As more startups turn to content marketing to attract other startups to be their customers, we see more content emerging from what's happening inside these companies. Sometimes it's the results of an experiment. Sometimes it's an internal report, or even an email to the team.
Turning internal company materials into content can save you time (no need to look for a topic idea) and can help you add more personality to your content marketing.
If you haven't done this before, get started with these three approaches.
If you have investors, you're probably sending them regular reports on your progress. (If you're not, that's probably not a good sign.)
These reports often include a really interesting snapshot of your business—what's going well, what your focus is, and what you need help with. If your blog audience is other company founders, this is excellent content to share. Being transparent is becoming more common as company founders realise they can help each other and drive growth by being honest about what it's like inside their own businesses.
For really easy content, you can just copy your investor report straight into your blog as a new post. Or, with a bit more effort you can tidy it up and add more of a narrative flow to it.
Buffer publishes a post on their Open blog every month that comes straight from their investor reports. They include the numbers they share with investors and a single ask at the bottom for whatever they most need help with at the moment.
The Crew team uses their backstage blog to share investor reports, and they, too, include all the numbers their investors see. They also include details on how much the team has grown, and what's working best to help the company grow.
On the WP Curve blog, the team creates more of a narrative style blog post based on the same information. They include details on product progress, how their support team performed over the last month, and how their marketing efforts panned out. These posts always include lots of graphs and images to illustrate the data, too.
You don't necessarily need investors for this type of content to work. Every three months(ish) John publishes a Ghost update even though we don't have investors. It includes all the information investors would see if we had any, but since we're an open source nonprofit, we believe it's important to share those details with our users, customers, and developers.
You don't have to be a big company, either. Every month when I write a report for my own fledgling company, my co-founder Josh turns those reports into blog posts. Our posts cover the progress we made on our products, company growth, and our marketing efforts for the past month. We're not making enough money to pay both of us full salaries yet, but that doesn't stop us from sharing our progress in the hopes other companies that are just starting out might find it useful.
If you're already writing reports for your investors, try turning those into blog posts.
If you're not, look at what other internal reports you're already creating and see if you can create content out of that information. For instance, you could combine a marketing report, release notes, and internal company updates to create a snapshot of your company.
Running a company means you'll have interesting discussions and heated debates almost every day. There's always something to decide, something to worry about, or something to fix.
You probably haven't thought of it before, but these discussions can turn up lots of useful inspiration for content. Sharing your discussions, or what's come out of them, can give outsiders a look at what it's like to run your company, and help other business owners who are going through the same things as you.
Podcasts or videos are perfect formats for conversational content. In fact, lots of podcasts are conversations.
At Hello Code we use ongoing discussions as ideas for our podcast. Each episode features myself and my co-founder Josh discussing a single topic related to our business. When we're struggling with a decision or working through something that we end up chatting about for days and days, that's usually a sign that we've found something interesting we can discuss on a podcast episode.
In the past we've made episodes from discussions around how to handle money coming in from our personal side projects, our failures at raising investment, and how we use content marketing.
You can use discussions as inspiration for written content, too. Jason Fried wrote a piece recently that came out of a question someone asked when Jason did an AMA on Designer News:
I’m doing an AMA over at Designer News, and someone asked “How do seek out mentors/teachers?”
I’ve never sought out mentors or teachers, because I think they are plentiful and all around us. The person who you think has all the answers probably has far fewer than you think.
Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich turned a discussion with his co-founder Joel into a self-reflective blog post on positivity:
Recently Joel and I were talking about the new Jawbone UP3. I had just gotten one for free as part of Buffer’s perks program, and I complained that I found the closing buckle a bit fiddly and let off some steam about how I struggled to charge it.
At the end I remember saying something like “Oh, but it’s cool that I know my resting heart rate now, though.”
It’s kind of ironic how much I focused on the small challenges and gave the fact that I could now track my health much more intelligently only a side comment. Especially since I got the tracker for free.
And when the Groove team spent a lot of time discussing what to do about their floundering Facebook page, CEO Alex wrote a blog post about their experience:
"Screw it. Let’s just delete the thing."
Something felt odd about saying that.
Like we were about to break the rules.
But the more we discussed it, the more obvious the choice became: our company Facebook account had to go.
Take notice of any discussions or debates that go on for days or weeks. These are usually the ones that are most interesting to outsiders because they're hard to work through.
Try turning these discussions into blog posts or podcast episodes by sharing the progression of the discussion, the different directions you could have gone in, and what you decided in the end.
When you're starting a new company and you're trying to make it grow, you inevitably end up experimenting. It could be new products, new marketing approaches, or even how you structure your company.
Sharing these experiments can help other business owners learn from your successes and mistakes.
A good example of this approach is Groove's Journey to $500k blog. A lot of the content that made the Groove blog successful was about experiments the Groove team tried, or unusual approaches they took to building their business. For instance, Why We Killed One of Our Biggest Features to Grow Our Business and 6 A/B Tests That Did Absolutely Nothing for Us.
The Buffer team often experiments with their company structure and values. When they've learned something from an experiment they'll share it on the Open blog in posts like When We Took Transparency Too Far: The Transparent Feedback Experiment and What We Got Wrong About Self-Management: Embracing Natural Hierarchy at Work.
Here are some more examples:
- We paid $10k for a domain and all we got was less traffic, Crew
- We Tried Building A Remote Team And It Sucked, StatusPage.io
- The 30 Minute Change That Made 25% More People Try Ghost: Telling Them what To Click, Ghost
Yep, we've even done it ourselves on the Ghost blog.
If you try something new, share your story. Even if your experiment fails, it's useful for others to learn from what you tried and why it didn't work.
And if it was successful, it's even more interesting, because we all want to know what works for other people so we can grab a bit of that success for ourselves.
Whether you're struggling to come up with fresh content ideas, or you just can't find enough time to keep the content machine running, these approaches can help you make use of what you already have.
Before long, you'll find yourself assessing every conversation or long email thread for a content idea.