As a content marketer, everything you do revolves around producing the best content as quickly as possible.
However, in a world where competition for views is high, how can you strike a balance between quality and quantity?
Sujan Patel, author, blogger, public speaker and co-founder of multiple startups including Mailshake and Narrow, has an answer.
By building his own personal content marketing machine, he’s able to turn out six blogs per week—most of which are SEO winners.
To learn more how he produces so much high quality content, we interviewed him for our Content Marketing Mentor Summit.
Watch the video below to learn about Sujan’s content marketing strategy, or keep reading for our Q&A.
Q: How did you get to where you are today?
Sujan Patel: My professional life began with SEO, which turned into marketing. I started by knocking on the product, development and design departments’ doors to get them to help me, saying, “If you did this differently, it would help me better optimize. If you did this thing, it could get you X amount of more traffic and that would result in X amount more revenue.”
By optimizing, I got traffic through SEO. Once we got traffic, I figured out how to convert it better through CRO and optimization. I became a T-shape marketer, focusing on all parts of the funnel.
Q: How do you come up with content ideas?
Sujan: One of my favorite ways to get an idea is asking my customer what their problems are. Once per quarter, I email my whole database to ask them what their problems are and what they’re reading.
Because I’m in SEO, I look at keyword research to qualify a topic based on how much search volume there is. If I can write something unique on that topic, add something new, or be better than what else is out there, if it has good search volume, and meets my customer needs, I have the trifecta.
If I get it out to my customers, I know that in the long term it’s going to pay off with compounding interest.
Q: How do you find the time to write six blog posts per week?
Sujan: I have a really good process. In hindsight, over the years of doing this, I’ve gotten better at it. It’s not because I’m really good at content production. I’m not naturally a good communicator or a good writer. I optimized over time and minimized my workload. I started with one or two ideas and writing one to two times a month. Then I continued to add to it. Six times per week sounds awesome, but don’t start there. Start with one per month, and go from there.
First, I have a research person who also doubles as an admin. They add details like quotes and data to strengthen what I’m saying and make it more impactful. My article usually starts as a title with some sub-headings and bullet points.
Then, I take whatever my researcher added and write the rest of the post. I take the story I crafted or the point I want to make and use better words and sentences to describe it.
When I’m done, my editor looks at it and makes me sound better. Then my admin comes back and publishes it to a CMS.
Now, to go back to the very beginning, how do I write for six different places? First of all, they’re different audiences. It’s very important to note that what I write for Entrepreneur is very much what will do well on that site, to that network, to that audience. For Forbes I write more about marketing, and it’s geared more towards the entrepreneur audience. I’m always gearing my content towards the audience. There’s less keyword research and data in those posts because the audience alone dictates a lot of what I write.
In terms of what I write for myself––for my blog, our agency blogs, our SaaS business or any other industry-related posts––what I’m trying to do is figure out what I can say that’s better, newer, or from a different perspective.
For example, repurposing content is part of content marketing. If you zoom out, repurposing content fits in with content marketing, so I could talk about content marketing. If I zoom in, it’s how we repurpose content into Slideshares and webinars to get three times the value out of it.
Sometimes it’s also possible to take an idea and turn it slightly. For example, I recently wrote a post about repurposing content for an e-commerce site, and how you can use your customer’s Instagram photos to be the social proof you need. There was no data or research done there. It was all about coming up with a good angle.
When I come up with ideas, I do what’s called free storming and content circle. I try to use my right brain and have no restrictions. A lot of these ideas are bad. When my left brain looks at it the next day, it’s like, oh wait, what was I thinking? That doesn’t make sense.
Free storming is coming up with one central word, let’s say e-commerce. Then you come up with words that describe that word or phrases that are circling it. For example, if I think e-commerce, I think Shopify. If I think advocacy, I think Influitive. I do this on a whiteboard, or I carry a piece of paper around with me. I cross-reference these ideas when I want to see what I should write about. I make sure it has volume and is interesting, or that it hasn’t been written on too recently.
Q: How do you know when an idea exceeds your expectations? What do you look for?
Sujan: It goes back all the way to the start of the process. I look back into my history or anyone else’s on that topic to see what has been a winner first. I’m already writing on things that I think are going to be, for the most part, winners.
Then, I want to make sure I do the right amount of content promotion. I’ve said for years that this is where people go notoriously wrong. It’s really just a matter of getting the content out there and promoting it. This includes things like emailing your list and reaching out to influencers.
When I write content, I include data and I include quotes. When you include data, you’re more likely to be quoted and referenced in future articles because, guess what, more people are writing about data.
When you make other people and influencers look good by using their quotes, you can share it using their name, which makes it more likely to be shared by their fan base and their audience. It also helps you prove your point. If I’m talking about SEO and I quote Rand Fishkin, audiences think it must be true.
Q: What are the content metrics that count for you?
Sujan: I have a very simplistic view on this.
First of all, is it generating traffic to the website? Is this bringing in people? I don’t really care if it’s the right people all the time.
Then, I check if they’re converting into email optics. Am I getting any leads or trials or new customers from this? Is my content generating any leads? If it’s directly providing value, great. I want to figure out the direct ROI, but there’s a also lot of indirect ROI around awareness. I call this the exposure stage, when they’re exposed to your brand but they don’t visit your website. That could be social media or guest posting. That’s why I do a ton of that, to get exposure on a very broad level.
Now, the easiest way to get email opt-ins and trials or leads is to ask for them. This is where people really drop the ball. Either they don’t do a good job asking for them, or they ask way too often. You should be asking on the sidebar. Ask for emails and offer something of value such as an eBook or a newsletter. I also love content upgrades. In the content itself, ask for an email.
The same thing can be done for products. I look back every quarter and I look at my best post, the one that drove the most traffic and the highest time on site, and I see if I can plug in anything that can lead back to trials.
Q: Can you think of other ways B2B marketers can harness the voice of their customers?
Sujan: I think there are two ways that are very straightforward.
First, go sit on sales calls and customer success calls.
Second, go do the same thing with support.
Go hear your customers’ problems. Go look at the logs or look at the data. Usually when I do this, I find opportunities where the support team can send your customers your content. You’ve got to get out of your box and start to pay attention.
You can also do a user study or industry study. We just wrapped up a referral marketing industry study. Why referral marketing? Because I didn’t see one that had been reputably done before. So, I talked to a bunch of our customers and a bunch of our potential customers, and I learned what they thought about referral marketing.