No one creates content for an empty room. You create content to delight customers, help your sales team, and support your customer success department. You use it to educate, promote, inspire, and surprise. This means if your content doesn’t achieve any of those goals, you’ve wasted both time and effort.
The only way to find out if your content is actually working is through feedback from the people who read and use it. However, whether it’s due to a lack of time or interest, or fears of retaliation, acquiring honest input often is a challenge.
Rather than sending out time-consuming surveys periodically, soliciting opinions regularly has a higher chance of success. You can gather continuous insights by building content feedback loops that encourage your customers and team to share feedback that can help you grow.
What is a content feedback loop?
A feedback loop is a cycle where you never stop improving your output based on continuous input from relevant stakeholders. Collecting feedback can be done manually or through automation.
In the world of content, that means giving your customers, sales team, customer success team, and other important parties an easy way to leave feedback on your content. After you receive that feedback, analyze and use it to update an existing piece, come up with fresh ideas, or start a new draft.
There are two types of feedback loops:
- An internal content feedback loop gathers feedback from your teammates. These loops focus more on how relevant your content is to the business — whether good or bad — and help you come up with impactful content about your products, new features, and your team values.
- An external content feedback loop gathers external feedback from your users or customers. The focus of these loops is usually on how helpful, relatable, or engaging your content is to external audiences.
Tapping internal and external sources is important to obtain feedback about your content from people who 1) use it to improve your business, and 2) actually consume it as your target audience.
Why are content feedback loops important?
We’ve already established that content doesn’t exist in a vacuum—so creating it in a vacuum doesn’t make sense, either.
Content both attracts new prospects and retains current customers, but to produce helpful, reliable content that ranks, you have to know what your target audience needs. If you don’t solicit their opinions, you’ll essentially be working in an echo chamber.
As Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, said, “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
Feedback loops continuously gather input from the people who use your content so you always know what’s working and what you can improve. Input from your team and customers helps you:
- Better understand your customers’ pain points
- Discover more relevant content ideas
- Learn what types of content your customers appreciate most and why
- Pinpoint which content pieces have generated sales or appeased customer complaints
- Surface new products, services, or features in the pipeline that you need to create content for
- Align with your team on positioning
You can also expect your audience to grow as your content gets better and more consistent. Thanks to content’s compounding effect, each of your pieces builds on one another, increasing your credibility and boosting organic traffic.
Content creation agency Animalz tracked AdEspresso’s content growth and found they grew 2.1 times faster in phase 2 than in phase 1, and 1.8 times faster in phase 3 than in phase 2. Source
Content creation is a long and involved process that requires help and input from multiple sources. If you work with your team and customers, you’ll be able to produce the most effective, relevant content that directly contributes to your business’s growth.
However, on the flip side, the difficulty of creating great content coupled with the compounding effect of content strategy means that the sooner you get started and the longer you invest in your content, the harder it will be for competitors to measure up.
How to build content feedback loops across your organization
As previously mentioned, feedback loops can be made manually or with automation and tools. What’s important is having a process that encourages people to leave feedback and enables you to digest and implement those pieces of feedback ASAP.
Step 1: Get buy-in from your leadership team
Building content feedback loops is a complex process involving many moving parts. For example, if you want to install widgets on your website that automatically gather data from website visitors, you’ll need help from the engineering team.
So, before even starting your project, your leadership team has to agree on the importance of feedback loops. To convince them, you need to tie the value of content feedback loops to business growth either directly or indirectly.
Here are a few angles you can use:
A benefit of external feedback loops is they help you understand your customers’ pain points better. Armed with this information, you can create personalized content that speaks directly to them. What’s more, the retail industry has found personalization can increase customer satisfaction rates by 20%, and sales by 10%–15%.
Another benefit of external feedback loops is that your target audience is facing the most relevant problems and concerns to them every day. They are the best source to stay on top of shifts in the industry, interesting new trends and consensus, and the most pertinent audience Jobs to be Done (JTBD) of the month.
A benefit of internal feedback loops is you can learn and address what your sales and customer support team struggles with most to convey. You can take the common concerns they deal with and create content that helps these departments do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. For example, creating specific onboarding guides that address the most common misunderstandings that the support team has to resolve.
Another benefit of internal feedback loops is you can preemptively prepare for company announcements. This might be a product release, new feature, funding updates, or something else. Staying on top of these as they develop will help ensure no missed deadlines due to late notice, or oversight.
Step 2: Choose tools and systems that make it easy to leave feedback
You can build your feedback loops manually with surveys and calls. Or, you can construct it with tools designed to gather feedback from both internal and external sources.
To gather internal feedback from your team, we recommend employing:
- Monthly calls with relevant departments (more on this in step 3)
- A content collaboration tool like Google Docs or Quip
- Email collaboration tools like Front
- Survey tools like Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, Typeform, or Google Forms
To gather external feedback from your existing and potential customers, we recommend utilizing:
- Occasional feedback calls with your best customers
- A platform that connects you with your customers like Facebook Groups, Reddit, or Slack
- A platform analytics tool like Google Analytics to track metrics like average time on page and pageviews
- A product experience insights tool with website survey pop-ups and heatmaps like FullStory and Hotjar
Hotjar lets you add a survey on each of your pages to make it easier for website visitors to leave feedback before they go.
Make it as easy as possible for people to leave feedback. Otherwise they just won’t want to waste their time.
Step 3: Start gathering feedback from relevant parties
Once you have the tools, it’s time to use them. Start encouraging website visitors, your customers, and your teammates to provide input on relevant articles.
Below are six departments that should be involved in your content feedback loops.
1) Existing customers
Your existing customers are your source of zero-party data. Their feedback can give you insights into your target audience — the content they enjoy the most and which pieces they find useful. I suggest segmenting your top customers’ feedback, since you’ll want to prioritize getting more similar customers.
Gather content feedback from your existing customers by getting on calls with them and sending them surveys. This also lets you hear (and be able to write in) the voice of the customer.
- How/Where did you first find us?
- What questions or concerns did you have before signing up?
- Was there anything you read online that convinced you to sign up?
- What other industry blogs, newsletters, podcasts, or social media channels do you enjoy?
Tip: Look at your and your competitors’ reviews on G2 and Capterra to see what you’re doing better than them, and vice versa.
2) Potential customers
Your potential customers are another source of zero-party and first-party data. Take note of their comments and reviews to learn even more about how your target audience operates.
You can get feedback from them by sending surveys if they’re on your mailing list, starting conversations through newsletters, and adding a feedback or survey pop-up to relevant website pages.
- What brings you to our website today? (Website pop-up)
- What are you most interested to learn from our newsletter?
- What would convince you to sign up for our product/service?
- What alternatives to our product/service are you considering?
Your sales team knows your potential customers’ pain points and hesitations. Ask them to share their sales call data with you so you know what specific problems your product solves and your leads’ JTBD.
You should also have someone from sales periodically look over critical pieces of content to ensure you’re using the same language as your target audience — you want to sound relatable to them, not like a robot.
- What concerns or objections do you have to deal with often?
- What tools will help you close deals quicker? For example a one-pager for a certain service, or a case study of a specific client profile.
- What words and phrases do you hear most often from our customers?
Tip: If you record calls for training purposes, run the recordings through a transcription tool and turn the transcripts into word clouds to see which are the most prominent.
4) Customer success
Your customer success team knows what problems your current customers run into with your product. They can help you find out what topic to write about next based on what your customers repeatedly ask or complain about.
Share a live spreadsheet with your customer success team so they can add questions they receive in a single place. Then, sift through the data and identify trends to incorporate into your next round of content creation.
- What are the most common complaints you receive from customers?
- What questions do our customers ask most frequently?
- Is there anything customers misunderstood before signing up? This information can help you craft blogs and update your sales content to set clearer expectations.
Your product team can tell you what new features are in the pipeline, when those features will be released, and which ones should be highlighted. Product marketers will also have a deep understanding of the customer, their needs, and how they use your product or service.
Get on calls with them on a regular basis to find out what new features your product will have and why they decided to develop those specific updates.
- Who is our ideal customer profile?
- What are the main concerns we should address with our content?
- What is unique or special about our product/service?
- What new features or developments are coming out soon?
- Why are they exciting for our customers? How will the new updates help them?
Your engineering team can help you frame your product to highlight its best elements. They can also point out where your content should be clearer in explaining how the product works.
- What’s unique about our product/service that’s difficult for competitors to replicate?
- How does X new feature work in action? (You can use this walkthrough to create a demo or blog highlighting the various possibilities for a new feature so customers don’t overlook any benefits.)
- What do you think is the most exciting or interesting feature we’ve developed in our product/service to date?
From ideation to content creation and updates, you need to work with all six parties to generate content that checks all the boxes.
Step 4: Analyze feedback
After you’ve collected feedback, you need to analyze it — the good and especially the bad.
If you’re using a tool, you can see data within its dashboard. If not, you’ll need a spreadsheet to track information manually. Make sure your sheet has the following information:
- Reviewer – the name and role of the reviewer (for external feedback, don’t forget to add which segment of your target audience they are in, and their JTBD)
- Feedback – a direct quote of their feedback
- Platform – how they left their feedback
- Content – the relevant piece of content
- Date – when they gave their feedback
- Sentiment – if the feedback is positive, negative, or neutral
- Action to be taken – if you need to take any action based on the feedback
It’s easier to see patterns and trends in your feedback when you have it all in one place. Take note of feedback that you get repeatedly; those are the recommendations you need to apply ASAP or turn into their own content pieces.
For example, if you’re constantly seeing comments on your videos, social posts, and blogs that ask what’s so special about your product, you may want to write an article or record a video clip with the answer. That way, the next time a potential customer asks that question (or one very similar to it), you can redirect them to an in-depth blog or video that addresses it.
Step 5: Act on the feedback
Now it’s time to put that feedback into practice.
Keep a folder of good feedback so you know what your content already does well. Positive input also serves as a confidence boost during times when you doubt yourself and the quality of your brand’s content.
Bad feedback, on the other hand, is what will help you grow. Take the trends you’ve identified and use those insights to update your existing articles and create stronger ones.
For example, if your customer success team tells you your content doesn’t answer the right questions explicitly, you need to work closer with your success team moving forward to hone your copy and messaging. Take another look at the spreadsheet of common questions they shared, send them article outlines to glance over, and check-in about any new questions they’ve seen popping up.
Step 6: Repeat from step 3
And here’s where the loop resets. After you apply the feedback to your content, it’s time to ask for feedback again. Then analyze the new feedback, act on it, and repeat.
The feedback cycle should never end, because there’s always room for improvement.
Wrapping up — Keep your content relevant with continuous feedback loops
Content stays engaging and generates traffic as long as it’s relevant and people find it useful. Once a newer article with better information and more recent stats comes out, your content will get bumped down, maybe even onto the second page of the Google SERP.
Establish content feedback loops to generate a steady stream of inspiration from relevant sources that will help you create better content that people want to consume.