4 Steps to Consider When Creating a Content Strategy
On average, American consumers make 70 choices a day and are bombarded with seemingly endless options across every day tasks and purchases. While the choices may seem limitless, there is often a lack of relevance to the customer, a lack of differentiation among products and muddled messages between brands. As a result, many consumers have signaled a desire to escape all the clutter and noise of today’s marketplace and simplify life with a less-is-more aesthetic. But that message hasn’t hit home for brands and marketers yet.
In fact, most brands are churning out more content than ever before in the form of landing pages, blog posts, whitepapers, infographics and interactive media (video, photo, etc.). According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing has undergone a major boom in recent years, with 88 percent of marketers using it and 51 percent planning to increase their spending in the next 12 months. However, 55 percent of marketers don’t know what content marketing success looks like and don’t know how to measure their results — leading many companies to question the effectiveness of their investment.
While producing relevant content is critical to ensuring your messages reach the end user, if not managed properly, the barrage of content can be to the detriment of your website, and ultimately, your customers. Many brands wrongly believe that the more content they produce and host, the higher ROI will be for their website. In reality, the flood of content being developed has a negative impact on user experience (UX) resulting in bloated, cluttered websites with lagging traffic, low engagement and decreased conversation. Simply put, the rising volume of content isn’t empowering — it’s overwhelming and could be hurting your bottom line.
Many marketers today are unfamiliar with the UX and therefore, don’t consider it when developing their web content strategies. They know that their audience wants to consume and interact with content, but they don’t have a UX strategy in place to ensure that site visitors are able to access the content they want at their exact time of need. To refine their sites and engage the customer, UX must sit at the center of their online content strategy. Taking a step back to create a UX strategy that supports a brand’s story and unique differentiators is critical to online customer engagement and retention.
Here are four steps marketers should consider when creating their content strategy:
1. Create Strong Brand Positioning in Your Market
Defining your business in the space in which it operates is a critical first step in creating an impactful user experience. In order to do this, you must identify your brand’s key differentiators. This is not an endless list of 100 brand qualities you believe are interesting to customers. Choose one to three defined differentiators that focus on what truly makes your brand unique and identifiable. At the end of the day, providing a distinctive offering starts with deciding what brand perspectives or product/service features distinguish you from the pack. And if done right, your user experience will ultimately set you apart from the competition. All website content should demonstrate and attest to these core differentiators.
2. Bring Your Brand to Life with a Compelling Story
Your website should be treated like a storybook, with landing pages that act as a table of contents for what is housed within the corresponding sections of the site. This starts with quick indicators that highlight the subjects and themes that will be covered. In other words, each main page is a trailer to each chapter in the story, offering an idea of what users can expect within, with short compelling content previews. The primary narrative should stay on point, emphasizing what defines your brand. Each page should include just enough content to capture the audience’s interest and encourage engagement without overwhelming, confusing or driving away the end user.
3. Support That Story With Proof Points
Customers don’t want to read what a brand has to say about itself — they want authentic messages backed by tried and tested proof. Often, customers prefer to rely on their own experiences, doing business with brands they know, like and trust. Instead of saturating your website, focus on content that evidences your brand value from a customer-centric perspective. The key is not to overcomplicate your proof. In fact, with an increased reliance on mobile and shortening attention spans, time is not on your side for engaging users. Strong proof points may include data and statistics, easy-to-interpret visuals (infographics) or short narratives (such as thoughtful testimonials). Remember that all content should be relevant to your story while providing insight and value back to your audience.
4. Success is in Simplicity
Everyone loves a simple site, but how do you design one without losing vital information? The key to creating a successful site is easier than many think — once you’ve defined the content that you need, do an audit and reduce it down to its essence. This means that every page of website content should be vital. How do you know if you are on track? Users should be able to quickly scan and understand headlines and summary content should be no longer than 2-3 sentences. As a rule of thumb, every web page should have one clear takeaway — if there is content on the page that doesn’t support it, remove it. Don’t forget to also tailor your content to all audiences, whether they are looking for a bite (e.g. quick visit), a snack (e.g. looking for more information) or a meal (e.g. doing deeper research, hoping to engage).
Telling your brand story through your website is ultimately an act of architecting an experience that communicates your offerings broadly, deeply and in the most relevant way possible to your audience. The best way to garner positive impressions is to think like your audience to ensure that your website serves up the content, resources, knowledge and tools that they’re looking for.
Mimi Young is the co-founder of Behavior Design, an award-winning boutique interactive design studio whose roster of clients has included HBO, JPMorgan Chase and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.