Content remains king in 2013, but as Greg Ciotti describes, in order to stand out in the future, that content needs to become more visual and interactive. We chat to Greg who is the marketing strategist for Help Scout – an invisible email support software for startups and small businesses. He is also the founder of Sparring Mind, the behavioral psychology blog with over 100,000 readers.
What inspired you to start Sparring Mind?
Starting Sparring Mind was a necessity for me because I have a deep interest in behavioral psychology, which started during my undergrad days. Since I later got into the software startup space, I ended up writing less about the research I still loved reading.
Thus, Sparring Mind was born, and although the updates aren’t very frequent, it’s still a great place for me to pour out 2000+ words an article on a topic I love.
Sparring Mind focuses around the psychological behavior around businesses and brands. What is the most interesting piece of research you have learned through it?
My favorite bit of research in that area has to be studies surrounding the psychology of storytelling.
As a content strategist, I’m obviously all about ‘magnetic marketing’ over interruptions, and when I discovered that stories could have such a persuasive impact on copy and content, it changed my writing forever.
You specialize in content strategy for software startups. Can you unpack this for us?
Content marketing is all about creating content that people find useful and want to check out.
Especially on a crowded place like the web, attention and audience are incredibly valuable. Building a ‘minimum viable audience’ before trying to sell a piece of software is a way to increase your chances of success, rather than taking a gamble on something people won’t buy.
Using a blog that people love learning from and sharing can help you build a business that people know, like, and trust, allowing you to sell your software without resorting to aggressive interruption marketing tactics.
What do you think is the biggest difference between content strategy for startups and content strategy for a big brand with a new product?
For startups it is important because of the bootstrapped aspect, as it is the best way for under-funded or entirely self-funded businesses to gain an audience without spending a ton of dough.
Advertising still works, but only if you have years to do it and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Good customer service is subjective and influenced by things like culture and language. What kind of challenges does this create for online customer service that spreads across the world?
While the world is going global, the most essential customer service skills are universal in that they are more about human behavior than they are about cultural distinctions.
That being said, it is important to understand who buys your product, and what cultural factors may cause friction between your staff and the average person who contacts your support.
Things like social taboos and conversational conduct are all very important when interacting with people of another culture.
Tell us about Help Scout and how the system succeeds in personalizing the customer experience.
The team at Help Scout is dedicated to building the best email support software out there for small businesses.
Instead of forcing your customers to open up support tickets, Help Scout is invisible to anyone contacting you. Your team can access a dashboard for incoming messages, but when they reply, all your customers see is a plain email.
Once you add in our features built around personalization, such as customer profiles, you get a system that is built around customer needs but that is easy for companies to use.
What are your predictions about the way content will be structured/changed by brands in 2013?
I’ve addressed this somewhat in a post on SEOmoz. I believe content will become more creative and interactive in 2013 and beyond.
Written content, like blog posts and PDFs, will still be the bread and butter in any good content strategy, but in order to stand out online in the future, utilizing things like videos and podcasting will become ever more important.
We are visual creatures, and the web is beginning to reflect this.
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