2013 INC. 5000 RANK: 4882
HEADQUARTERS: San Francisco, CA
YEAR FOUNDED: 2001
2012 REVENUE: $25.2 million
Content is a huge driver for acquiring and keeping customers these days, especially in the B2B world. The ability to be a thought leader, write or shoot a video and get it out to the shareable world is all businesses are thinking about. The more content you publish, the more you help your customers, the more the search engines will pick you up and in the end, hopefully the more business you'll get.
At my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, we publish a lot of content. This even though I didn't go to school for writing and neither did many people on my team who produce fabulous marketing guides about using PR, email marketing and even social media to help businesses grow. What I do know is that we get thousands of downloads per month for all of our great content, and the opportunity to engage with people who are interested in what we say.
How did it begin? I started the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog for Small Businesses back in 2005 after I attended a Blogging for Business conference and got inspired. I was a little nervous because I really wanted to "write like I speak" and every marketing tip had told me that being uberly professional is how one should write. One of my first posts was titled "How Often Should You Email?" and one of the paragraphs read:
Over-mailing your recipients is a very effective way to ... hello ... lose subscribers! An annoyed recipient is one step away from becoming an unsubscribe and you really don't want to alienate your subscribers.
It actually felt liberating to be myself and not some stodgy, tech-speak, brochure-like writer. After that, all of our marketing materials started to relax a bit, from our website to the datasheets we produce to even our "on hold" messaging when a customer calls us.
I want our customers to do business with someone like them because that's who we are - a small business constantly on the lookout to grow. In later years when other employees started to write for our blog, I found myself editing them quite a bit until they "learned" how to relax with their writing style. Now all of our blog contributors chill out and write exactly like they'd talk to a colleague or a customer. (I must admit I have found myself killing off a curse word here and there.)
I found our voice because I wanted to relate to our small business customers and the triumphs and tribulations they have. So, choose your own voice. Listen to how you speak to your customers and analyze if that's reflected in how you write. And if you've found your company "voice," let me know in the comments section how you did it; we'd love to hear.