Content marketing is an effective tool at hand that can help you grow your business. However, with 2.5 million stories being shared on Facebook every single minute, how can you make your content stand out of the crowd? How can you start and scale your own content marketing strategy that supports you in reaching your business objectives?
Intercom, a leading SaaS company that offers a fundamentally new way to communicate with your customers, has successfully used content to grow is brand and customer base. Thousands of people visit the award winning Inside Intercom blog every month to read a mix of articles on product management, customer support, design and startups. Along with its associated podcasts, books and social media, Intercom’s content marketing strategy is an insightful example on how content can strengthen your brand and generate significant new business for your company.
Former journalist and editor with 20+ years of experience in covering tech events and business issues, John Collins, the Managing Editor of Intercom, will take the stage this November at How to Web Conference 2015 to share best practices and hands-on advice on building a top-notch content marketing strategy and scaling it further. We took the opportunity of talking to him beforehand to get a sneak preview of his talk and find out how to grow your business with killer content.
How can content grow your brand and customer base? Can you tell us the story of Intercom?
For the first couple of years of Intercom we didn’t have a marketing team – our blog was the main way we had of getting out the word about our company and the product. Despite that, we never made the blog about us, because readers aren’t interested in us. We shared our thoughts on startups and the business of software, as well as the jobs that our products are used for: product management, customer support, marketing. We were fairly open about sharing things and weren’t afraid to have an opinion.
When it’s the right moment for a tech company to start investing in content marketing?
If you think content marketing can help your business – and I’d suggest there are very few companies where that is not the case – you should start publishing from day one. It takes time to build up an audience and start to reap the benefits of content marketing so the sooner you start, the better. Also I think most startups fail to appreciate that good content is a really powerful tool in attracting people to come and work for your company. You reveal so much about your company and its beliefs in the content you create that it will attract like-minded individuals.
Where should a tech company start their content marketing strategy? What’s the first step to do?
For me the key to content marketing is good writing. There’s no quick hacks here. Clear time in your diary, sit down and start writing. Like most things in life, it’s a skill that needs to be practiced. On the plus side, the more you write the better you get at it, and that positive loop really helps when you start publishing regularly. Things like editorial calendars, publishing processes etc. are useful tools but only after you’ve started to publish a decent amount of content that people want to read.
In your opinion, what are the most effective communication channels to use for publishing and, further on, leveraging your content?
Depending on your industry and the sectors you are selling into there will be different sites and communities that will be helpful to promote your content. For example we’ve had a lot of success re-publishing our posts on Medium because that’s where a lot of startup people like to read and discover new content. Similarly Twitter is a massive driver to our blog but that’s because it’s where our readers are already.
There’s so much content widely available. How do you make yours stand out of the crowd?
Have an opinion. Share something useful. Don’t be trying to sell yourself all the time. Fairly simple advice but you’d be amazed how people follow it.
Blog posts, podcasts, books, videos, infographs, and the story could go on. How do you choose the type of content that’s right for you?
Maybe this is displaying personal bias but I would always say to start with blogging as it only requires one skill – writing. Once you’ve found your voice and have a sense of what your audience is interested in you can start to branch out into other areas such as books and podcasts. But don’t underestimate the work involved in publishing in a new medium, particularly if you don’t have in-house skills in e.g. audio or video.
How do you measure the results of your content marketing strategy, leaving vanity indicators aside. What metrics should you look at?
When I joined Intercom a year and a half ago I wrote a blog post where I said: “A few weeks ago I was writing and editing interesting things so people would buy a newspaper, or maybe a subscription to a digital edition. Now I’m writing and editing interesting things so that people will buy software.”
That’s the key thing for us – is what we are doing increasing the chances that people will think positively about Intercom and ultimately decide to use our products. As a result we don’t obsess over page views – they would be the key metric if we were selling ads but obviously we’re not. Far more important is engagement so we look at things like session duration and pages per visit and make sure they are heading in the right direction. But ultimately, we look at whether a significant new piece of content – a book, popular podcast guest or thought leadership post – has lead to more people signing up for a trial.
Don’t miss the chance to meet John Collins, along with other top-notch marketers, remarkable entrepreneurs, experienced product managers and technical specialists on November 26 & 27 at How to Web Conference 2015. Add these to the opportunities to connect with the who’s who in the tech industry and feel the vibe of the CEE startup ecosystem at its best and you’ve got the perfect mix for an amazing experience. Early Bird tickets are available by Monday, Nov 16, so hurry up and book yours now!