Monday, June 29, 2015

If a Tree Fell in the Forest...

The first encounter with Parth, was at the 14th STC Conference.  So when I received an email from him about the meetup, I had to see what I've been missing all these years. Well, since then, he's only gotten better!

The topic was Content Marketing. The audience was varied, but everyone seemed to have 'startup' on their minds, in some form or the other. The venue was the ZapStitch office in Koramangala. ZapStitch is a cloud application integrator. They do some integration magic with Zoho, SFDC, Marketo, Shopify, Xero, etc and act like a connection between some of these giants. Kapil and team were awesome. Great follow up. Even greater hosts!

And then there was also the Jifflenow crowd as well. Jifflenow is an organization that facilitates event management and scheduling. With clients like Linkedin, Ariba, Accenture, Adobe, Dell, Cisco, etc, you'd have to think that their offering is unique, and has a lot of value to add.

Coming from a documentation background, I've always been left nursing the creative side of content. Not that there's no room for creativity. Let's just say that it's not appreciated as much. You could relate the marketing content to the outbound process of a call center while the technical content is like the inbound process. While the intended audience is different, I must say that we techncial writers have it relatively easy. We aren't convincing anyone to buy anything. They (the audience) come to us when they need information. We seldom go to them. We want our users to read the stuff we write and then get off the band wagon. Problem solved. It's not like that in Content Marketing. It's like this.

Remember the saying "If a tree fell in the forest and no one heard about it, does it make a sound?" Well, for content marketing, that tree is the product! You have a very innovative solution to an everyday problem that no one is even aware about. They just live with it. Your job is to show the user the problem first, then help them appreciate and want the solution. And finally - buy!

However, we have one problem that we share with content marketers. People don't like to read. At least not what either of us write. And that's where Parth unsheathed his weapons.

Don't create any content that does not satisfy at least one of these objectives. The content should
  • Entertain
  • Educate
  • Solve a problem 
  • Make a job easier. 
I wish the same objectives are followed by some people every time they open their mouths to talk! We'd have a lot more peace and quiet. And less mad people. Especially at 9 P.M, during a certain Newshour.

Drawing parallels to the tech writing industry might be difficult, at least for the first objective. Unless of course you want to have a really entertaining (and probably the last) discussion with your boss! But I'd say all or most documentation would address at least one or all of the other 3 points.

Some other interesting bits and tips from my notes
  • The most important thought a content marketer must have, always - Be the Buyer. Sounds familiar?
  • Before embarking on the content marketing journey, ensure that a well documented content strategy is in place
  • Don't depend too much on SEO. SEO makes sense only if your product is one that people will search for. They won't search for something they don't know about. So if a tree falls in a forest, SEO can't really help!
  • Identify marketing channels you'd want to use 
  • Identify who your competition is and the strategy they are using
  • Determine how frequently you want to publish new content.
  • Your content shouldn't be an overload to your audience. At the same time, your writer should also not run out of ideas
  • Jifflenow publishes an article every week. 
  • Your audience always has an attention deficit, and as a result articles/blogs are now just 250 words long
  • Your article does not always have to explicitly end with a pitch. Your job is done if you can create enough curiosity.
  • The tone used in your articles also matters. Are your articles about solving a problem, or does it have a 'Man Friday' attitude to it, or does it have a cocky feel (like some of the posts on this blog!)
  • Writers must know their space, know what works when it comes to content and be passionate about the cause they are selling. Take the simple task of cycling. The writer really needs to understand just a couple of things. I had a few ah-ha moments, explained in another blog I wrote - The Art of Balance while teaching my little one to ride a bycycle. (I posted the same content on the TeamBHP site and it got over 1200 views in a week.) The point I was trying to make is that the writer needs have those ah-ha moments. Only then can they really explain/market it to their customers. And this applies to both technical writers and content marketers.
  • It doesn't have to always be about your brand. The article could simply be a solution to a problem that your customers face. Jifflenow had recently run a campaign to appreciate the event marketer, their target audience. There was no sales pitch. The campaign made event marketers proud of who they were and highlighted the challenges they faced as a group. The audience were able to connect with the article. Even with the last slide that said - presented by Jifflenow!
  • Learn to critique yourself in your writing. Even laughing at yourself doesn't hurt if you can prove a point.
  • Content can make things happen. Believe.
  • Think about how you will distribute content. People need to know about that tree that fell in the forest!
  • Determine what channel. Will you use traditional marketing channels? How will you use social media? Or will it be a white paper? Or it's just an email or a newsletter that will do the trick for you.
  • And the biggest revelation by both Jifflenow and ZapStitch (sorry Zukerberg/Page!) - paid ads on social media are hopeless. It's a good way to become a millionaire. But you'll have to start out as a billionaire!
  • It's imperative that you build a community for your content/product
  • You can't expect to see your content go viral without a community
  • What goes around, comes around. Remember to share other people's blogs. Not competitors!
  • Remember to rope in influencers who can help you get to that tipping point - a little faster.
  • The other thing to do (not said here) is to find the watering holes that decision makers frequent/visit. It could just be a group on Linkedin, or a blog that is followed by your connectors. If you can make a pitch very tactfully, (right time/place/people), your bait will work. Sometime back, I reviewed a very innovative interactive tool called whatfix and I know at least 4 companies who bought the solution after reviewing the post. I simply made people aware about the tree that fell. It's doesn't always have to be a WIIFM question. The answer to the HCIH (How can I help) question is also immensely satisfying.
  • Measure meaningful metrics. Every Jifflenow employee has numbers that they are held responsible for. Including the designer. How many people scroll through a page, how much time do they spend on a blog, do they check out earlier posts, all these can be metrics.
  • Remember to reuse content by cross linking, etc. Ensures that you continue to get royalty on the value of all your earlier content
  • Your audience is at different levels of an inverted funnel and you need to learn how to write to engage them at their respective level.
  • Content marketers are expected to help an organization define the value proposition of the product, help simplify the solution/product for its users and add meaning.
  • There was some more funnel talk at the end : )
Feel free to comment below. I wasn't paying attention the whole time ;)
If you got to this point, I believe all objectives above were met. Don't ya?

And the next time a tree falls in the forest, your customers must have this reaction.

Credits- The pictures are courtesy: