Steli Efti

Shareaholic streamlines content marketing.


This article focuses on a simple, but powerful idea: Regularly talking to your audience (on-the-phone or in-person) to generate topics for content they actually want to read.

Content marketing can work magic for your business. Once you craft an article, blog post or ebook it will work tirelessly for you, day and night, month after month. Your content will inbound traffic, qualified leads, and even the occasional paying customer years after you have clicked “publish”. Also, the more your content gets shared, the more this process gets amplified.

Of course, there are two challenges to developing great content. You will have to:

  1. Generate a lot of content ideas.
  2. Produce remarkable stories.

Generating Awesome Content Ideas

And in today’s digital landscape, there just happens to be an overwhelming volume of content being published each and every day — a virtual flood of long- and short-form prose, YouTube videos, infographics, podcasts, and slide presentations.

How Can You Get Noticed Through The Noise?

You need to stand out from the crowd in the age of information overload. People don’t want more information. What they want is better, more relevant stories.

Producing a lot of content is actually incredibly easy. The hard part is producing excellent content — and that usually starts with good ideas.

Publish Content on Topics Your Audience Wants to Read

That is the simple secret to effective content marketing. Create content that:

  • Is more relevant to your audience than content from other publishers.
  • Is written in the language they speak, with their own lingo, a voice that resonates with them.
  • Answers the questions they have in a straightforward and helpful manner.

Producing this sort of content requires an intimate understanding of your audience. That is why the development of a marketing persona is an essential element of every kind of marketing method worth its salt.

How can you build a better relationship with your readers to help you to create amazing content?

Talk With Your Audience

Easily, the best way to discover who your audience is is by engaging them in conversation. Don’t talk to them, talk with them. Listen more than you speak. The true expert is the student of her audience.

Real-time human interaction is an excellent way to do this. With it, you will get an intuitive sense for your audience.

No amount of keyword research, competitive analysis or studying of discussion forums can do that. With these methods, you’d only develop a superficial understanding of your reader. As a great content marketer, you want to dig deeper than that.

By participating in dialogue, you get out of your own head. You challenge your own assumptions through interaction and direct feedback.

Now that we have covered the theory, let us look at a real case study.

16,315 Views and Thousands of Dollars Later…

At Close.io, we publish at least two new posts a week on our startup sales advice blog.

It offers highly targeted, tightly focused content for our readers (startup founders and sales professionals).

For us, focus has advantages and disadvantages:

  • Readers love it when every post addresses a specific challenge they deal with.
  • It sets tight constraints on what you can blog about and limits the range of topics available to you.

So how do we come up with hundreds of topics regularly on a niche blog?

My secret sauce is what I call Sales Office Hours. Every week I talk with select startup founders who ask me for sales advice.

A recent question that kept popping up again and again was: “Our prospects are asking us for a discount. How should we deal with that?”

If you talk with people, and you hear them ask the same things without fail, what do you do? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

You write about it!

With that in mind, we published Startup Sales Negotiations 101 – How to Respond to Discount Inquiries.

Within a week, the article received 16,315 unique views and has continued to drive steady traffic ever since.

Startup Sales Negotations 101 traffic stats

What’s more — hundreds of people signed up to our free startup sales course. Some of them later became paying customers of our sales communication software, while others signed up directly. Although we didn’t have the analytics in place to trace back individual signups, it is pretty safe to say that this blog post helped us generate thousands of dollars in recurring revenue.

Why Was This Post So Successful?

It was not because of…

  • Magazine-worthy writing. What I am: an experienced salesman. What I am not: a professional writer or a native English speaker. In fact, readers frequently comment on the quality of my writing and drop not-so-subtle hints that they know a good proof-reader.
  • Clever viral promotion or brilliant growth hacks. For our distribution strategy, we shared the post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Hacker News. We also recruited friends to re-share it — not exactly rocket science.
  • Advanced keyword research or SEO magic. This didn’t even cross our minds.

What did make this post so successful was that it addressed a very common question many members of our audience had and it offered them a clear, precise, informed, and actionable answer.

Boring, isn’t it? After all, there are plenty of blog posts and ebooks that seduce readers with stories such as, “You won’t believe this 4-minute tweak to increase conversions by 347%!”

But executing the plain basics of marketing effectively is a more reliable way to grow your business than trying to be a sly trickster, jumping from one “hot” tactic to the next quick hack.

When Will You Talk With Your Audience?

If you are not already consulting your audience, brainstorm opportunities to start conversations. Take five minutes right now to do this.

….and in case you wanted a bit of help, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Give away free phone consultations.
  • Join meetups.
  • Call them.
  • Meet up over coffee.
  • Attend conventions, trade shows and other events.
  • Spend time at their favorite hang out spots.

The bottom line: Talk to your audience. It is the best kind of market research there is and it is the fastest way to create great content — even if you are not a gifted writer.


About the author: Steli Efti is the CEO of Close.io – a sales communication software company that helps SaaS companies close more deals and make more sales. He has worked with over 150 venture-backed startups, helping them scale their sales models.

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