Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Monica Norton of Zendesk

By NativeAI / April 18, 2017
Zendesk logo

Different audiences have different content needs.

All too often marketers forget that simple fact and try to take a one-size-fits-all approach
with their pieces.

Not Zendesk, though. The customer service software firm consistently creates the right content for its distinct audiences. This smart targeting strategy includes producing two separate sites – the Zendesk Blog and Relate by Zendesk – which have distinct identities and goals.

Recently we chatted with Monica Norton, Senior Director of Content Marketing at  Zendesk, to learn more about why the company takes this approach and how it develops its

Check out the full Q&A below:

Q: Starting broadly, what do you think the difference is between good content and bad content?  

A: Good content has an audience-focused purpose. It has been designed and created with the benefit of the audience in mind. It’s something that they want or need to learn; it’s something that they can use in their job; it’s something that will entertain or excite them.

That’s not to say it can’t also benefit the company, but that can’t be the primary purpose.
Good content has to be good for the consumer. Bad content is focused solely on the needs of the content provider.

Monica Norton Zendesk on Content marketing

Q: What role does content play for Zendesk? Why are you creating it?

A: Zendesk is a customer service software company.  We’re very focused on the  relationship between businesses and their customers.

So, we’re hardwired to think about companies and their audiences. That’s how we approach our content. Our primary goal is to create pieces that will help our community,
our customers, and our potential future customers.

We’re very committed to the community of people who work in the field of customer service; who are there to improve the relationship between businesses and their
customers. We want our content to help people do a good job with that.

Q: Zendesk has two different tracks of content: the pieces that appear on your site in areas like the Zendesk Blog and the pieces that appear on Relate by Zendesk. Why do you take this approach?

A: On the Zendesk site we have content primarily for the audience that might use a product like ours. These are the people who run customer service teams, who run customer or contact centers; things like that.

It’s a very specific audience and we cover topics like customer service technologies and the Zendesk platform specifically. We’re focused on our customers and the people who might be buyers in the near future.

zendesk blog on content marketing analytics blog

Relate was created to target a broader audience. The site is our love letter to anyone who
has some level of interaction with others at work. So that could be in Marketing or Sales or Service or another part of the business.

So, on Relate we’ll tackle topics like how to get along better with your colleagues and how to be a better boss.

It’s more about those business relationships; not only about the customer-business
relationship, but more broadly also about things like getting along with people at work.  

We want to reach a broader audience with these pieces because we want a wider network to be exposed to our content and our brand. If someone shares a Relate story, it might reach a future buyer or someone who didn’t know about Zendesk’s products.


Q: How do you ensure that your content reaches its intended audiences?

A: For the Zendesk content our approaches are very targeted.  We have our social media
channels, our blog, our newsletter database, and other channels. We have a distinct group of people to reach: those who are already customers or who have already encountered us and are interested in the product.

For Relate, we’re targeting a much broader base. So we experiment more with things like
content syndication via companies like News360, paid social and search, etcetera.

Q: How do you measure the success of content? Which content marketing metrics do you pay close attention to?

A: For Relate, it has evolved. During our first year we were focused on building an audience. Now that we’re in our second year we’re looking more at engagement and audience behavior. So are these potential buyers one day and are people showing signals that they might be interested in Zendesk’s products?

On the direct Zendesk content, we do care about things like audience size and engagement, but we are also much closer to the point-of-sale. So we also track things like
leads and if those leads actually become customers. We want to know how our content
is incorporated into the buyer’s journey and if it’s leading to sales.

Q:  Do you have a few favorite pieces of Zendesk content?

A: With Relate one thing we’ve done recently is that we just launched a podcast.

We are really excited about it because it’s more of a radio-style podcast rather than an
interview-style. It’s more like This American Life; we’re looking to tell high-quality stories.

And it’s not just about customer service or business. It’s about how we understand each other. So the first two episodes are all about empathy and the kindness of strangers.


On the Zendesk side, a piece that stands out is research we did on the connection between good customer service and lifetime customer values. 

Everyone knows intuitively that people who have a good customer service experience tend to be more loyal to a company and maybe to even buy more from that company, and
people who have a bad customer service experience might stop doing business with that company or buy less.  

We all know that, but it turns out there was no hard data to back up the assumption.  So we did our own survey and found that more than half of people –  both consumer and
business buyers – have stopped buying from a firm after having a bad customer service experience.  

That research came out a few years ago and it still gets referenced in an article or news
story a few times a week. It’s generated thousands of leads.

Because that research was so successful we’ve actually rerun it again recently and are going to release an updated version of the report.


Q: Final question, how do you see the content space changing over the next few years?

A: A lot of brands got into content thinking that you could take shortcuts and you could do things that were mainly about selling your product.

I think now firms are starting to realize that there aren’t any shortcuts to good content.
So more and more brands are starting to invest in high-quality content that benefits their audiences. They are setting up editorial boards and things like that.

As part of that we’re starting to see more and more risk taking and more adventurous
content. It’s really fun to see. Organizations that have traditionally not given themselves permission to do that sort of thing are starting to take chances and see that it really does pay off.

Of course, that means all brands have to step up their game to compete. That’s hard, but it’s also good for both the company and the consumer.

Written by NativeAI / April 18, 2017