Yesterday I received a feedback on one of the stories. “It was interesting, but complicated”.
Complicated. That’s what I’ve been trying to avoid, but as much as I would like to, some posts do end up getting slightly complicated to follow through. They can be made simple or at least simpler. Using shorter individual sections and more sections overall is one straightforward way. Including more practical examples and screenshots/videos/animations is another.
The problem is, there are only three ways to do it:
Make the articles longer (and risk getting TL;DRed)
Break down the complicated articles into a series of articles (have done that a couple of times, when there was just way too much content to be condensed into one story)
Cover less ground in each such article
Needless to say, #3 isn’t even an option. Covering less ground is just a nicer way of saying – compromise on the quality and value. And then there are obvious challenges with #1 and #2.
Why are we talking about this today?
I ended up thinking a bit about that feedback, and one of the first thoughts to pop up was what is now the title of this story.
When I started working on benne, there were a few things extremely clear to me:
I wanted it focused on growth
We are a privacy friendly product. Benne is simple to use, easy to follow along, and packs a punch in providing you with densely packed insights. Yet, you’ll find I talk about growth most of the times. Because as a business owner, that is what I think about the most. So, a product targeting business owners needs to do the same.
Privacy, simplicity and everything else, they are features of our product, they come from our ethics, our design principles, our approach to a product. But they aren’t the product. Our product is growth enablement, nothing else.
I wanted it to be a product for everyone, not just the marketers
Most of the products you see around you are built for a particular kind of audience. To use marketing focused products, you need to understand marketing. The problem is, not every business has, or can even afford a marketing team.
As of 2020, in the United States alone, there are ~32 million small businesses, and almost 70% of them have less than 20 employees, a good chunk of them having less than 5 employees. Now, most of these businesses are offline businesses, but the sheer magnitude is enough to illustrate the number of small online businesses that are operating out of US alone with less than 5 employees.
With a team that size, you know marketing is just handled by the business owner. But businesses are in the business of making money, and all of them - no matter what shape and size - covet growth. So, in the absence of traditional marketing expertise, they end up either hiring an agency to do it for them, or just throw a bunch of stuff to the wall and see what sticks. The result? Sub optimal growth, and a lot of unnecessary marketing dollars spent with far fewer results.
I wanted each online business to have access to a tool that would require next to no marketing know-how or expertise. A tool that would do most of the heavy lifting for them, leaving their time and bandwidth free to execute on the insights the product was delivering. A tool that was easy to use, simple enough to follow along and most importantly, one that was as focused on their growth as they are.
This is why the blog focuses on helping businesses grow. While writing any story, I don’t expect the readers to have a background in marketing.
I wanted the product to do the heavy lifting, not offload that to my users
I believe there are scenarios where your product requires a learning curve, and tutorials to understand how to use it to the fullest extent, but I know that isn’t true for most products. If your product needs users to learn how to use it, you have probably designed it wrong.
Google Analytics is complicated. The presence of Google Analytics Academy and tens of thousands of tutorials and Udemy courses is enough evidence of that. The downside of a complicated product is users end up not using it much. This is why more than 80% of GA users don’t move beyond the main dashboard screen. One way of interpreting this behavior is that users don’t care about the other stuff. But that’s not true. Sure, users don’t care about all those fancy charts and numbers, but they do care about growing their business. And anyone who has used GA will tell you that a lot of those charts and datasets, when analyzed well, contribute immensely to formulating winning marketing strategies.
Unfortunately though, GA leaves that heavy lifting to you. You need to figure out what data points you need, where to find them, and how to interpret them - either in silo, or together. All of which requires quite some marketing expertise, a good understanding of the product, and a lot of time spent in analysis.
We want to change that. A tech product should be able to do the analysis for you, and that is where Benne Insights come into the picture. The insights module constantly analyses your traffic data to give you actionable insights. And while you have the option of diving deeper into the data fuelling those insights, it is not necessary if all you want is to execute on those insights and leverage your traffic indicators into growing your business further.
Stories getting complicated is a problem
All of these driving factors I just described focus on democratising access to data-driven growth insights to everyone, not just those with marketing knowhow.
So when the stories become complicated, that’s a problem. Complicated pieces lose the interest of the reader and once that happens, the story fails to deliver on its singular purpose – to add value to the audience. And from there, the ripple effect tumbles through.
Who finds your content won’t always be who you wanted your content to be found by
Burbn allowed its users to check-in, share their plans on the platform, and share photos. It was just one of the many location-based check-in apps at the time, but the photo-sharing feature was unique and quickly picked up steam. As more and more users focused solely on the photo-sharing aspect of it, Burbn evolved to become what we now know as Instagram. They did not set out to become a photo sharing app, but looking at what their users were primarily using them for, they decided to become one. Two years later, they were acquired for a billion dollars.
Pivots are a part of the startup life.
If you observe your users’ behavior, you would be able to decide what you should focus on, which direction should you be moving in, and what is it you should be doing overall to deliver a wow-worthy experience to your users.
Your content is no different. Who you write for, and who finds it most valuable won’t always be the same, and if you keep a close eye on the performance of your content marketing efforts, you would get a good sense of who your target audience should be.
If your content is being discovered by an audience you weren’t specifically targeting, and despite that, the conversion numbers are good, then that means either you have been focusing on the wrong audience, or at the very least you should dedicate a higher percentage of your available bandwidth to cater to this audience more.
Take this blog, for example. If I consistently find the content getting discovered by marketers and marketers alone, then that’s an indicator of the direction my content should be focused on. If I am to still focus ‘the product’ to small businesses, then my content performance indicators would mean I would need to re-evaluate my strategy on how to reach out to them.
And it is not just discovery of your content you need to be on the lookout for. How it performs once it has been discovered is just as important. Different content levels are valuable to different segments of your audience. As such, while discovery (organic traffic) will tell you how you are placed in their research, the performance (conversion rates) will tell you how valuable, relevant and contextual your content is to different audience sub-sets. (We shall talk more about how to go about this analysis in a separate story.)
Fortunately for me though, we are not quite where we would even need to consider a pivot. So as of now, there is one challenge, and it is quite well defined. The stories, at times, are more complicated than they should be.
What am I doing to fix it?
The first thing I did once I had broken free of my train of thoughts was remind myself - perfection is a journey, not a destination.
So, I’ll just keep at it. And I’ll be mindful of the bigger picture. To make a product that’s valuable to all, and reach them all via my content. I will reassess if the existing stories need to be broken down (may take some time though), and I’ll try to include more illustrative and descriptive examples and graphic assets wherever necessary.
And as always, I’ll depend on you. To let me know if the stories are helping you out with your challenges, or did they lose you at some point. You know where to find me. ;-)
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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