In the competitive rat-race that is “content,” has solving for the customer become a mere footnote?
Discussions whirl around how the company can get more out of content: more traffic via SEO, more clicks via enticing headlines, more links via ‘viral’ content, and more exposure by promoting your work on other sites. ✝
✝Note: also, you should create great content that helps people.
And therein lies the problem. Notice how the focus is on virality, not utility.
It’s not that wanting or pursuing these things is wrong. It’s your job to make sure what you create gets in front of the right people, after all.
The concern is that these days, the only mention given to solving for the customer is “create great content.”
As if this were the easiest part of the process. As if this were a given.
Who do “53 experts” round-up posts actually help? They certainly help those featured, because they get a link. They certainly help the person compiling it, because they tend to generate a slew of traffic.
But very few of these actually solve for the customer. Some do, but they are the exception. When I participate, I try my best to offer something unique to the conversation, but it isn’t an uncommon occurrence to see answers like “Make things people want, do great work” to questions that ask for much more.
Does copying and pasting a dozen infographics (yes, I’ve seen it) make for an article that someone learns from, that helps them implement something that improves their day-to-day? Or did they just share it because they needed something else to fill their social streams?
The aspiration index: What is the most saved but least read article on @instapaper? Most queued but least watched film on @netflix?
— Jake Solomon (@lippytak) May 12, 2014
Let’s always remind ourselves that at the end of the day, the job of business content is to help customers succeed.
Solving for the customer like crazy
The idea of solving for the customer like crazy needs to make its way back into the “content” conversation.
This is the side of content that I’d love to begin exploring more on this blog — for now, I thought we’d simply get our feet wet in examining some ways this can be achieved through better teaching and encouraging reader retention.
1.) Using themes and narratives. Recurring themes and an overarching company narrative helps make the education process easier. We retouch on the benefits of great service on our blog over and over, and for good reason. Once people “buy in” to the idea, it becomes a simpler process for them to see the benefit of any individual tactic.
Recurring topics also help you drill down on the stuff that really matters. We focus on “tone in support” a lot because it’s one of the universal ways any company can improve email support. Great stories of customer service might be more “viral” (and I will cover them from time to time), but the ideas that are most likely to lead to success should be touched on consistently.
2.) For big problems, a singular focus. Marketing loudspeaker Derek Halpern has a phrase he calls “bookmark bankruptcy.” When faced with a large list, readers are inclined to leave comments like “Nice post! I just bookmarked it.” But do these people really read later? Do they learn and implement? Do they succeed with your education?
Not likely, and when their bookmarks get full, they delete them — bookmark bankruptcy in action. Maybe your post accrued a few shares, but it likely left little impact. This is why deep-dive “wheat bread” content is needed from time-to-time that tackles a single big problem potential customers have.
3.) Listen closely to what customers struggle with. Although sometimes this can be answered through faceless research — we knew immediately that what skills were necessary for service was a hit topic from the constant search queries — solving for the customer really begins and ends with identifying what they are having difficulties with.
It’s the same way you’d listen to improve the product. Sometimes I feel like these problems overlap: a customer asks for Feature X, but what they’re really telling you is that they are struggling with Activity X. This is why identifying a company objective outside of “sell more software” is key. We’d like to think Help Scout “Helps businesses provide outstanding customer service,” rather than just “sell customer service software.”
Not an end to entertainment
As aforementioned, I’m guilty of some of the tactics I outlined in the beginning.
I’m not implying that this style of content should never be used, or that it isn’t useful in any way — it’s often entertaining, light, and fun, which is not something that should be avoided with content.
The point is, superficial snacks cannot become the only way you appeal to customers.
If you aren’t solving anything, you’ve essentially turned your company blog into a niche BuzzFeed. And when you’re trying to convert people over to paid products like software, this just isn’t going to cut it.
There’s nothing wrong with pulling some new visitors in via a “50 Ways” article, but to keep them, make sure your archives include the kind of material that can genuinely help them succeed in what they do.
They’ll thank you for it, and your bottom line will thank you for it.