How To Create Killer Content: Speak To A Customer

One of my favorite questions when I speak to marketers about social media, content marketing, demand generation or sales alignment is also one of the most frequently asked:

I am a small business and cannot afford to pay tons of money to create content. Any advice for small business marketers?

I write a lot about social media but we all know it all really comes down to the quality of our content. Now you may be thinking: “what does this guy who works for a large company know about the challenges of small business marketing?” Trust me, I have been there. This article will tell the story of what I did while working as the head of marketing for a small business.

The interesting thing about the sub-headline of this article is that “talk to a customer” could be the answer for any marketing dilemma:

  • We need to re-design our website. Talk to a customer!
  • We need to develop innovative new products. Talk to a customer!
  • We need to improve our email effectiveness. Talk to a customer!
  • Our sales and marketing folks won’t align on a common objective. Talk to a customer…together!!!

So when the problem is how to generate effective content for any stage of the customer buying experience, of course the answer is going to be to go out and talk to your customers.

My story: I was working for a 40 person, under $10 Million per year software company. We had a great product and amazing customers. My first job when I arrived at the company was to align with the head of sales and to completely re-engineer our website as well as our lead management process and CRM system. Once that was done, we realized we had a HUGE content problem.

Step 1.  I interviewed our top customers very briefly and asked them how they found out about us, what information helped them chose us, what made us unique in their minds and whether they were open to being references. Fortunately, we had some very well known and highly respected brand names offer to help us.

Step 2. I scheduled a series of webcasts featuring our customers spanning our target industries and evenly spaced out over the year. We asked the customers to simply tell their story in traditional “Problem, Action, Result” format using a presentation. All webcasts were recorded for both audio and video. All presentations were made into shareable documents as well as into protected presentations we could share on sites like slideshare. So with just one webcast, we had an event we could promote to our target market and a portfolio of highly valuable content in multiple formats, in the customer’s language from the customer’s perspective. We did 12 of these, loaded the content on our website — and the traffic and our lead quality soared.

Step 3. One particular customer was a marquee name and a very satisfied customer. During my initial interview, our main contact there offered to be interviewed in a more in-depth way. So I took a trip to their offices and spent a few hours over lunch and shortly after conducting a tape-recorded interview about their business. We talked about the challenges they were having. The solutions they considered. The main reasons they chose us. The service they received. From that session, we created a series of podcasts. I myself wrote a whitepaper compiled from my notes and using real quotes from the customer. The whitepaper and podcasts were a huge success.

Step 4. Rinse and Repeat. From this process, our CEO realized the importance of our customers as a marketing tool. I proposed a customer advisory council, a user’s group, an annual customer meeting. All of these interactions led to more and more insights that improved the marketing content generated by this company.

Bottom line: it is not about the quantity. It is ALL about the quality and using customer language and benefits to frame the problem and the solution.

Check out my previous articles on Content Marketing:

  • 6 Content Marketing Tips That Drive Leads
  • The 4 Most Common Mistakes in B2B Content Marketing
  • How to Nurture The Great Unknown Leads

For many, many more tips, tricks, and great articles on Content Marketing, I suggest you go to Stephanie Tilton’s blog from Ten Ton Marketing.

Or look into the book “Content Rules” by MarketingProf’s Chief Content Officer Anne Handley and Founder of Digital Dads, C.C. Chapman. Youu can read all about “how to create killer blogs, podcasts, videos, ebooks and webinars.”

I have great respect for Michele Linn from Linn Communications and the Content Marketing Institute. You can see a recent article on her blog that also covers the famous Content Grid from Joe Chernov, Director of Content from Eloqua.

Finally, check out Rachel Foster for guidane on strategy and tips on copywriting and how to drive leads with content.

Image from Flickr Creative Commons user: smemon87

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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