A driving belief for us at feedly is that content is a currency. That is, content is crucial to the way we work today. It is the marketplace for new ideas and, increasingly so, a core engine in providing value to businesses and to customers. Among the many people who use feedly, content marketers are some people who know this truth best. So today we are launching a new series for content marketers that provide tips and tricks on how they can perfect their art. Here is the first installment.
Whether you’re a veteran writer or new to the game, one essential question for every content marketer will guide the rest of your content strategy and performance: What kind of content should you and your company produce?
Not only is it a crucial question—it is a core challenge for many content marketers. In our recent feedly Content Marketers’ Report, about a fourth of respondents said that understanding what kind of content to produce, personalizing the content, and localizing the content are some of the top challenges that they face.
The answer, of course, depends on your company, your marketing goals, and your customers.
So we asked three leading thinkers about how they answer this question.
Help Scout: Just ask the customers
According to Gregory Ciotti, head of content at Help Scout, his team focuses on three things:
- Talking with customers.
- Creating personas based on their conversations with their customers.
- Content customized to whether the customer is new to Helpscout, considering using Helpscout, and about to buy Helpscout.
Greg shared some of his favorite practices in his own words:
01 Talking with customers
I love the question what do you wish you knew then that you know now? I like to ask that of people.
And they’ll tell you. I struggle with this, I’m currently struggling with this, and you take it from there and see if you can find someone else who has addressed that topic before to see if you can talk to someone else who has figured that out.
I never really had a great fresh opinion on support by just browsing what’s already out there. It’s almost always better when someone just tells you, hey, I’m having a really hard time writing support updates for my team. What do those look like. What kind of supporting from my team Help Scout should I share? What kind of reporting numbers should I share? Maybe I won’t know at the time, but I could go ask someone else. I could go approach someone else and figure that out and then go from there.
02 Creating Customized Personas
I’ve always said write for an audience of one. I actually use specific people. There are certain support managers I always have in mind. I follow along with what they’re doing. So it starts with a persona, but I really think that you should pick specific people. I really want to see what a support manager and at least 30+ people on their team currently struggling with. What are the difficulties there? And when you have a single person in mind, a lot of times it’s a simple thing to just go and ask them if you have questions.
03 Content customized to whether the customer is new to Help Scout, considering using Help Scout, and about to buy Help Scout.
I think people complicate things using customer journeys. You’d almost be better off if you’re somewhat new to break it down to a reverse pyramid. Essentially, you ask yourself, what’s the high level stuff? What’s right about the middle of the range, and what’s the right material that could work at the bottom?
For us, at bottom of our little pyramid, is product marketing materials. Such as choosing a help desk, white papers, and those sorts of things.
The middle is best built around the key personas that you have. To give an example, support managers are really a key person for Help Scout. They’re often the kind of person who gets buy in for the team and company to use Help Scout. So the middle of the funnel, we try to really create deep dives for support topics and for support managers.
It’s key in that middle section to be very honest in what you’re able to create or and what material is better to get from someone else. So we’ve opened up a guest author program. This is because I’m just not going to be able to tell you advice that a director of community could tell you. Or a head of support of some specific kind of company could tell you.
The top layer is where we try to keep it square in the style of something only from a team of our size or bigger could be able to write. It’s not really just going for anything. We mix in support topics that are more like holding conversations with customers—something more of a customer service representative would use. But we also have stuff that’s like from the team. People talk about our publishing strategy, we’ll talk about how we do onboarding. We talk about how we build product. We talk about, really, anything that relates to a company around our size.
Buffer: Headline monitoring and keyword trends for fresh ideas
At Buffer, they rely on four key methods:
- Finding headlines that resonate with their product on Twitter or on feedly.
- Keyword tracking on social
- Writing topics that create thought leadership in the social media space
- Experimenting with new forms and tracking performance
Kevan Lee, Content Crafter at Buffer, shared some of his secrets. In this own words:
01 Finding headlines that resonate with their product on Twitter or on feedly.
In the past it was a lot of intuition-based ideas. It was the stuff that tended to resonate with us as we’d scroll through Twitter or our feedly feeds. Headlines that caught our eye or topics that caught our attention or stuff we thought about and thought we’d love to write about from our perspective and see if we could put it to use for our audience. So that was kind of a big chunk of our ideas back in the day and continues to be moving forward, too.
02 Keyword tracking on social
We’ve also kind of transitioned into a more disciplined approach where we’re thinking of topics that have more of a specific goal to them. So do we want to rank for certain keywords that we think have a lot of traffic or are useful for the audience we want to serve. Can we write about a topic that ties into Buffer pretty well? So, like how to manage multiple social media profiles or different things like that.
03 Writing topics that create thought leadership in the social media space
Our hope and our goal was to focus the buffer content so that it might be well tuned to the audience for whom Buffer might build the product. So kind of creating some brand awareness or topic niche awareness there and just trying to do our best to stand out as a thought leader in social media in the social media space.
Our assumption was that taking a similar approach with well-researched, in-depth content would help set us apart in that way. And it’s been a fun journey toward that.
04 Experimenting with new forms and tracking performance
We typically create semi-long-form pieces. It’s typically like 2000-2500-word posts. We do about four times a week on the blog. That’s kind of our bread and butter.
But we’ve also tried ebooks and marketing resource kits and things like that. I’ve done some webinars in the past. I’ve been doing some Slideshares currently. Getting into Medium. Kind of a long list of random stuff.
InVision: Empowering customers to create the content
InVision creates tools for designers to create prototypes and to collaborate with other teammates. When it comes to determining the type of content they produce, they take a specific approach: Letting go of the reins and letting their customers provide the voice.
How do they do this? According to head of content Clair Byrd, they:
- Create a contributor network for their users and share their platform.
- Empower their users by allowing them to write what they feel passionate about.
- They integrate their users’ content for prospective customers.
In head of content Clair Byrd’s own words:
01 Creating a contributor network for their users and share their platform.
We have our publishing platform, which has become a big deal for our users. We have a really highly specialized audience of people who write on the platform. They get to be the rock stars. We are highly visible in the design community and thereby with lots of people.
So how do you think of content ideas? The answer for me is, we don’t have to.
02 Empowering users by allowing them to write what they feel passionate about.
It’s really empowerment that is our hook.
We give people the ability to write whatever they want, and that empowers people. It positively impacts our production of when they want to do it and what they want to do.
We reach out to people we really like. Or sometimes people reach out to us, and we basically let anyone write for us. But there are a couple of content programs reserved for a specific caliber of writer.
03 Integrating users’ content for prospective customers.
We hook the users’ content into the sales funnel for renewals and upgrades. If we are on the verge of an upgrade or enterprise deal, we use content to bring them into the brand.