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7 Places to Get Free, Personalized Creative Content (That You’re Totally Wasting)

There comes a point in every creative content writer’s career where you find yourself staring at a flashing cursor and begging every deity you can think of for inspiration. Writing for a business was supposed to be a lot easier than penning the great American novel, so why do you feel like Kathy Bates is about to chop off your legs?

“You can type 112 words per minute,” your boss says. “How can it take you four hours to write a 750-word blog post?”

On the plus side, I'm getting really good at this.

On the plus side, I’m getting really good at this.

Like fiction writers, coming up with an idea is often the most challenging part. While you enjoy the freedom to write content that’s engaging and covers a wide range of topics, the vastness of possibilities can be overwhelming.

But what if I told you there was a magical place where you could get free creative content specifically tailored to your company? This place has people that know the ins and outs of your industry as a whole and your own company’s way of doing things, and they can provide insight no “marketing guru,” “content wizard,” or “promotional ninja” with a crappy splash page can do.

What if I told you this magical place was within walking distance?

Wait until they've taken their face out of the screen before asking any questions.

Wait until they’ve taken their face out of the screen before asking any questions.

Get Connected with Web Development

A company website is often the face of a business, and who has a better handle on that fresh first impression than the web development team? Blog inspiration or social media content can be inspired by the successes and failures. Perhaps your team can share previous versions of the company’s website front pages over the years; the web development team will likely have screenshots or even saved copies of previous versions of the site. The QLP staff has heard rumors that companies do occasionally update their sites from time to time.

Questions to ask:

  1. What was most recently changed on our site, and how has that affected the way we do business (e.g., conversion rates, customer service requests, customer profiles)?
  2. What feature of the site has had the most surprising response?
  3. What designs were rejected, and why didn’t they make the final cut?
  4. What change to the site has had the biggest impact on our bottom line?
  5. What’s in store for the next website update?

Maybe avoid this guy, though.

Maybe avoid this guy, though.

Shoot the Breeze with the Sales Staff

Whether your business is done exclusively online and over the phone like QLP or the site is only set up to direct people to brick and mortar stores, there’s no doubt that the sales staff has more interaction with the customers than any other department. Getting the inside scoop on customer concerns and compliments help you write a more effective FAQ and give you more targeted information for sales blast emails.

Questions to ask:

  1. What questions do customers ask the most, and do we have that information available on our site or other marketing literature?
  2. What do customers seem to be the most surprised by regarding our company’s policies and offerings?
  3. How would you describe the “typical” customer in terms of their needs, concerns, values, and trusted sources of information?
  4. What, if any, of our policies (e.g., no online chat support) are deal breakers for customer loyalty?
  5. What seems to be the most confusing part of the ordering process for customers?

Customer service is now primarily conducted over the phone and live chat due to a rash of fire-breathing lawsuits in the '70s.

Customer service is now primarily conducted over the phone and live chat due to a rash of fire-breathing lawsuits in the ’70s.

Snag an Exclusive from Customer Service

Customer service offers a unique perspective to the company-customer relationship; they almost exclusively deal with negative experiences. Even well-run companies with quality products and comprehensive websites run into snags now and then, and this trusty team is in charge of straightening everything out.

Customer service representatives are critical for content creation inspiration, because they know better than anyone else where communication has broken down. Whether the instructions for product manuals need to be rewritten for clarity or the returns process is too confusing for the average customer, this department offers a strong point of reference for where content is sorely needed.

Questions to ask:

  1. What is the most common complaint, and do we have any protocols in place for preventing this issue from cropping up in the future?
  2. What is the preferred method of communicating with customer service representatives (i.e., live chat, email, phone)?
  3. What do customers seem to primarily want out of a customer service interaction – a solution to the problem, discount, public apology?
  4. How can the sales staff, web development team, or content creators provide customers information that would reduce the amount of extra assistance needed?
  5. What policies (e.g., no returns after 30 days) have been dealbreakers for repeat business, and what alternatives have been explored?

6. Ask them where they get teeny tiny rolls of paper.

6. Ask them where they get teeny tiny rolls of paper.

Chat Up Accounting

Although accounting may have limited interaction with the public, they are still managing the blood that runs through the veins of the company – cold, hard cash. They crunch the numbers often while deadlines are crunching them. Their management of funds often drives the speed and efficiency of daily operations, both internal and external.

Questions to ask:

  1. What is the most common error in the payment process on the customer’s end?
  2. What mistake or procedural redundancy most often causes a delay in transactions?
  3. What are the fastest ways to get the most common accounting slip-ups solved?
  4. Which salespeople and customers are most proficient at smooth transactions, and what do they do different from those who struggle?
  5. To whom should the customer contact in order to fix financial faults – customer service or accounting?

It's a metaphor.

It’s a metaphor.

Get the Low Down from Data Entry

If any department gets the “thankless job” award, it’s data entry. They’re often only noticed when something goes wrong, which can be pretty disheartening. It’s a surprise they’re often overlooked considering they likely have the best grasp of the breadth of company product and service offerings and have to manage endless streams of data.

Data entry staff members know which specs have been updated recently and often can be among the first to know after the designers and web developers what’s being added to the site next. Their inside knowledge on the nuts and bolts can secure some top content.

Questions to ask:

  1. Which product specifications are overlooked or misunderstood most often by the sales staff and/or customers?
  2. How much variety is there in the products and services offered?
  3. How often do product specifications change, and why?
  4. Do product updates or new merchandise offerings go live on a set schedule, or is it too variable to predict?
  5. What is the “real” meaning behind some of the more vague product specifications? For example, if something is listed as “waterproof,” is it really more “splash proof” or can it fall into the ocean and still function?

Remove all traces of Cheeto residue before attempting to use the touchscreen feature.

Remove all traces of Cheeto residue before attempting to use the touchscreen feature.

Tune in with IT

Talk about being connected! The information technology staff at your company may only interact with the employees, but that means they provide a wealth of information that can be used for in-house content such as company newsletters and manuals.

They wield major power in the company, often having access to everyone’s computer and tablet content, and their role as first responders to tech glitches mean they’re always monitoring boatloads of information.

Questions to ask:

  1. What is the most common “human error” causing tech issues in the company?
  2. What are some strategies less computer savvy employees can use to solve common or minor computer issues?
  3. What can sales staff do to help a sale run smoothly if necessary hardware or software is malfunctioning?
  4. When is the best time of the day or week to contact IT for a non-emergency technology issue?
  5. What absolute no-nos can cause devastating damage to the system (e.g., erasing files from certain drives, unplugging the computer without a proper shut down)?

Show me on this chip where he touched the circuit. It's okay. It's not your fault.

Show me on this chip where he touched the circuit. It’s okay. It’s not your fault.

Hang Out with Human Resources

Although it’s tempting to use this department for company gossip, that avenue may not be the best path to cull creative content. Instead, focus conversations with human resources on the hiring process. While the economy is still recovering with plenty of applicants for open positions, creating targeted job descriptions will help pull the perfect pool of candidates.

Questions to ask:

  1. What skills or experience are absolutely required for open positions, and what is strongly recommended?
  2. What kind of follow-up (if any) should job candidates do after initial application?
  3. What are some alternative key words that might bring in a more qualified round of applicants?
  4. Have job candidates been hired from unrelated backgrounds, and how did they sell themselves in the application process?
  5. What are some common things applicants do that get their resume thrown in the trash immediately?

So instead of burning the image of a blank document onto your monitor, take a stroll around the office and fulfill that “team player” line on your resume.

What inspiration can you find from your coworkers? What aspects of the company have you always been curious about? Who at your company has the most interesting job? Sound off the comments below!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Expand Your Brand!



Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.

Comments

  1. Wash

    Ha, there are some awesome picture captions in here!

  2. Julie Mussared

    This is a great post Jana.
    It is definitely beneficial to let others learn from your process, but even within the company when people in different departments can get a grasp of the big picture it will really help a company succeed.
    Long story short, a blog post like this is not only good for your readers, but your company too. :)

  3. Jingle Writer

    Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom Jana. At the moment, I am more focused on content curation than actual creative writing itself, but this post has given me a number of new ideas with which I can work. With resources like these, I might have to say that writer’s block is a thing of the past.

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