Xero blog: Focus on the customer, and do so with your strengths

Xero’s blog has drifted off course recently, as they commissioned external writers to come up with such marvels as Choosing the right smartphone for your businessHow to avoid holiday computer disastersSocial networking policy: what’s in yours?How to exit a business and win and How to make sure your emails aren’t marked as spam.

The quality of the commissioned writing is poor. It’s not poor because the writers cannot write, but because their assigned topics are too broad, the content isn’t new or especially insightful and they are not writing from Xero’s perspective. There are far better sources for the article content on the internet and in books, but the authors generally attempt to summarize the topic Demand Media style instead of linking to the authorities.

You can tell that the posts are poor by the number and nature of comments that these posts generally attract. The Computer Disasters post, as I read it today, has just two comments, and one of them is a link back from the author who posted the text to his own blog on the same day. The other comment looks like spam. The author’s own blog attracted no comments.

This gradual build up of commissioned content came to a head with the Choosing the right smartphone for your business post from Dec 30th, where commenter Kelvin nailed it with “adding generic content to this blog about social media, smart-phone choices, e-books, etc… dilutes the value of the blog.”

What to do

I was disappointed and surprised that the Xero team chose to go this way, though perhaps just as an experiment. The external content is obviously poor and the reading the Xero blog is no longer so fun.

Perhaps this was part of a SEO strategy to attract more page views to the blog, but even if so SEO  should never substitute for great and relevant content, and certainly not by straying into vaguely relevant and generic commissioned articles.

I would primarily nudge the Xero team to remember the wonderful customer-first approach to business that is part of Xero’s culture.

In the latest phone review instance, if Xero really thinks the topic is important then internal writers can instead point customers to great reviews found elsewhere, and then discuss how Xero works on each of the platforms. Blackberry and Xero – what should one do? Selecting a new phone? Xero works best on X and Y.

Xero has a large number of strengths, and should continue to use these to deliver the news and views to the growing Xero community, keeping the genuine Xero voice.

To that end Xero does demonstrate to customers how to do phones, social networking and everything else right by walking the talk, producing awesome products that shine on each platform and being leaders in genuine engagement with customers through different media. Posts on Xero Touch, the sniper teamHow web hosting benefits from an open API, Double Entry Bookkeeping, and Lunch with Meg are written by Xero insiders for Xero customers and community.

More of the same please.

<update. Xero agree, and have, naturally, blogged about it. Kudos>

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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13 Responses to Xero blog: Focus on the customer, and do so with your strengths

  1. Agreed 100%. I was shocked by that smartphone post, it was comedically bad.

  2. Nice comment Lance. Xero, we love your work but in any relationship a little silence is fine -don’t feel the need to fill the vacuum if there is nothing to say.

  3. Lance – agreed that it has been a bad direction in terms of editorial quality, but also need to point out that this is a strategy that many other SaaS companies have tried – building a central hub that is the go to place for “thought leadership” in their particular field. Examples include Rypple for HR issues and the like.

    The issue for Xero is trying to find exactly what is the little chunk of the internet they want to focus on. Until now it’s been primarily Hamish writing stuff for practitioners but obviously for Xero to scale to the mainstream they need to nail their SEO and accounting specific posts (alongside Xero specific posts) won’t do this.

    My advice (not that i think they’d listen but just something to throw out there) would be to create the go to place for small and mid sized businesses to go to to inform themselves about issues relating to them – not so broad as a very general post about mobile phone choices and the like, but things like;

    – “Using technology to let you focus on working on, rather than in, your business”
    – “What our own customers use as business technology tools”
    – Perhaps an “Accounting for dummies” series that can refer back to how Xero is helping customers

    My 2 cents and YMMV

    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Thanks Ben

      >Until now it’s been primarily Hamish writing stuff for practitioners but obviously for Xero to scale to the mainstream they need to nail their SEO and accounting specific posts (alongside Xero specific posts) won’t do this.

      As I see it everyone has been writing stuff for practitioners and customers, but what really gets me going is the idea of changing what you say and who you are in order to achieve some sort of search engine optimisation. There is a point where we all have to say enough is enough, and just write quality content and let Google et al figure out where that is. It doesn’t take much for us to realise that the SEO oriented writing is dreck, and eventually the search engines get it as well. The other thing about quality content is that it attracts genuine high quality prospects.

  4. The Flying Kiwi says:

    Agreed with Lance and Ben.

  5. Matt Peach says:

    Totally agreed. It’s like Xero is gradually handing the blog over to “social media experts”. There must be a lot of Xero developers cringing when they see commissioned articles like these on what is otherwise mostly a great site.

  6. Anna says:

    I have been reading the blog for 3 or 4 years, and I agree with the article including the above comments. What will be interesting to see over the next couple of weeks, will Xero actually listen or will these types of articles still be added to the blog.

  7. Funny thing is as soon as I read that ‘article’ all I could think of is SEO spam rubbish. I was going to comment but I was reading it my iPad and didn’t have the time to draft something decent but it looks as though everybody else does.

    I’m with Lance and Ben. They should be posting great content. The question is what content? If they want to become ‘though leaders’ as Ben suggests then halfarsed articles like the smartphone one won’t cut it. To me a thought leader in this case should be diving deep into running a SME. What tools can we use?, What processes can we automate?, How can the cloud save me time and money (specifics such as how you would use Dropbox, etc.)?

    I’m almost at the point of unsubscribing from the Xero blog as it offers Zero value add to me as a small business owner (pun intended).

  8. ezidoesitDermott Renner says:

    I agree, when I saw the SmartPhone blog entry I thought they had lost the plot totally. To me these days blogs are rolled into the greater Social Media area of business (Twitter, FB, blogs etc) and I think Xero could expand in this area. If they want a good example in NZ they should look at Air NZ who I think do it best here and at low cost. In fact social media was one of the areas mentioned by ATW in awarding Air NZ Airline of the Year 2012.

    I think also Xero have in the past reacted too much to comments people made that they disagree with. They should just ignore these because reacting makes them look worse.

    Good blog post Lance

  9. Agree with Matt, well done Xero – takes guts to front up and admit that you’ve made a mistake and sounds like they’re taking the advice/criticisms of their readers pretty seriously.

  10. Michael Mori says:

    Good blog about Xero blog – the power of social media – Xero has taken note!

  11. Roger Rowles says:

    Interesting shift in the trend. As a small business owner, I’ve noticed it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the blog, twitter, FB, etc., hype. But I agree, sometimes it’s just too much. Way to keep it real Xero. Keep up the good work on the software, too. Love it.

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