Sometimes getting leads and sharing the experience is really hard — people don’t like to talk or write and don’t know how to turn bits of important information into one structured piece of content. Sometimes it’s also hard to get answers from your audience when you’re evaluating or validating your product.
If this is the case and you want to get leads, help your team get noticed online as an expert, or if you want your audience to help you build the best product, one interview can bring it all together.
Let’s outline the process of getting out valuable information from your team or from your audience in one simple guide.
Encourage your team or audience to speak up
To start sharing valuable content to attract leads, you need to get this content first. You can do it in several ways.
1. Get the content from your team
Sharing expertise isn’t something that is written in the contracts of your team members. So to encourage them — start sharing the knowledge yourself:
- Publish your insights and let your teammates know.
- If your post got lots of attention — share it with your colleagues too. This way they see there is value for them in sharing, not only for the audience.
Don’t make it mandatory. Nobody likes when extra workload is suddenly added for no particular reason. But you may add some extra benefits for those who are keen to open up and share, like giving them some additional super cool and cozy merchandise.
Such an approach works for agencies or service companies but is not so common for SaaS. If you provide software as a service, you can turn to your users for insights.
2. Find the content with the help of your users
When your product already has a loyal audience, it’s not a problem to conduct some interviews and get answers to shape your product better and get the content you need. But when you’re just starting your product journey and your target audience is not familiar with the product, or your product hasn’t even been launched yet but you need to validate your idea, things get complicated.
- You don’t have any leverage on the audience yet to push them to answer the questions, but you can describe the value of your future product in such a way that people will want to use it later.
- Give them a reason to answer your survey and don’t be afraid of not getting the responses right away. Maybe the audience you’re asking is the wrong one for your product, maybe people need more time. Maybe they need more explanation before the actual survey.
There are no strict rules for how to collect the ideas, but there are several common practices:
- Listen to your team;
- Collect responses from your community or product user responses;
- Always remember that your audience may have a different level of knowledge from your own;
- Narrow the list of your ideas to the most valuable ones, but save the least important ideas for later.
There is no company where nothing interesting happens. All you need to do is to listen carefully and each time you hear or see something valuable, write the idea down. It may happen during an inner workshop, daily meetings, or even during lunch break chats.
In the same way, look at how your community is responding to your updates and gather their responses. It will help you to collect all the pros and cons of your product development in no time.
Remember, not every idea must be a genius one. Write down even the simplest and the stupidest of them.
- Keep in mind that if the topic is easy for you, it may be harder to grasp for the audience who doesn’t share your personal expertise and knowledge.
- There are many niches with articles and guides on some complex issues that don’t provide the basics.
When I started to take front-end development courses online from scratch, I came up with a pile of 101-level questions. It turned out that there were no instructions to help me because all the articles were written for novices with a more technical background than I had. When I asked some developers to help me with my questions, all they could say was: “Well, it’s so simple for me that I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s just obvious.”
At that moment, I understood that I had uncovered a niche where people like me would appreciate clear, simple help from experts.
From the list you’ve written down, pick the ideas that will be most interesting to share, but don’t toss the other ideas out. The idea that’s not so catchy now could be a hot topic tomorrow.
After you write down all the ideas, a little research can help you find the most valuable ones, the exact ideas that will attract your target audience to the content.
- Find out what’s hot on the market — even if you’re not sure whether the topic you’ve chosen is valuable or not, conduct quick market research to find out. Is your topic a hot area of discussion nowadays? Are people craving such content?
- Ask your target audience about their pains and needs — upon doing that you’ll definitely stumble upon something you can uncover with your expertise. Grab this idea for your content!
Transform the idea based on your research
- Imagine your team has lots of experience to share in designing some kind of templates. Such a topic is vague enough but you can shape it to match current trends. Maybe you can explain the designing process for Metaverse products that are currently in the buzz, or connect your story to making an MVP for a startup faster. Be creative if you want not just to share the information, but to spread it across a wide audience.
- Even if your audience is craving something that is beyond your experience, there may be some bits of information that you can explain. It’s not necessary to share the long reads only, even smaller chunks of valuable information (like a short LinkedIn post) can be a hit.
- Don’t forget — most of the audience is busy people with little time to read or listen. If the content isn’t bringing them some value right from the start, they’ll scroll by or bounce. Always ask yourself the question “Is this article going to be helpful or not” and if you can’t find the real value, put the idea aside for later and go to the other one.
When you’ve done it, you can choose the type of content you want to share and finally move on to extract valuable information from your team or your audience.
Prepare for the interview and conduct it
In my experience, even team members who don’t want to write or talk in public about their expertise are eager to share their knowledge with the team. Especially if you guide them with supporting questions like “can you elaborate on this a little bit more”, “how did you find out the problem”, “what was the initial solution and why it has transformed”, etc.
The same goes for your target audience during customer development interviews. If you show the value behind your questions, they’ll answer them eagerly.
Create a rough list of questions
- To support your team, create a rough list of questions you’ll be asking them in advance and show it to them a day or two before the interview. Even people who were never part of the interviewing process before won’t stress out and you’ll get more than “Yes” and “No” answers.
- Don’t make this list long. Include some basic questions, from 5 to 10, about the topic you want to write about. It’s just a canvas to prepare for the interview. All the most important questions and valuable answers are born in dialogue.
- If you’re going to talk about something completely new and unknown to you as an interviewer, do more research beforehand. When I was just starting to write about various fantasy sports and stock topics, I read dozens of articles to learn the basics and to be at least closer to the same page with the person whom I interviewed.
For cust-dev interviews, the preparations are a little bit different. You don’t need to prepare your audience much, but you do need to prepare an explanation of the value of this interview. Don’t just ask them to answer your questions, explain why it’s interesting for them.
Always record during the interview
It’s common practice among journalists to record the dialogue during interviews, and I recommend doing a recording too, so as not to miss any numbers or particular examples.
Always ask your team if it’s OK to record. Even if the interview is held online, try to make it as informal as possible to make your team relax and spill more interesting facts and details. Remember that your team may not be used to the interview process, and it’s your responsibility to make them less nervous.
I also recommend voice interviews instead of written ones for getting the answers from your target audience. This way you’ll be able to learn more about the actual pain points and needs.
Ask stupid questions
Once again, as an interviewer, you may not be in possession of all the knowledge necessary to speak freely on the topic. If your team goes deep into some specific terms and abbreviations that you don’t understand, ask them to explain. And don’t forget that even if you understand everything they are talking about, the audience may not.
When I began writing for and about startups, I was really surprised at how many people didn’t know the meaning of things like ARPU or CR. My basic expertise was different from theirs, so I explained some things in the blog posts that were obvious to me.
Don’t stick to the list of questions prepared
Rarely do in-house interviews go strictly to plan. In the process, you may understand that some questions become irrelevant and some questions need to be explored deeper. Don’t be afraid to cut some questions out and ask new ones. Sometimes your team doesn’t give enough credit for some things they’ve done, but it will be crucial for the audience to understand.
Imagine your team found a bug in a product and fixed it, making the product load and run two times faster. For the developers, fixing the small and easy bugs is no big deal, but the audience will be eager to know how to make products better. Especially since such a bug may be common.
If you’re interviewing the target audience, it’s important to cover all the questions from your list and add some in the process of the interview if you discover something strange or interesting. The main difference from in-house interviews is that you need to ask all the questions you’ve prepared in advance to make the post-analysis correct.
Don’t make your interview too short or too long
- For the in-house interviews try making your interview last around an hour. It’s an optimal time to ask all the questions and stay strict on the point. Value your time and the time of your team.
- While interviewing your audience keep it even shorter. Sometimes ten minutes is enough, but try not to make it last longer than half an hour.
Create content based on the interviews
After the interviews, the process of writing the actual piece is similar to writing any blog post based on your personal experience and market research:
- Select a format of the blog post — whether it’s going to be an interview with questions, an instruction, or a story, each format will require different writing approaches;
- Create a short plan for the blog post to see all the main points you need to cover;
- Write an actual draft of the blog post;
- Chunk the information into sections for easier reading;
- Ask for additional quotes and details if necessary;
- Add all credentials and links where necessary.
Remember that for a blog post based on real-life experience, you’ll need to provide examples; otherwise, your post won’t be of much value. If this blog post is written in the first person, examples should be personal. What is even more important, they must be supported by data, or at least some valuable numbers.
To create a good piece of writing, it’s important to have someone else proofread your work. If it’s not possible, try reading your draft out loud. You will be surprised at how many things you will change afterward to make it sound more natural.
You can also use some services to proofread your text or at least help you check for mistakes. I am, for example, using Grammarly as a tool for quick and efficient proofreading.
Of course, you can post everything without proofreading, but some small mistakes or typos can give you a bad look, even if your information is valuable.
Make your blog post stand out
The amount of content being published every day is close to infinite. So it’s important to make each of your posts stand out.
- Bring the value upfront — start your post with a bit of the most important info in the article and leave the rest of the explanation for some later parts of the text;
- Play with the headline — try coming up with at least five headlines before choosing the best one to catch the audience's attention without misleading it;
- Incorporate various types of media into the post to make it easier to read — support it with videos, images, memes, graphs, and so on;
- Choose a platform you want to publish your post wisely — make your decision based on the target audience, the value of your article, and the goal(s) you want to achieve;
- Don’t forget to write meta-tags for your article to appear higher in the search engines;
- Always tag the person you’ve interviewed — among other things, it will do good for your team and make the number of experts in the company grow.
Make your interview evergreen
There are so many things and posts online that even the most intriguing and valuable interview can be buried under the pile of trash content. So think in advance about how to reuse your content in a different format and how to present this interview from another angle. Can your written interview be changed into infographics or video? Think of other ways, there are always plenty of options!
Don’t ignore the importance of interviews
Why so much effort, you say? Well, this people-centric approach will pay off in leads.
If your teammates see that their work is noted and their expert profiles are growing, they will be more eager to come to you by themselves with new interviews and new ideas.
And, of course, your company will stand out among competitors because of the value you’re giving, the transparency, and the huge pile of information supporting the expertise.
Written by Alena Lysiakova