January 19, 2017 by Ashwini Murthy

Note: This article originally appeared on Tech in Asia

A month ago, I joined a startup for the role of a content writer. My first ever job.

Was I excited?

Hell yeah. Photo credit: Giphy.

Hell yeah. Photo credit: Giphy.

Was I nervous?

Hell yes.

Hell yes. GIF credit: Giphy.

Up until that point, the greatest responsibility I’ve had was when an air hostess made me sit near the emergency exit of a two-hour domestic flight. So, yeah, you can imagine. I’m the first content hire of my company and it’s like having the entire house to yourself. And for a 20-year-old, it meant only one thing — party!

How did an amateur content writer go about setting up a content strategy for the company?

The first thing I did was, like a complete professional, I freaked out! How? By asking the HR personnel random questions about attrition rate and ‘firing’ policy. And then have her pacify you. The next thing I did was to ask one of the founders to help me out. And we had a long talk in his cubicle. The end result looked something like this:

Pipecandys content strategy.

Pipecandy’s content strategy.

The first thing we discussed was the need for a content strategy. This was mostly to nudge me in the right direction. Depending on your market conditions, you either write to educate or you write to differentiate or to opinionate your users towards a future that you think is a great place to be in. Often, you do all three.

Following this were a lot of other questions: What are we going to write? Where do we distribute the content? For whom are we writing? Why are we writing this?

User context is everything

To answer all this, we had to gauge the market maturity. A deep understanding of the user’s context should drive content. Otherwise, we’d be talking to an empty room. Does the user know her problem? Does she believe that there is a solution, and does she know the products that provide the solution? Place this framework into your market context and you’ll discover the user’s context.

That’s when we stumbled upon this beautiful article by Brian Clarke. It pretty much summed up the categorisation of the online market.

Online market segmentation.

Online market segmentation.

The first category comprises the most aware audience in the market. They know their problem, the solution, and what exactly your product can do for them. If your business serves such a market, I’d say don’t write content. Just sell!

Following them are the product-aware ones. They’re aware of what you sell, but they aren’t convinced that it’s the right product for them. This section of the market mainly consumes content that builds trust on the product. These include video testimonials, references, analysts talking about your product, and so on.

Next up are the solution-aware ones. They know there’s a problem and are aware that there’s a solution. But they don’t know that you can be their problem-solver. The kind of content that can hook them is elaborate use-case-based product fit descriptions, case studies, and explainer videos. They need to know everything you have to offer.

Fourth are the problem-aware users. They know they have a problem. They aren’t aware how to solve it. They stumbled upon you via search engines or social media platforms, but are not ready to commit to your product yet, because they haven’t yet bought into a solution. The role of content, in such a case, is to show the ‘double rainbow’ sky where everything is bright, colorful, and cheerful, thanks to the solution you advocate. Not by accident, your product is built around the solution – and the customer, hopefully, sees it.

And the last is a bunch of blissfully ignorant people. The ones that aren’t aware that they even have a problem that is affecting them. Even if they do, they aren’t aware of the degree of seriousness of the problem.

For the last two categories, what’s apt is content that creates awareness about the problem and information about how your product solves their problems. How-to articles, product guides, strong content that screams ‘expert’ will hook these categories.

After breaking down user contexts, we realized that, three types of content apply to our business (the types could be different for yours).

  1. Intent
  2. Educational
  3. Brand presence/expertise

The first type applies when the customer has an intent to buy. The content should sell the product, with no sugarcoating. For us, this means content like “Where can I find real-time contextual insights about my prospects?” (The answer is PipeCandy. If they find the content, they will most likely register for a trial.)

Educational content is written with a goal of educating the readers on a given topic. It could be best practices, bite-sized food for thought, etc. These are common on platforms like blogs, websites, SlideShare, and LinkedIn.

Treat your content like your product.

Lastly, there’s content that establishes a brand presence or thought leadership. This category includes expert advice and opinions on topics that are closely aligned with your organization. This is about thoughtfully crafted content that specifically aims to identify the brand with particular attributes. This type of content could take the form of Facebook pages, Medium articles, Quora answers, or guest posts in reputed venues.

To sum up, content doesn’t exist to make your website, blog and social handles look full. It exists to make your users get better.

Treat your content like your product. Discover why users consume it. Treat every piece of content like a product feature – test if you’re writing it because you fell in love with it or your users/readers deserve it.

In the end, good writing is just a vehicle. It needs the right payload – the deep awareness of why we’re writing, and for whom.

Ashwini Murthy

Content marketer @ PipeCandy

A writer by day. Illustrator by night. Currently trying to conquer the B2B marketing world one baby step at a time. Loves everything outside her comfort zone.