labor) was the primary working paradigm.
But with the rise of modern society, many jobs and career opportunities have shifted towards knowledge work.
Peter Drucker is considered the father of modern management thinking. He’s one of the most widely-known and influential thinkers in this space.
He coined the term “knowledge worker” in his book The Landmarks of Tomorrow (1959).
He shared how successful knowledge workers would be valuable business assets in the 21st century due to their ability to be highly productive and creative.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably an entrepreneur, business owner, and/or marketer.
That makes you a knowledge worker.
When sharing his thoughts on productivity for a knowledge-worker, Drucker notes,
“In most knowledge work, quality is not a minimum and a restraint. Quality is the essence of the output. In judging the performance of a teacher, we do not ask how many students there can be in his or her class. We ask how many students learn anything — and that’s a quality question.
In appraising the performance of a medical laboratory, the question of how many tests it can run through its machines is quite secondary to the question of how many tests results are valid and reliable. This is true even for the work of the file clerk.
Productivity of knowledge work therefore has to aim first at obtaining quality — and not minimum quality but optimum if not maximum quality. Only then can one ask: “What is the volume, the quantity of work?” This not only means that we approach the task of making more productive the knowledge worker from the quality of the work rather than the quantity, it also means that we will have to learn to define quality.”
That being said, quality becomes the primary metric for success. Quantity then becomes the vehicle to deliver quality.
So if you’re trying to acquire results in a field that primarily requires your ability to think and utilize your knowledge, then a quantity-focused paradigm is ineffective.
And not only is it ineffective, but it’ll also actually bottleneck your success.
If we focus on quantity without much thought to quality, we can waste an unhealthy amount of time and energy. Before we know it, we’re overwhelmed and “busy.”
This is why Tim Ferriss says, “Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
This applies to our content marketing and business development.
Quality content moves the needle.
I once heard Michael Simmons refer to content as the new business card. And I agree.
So how do we generate quality content?
More importantly… how do we generate valuable content consistently?
Here’s the paradox of creating quality content: you need quantity to get there.
The Paradox Of Focusing On Quality
“Habits create the foundation for mastery.” — James Clear
In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he shares an anecdote that originally comes from David Bayles and Ted Orland, authors of Art & Fear.
In it, he shares how Jerry Uelsmann — film photography professor at the University of Florida — split his students into two groups on the first day of class.
Every student on the left side of the room would be in the “quantity” category.
They’d be graded based on the number of photos produced.
At the end of class, he’d tally up the number of photos produced and give a grade:
100 pictures would be an “A.”
90 would be a “B.”
And so on.
The students on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” category.
They would be graded based on the excellence of just one photo. And they had all semester to make it as perfect as possible.
A near-perfect image would be graded as an “A.”
By the end of the semester, Uelsmann was shocked to discover that all the best photos came from students in the “quantity” category.
During the semester, these students were busy taking action. They experimented with various photography methods to improve the quality of an image and learned from their imperfections along the way.
The students in the “quality” category were stuck in theory-land. They sat around and developed theories for making their one required photo perfect.
This led to one mediocre photo.
This anecdote is extremely insightful.
If creating quality content is our intention, how do we get there?
We develop quality content by intentionally engaging in producing as much quantity as feasible and realistic for our current skill and resources level.
Another example of this can be found in a different creative field: comedy.
Comedy writer, speaker, and entrepreneur Scott Dikkers sums up this point in his book How To Write Funny:
“Quantity is the key to quality. By writing more, you produce a larger pool of raw material to draw quality ideas from. No writer writes only one joke that’s pure gold as soon as it’s written.
One of the myths of writing in general, and comedy writing in particular, is that a genius sits down and cranks out a perfect piece of writing in one draft, without rewriting, editing or proofing.
The best comedy writers write dozens and dozens — sometimes hundreds — of jokes, and then carefully select only the best ones to present to readers. They make it seem easy because they never show us all the bad jokes they throw away.”
As you engage in a consistent amount of quantity, you begin to develop habits.
And as mentioned earlier, “habits create the foundation for mastery.”
But there is a downside to developing habits solely based on quantity.
The Downside Of Taking Quantity To The Extreme
In Atomic Habits, James Clear writes:
The benefits of habits come at a cost. At first, each repetition develops fluency, speed, and skill. But then, as a habit becomes automatic, you become less sensitive to feedback. You fall into mindless repetition. It becomes easier to let mistakes slide. When you can do it “good enough” on autopilot, you stop thinking about how to do it better.”
How do you escape mindless repetition?
James Clear (and other learning experts) suggest engaging in deliberate practice and learning.
Psychologists and researchers define this as the process of “articulating and codifying” your experiences and knowledge.
In other words, you reflect on what you’re doing and what you’ve learned.
Examples of this are journaling, teaching someone what you’ve learned, etc.
This will help you identify minor errors and opportunities for improvement.
Content Creation Mastery Requires A Nuanced Approach
On your journey towards creating quality content that your audience will love (and grow your business online), we need a nuanced approach.
In the beginning, you’ll want to engage in quantity, similar to the students in Jerry Uelsmann’s class that performed at a higher level.
This establishes a habit. And this is the foundation of mastering content marketing for your niche.
But once it’s a habit, the next important thing to do is to engage in deliberate practice and learning.
This ensures you avoid mindlessly creating content that doesn’t evolve with your audience or niche.
Over the long haul, this process will lead to content marketing that’ll grow your brand and help you become more profitable.
Your Next Step: Begin Your Content Creation Habit
When I do resistance training workouts, I ensure that I’m doing as many reps as possible while keeping perfect form.
In other words, I’m aiming to maximize reps without sacrificing the quality of movement.
Similarly, we’ll want to develop a content creation habit without sacrificing quality.
Step 1: Quality — Set Your Intention
So to begin, you’ll want to set your attention on producing quality content to build an audience that knows, likes, and trusts you.
That’s your intention. Your North Star.
Let’s start with a couple of quality-focused questions:
- What’s the purpose behind your content?
- What are you ultimately trying to achieve?
- What results are you aiming to deliver for your audience?
This is similar to a teacher asking themselves, “Did my students learn?”
Once this intention is set, it’s time to use quantity to develop a habit.
Step 2: Quantity — Develop A Content Creation Habit
To develop a habit, use these guiding questions to help:
- With my current level of skill and resources, what content creation habit should I create?
- What action steps or routines must you implement to achieve your content creation goals?
This requires you to be honest with yourself. We’re all at different levels of competency.
I’m not going to lie to myself and say that I can produce 5 long-form blog posts a week.
So instead, I’m focusing on one long-form piece of content a week and then smaller forms of content to fill in the gaps.
In the same way, you’ll want to develop a habit that makes sense for where you’re at.
If it’s one short-form piece of content a week, great!
One video? Awesome.
A couple of social media posts? Fantastic.
Step 3: Once The Habit Is Formed, Use Deliberate Practice
By this point, you’ll be clear on your content goals (the quality outputs) and a realistic habit for meeting these outputs.
Once this habit is formed, it’s time to taking your content to the next level.
You can achieve this by reflecting and tracking your progress. Over time, you’ll find opportunities for improvement.
For example, perhaps reflection leads you to notice your storytelling abilities are weak.
Once you’re aware of this, you can begin implementing more quantity to develop your storytelling (until this becomes a habit).
And the process repeats.
By developing a content creation habit, you’ll build the foundation for mastery.
And if you can master a content creation process that works for your niche, then you’ll find long-term growth and profitability.
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