As someone who has had a lifelong aversion to criticism and confrontation (no after-school brawls for this kid), my preference has always been to be left in the dark.
I know, it’s terrible. But with the lights on and my eyes open, things become all too clear.
It’s so much easier just to go on blindly assuming that what you know is correct, without having any hard data to back it up. Digging for answers can bring up more dirt than diamonds.
But last month I decided it was time to make steps towards a brighter, clearer future.
For the first time, I asked for real feedback from readers of our blog to get a better understanding of just who is visiting the site, why they are, what they like, and what they dislike.
So why would I put myself through so much potential distress? It has to do with something Stephen King said.
In his pseudo-memoir On Writing, King describes how when he writes, he’s writing to a single person: his wife, Tabitha. To King, Tabitha represents the ideal reader—the kind of person he wants to enjoy his books.
If Tabitha reads a section that King thinks is funny and doesn’t laugh, he knows it’s a dud. If she doesn’t cringe on cue, he knows he can go deeper with the horror.
Marketing types call this building a customer persona—a template for who you want to use your product.
“Digging for answers can bring up more dirt than diamonds.”
For me, it’s more about understanding the issues that my potential readers are having, and writing to them. Seems obvious, no?
Hell, the first thing they teach you in most writing and journalism classes is just to know your audience. So, as much as I’ve enjoyed rummaging around in the dark, it’s about time I turned on the lights and found my own Tabitha.
Ignorance may be bliss my friends, but knowledge is power.
But first off, let’s take a look at December’s metrics:
Page views: 183,979 (-17.67% in December)
Unique page views: 167,434 (-18.8% in December)
Users: 65,401 (-21.21% in December)
Sessions: 77,743 (-21.1% in December)
Bounce rate: 3.45% (-31.6% in December)
Average time on page: 00:46 (-1 second)
Pages per session: 2.37 (+3.4% in December)
Total time gained/lost with readers: 835.68 hours (-23.84% from December)
New newsletter subscribers: 404
Top 5 posts:
- 5 weak words you should avoid (and what to use instead) (19,679)
Why I killed my standing desk (7,524)
Top post published in December:
All in all, a sad little December. However, it was almost to be expected. The blog still isn’t something I can switch into autopilot and with the responsibilities of the Unsplash Book Kickstarter campaign taking up most of my December, regular publishing got put on the back burner.
One way I’ve begun to address this issue is through going old school and scheduling monthly editorial meetings.
Each month, I connect with the rest of the marketing team to discuss potential topics, people we’d like to include on the blog, and posts that we’ll be individually work on over the next 2-4 weeks. The idea is to have a constant stream of content being worked on—not just what I personally have on the go.
Creating a culture of writing and idea sharing is important to me and to Crew as a company, so getting as many people involved in the process as possible is a must.
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s more onto the million dollar question…
It’s time to get writing. Do you know where your readers are?
Good question, and I promise I’ll get there.
But first, a little background:
The Crew blog began as an extension of our CEO Mikael‘s desire to spread his thoughts while also searching for a (pretty much) $0 marketing initiative. What this means is that, when we started, there was no real analysis of who our ideal reader was. They were just people that connected with what Mikael was saying. And plenty of people did.
Those first few months helped propel what the Crew blog has become (and provide me with a sweet full-time gig).
Yet, gut feelings can only go so far. And as we grow, both as a company and as a publisher, we need to be more deliberate in our actions.
Enter, the first ever Crew reader survey:
Profile of a crew reader
Our reader survey netted a whopping 155 responses from the 65,000+ people who visited the blog in December, which, according to Creative Research Systems’ handy Sample Size Calculator gives me a confidence level of around 7.
All this means is that for each reported answer, I can be ‘sure’ of its accuracy to within +/- 7%. Not too bad. And certainly enough for what I’m using the results for.
First off, let’s get a broad look at some of the key takeaways from the responses (you can find a link to all of the results here):
51% of respondents read the blog once a week (while 25% read less than that).
Favorite reported topics were:
- Productivity/working smarter
- Personal growth/happiness
- How to build a business
The average usefulness rating was 4.24/5.
While respondents gave our quality of writing a 4.45/5.
80% of respondents found our average article length to be ‘pretty much spot on’ (a very official sounding statistic, I must add).
And 75% said we publish the right amount of content per week.
The majority of respondents (40%) are aged 25-34, with the second largest bracket being 19-24.
41% are full-time employees, either running their own company, working in marketing, or as a designer or developer. While 22% are entrepreneurs, and 20% are freelancers.
Most prefer to read articles over listening to podcasts or watching videos.
And they spend, on average, 1-10 hours a week consuming content.
Great. So now what do we do with this information?
The goal of gathering information on your audience, customer, or client is to get a better understanding of the need that you fill for them.
In it, Gregory explains how to develop customer profiles. These profiles can be used as a lens for your content, ensuring you’re always addressing your audience’s pain points.
They even came up with some hilarious names for each persona, like Growth Graham and Help Desk Heidi.
While these are customer profiles, they help inform the content that Help Scout writes, because each persona comes with it’s own individual issues and goals that can be addressed.
Gregory describes Help Scout’s content split as white bread vs. wheat bread.
White bread is high-level advice, or what I’d call inspirational writing and tools. It’s what our friend Growth Graham is all about.
While Wheat bread is denser and filled with helpful tips and how-tos (what I’d call actionable writing). Help Desk Heidi’s already a pro and so she’s into tips that she can implement in her day-to-day.
After digging through our data from this survey, I came up with a few potential reader profiles for myself (with similarly hilarious names):
Andy’s a founder or co-founder building a business from scratch. He most likely has limited technical expertise, but has a boatload of enthusiasm.
He wants to build a quality product but might be bootstrapping his MVP and so cost is always a concern. The more tips, tricks, and hacks that will help him on his journey, the better.
Frida has a ton of experience through working for an agency or in-house at a company but is ready to go out and make her mark on the world. She might already have a full roster or be looking for those first few solid clients.
She loves the freedom to work on projects she genuinely connects with but is concerned with finding consistent, meaningful work and navigating the transition to full-time freelancing.
Agatha is a creative director or lead at a small to medium-sized agency. She has a ton of work coming in and is looking for the best way to offload some of it while making sure quality work is being done.
At this moment, she’s in the smallest group of people that comes through Crew, but one with unique needs that we want to address.
The next step: Fleshing out these profiles
While my small survey gave me a bit of insight—enough to put together some rough sketches of who our readers are—I need to look beyond this sample size in order to get a better understanding of not only who the people that come to the blog are, but who the people that use Crew in general are.
In the end, these are the people that we want to attract more of, and creating useful, insightful content for them is an amazing way to bring them into the fold.
I quickly realized that each of the reader profiles I listed above relates to a different team at Crew.
For our entrepreneurs and small business owners, that’s our Happiness Team, who are the point of first contact for anyone bringing a project into Crew. Some of the questions I might ask the team to better understand who these people are include:
- What are the main concerns that people have when bringing a project into Crew?
- What questions come up time and time again?
- What is the general attitude or vibe from people posting projects?
For the freelance community, that’s most likely our Community Team, who help match projects with creatives within Crew and make sure that they stay on track. What I’d want to find out from them is:
- What questions come up from new creatives the most?
- Are there any skills particularly in demand?
- What are the biggest issues in traditional workplaces that make people want to work in Crew?
Lastly, for our agency friends and partners that comes down to our Partnerships Team (a team of 1 right now—the Tasmanian Devil of productivity Michael Sacca). From him, I’d want to know:
- What are the issues that agencies or partners have when coming to Crew?
- How do we solve those issues?
- How do most agencies find us?
From all these questions I’ll be able to get a deeper understanding of the 3 types of customers Crew has, and the 3 types of readers I want to attract more of to the blog—who they are, what their issues are, and how we, with our unique skill set and insight, can bring them the most value.
If you’ve read my past writing dispatches (especially my last one on why I think ‘optimizing’ your writing is BS) don’t think I’ve drunk the content marketing Kool-aid quite yet.
These personas are not only great from a business perspective, but also allow us to focus in on the niches that are most interesting to our readers—the goal of any good publication.
If you’d like to help out (and increase my survey sample size!) the Typeform is still up here.
And if you have experience or insight into building out customer profiles I’d love to chat.
You can always reach me at email@example.com