Our blog is many things. Aside from being a vital component in our marketing arsenal, it acts as a window into our business and a channel through which we can start meaningful conversations with our readers.
We are driven, daily, to achieve a product market fit where all our customers are happy. It follows, therefore, that we’re enthusiastic about hearing what our users have to say. A large part of this feedback comes through our help center, but the blog is another key channel in enabling these discussions.
Whether we’re sharing the latest scoop on new features, having a one-on-one discussion, or posting the latest project management insight to the blog, we want to nurture those conversations that help us improve our product and better serve our customers.
With our recent redesign of the Resource Guru blog, we took a step back to think holistically about all its objectives and how we might be able to maximize the potential of every cog.
What do we want our company blog to do?
- Share news about our company, spread the word about feature updates, and introduce the recipients of our latest Random Act of Cake
- Help people to succeed—both in their profession and at using our product
- Start conversations with our readers and listen to their feedback
- Attract new readers, who may choose to become new customers :)
With those core considerations in mind, here are some of the requirements we considered to be essential.
Create valuable content that helps our readers succeed
This takes two forms—helping them excel in the greater scope of their professional role, and supporting their experience as customers using Resource Guru.
We are genuinely enthusiastic about what we do here, so we don’t need a lot of encouragement to rave about our latest work. The blog is our primary news channel for letting customers know what we’ve been up to and we really love it when they start conversations and play a role in shaping our product. (Disqus is a great tool for initiating these discussions.)
Another approach we’ve taken is to team up with awesome professionals to create top-notch content. We feature these guest writers on the blog, working with them to share their insights—and more are joining us all the time! Many of our customers work in project management or operations, so we aim to develop high quality content that is relevant and interesting to them. When content is useful, visitors to the blog are more likely to come back, subscribe to our newsletter, and share what they’ve seen—thereby growing our readership. We write collaboratively using Google Docs, which has a handy “Suggesting” mode that allows everyone involved to mark up their suggested edits, wherever they might be located, and at whatever time they work
We love to feature new voices on our blog, so if you’d like to work with us on a piece, please drop us a line!
Use clean design to make the reading experience enjoyable
It’s all very well having great content, but I’m afraid there will always be readers who judge a book by its cover—me included! After all, it’s much more enjoyable to read things that have been “designed”—where consideration has been given to images, fonts, colors, line spacing (leading), and the removal of visual noise. In the good old days, printers set type using physical blocks for each letter and increased line spacing by inserting thin strips of lead (hence the word leading). Today, we only have to choose a preset or change a number in a style sheet, so there’s no excuse for not attempting to add a little polish to the reading experience.
During the collaborative phase of design we use InVision. This is a fantastic tool that allows us to upload our design mockups and invite the rest of team to view and share feedback. It’s been cleverly thought out and really saves us a considerable amount of time.
Knowing that readers access the blog from all kinds of device, responsive design is almost a given these days. Surprisingly, it’s a design choice that still gets neglected by some companies, along with friendly 404 page designs and redirects for pages that no longer exist.
Make our content super shareable
Avoid the “island” effect. Blogs should be like international airports with lots of connections—easy to find and even easier to use as a hub to other hotspots. (Hopefully exotic beaches with fancy resorts.)
When a post or a quote hits just the right chord, readers often want to share it immediately—without leaving the page. We used a customized Sharethis widget along with the Inline Tweet Sharer, which makes it possible to tweet a line of copy from (the clue is in the name) the line of copy!
To enhance the sharing experience on Twitter, we use Twitter cards which take the limit of 140 characters and blow it out of the water. When someone tweets the url to one of our posts, it includes the main header image as a graphic, as well as the headline and opening paragraph.
— Resource Guru (@resourceguruapp) July 22, 2015
Boost our audience and encourage free trials
Our blog is also a pillar of our marketing strategy. The role of company blogs in inbound marketing is a post for another time, but for those unfamiliar with the concept, you can read this great piece by Hubspot.
There were a few additional cogs we knew we needed to look at while fine-tuning our inbound marketing machine.
We want to convey a sense of our company’s brand on the blog, and I don’t just mean the visual elements. Brands are like personalities; behind most successful ones you’ll find a large body of work defining detailed character traits. We created an editorial style guide to align all our writers in terms of punctuation, tone of voice, and some more strategic considerations.
Brand affinity marketing
In every post we include a customer testimonial accompanied by a “Free Trial” call to action. Along with the logos in our footer, this is an excellent way to showcase great customers who are successfully scheduling their teams using Resource Guru. It also helps readers associate with customers we already have, and encourages them to take a deeper look at how Resource Guru would be a good fit for them, too. To go one step further with this, we’ll be compiling a range of case studies in the future, from the various sectors using Resource Guru.
Calls to action
We include a brief product description and prominent calls to action for our “Free Trial” in the header and footer of the blog.
Value proposition—Not features
Whenever we talk about our product, we purposefully describe our value proposition instead of features. So instead of saying, “Use reports to track utilization,” we say “Gain insight into your team’s workload and see who’s over- or under-utilized.”
For our newsletters, we use Mailchimp and a handy WordPress plugin that adds new subscribers to our list. Growing our newsletter allows us to have an ongoing conversation with readers and inform them of feature updates and other news. This maximizes our chances of converting them to customers in the future, as well as promoting word of mouth marketing.
Long after its dizzying traffic spikes have subsided following initial promotion, a post will continue to bring you readers for eternity. Given the number of free leads this type of “evergreen content” can generate long term, it’s worth spending time and money on SEO.
Crunch the numbers for every post
And finally … release the data-driven hounds!
Segment allows us to switch on a multitude of other analytics programs (including Google Analytics, Mixpanel and Kissmetrics). Analytics can quickly overwhelm anyone. We found it easiest to first define the metrics, funnels, and conversions we wanted to measure (keep it simple) and then work out which apps were best at delivering these results. We now have complete visibility of how each blog post is performing and insight into the kind of content we want to produce.
For anyone looking to redesign their company blog, we hope this has been helpful. And if you think there’s anything we’ve omitted or elements of the new design that could be improved—as always, don’t hesitate to let us know :)