Whether you’re an agency or freelancer creating content for a business, or a content creator within an organization, it’s obviously important that your writing and online marketing skills are up to par. But it’s equally important to make sure you fully understand the business, the goals, and the subject matter.
In some cases, content creators already understand both, but for the rest of us—the writing-savvy online marketers without the deep subject matter expertise—it’s important to dig deep into the business before we start creating content.
In my experience, the best way to dig deep and understand a business and its subject matter is to have strategic conversations with subject matter experts and key business stakeholders.
In other words, before you get to the writing, you should start with the client interview.
Whether it’s an internal “client” or expert, or a company that’s hired you, this will help you lay a foundation for why you’re creating content (what are the business goals? What user needs are we trying to meet?), how the product or service works, and what the real sales funnel looks like.
And all of those things can save you time on revisions and trail-and-error and can set you up to create higher quality content—the kind of content that will engage users and meet business goals.
5 simple tips for better client interviews
Okay. So you get it. Client/subject matter interviews are an important part of the content process.
And just in case you haven’t done many client interviews in the past, here are a few pointers for how to get the most out of them:
1. Write out your questions ahead of time…and make them strategic.
Ask about business goals and user needs. Dig into customer pain points and sales cycles. And make sure you’ve got a long list of useful questions at your disposal before you hop on the phone or walk into the room.
2. Get comfortable with silence.
In normal conversation, we tend to try and keep things moving. We don’t do long pauses. We jump straight to the next question.
In interviewing, it’s wise to do the opposite. Pause for a few moments after the person is done speaking. Let them gather their thoughts. Often, they’ll start talking again, elaborating on their previous points or taking the conversation in a new and interesting direction.
3. Learn to redirect the conversation.
Sometimes people get into tangents—and sometimes those tangents can be valuable. But it’s also important to know how to re-direct the conversation, making sure your important questions get answered before you run out of time.
When you’re redirecting the conversation, it’s always a good idea to validate your interviewee before transitioning away from the tangent topic by saying something like, “excellent. That’s great information. Before we dig farther into that, though, I would love to hear more about your business goals.”
4. Be positive and encouraging.
I like to tell my clients that there’s no such thing as too much information when it comes to their business. I may not use every piece of information in their content, but knowing how the business works, what challenges it faces, what business goals lie behind its decisions, etc. will help me write content that better serves the business.
If your interviewee says, “I’m not sure this is relevant” or “is this helpful?” or something similar, be positive and enthusiastic. Make it your goal to make your interviewee feel as comfortable and valuable as possible.
After all, sometimes that “not sure this is relevant” information is the most relevant thing that comes from an interview.
5. Ask if you can follow up.
Even if you’ve been conducting interviews for years, you might miss something or need more information later, so always end the interview by asking if you can follow up and what the best way to follow up would be.