Every Friday, we’re answering your questions about business, startups, customer success and more.
In our new Groove Friday Q & A segment, we’re answering any questions that you have about, well, anything.
A huge thank you to Chris Scott, Madhav Bhandari and Ryan Mattock for this week’s questions.
Check out this week’s answers below, and jump in with your own thoughts in the comments!
How do you know who to hire next?
I included this question because it’s something I struggle with myself.
We’re a small team, so each new employee sends relatively big waves through the entire company. We think very carefully about who to hire, and when.
From our own experience, there’s no “right” blanket answer for who each startup should hire first.
It depends on a lot of things.
But thinking about the issue in the right way, and asking the right questions, has helped me get a lot better about this:
- What’s our most pressing goal as a company right now? Do you need to ship product faster? Bring in more users? Get better at tracking? Be faster in support?
- Is the hole we’re filling going to continue to be a hole in the long-term, or can we fill it with something more temporary? Sometimes bringing in a contractor can be an economical solution that leaves you more financially nimble in the long run.
- What are you or your team spending time on that would be better done by someone else? This might mean that you have developers working on something that’s not in their domain expertise, and thus doing it 3-4x slower than a specialist would. It might mean that you, as CEO, are spending too much time doing marketing, and the effort would be best given to someone else. I’ve said before that a great goal for a startup team is to have everyone making the highest-value use of their time, always. You have to enable that to happen by hiring the right people so that everyone can do the things that they’re best at.
Like all startups, our goals and needs have been fluid from the start. Our first hires were developers, because we needed to build. Our next hire was a support person, because we needed to get our customers engaged. After that, we brought in marketing, then more devs, and so on…
So while I can’t give you the answer you probably hoped for, I hope that these questions give you some direction and help you arrive at a more concrete conclusion.
Do you keep SEO keywords in mind when deciding on blog post titles?
I’ve changed my views on SEO over the course of Groove’s history. I used to think it was spammy (and it can be), but I’ve since come around to realizing that it’s actually tremendously valuable when you approach it the right way. More on that here.
Our number one priority with our editorial approach hasn’t changed: publish the most useful, valuable and interesting content we can.
While we don’t compromise that goal with SEO keywords, paying attention to SEO can actually serve to further that goal.
If I write a valuable post, I want as many people as possible to read it. In that case, isn’t it my obligation to ensure that I do what’s possible to position the post to get as much exposure as I can?
Understanding SEO is one of the ways you can do that.
I’m not advocating simply stuffing keywords into your post titles (this really doesn’t even work anymore). I am *advocating using keyword research to try to learn what questions people have and what problems they’re trying to solve, *and the exact words they use to frame those questions and problems.
I’ll give you a real-life example: Len wrote a post on the support blog that shared some customer service email templates. But at first, the post title used the word “scripts,” not templates.
After some research (I outlined our process for SEO research here), it became clear to him that far fewer people searched for templates rather than scripts. He changed the title, and the post today gets more than 15,000 unique visitors per month, delivering value to far more readers than it would have if it had been titled differently.
So while I don’t think you should simply throw keywords at you title, SEO can be a valuable part of writing blog post titles that get people’s attention.
Should you wait until after you launch to start marketing?
I think you should start marketing as soon as you possibly can, and here’s why: you have very little to lose, and everything to gain.
I keep coming back to the story that Rick Perreault, CEO of Unbounce, shared in his interview on our blog: Unbounce started their blog six months before they even had a product.
The question we had from the beginning was “how are we going to find customers?” It’s not like people are searching “landing page solution” or “landing page builder.” People didn’t even know to look for us, so how will we go out and find them? So that was a really important challenge for us to tackle, and we made the decision to start blogging on day one. [Ed. note: actually, it was more like day -165, as the product was six months from launch]
We needed to make connections with thought leaders, and to become thought leaders ourselves. So we worked hard, blogging, guest posting and promoting, and by the time we launched, we already had a reputation in the space. The thought leaders we had built relationships with talked about our product and got people interested. I don’t think there would’ve been any other way to succeed.
As a result, the team had a strong launch and signed up a lot of users, fast.
Even if you don’t have a product yet—especially, in fact—you should be doing customer development to understand your audience as deeply as possible.
This will help you build the right product from the very beginning, but it will also clue you in to the types of problems your customers are having, and the types of content that you can publish now that would be useful to them.
Publish that content, promote the hell out of it, build your list, and launch with the luxury of an already-engaged audience of people that are perfect candidates to buy your product.