I recently asked my list what they found hard about launching products and what they would like to know more about. By far the most common question was from people who wanted to know how to create interesting blog posts and articles that will bring an audience to the product website.
What subjects should you write about?
If you are developing a product you should already have defined an audience for that product. I like to think in terms of the “ideal customer”, that person or company who you have in mind when enveloping the product and marketing around it. This may be a real person or company – when developing Perch we had a client of ours in mind whose agency really fit the bill as the ideal Perch customer. With that customer in mind can you think of things they are interested in finding out about?
For example, perhaps you are developing a Premium WordPress plugin that will integrate email campaigns, making it easy for a web designer to design and send emails from within WordPress. The target audience here is a web designer who provides solutions using WordPress, someone who is also interested in using email marketing or has clients who would be.
A common mistake is just to write about the product. Writing about your product is interesting and useful to people who are already sold on the idea, however it is less likely to bring in new customers unless they are searching for exactly the product you are making. In our example the target market is probably not interested in the nuts and bolts of developing a WordPress plugin, they may not even know that a way to integrate their email platform with WordPress exists. However they will be interested in developing their design business, in design tools and techniques. Closer to your product they might be searching for how to build an audience via email, or how to craft email subject lines that encourage people to open the email. By writing interesting and useful articles you create value for visitors outside of your product, some of those visitors will also have an interest in the product itself.
Developing article topic ideas
If you decide that today you will write a new blog post for your product blog and sit down in front of a blank document and try and think of something to write, it is quite likely that you will find yourself suffering from writer’s block! I write several pieces a week, but even when used to writing, being asked to just think up a topic off the top of my head is very difficult. Thanks to the approach I’m going to outline below, I don’t usually have this problem.
Create a list somewhere called “writing ideas”. My list is in OmniFocus, but it can be anywhere. I’d suggest having it in an application you can add to when out and about – a great idea may well come to mind while you are talking to someone at a meeting, or while listening to a speaker at an event. Now add to this list every idea that pops into your head as being of interest to other people – no matter how half-formed it is at the time.
When you are working on your product or some other work, did you need to do a bit of research to solve a problem or find the best way to do something? Chances are someone else might have that problem too and by writing up your findings you will save the some time. An example of this is the piece I wrote about creating e-books after building my own book formats.
Have your automated some boring task, or learned how to use a particular tool well? Is there anything generally useful in that to share?
What tools or techniques do you see people asking about on Twitter? Have you given someone some advice recently that could be distilled into a blog post.
Do you have specific knowledge or an interest in some area that would interest your ideal customer? I put together a post recently that was simply a whole list of resources, podcasts and sites relating to bootstrapping – that would also likely be of interest to people who would benefit from my book. This post received a large amount of traffic as I had done the legwork of collecting the resources.
Perhaps you have a good counter argument to a popular opinion? To present a solid counter argument tends to take some research but if it is something you believe (and you are not just hopping onto the latest Twitter war in order to catch some traffic) this can make for good article subject matter.
Simple reviews of tools, techniques or services that would interest your ideal customer. These don’t tend to take long to write but as long as you do have experience of the thing you are reviewing can be helpful to people. If you write about another product or service be sure to let them know as they may well also promote your piece to their audience.
Listen to podcasts, attend conferences or watch videos and read websites that also seek to meet the needs of your ideal customer. It is likely that immersing yourself in the things that matter to them will cause ideas to pop into your head – be sure you have a way to write them down if they do.
What I tend to find happens is that some things become a recurring theme on my ideas list, perhaps from different angles. There are also some subjects that better lend themselves to a post on another site – for example my A List Apart column – than to publication on my own site. However my ideas list always has something that I could use as the basis of an article.
All of the above is far easier if you really understand or are part of your target market. This is why I, and many other people who write about bootstrapping, strongly advise bootstrappers to pick products where they already understand and even are part of that community. It is hard enough to develop a new product, without doing it for customers you don’t understand and needing to start to embed yourself in a new market.
Conversions are worth more than clicks
The more you write the easier writing will become, and the more frequently ideas for subjects will be obvious to you. You will also hopefully start to see which subjects bring in the most traffic. Remember here that if you are writing with the aim of encouraging new customers for your product, the metric you should care about is conversions. How many readers of that article signed up for your trial, downloaded a sample chapter or whatever demonstrates an interest in the product. You can write something highly controversial, sending huge numbers through from Reddit, but if none of them sign up for your product it means nothing. You may also find that articles attracting smaller numbers of people convert really well, they really speak to the audience you target.
Avoid the vanity metric of clicks and concentrate on creating good quality writing, creating value for customers and potential customers. This will keep you well out of the realms of those sites that are generating spammy content purely to try and drive as much traffic as they can. As a bootstrapper customers who love what you do are your greatest asset – so honour that by doing your “content marketing” in such a way that it benefits them as much as you.