How the Right Content Can Help Your Customers Self-Serve

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The last decade has seen a meteoric rise in the value and importance of content in business. Online shopping has isolated customers during the shopping experience, leaving self-serve content to fill the communication gap. B2B service provider Visual Objects reports that even when visiting a brick-and-mortar storefront, 76% of visitors search for related online content first.

As is the case with any other aspect of the customer journey, though, if you want your self-serve resources to be effective, you need to provide the right kind of content. If you’re a business that is trying to generate content to help your audience through the customer journey, here are a few suggestions that I’ve found can help you hone in on creating the right kind of content to help your customers self-serve.

1. Start With Perspective

It all starts here. If you make content from the perspective of your company or even yourself, it isn’t going to be as effective.

This isn’t news to anyone. And yet, it’s a point that I never cease to belabor. Why? Because if you can’t attain and maintain your customers’ perspective as you create content, it isn’t going to work.

Research your target demographic (not just once, but over time). Create buyer personas. Send out surveys. Ask for feedback. There are plenty of ways to gauge how your customers think, what they need, and how they feel. Use this to create a customer perspective that is in place before you start coming up with a content strategy.

2. Stay Organized

Content can be overwhelming. If you have a team of three freelance writers who each create a 1,000-word article once a week for your company blog, you’re going to be adding over 150 pieces of content every year. Think about that for a second. After a while, I’ve found that it’s hard to even remember what topics you’ve covered — let alone if you covered them well.

That’s why, along with perspective, I’ve come to prioritize content organization more and more over the years.

If you want to keep your content effective and avoid wasting resources, track your content, customer data, and other items on this list as you go along. If your content needs are small, all you need is a spreadsheet to do this. If that’s not enough, you can use something like MarketMuse’s content planning software. The tool saves time and can help you quickly identify value topics, content needs, and weak points in your existing content inventory.

3. Use Keywords to Inspire

No, I’m not talking about inspiring your readers with keywords. The header is addressing the need to inspire your own internal content creation strategy.

Keywords tend to get a bad rap. Content creators see them as pain-in-the-butt requirements that disrupt creative flow. Past transgressions, like keyword stuffing, have also given them a sinister reputation.

The reality, though, is that keywords offer incisive windows into the priorities of your customer base. Proper keyword research can tell you the words and phrases that your target audience is searching for. This can inspire the topics that your content should create.

If you’re not sure how to find keywords, there are a couple of options. If your budget is tight, simply use Google’s keyword planner (or even type in a basic search term related to your business into the search engine and check out the “related searches” at the bottom of the page). If you want more insightful data, you can use a tool like Ahrefs, which even has a free keyword generator you can experiment with.

4. Consider Structure

The way you structure your content is more important than you might think. I always go back to the customer perspective concept (see Tip 1) to better understand this one.

For instance, if I’m trying to decide which new pair of slippers I want to buy, I might look up an article on whether suede is worth the higher price tag. In that process, I might stumble on a popular piece of content with a list of “X benefits of suede in apparel” or something similar.

Now… how do I read it? Chances are, I’m going to skim down the page. I’m also going to read headers first, bold or italicized text second, and isolated single sentences third. Only when I see something that is particularly relevant will I slow down and read more thoroughly.

The truth is customers won’t read every word of your content, no matter how inspiring it might be. With that in mind, make sure to craft things in a skimmable manner that utilizes things like headers and bold text to get important points across.

5. Go With Graphics and Movies

I’ve found that visuals are always powerful — no matter what industry you’re in.

It doesn’t matter if you’re viewing an infographic of the latest sneaker styles or a Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on unemployment. When you present information in a visual format, it leads to better engagement and greater satisfaction by users.

The good news is that it isn’t hard to generate your own images these days, too. You can use a simple, user-friendly app like Canva to create text overlays, edit photos, and even pre-size them for different platforms. If your visual needs are more advanced, you can use a tool like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro for movies.

6. Let Others Help

Finally, don’t feel like you need to create all of your content on your own. On the contrary, there are multiple third parties that you can involve to help out.

I already mentioned freelancers. You can also turn to the power of AI by installing an on-site chatbot. These don’t just answer basic questions. They can also direct users to relevant content elsewhere on your site.

User-generated content (UGC) is also very valuable. Things like feedback, reviews, and Q&A forums are great ways to provide relevant content for future customers.

Creating Quality Content for Self-Serve Customers

The average 21st-century customer is at least partially, if not completely, self-serve at this point. With that said, make sure that you’re investing in the right kind of content to meet your audience’s needs.

Take into account things like keywords, structure, and third-party support. And always remember to start with that customer perspective. If you can put all of that together, you can generate content that can facilitate the customer journey, boost conversion rates, and ultimately lead to satisfied, loyal customers.

Image credit: Judit Peter; Pexels

Chalmers Brown
Chalmers is the Co-founder and CTO of Due. He writes for some of the largest publications and brands in the world including Forbes, The Next Web, American Express, and many more.

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