As a startup, it’s not exactly a secret that you need exceptional content in order to stand out from the crowd.
As Gary Vaynerchuk so bluntly puts it, “It literally doesn’t matter what business you’re in, what industry you operate in, if you’re not producing content, you basically don’t exist.”
Of course, chances are you already know this, and are currently putting in the hours to brainstorm and produce top-notch content. Heck, you may have even enlisted some outside help, and already have your own team standing by, ready to turn out articles when you need them.
You’ve probably got a social media presence as well –and try to remember to keep things up to date. But for many startups –and even marketers for that matter, there’s a good chance that’s where your content marketing efforts end.
This is unfortunate, though, because there’s one additional and extremely valuable aspect of content creation that you’ll want to have as part of your strategy. That is, turning to your customers for content creation.
Teaming up with your customers may seem like a bit of a stretch, but the truth is that it’s something that can offer tremendous returns. I’ve personally found it to be an effective way to ensure that the content I’m turning out is relevant; things that my audience will actually be interested in.
It’s saved me from countless hours that would otherwise have been spent delving into topics, only to have them end up falling flat and being of little interest to anyone.
No matter how familiar you are with your customers, there’s a good chance that you don’t know them quite as well as you could. Enlisting them as content creators, so to speak, allows you to tap into their mindset, and shows you exactly what you need to do to reach them, on a real level.
This will add tremendous value to the articles you’re writing and the social media conversations that you’re having; helping to increase your visitors, conversion rates, and all that good stuff. Plus, it’s not as difficult or time-consuming as it sounds.
With this in mind let’s explore just a few ways that you can turn your fan base into content creators in order to secure winning content.
First, let’s look at intent. Your customers’ search queries are a goldmine for relevant topic ideas.
To see what your visitors are looking for, you’ll want to get an analytics program like Google Analytics or Kissmetrics, if you don’t have one already. These programs will show you what phrases or words visitors are using to find your site.
By tapping into these search queries, you can get tons of great ideas for creating relevant content; the kind your customers are searching for.
Long-tail keywords are your diamonds in the rough. Ever try to target one-word keywords? Yeah, it’s tough. There’s a lot of competition, and chances are you’ll have a hard time standing out. This is where long-tail keywords come in.
Unlike one-word keywords that are overly broad, long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases. Think “mountain bike Kevlar tires,” instead of just “tires” for example. The beauty of these longer keywords is that they’re much easier to target, increasing your chances of appearing on the first page of Google.
They’re also a lot more valuable. These are phrases that potential customers are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase. They might seem a bit counter intuitive at first, but when used properly, they can prove to be tremendously valuable.
Like I said, you can identify long-tail keywords to target by seeing what visitors are using to find your site. But you can also use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Answer the Public to get even more related keywords.
Once you’ve identified some high-level keywords, you can then start thinking about what type of content you can create that will best meet the needs of your visitors.
For example, queries that are asking a “how to” question, may be best addressed in the form of a video tutorial. For searches for a specific product or service, consider doing a write-up or review on the product in question, or even doing a comparison article.
Your options are limitless! Just make sure the content you create is written with your potential customer in mind, and ensure that it answers their question or make their purchasing journey easier in some way.
If you have an FAQ page currently, chances are it’s filled to the brim with real questions that your customers have actually asked before.
What better way to get ideas for relevant content than by revisiting this page, and choosing some questions to write about?
Have a look, and see if there’s anything that could be turned into a how-to post, guide, or another helpful article.
If you don’t have an FAQ page just yet, you could always get ideas by browsing your competitors’ sites to see what questions their customers are asking.
Surveys have long been used by companies as a way to gauge their target audience and see what type of products or features they’re interested in.
You can use the same approach to get an idea about the type of content that your audience would like to read.
Survey Monkey makes it easy to send out surveys via email; allowing you to poll your subscribers to see which topics they’re interested in.
Don’t forget to give them a discount coupon or other token of appreciation to thank them for taking the survey.
Have any customers that are especially loyal?
Consider joining forces with them, giving them the opportunity to generate content for your campaigns. Or, if the opportunity arises, ask them to co-create content with you. Offer to pay them, of course.
By working closely with your customers, you can help to increase the chances of your content resonating once it’s published.
If your business is on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (and it should be!) you’ll want to start taking full advantage of user-generated content (UGC).
UGC is a great way to bring your fans together around a common interest while allowing you to drive engagement and expand your reach. And, it boosts trust as well.
According to one study, 51 percent of those surveyed claim to trust user-generated content more than a company’s website (16 percent) or news articles (14 percent).
Remember when Coca-Cola brought out personalized coke bottles? Dubbed the “Share a Coke” campaign, they were able to keep the momentum going by encouraging customers to share photos of themselves enjoying their personalized coke on social media.
The customers took on the role of advertiser and the campaign was a tremendous success.
Consider launching your own campaign.
Start by identifying a purpose or common interest that your audience can rally behind. For example, it could be using your product in a unique or fun way, or sharing their adventures with your product.
Then, create a hashtag for it, and encourage your followers to share their images.
What objections or hurdles do your customers face during the purchasing process?
I believe this is an especially important consideration because it’s a great way to remove potential roadblocks that people may have to buying –even before you officially engage with them.
How can you figure out what objections your customers have?
By surveying them and by paying attention to your analytics –at which stage of the sales journey do you tend to lose the most customers?
For instance, maybe you’re losing customers on the product pages, which could be due to a lack of information about the product in question. In this case, you could take better photos, and do a write-up that takes an in-depth look at each of the product’s features.
Don’t sneeze! Testimonials are a great form of content. Far from being cheesy, a genuine testimonial can help to convince people who are on the fence to take action and buy.
They can also form the backbone of an excellent piece of content –especially if you manage to secure the right type of testimonial. The best testimonials include pain points; what problems the person was facing, their journey; what they tried to do to resolve it, and finally, the solution –your product.
There are lots of ways that you can go about obtaining testimonials, but one of the easiest ways by far is setting up an automated system to ask for testimonials from your customers, so you don’t have to do it yourself.
Consider creating something that offers prompts, to help make it easier for the customer to tell their story, and increasing your chances of obtaining a useful testimonial.
Finally, pay close attention to customer feedback. Your customers took the time to tell you what they think; the least you could do is take steps to acknowledge their thoughts.
When a question comes into our customer service department, we then look to see how we can incorporate it into a piece of content. We also record these questions, and look for patterns; paying close attention to what our customers are asking.
Those questions can often form the basis for articles or tutorials later on.
And there you have it; a few simple ways to turn your customers into your best content creators.
Remember, at the end of the day, your customers are your most valuable resource, so it makes sense to ensure that your content is designed specifically for them.
There’s no better way to do this than by putting them at the forefront of your content creation efforts.
Startup Founders: How do YOU ensure that your content is designed with your customers in mind?
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Gary Nealon is the President of The Rox Group and Nealon Solutions. Gary has built two multimillion-dollar businesses in two completely different niches. He provides strategic marketing consulting services are designed to help customers scale their e-commerce business, increase revenues, and maximize profits. His strengths lie in strategic planning, SEO, and social media.