Great Marketing or Great Content for a product's success?

Let’s say you’ve got a product. Maybe a new e-course, a personal finance book, or an e-book. Do you think great marketing or great content is more important to make your product sell?

For background on the great marketing or great content debate, I have been blogging on Financial Samurai since 2009. The site consistently gets over 1 million organic pageviews a month despite having never won an award. I also helped kickstart the modern-day FIRE movement in 2009, but seldom get any recognition for my efforts.

My e-book, How To Engineer Your Layoff, has generated more than $500,000 in operating profits. It is the only severance negotiation book of its kind. It continues to generate between $35,000 – $50,000 a year as it is in its 5th edition.

Meanwhile, my traditional book, Buy This, Not That, became an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. Chances are high it will generate consistent royalties for the foreseeable future as it becomes a mainstay personal finance book.

Great Marketing Or Great Content? Which Is More Important For A Product’s Success?

Great Marketing Is Most Important In The Beginning

Fortunately or unfortunately, great marketing accounts for about 80% of your product’s initial success. A great marketer can sell the worst product and still make money. Even if you have the greatest product, if nobody knows about it, it will never sell.

I say “fortunately” because you don’t need as much product expertise or experience as you think to successfully launch a new product. For example, you don’t need to have a finance background to write a finance book or write a finance blog. But you can still be very successful.

You can be a marketer, engineer, doctor, lawyer, or journalist and have a successful personal finance site. So long as you are a good marketer and can develop relationships with other people in your niche, you can be successful.

I say “unfortunately” because those of you with expertise might get dismayed that others with less knowledge and experience are doing better than you. You might ask yourself why consumers are “falling” for other people’s products that aren’t as good as yours. Unfortunately, attention goes to those with the largest mouthpieces.

We all know bloggers who are experts at gaming SEO to rank well, despite having very little EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness). That’s just the way the system works. You have to accept it and keep plugging away. Sooner or later your quality content will shine.

Great Content Is Most Important For Longevity

For your info product to get to the next level, the content needs to truly be great. Great marketing can convince the initial bunch of friends, supporters, and innocent bystanders to buy. But great marketing cannot convince them to be evangelists of your personal finance book, e-book, or e-course if it’s not very good.

Someone once said, “All the marketing in the world won’t sell a shitty book, whereas a really good book doesn’t need any marketing at all.

This is an extreme statement, since a good book certainly does need marketing. Publishers often choose which books succeed and fail by deciding which book to put marketing dollars behind it. Publishers will also tell their agents to pitch book buyers more aggressively.

Your goal is to create the best product possible and “seed” the market with enough sales that your product eventually spreads through word of mouth.

If you want your product to be a success in the long-term, then great content accounts for ~80% of your product’s success. Your content has to be good enough for someone to be willing to recommend it over social media, to their friends, to their relatives, and to their loved ones. A great product turns your initial batch of consumers into evangelists because you provide that much value.

We all believe we’ve written or created great content. However, it’s all about how good your content is relative to other creator’s content. The bar keeps getting higher and higher!

Please be objective.

Overcoming Poor Marketing To Succeed

I am a relatively poor marketer.

I don’t like selling myself by going on TV and YouTube. Nor do I like having my picture printed in the newspapers because I value my privacy. Going on podcasts is nice, but only up to a certain extent.

It’s just part of my nature and my culture to be low key. I’m also swamped as a stay-at-home dad with two young kids. After writing on Financial Samurai, I just don’t have the energy to market aggressively.

I have this let it be attitude. If people want to read content from a finance veteran and get wealthier, they are always welcome. If not, no big deal.

However, despite my poor marketing efforts, Financial Samurai consistently generates over 1 million organic pageviews a month due to the quality of the content. The search engines such as Google are more agnostic to one’s marketing abilities. They don’t play favorites as much either. Search engines just want to serve up the best content out their to its customers.

Therefore, if you don’t like to market, are an introvert, have a disability, are a minority, are not part of the in crowd, or have some type of disadvantage, feel good knowing great content can rise to the top.

You might have a slower time rising than great marketers. However, if your content is excellent, you will eventually succeed.

Overcoming The Odds

There is no way a SAHD like me with no job, no fame, little publicity, and black hair should have been able to get on The Wall Street Journal Bestseller list. The status quo is almost impossible to break. But I did it as the only new entrant due to strong content that provides a lot of value.

The Financial Samurai community has been built since 2009 and is supportive. They also know the quality of my content, so they rallied around my book once launched.

Why did I write Buy This, Not That? Because it had to be written. I wanted to share the perspectives from someone who worked in finance for 13 years, gotten his MBA, an has written over 2,500 personal finance articles. Curiously, there is still this hole to fill after so many years!

If you have a limited amount of time and if you want long-term success, spend at least 80% of your time making your content great. With the remaining 20% of your time, focus on marketing your product to podcasters, journalists, YouTubers, and other bloggers.

Even if you don’t get the initial buzz and lift compared to more popular people with better marketing in your space, over the long term, you will come out ahead if the quality of your content rocks.

To Your Financial Freedom,

Sam