Know your audience.
Following that simple maxim is what makes Gusto’s content so effective. The online HR Services platform understands exactly what its target customers – small business owners and HR managers – want to know about, and it consistently delivers pieces that cater to these interests.
Recently we sat down with four members of the company’s content and social team – Elliott Brown, Kira Deutch, Kira Klaas, Krystal Barghelame – to better understand how Gusto creates this exceptional content.
Check out the Q&A below:
Q: What roles does digital content play for Gusto? What are your goals in creating it?
A: Our mission as a company is to empower small business owners and HR managers to build amazing teams. That’s what drives our content as well. We want content to be a way that people discover us, find helpful tips, and walk away feeling better and more confident than they did before they arrived.
From there we hope to connect with our audience, whether or not they need something we offer right away. We believe that if you interest people with trustworthy and entertaining content, they’ll be more likely to trust you as a company and see that you’re truly invested in their success. Then if we’re doing our jobs right, they’ll be excited to move down the funnel and learn more about our product too.
On a deeper level, though, we hope that every piece of content we create inspires, entertains, and provides some kind of distinct value that nothing else on the topic provides. And in fact, our content is a major way we can differentiate our brand. Quite frankly, payroll, benefits, and HR can be fairly dry topics. And often times, the resources that exist on those topics are bland and confusing. So, we have a real opportunity here to delight our readers in a space they weren’t expecting it. How awesome is it to read a guide on something that you’re struggling with, and to finding yourself smiling at the end? From the playfulness of our voice to our design to the examples we use, bringing an uplifting element is central to what we do.
So that’s our goal for how we do things, whether it’s an ad, an article, or a tweet. It has to help someone overcome a challenge or do something to brighten their day — otherwise we’re just wasting their time (and ours).
On the business side, we view content as both a tool for acquisition and retention, and as a way of deepening our brand. Those goals are all intertwined; if our content isn’t both engaging and building a differentiated brand at the same time, we’re not going to connect with our customers in an authentic way.
Q: We love your Framework content, it’s very high quality and well targeted. How is it created and what are you aiming to do with it?
A: We create mostly everything in-house. We launched Framework back in April 2016, because we wanted a consolidated resource center to house our content. Before it existed we had a single blog where all our guides and other things like company announcements and one-pagers were mixed together. People had trouble finding what they needed, and it wasn’t really a place where people could sit down and hang out for awhile. So, we totally redid it.
Recently we redesigned the site to make it even easier to use and more accessible. We worked hard to enhance the flow from article to article. For example if someone is interested in company culture, they can read five closely-related articles in a row very easily. Now we hope it’s a one-stop-shop for business owners and HR managers to find the help they need, when they need it.
Q: How do you ensure that you’re creating the right types of content and that your pieces are connecting with the intended audiences?
A: We love interviewing customers regularly, to make sure what we’re writing is rooted in their needs and is actually helpful. We try to chat with a few different business owners and HR managers each month understand what their challenges are on a day-to-day basis, what else they’re reading, and which topics interest them.
Then as a team, we come together in editorial meetings to discuss what we’ve learned from these interviews and how we can use their insights to inform the content we’re planning on creating. We also try to incorporate examples from the customer interviews into what we’re working on, so that we can say: “Here’s what Business A is doing, and here’s how it’s working. And here’s what’s not working and what we can learn from it.” That sort of honest storytelling is a lot more powerful than just giving general examples or saying, “You should do this.”
One other thing that we’re piloting is workshopping our projects with customers. For bigger content initiatives, like in-depth guides, we try to get feedback very early in the creation process.
Q: How do you measure the effectiveness of your content? Which metrics do you pay attention to?
A: We’re pretty funnel-centric, so the first thing we look at every morning is definitely traffic because we can pretty clearly project the ultimate business impact with it. Outside of the conversion funnel, there are other things we look at, such as whether we’re getting backlinks and how effectively we’re able to engage the traffic we get. Then we use more granular analytics to diagnose why things are going right or wrong. Aside from these numbers, it’s also important that we directly hear from our customers on if and how the content is helping them — if something is shared or talked about more frequently on social media, it’s a good sign that we made something emotionally engaging.
Q: Do you have any favorite pieces of Gusto content that you’re especially proud of?
As an example of how we’re involving customers in content creation, this article of onboarding tips shows how a basic how-to article can become a story when you use real-life examples.
Here’s another piece that exemplifies how we’re trying to reinvent the way people think about work through original content. For this article, we interviewed a member of the SF improv community to identify ways our readers could improve their cultures by incorporating a few improv comedy basics.
We’re also proud of how we we’ve been able to help our readers really dive into a topic without having to hunt all over for answers. For example, our new HR center starts by offering up an HR 101 overview, but when someone wants to go deeper or explore timely topics they’re also easy to find.
Q: Final question, are there any digital content trends that you’re watching closely right now?
A: A lot more people are doing content pretty well, which makes it an extremely exciting space to be a part of. We’re always looking for ways to raise the bar by conducting deeper research, incorporating more interactivity, and bringing more elements of fun and surprise into everything we do.