Intercom is a shining example of how content marketing can successfully drive ROI, having used rich, valuable content to help grow the integrated customer communications platform from a $1m to $50m business. Ahead of his keynote address at Publish OR Perish, we caught up with Director of Content, John Collins.

Many businesses fall down because they don’t create compelling content first. If the content isn’t compelling, it’s a bit like flogging a dead horse – no amount of marketing or promotion is going to fix that.

Intercom is really focused on its mission to make internet business personal. Conducting business online has traditionally meant that businesses can work with customers around the work but have very little insight into who those customers are and it’s very hard to make their dealings with customers personal.

A journalist in the software industry should have a very keen interest and awareness of the subject and the impact it’s going to have, not just on business but on society generally. [That said] the skills a journalist possesses – a natural curiosity, the ability to summarise and to research – are more valuable than acquiring a deep subject matter expertise.

I remember when I was editing a PC magazine (back in the nineties, when they were a thing) a developer friend said to me “but you’re not technical, how can you write about x and y” and I said to him: “If they can’t explain their products to me so I can distil it for the reader, how are they going to get the message out to the customer, to the ‘everyman’?”

For journalists it’s about realising that their skills are transferable [to content marketing], that they can use their skills to grow a business – to make a profit. ‘Profit’ can be viewed as a dirty word in that context, when journalism is portrayed almost as a vocation. But the problem with media today lies with the business model, not the profession. Now more than ever there’s a value on non-fake news…

The big issue for B2B or B2C businesses or brands – and something I will be discussing at the conference – is that people put a big effort into [content marketing] upfront but don’t think about how to make it sustainable, so it doesn’t last.

In order to create content people actually want to engage with, it has to be of high quality and you have to express an opinion. That’s something many CEOs are not comfortable with, because it’s not necessarily a ‘safe’ approach. But if you’re not expressing an opinion, it’s pointless.

For businesses to still think that publishing about themselves is of interest to the customer – no one cares; customers want to know what’s in it for them. I’m always amazed when I see companies who have blogs that effectively function like company newsletters.

If I could drive home one thing during my time on stage at Publish Or Perish, it would be the importance of publishing good “stuff” – I’m not even going to call it content. Brands need to focus on publishing good compelling things that people will want to read, watch or listen to.

It’s been a bit of a perfect storm [for content marketing] in terms of things just coming together at once: the media is in crisis; technology is so cheap and accessible and consumers want to know so much more about the brands they are buying from.

Ten years ago Intercom would have communicated its message through computer magazines and sites that are now a thing of the past. Technology has made it so easy now for everyone to get their message out on, say, WordPress for example. People are seeing the power of talking directly to customers instead of going through a third party like a journalist, publisher or broadcaster.

There are two brands in our world which we always look to as examples: Hubspot, which is an amazing machine in terms of creating leads with content which drive their business, and Basecamp, which, considering it’s a 50 person company based in Chicago, yields an influence that far exceeds its size.

In many ways we’ve gone back to the days of silent movies,looking at companies like NowThis who are developing amazing short videos to be played with the sound off.

The question for brands and businesses is not whether you going to do video but rather how you’re going to do video – we’ve reached a stage where a whole generation expects it.

John will be deliver the keynote address at Publish OR Perish: The Content Conference on November 10. Click here for tickets to Ireland’s first dedicated conference content and further information on all of our speakers.

You can follow John Collins on Twitter here