So you're a technical founder looking for practical advice on how to market the product you just built?
You're thinking about hiring someone or outsourcing your marketing entirely because "you're not an expert"?
If you're going that route should you hire a freelancer or an agency? And how do you determine if they're doing a good job?
Why you should market your product yourself
Sure, you could outsource this part of your business because it's time consuming, tedious and a bit of a "black art" (especially for technical founders).
But marketing doesn't have to be this fuzzy part of your business which is more often than not neglected due to confusion around "Funnels", "Growth Hacking" and "Channels".
Marketing is about connecting with your audience and it's a big competitive advantage if you're the person in charge of such connections. With marketing you can keep an ear to the ground, gathering data as to what does and what doesn't resonate with your audience. You can then use this data to inform your product and marketing decisions and attract more potential customers via "free" channels such as SEO / Search, Social Media or Word-of-Mouth.
But where do you start?
Getting the whole marketing machinery up- and running can indeed be an intimidating endeavor. But it doesn't have to be! The key is to pick a marketing channel that will likely resonate with your audience and build from there.
I'd suggest that you start with Content Marketing in the form of solution oriented blog posts. "Why?" you might ask. The reason is simple yet powerful.
Your potential customers are already looking online for solutions to their problems. They use search engines to find answers to specific questions they're currently dealing with. If your software helps with those problems, wouldn't it be nice if users find your product and give it a try?
While this sounds compelling it's easier said than done. The main issue is in figuring out what kind of content resonates with your users and more importantly what content attracts users who are on the lookout to buy a solution to solve their problem at hand. Just crunching out blog post after blog post in the hope of hitting the jackpot won't do the trick. Plus it takes a whole lot of time and effort to write the content in the first place.
So how do you come up with content ideas that your future customers are interested in? I got some great news for you: You already have all the data that's necessary to write such content. You just have to take a couple of minutes to dig it up!
Turning support requests into blog posts
Chances are that you have a lot of historical chat data in your customer support system, whether that's a fully-fledged CRM system like Intercom or your E-Mail inbox. You might've realized that for some topics you got the same questions over and over again. The usual reaction to this phenomenon is to create a dedicated FAQ entry which answers the question and point the next customer who's asking about this specific question to the direction of the FAQ. Another, complementary solution is the Knowledge Base which usually goes into more detail as to what the problem and its potential solutions are.
Why don't you go a step further and turn your FAQ / Knowledge Base entries into dedicated blog posts? With very little extra effort you can use your support requests as a way to inform and kick-start your Content Marketing strategy.
Example blog post structure
How could such a support request repurposing look like? Here's an example blog post structure you might want to use or adapt according to your needs to get started today.
The support question. E.g. "How do I <Problem> with <Your Product>?".
Write a paragraph or two to describe the problem your customer is experiencing.
Write a couple of paragraphs about your products feature which helps in solving the previously stated problem. Take some time to go into more detail here and outline the value your product provides.
How to solve the problem
Provide an exact step-by-step guide which shows how a user will solve the problem with your product. Include screenshots if necessary.
Add a way to create a permalink which points to this headline. This makes it easier for you to share the exact location where you describe the fix in your blog post. This way users with the link will get straight to the solution rather than having to scroll through the whole article.
Wrap things up and plug the values your product provides a second time.
Provide a call to action with a "Next Step" the user might want to take. This could be a Newsletter signup box or a link to another feature your product provides (another support request informed blog post).
The benefits of this approach
Are you still on the fence if it's worthwhile to go down this route? The following is a list with some of the benefits you'll experience when you implement this strategy:
- You leverage your support request queue to "generate content ideas" for you
- Once written you can easily share the blog post with customers who request support for the exact same problem
- Chances are that the user in question shares the article with co-workers / her network in the future (because it's a blog post rather than a FAQ entry)
- If you're interlinking all your blog posts, customers will educate themselves and get more value out of your product
- You're highlighting the features your product offers and show how such features help users solve their problems
- You'll automatically be indexed by search engines (SEO)
- People who will search for phrases such as "How do I ..." will discover your posts and immediately see the benefits they'll get when they use your product
- You'll save time because you write the content once rather than writing a FAQ entry, update the Knowledge Base, add a section to the User Manual, etc.
I'd like to challenge you to take 30 minutes today to look through your support queue. Just scroll through all the requests and try to identify patterns. What problems are most of your users struggling with? Is there an overarching theme?
Write down the main pain points and turn them into dedicated blog post headlines. Next up, use the structure above (or a variation of it) to write the outline of your blog posts.
Dedicated 30 minutes each day to work on such posts. You'll be surprised how effortless this gets with every single day you work through your list! Don't throw in the towel if you're making little progress the first few day(s). That's normal. Keep the momentum going and you'll have created a lot of valuable content you can share on your business blog in the next couple of weeks.
It's tough to come up with great blog post ideas your users are likely to enjoy, let alone to start the whole marketing machinery as a non-marketing focused founder. An easy way to deal with such issues is to look into your support system and identify patterns. Are there any questions which have been asked multiple times? Are there some features your customers have more questions about compared to others?
Rather than jumping into the creation of a FAQ entry and calling it a day think about a way how you can turn the question at hand into a dedicated blog post. Talk about the feature your user had a question about. Describe how it works and in which way it serves your customers. Showcase how easy it is to use that feature to accomplish a certain task with your product (the actual answer to the support question).
Doing so will save you time as you'll write an article once and for all rather than juggling different mediums like FAQs, Knowledge Bases, Documentation, User Manuals, etc. and it kick-starts your marketing efforts in a bite-sized way. Your business blog will be indexed by search engines and future customers searching for solutions to their problems will discover your article and see how your product helps them solve their issues.
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