When you create a brand, it's usually a one-time process that carries with it enormous consequences and enormous results. Naturally, you put everything you have into it. But when it comes to content marketing, and you create pieces of content regularly, it's hard to have the same level of enthusiasm and commitment to detail. Each individual piece carries fewer consequences, and because there are so many of them, there's never really a pressing feeling to nail each and every one.

Additionally, writing exceptional content demands a heavy investment of time and/or money. With pressing deadlines and crowded editorial calendars adding pressure to the situation, it's no wonder why so many content marketers gloss over their individual pieces or settle for less than their full potential.

The "Good Enough" Mentality

What I'm describing is a common phenomenon I like to call the "good enough" mentality. Content marketers know their content needs to meet a certain threshold of quality to be effective, but at the same time they're torn by the exceptional demands of "quality" content (and limited insight to the full effects of their work). Rather than striving for exceptional pieces, content marketers become complacent with a lower standard of quality.

This mentality is sabotaging content campaigns for thousands of businesses.

Why the Problem?

On the surface, this doesn't seem so bad. After all, what I'm describing here is literally "good" content; it's articulately written, adequately researched, and presents a valuable, coherent idea. It isn't bad, or risky, or destructive to a brand's reputation. In many cases, this content is still highly valuable--businesses can still see a positive ROI from their work!

So why is it such a problem? Two reasons:

1. The gap between "good enough" and exceptional is massive. The degree of effort required for "good" content scales linearly to "exceptional" content, but the value earned between the two (admittedly ambiguous) categories scales exponentially. Over 75 percent of all published content never earns a single link or social share, yet the top-performing content pieces earn thousands. By avoiding one step of effort, you're setting yourself back a disproportionate degree of results.

2. It's an easy and permanent trap. The "good enough" trap isn't something temporary; usually, once a content campaign slumps into this degree of contentment, it never recovers. If it doesn't generate results, inexperienced marketers are quick to cut the campaign entirely. If it sees any results, even if they're far short of content marketing's true potential, they keep it going forever and never change anything.

Still, it would seem like "good enough" content would hold some value for users--why doesn't it have more positive effects?

Competition

First and most prominently, you have to understand that almost every business in the world is churning out "good enough" content. Those without a content strategy, or those trying to spam objectively "bad" content are already non-contenders. There are millions of articles produced daily, covering topics that have already been done to death and repeating information that's already been posted elsewhere. If you produce an article in this already-oversaturated sea, even if you dress it up with a fancier title, it's going to get lost as white noise. At this point, content marketing is too competitive for you to get away with being "average."

The Outliers of Knowledge

If you produce material that exists in the current body of knowledge, you have a high chance of being irrelevant to a large number of people. Yes, you'll reach some people who haven't yet encountered that information--but the chances are much lower than if you push the limits of knowledge. Original research, unique ideas, and new creations are all novel--and hallmarks of exceptional content. If you can produce material that exists outside the established body of human knowledge, you'll instantly become relevant to everybody remotely interested in your niche.

The Self-Perpetuation of Popularity

There's also an interesting effect that happens with popular content--and it happens with everything, from books and movies, to people and places. When something achieves a certain threshold of popularity, it starts to get even more popular simply because it was popular to begin with. As an anecdotal and relatable example, at some point in your life you've been told to watch a YouTube video, and when asked why, you've been told, "it's gotten like ten million views." Instantly, you're drawn in; regardless of the video's content, the social confirmation effect leads you to believe it's worth your time.

In the content world, this is also true, and it's the reason why there's such a dramatic gap between "good" and "exceptional" content. Once a piece of content gets a few thousand shares, there's no stopping its momentum.

Conclusions

Hopefully by now, I've convinced you of my main argument: creating content for the sake of creating content, or churning out content that's "good enough" is only going to hurt your campaign in the long term. You can't make every piece of content a home run, but you can go the extra mile to ensure your content is original, useful, and better than anything else in its league. The extra effort will earn you disproportionately higher results, and you'll wind up with a far higher ROI--not to mention a boost in your brand's reputation.

Published on: Mar 16, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.