Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!
Matthew Speiser is a staff writer at Fundera, where he writes long-form, educational, SEO-driven content that helps entrepreneurs make better business decisions.
Previously, he worked on editorial at Google, and before that, wrote for Business Insider.
Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware.
How did you get into content marketing? What’s your origin story?
My background is in journalism, and for the first few years after school I worked as a reporter for places like NJ.com and Business Insider.
However, I felt the media industry was in major flux— I saw many publishers struggling to find sustainable business models and journalists working with the sword constantly hanging over their head.
Therefore, I decided to transition into tech where I felt there was a lot more opportunity to be had, especially in the SaaS space.
My skill set as a writer made me a natural fit for a content marketing job, and a lot of the other skills required to be a great content marketer (SEO, metrics tracking, etc.), I’ve been able to pick up along the way.
Is there anything particular to your background, personality or skill set that you believe makes you a great content marketer?
I feel I’ve always had a knack for being able to take complex topics and break them down in such a way that they become approachable to readers.
I’m also hungry for knowledge.
I want to keep finding new ways to improve my skills, because I believe anything worth doing is worth doing to the best of your abilities.
To that end, I’ve taught myself quite a bit that has helped me become a better content marketer, such as how to produce and edit YouTube videos, how to optimize content for SEO, how to create customer testimonials, and how to build my personal brand so that I am viewed as an authority in my niche.
What’s a unique challenge to working on content in the finance space?
I’ve always felt finance is unnecessarily jargon-y, and can be less approachable to those who don’t have a financial background.
In the small business finance space in particular, terms like “merchant services,” “virtual terminal,” “point of sale,” and “payment processing” are deliberately ambiguous and often used interchangeably.
I didn’t have a background in finance before coming to Fundera, but I was able to teach myself about all of these topics simply by writing about them. How? Well, when you write a 2,000+ piece on a topic like merchant services, it’s hard to fake it. Either you understand it or you don’t.
So when I write on a topic I’m unfamiliar with, I make sure to spend a lot of time doing my research. Once you write a complete guide on a topic you may have not known initially, you end up becoming quite knowledgeable on it. Then you can take that knowledge and build upon it when you write about different-but-similar topics.
So the challenge is helping readers understand complex topics that they might not have known at first, and the solution is doing your research so you can put that topic in layman’s terms (I’ve found that usually the topic ends up being not nearly as complicated as you thought it would be).
What’s the best advice anyone has given you on content marketing and SEO, and how does it impact your work today?
Our goal at Fundera is to create the most comprehensive piece of content on whatever topic we are writing about. And as I said before, I feel anything worth doing is worth doing well.
So whenever I sit down to craft a piece of content, I am simply thinking about how I can make it the best piece of content it can possibly be, because that will provide the most value to our readers.
In terms of specifics, I try and think about what I can include in my article that other publications did not include in theirs. I also try and put myself in the mind of the reader, and ask myself what I would want to know if I was reading about this topic for the first time.
This can be a very useful exercise if you’re trying to simplify a complex subject.
What’s the biggest mistake content marketers make with regard to strategy? How should they look at things differently?
I think the biggest mistake content marketers make is not thinking about value add.
There is almost always going to be another piece of content on the internet that is about the same thing you’re writing about. (And if there isn’t, that’s a golden opportunity for you.) I try and look at that piece of content and think to myself how my piece of content can be better.
That may mean breaking down a similar-but-different topic that will help shape the reader’s overall understanding of the subject.
I also try and include examples on how this subject relates to them and how they can apply it to make smarter business decisions or run their business more efficiently.
What new tactics or plays are underutilized or surprisingly effective?
I think one tactic that is very effective when it comes to producing good content is to keep your target audience in mind.
This will help you create a piece of content that provides your audience with the greatest value add. Our target audience is small business owners, and so I like to think about how I can best serve them with my content.
One factor in particular that I like to keep in mind is that small business owners do not have a lot of time on their hands. This means I want to write a piece of content that is extremely comprehensive (so that they don’t have to waste time reading multiple articles), gets the point across right away, and breaks down the content into digestible sections so that the reader can jump around to find the info they need.
If you weren’t doing content marketing, what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be doing some kind of writing—be it journalism or creative writing. I’ve always been interested in how good content can influence social causes, such as climate change or income inequality. So maybe I’d be doing something with that.
What inspires you? Who do you follow? How do you come up with new ideas for blog posts, campaigns, tactics, etc.?
Great writing inspires me, because it makes me want to produce something great.
So when I read my favorite authors (Murakami, Michael Lewis, Bukowski) it makes me think about how I can improve my skills as a writer.
For advice on how to become better at what I do, I follow people like Ryan Holiday, Brené Brown, and Mark Manson, as I’ve found they usually have good advice on how to live a good life and master your craft.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing? Or rather, three tips anyone can use to write better.
- Every time you write something, think about how you can say what you want to say using as few words as possible. This will help keep your writing sharp and concise. Also keep this in mind when editing.
- As content marketers, we should aim for clarity and simplicity, so try to eliminate as much jargon and highly technical language as possible. If it can’t be avoided, make sure you explain it in depth before moving on.
- A college professor once told me “nobody likes to write, they like to have written.” Even though I’ve been writing for most of my adult life, there is still a little trepidation when I’m just about to start a 2,000+ word piece. However, once you start writing, it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, so just dive right in and try not to think too hard about it.