Creating the first batch of content to fuel your marketing programs is actually not that hard. The main challenge is to not overthink it. Just get started. I hope the following will help you get on your way.
First, realize that everything that is interesting to you about your product, or your company, could be interesting to your audiences. So you can start by trying to turn a lot of the things you do on a daily basis into content.
Second, the more genuine and natural you can make your content, the better. Your customers appreciate getting an inside view, and understanding the good, but also the hard things. Short of creating bad quality content that becomes noise, you don't need to “over produce” your content and make it look flawless. Good enough is good enough.
The only thing you need is your cell phone to get started. Use your phone as a recording device and just do some interviews. The list below will provide plenty of ideas. You can have someone transcribe the audio for you or use an online service (typically $1-$3 per minute depending on the quality and complexity).
For phone interviews I use http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/ to record Skype sessions. It records both the audio and the screen sharing in Skype.
To do video, a decent D-SLR camera with good HD video and a tri-pod do the trick. Ideally you get some lights and maybe a second camera to take an angled view. But that’s all you need to create great videos like these.
It’s easier than many think to come up with the first list of topics for a blog.
What are your customers’ needs?
What do your customers need to know to understand and value your product?
What problems are your customers trying to solve?
How can they use your product to do this?
What opportunities can they capture by using our service?
What would they be looking for when they search for you?
Collect customer stories that are interesting to share. Write about ways customers have used your product or service, or great stories about how not to use it.
You probably have two other fantastic sources for great content topics in your team: your sales team, and even more important, your customer service team.
Ask your sales people, what are the prospects or customers asking for? What are questions that we have great answers to? What are questions that we struggle with? What are creative ways our product or service is providing value to a certain customer?
Participate in customer service calls. Listen to how customers are using the product, and look for surprising use cases. Or just use the calls to really understand how using the product is helping customers to get their job done and to solve their challenges or provide new opportunities.
I love to record topics for blogs on my phone. Your standard voice memo recording function does the job. It’s interesting how forcing yourself to talk about a topic gets your brain in panic mode and drives you to be more creative as well (see my blog on tactics to spur creativity).
You can build several demos using screen-capturing software like camtasia or powersnap. You can start with a simple video “how to setup your system” and then move on to demo specific features or best practices.
Every time you launch a new feature in your product you have an opportunity to do a quick new demo video. Also make sure to connect these videos with your content on your website, for example by adding a video to every feature detail page, like in this example.
For SEO purposes you can create a blog about every feature as well, pointing to the new video. Make sure to optimize your video meta information, the URL and name to help boost every feature page.
You should be doing webinars to onboard your customers. And in addition maybe do regular updates about special topics or a major product release. All these can be recorded and put online as great content.
I love to just have casual conversations with employees, customers, partners, influencers and the owners of a company to get great content. Make sure to record these (ask the person being interviewed for permission!) and you can turn them into blogs transcribing the complete interview, or use pieces to create other forms of content.
Here are some example questions to get you started with various people you can interview. Once you get started, many questions will automatically follow (tip: if you are struggling to come up with your next questions, just ask a form of a “why?” question on top of the answer that the person just gave J ).
What does your “product/service” do?
How did the company get started?
Where do you envision the company five years from now?
What’s the coolest feature that your “product/service” has that nobody knows about?
How did you build it? Is there any architectural thing that is interesting to know?
What is the single most occurring challenge that people have when using the product?
What do customers do with the product or service?
What should every customer know about using the product?
How can customers get the most value out of the product?
What does your customer need?
Why should customers buy your “product/service”?
What is the “wow” moment that happens when you demo the product?
Who are your customers?
What problem do you solve for your customers?
How do customers find out about your product or service?
These are of course just examples. For each of these roles I’m sure you can come up with many more relevant questions. And remember, if you run out of questions, you can always ask “why” a few times.
Make videos - the more, the better. Casual videos that start with the questions in the previous section are a great starting point. And after that you can do customer onboarding videos with your customer service team, or the demo videos as discussed before. Every feature page on your website should have a video to support it.
After you have done all your basic topics like onboarding, getting to know the team, and various feature or scenario focused topics, you might run out of ideas. No worries. It’s very easy to get more inspiration.
Find what’s hot
You can use tools like http://buzzsumo.com/ or http://www.getlittlebird.com/ to search for topics that are popular, or were shared by many people, related to the product or service you sell, your keywords, or from specific influencers. It’s a great way to get more ideas. You can even check out what the most popular content is that your competitors have published and use it to understand what your audience cares most about.
Improve old content
Once you've started to publish your own content, you’ll find that some of the things you published will either get outdated, or can just be improved by an update or expansion. As long as you follow SEO rules that prevent content duplication, it’s good to keep improving your existing content, especially publications that have sparked a lot of interest (tell Google what’s the right URL if you change it with a 301/302 redirect, or use a rel-canonical tag if you create a new version of the content).