Why Content Strategy
I have read websites with over 30 pages of content, and when I got done I still couldn’t tell you what this organization did, what services they sold, and they never got around to asking me to do anything. There was no call to action. If an airline ran its business the way these websites are written, a pilot would taxi up to the jet way in a 747, lean out the window and ask if anyone wanted to go for a ride.
There can be many reasons why such underperforming websites are so common. One of the primary ones is that few have clear expectations for their website. They create websites while still thinking billboards. A billboard may have a unique and compelling message, but its effectiveness is entirely dependent on its location. The $64,000 question is Will the right people travel down that road? If they don’t, no matter how clever the message, all the work and expense that went into that billboard will have been wasted. A billboard is static; you put it up and more or less forget about it. It will either bring business in or it won’t, and you may never know for sure what it did.
Those with a billboard mentality complacently think their job is done when the website is completed. In truth, their job has just begun. A website is dynamic. On the internet highway, they have to drive traffic to their website. Otherwise the best they can hope for is the occasional lost tourist. For most online visitors, your website was not an intentional destination. The only exception are those few who had one of your business cards from some event or other and bothered to come and look. Everyone else got to your website by accident, on the way to looking for something else.
Unless you currently enjoy international brand recognition, the people who enter words and phrases into search engines have never heard of you or your enterprise. They are seeking information and possibly, solutions to needs. So the first questions for an online strategist or marketing professional to ask and answer are, what needs are you best positioned to satisfy? Who are you, and what, exactly, do you do? And what specific values, benefits, products and services make you notably different from others? Until you have answers to these questions, you cannot know who your target market is, and without identifying your target market, you have begun a journey with no destination in mind. You are looking for an audience, but you don’t know which audience. Many are in a fever to increase traffic to their website without understanding what those numbers mean. Metaphorically, they are pleased as punch that they are traveling 500 miles a day, but in no particular direction and with a poorly defined destination.
Anything you need to know about website marketing you can learn from a garage sale.
Since everything depends on getting significant numbers of people from your target market to your website, how do you make that happen? Well, if you were going to have a garage sale, what would you do? Would it be enough to have all of your goods beautifully laid out in your garage and on your lawn? Not if no one shows up! You have to put up signs—in all the right places. If you are located on a city street on the west side of town, are you going to post a sign on the highway on the east side of town? Lots of traffic but traveling too fast to even see your sign, and it is too far away. Garage sales are neighborhood sales, and your prospects are people who enjoy the browsing as much as making a purchase. When creating a website, post signs in your neighborhood. Your virtual neighborhood are those people who share common interests with you. Who are they, and where do they hang out online? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Instagram? Other websites? Get your signs up!
There is a strategy to successful garage sales. Shouldn’t there be one to your online content marketing?
Usually garage sales are small and uncomplicated, handled by mom and one or two kids or friends perhaps. But in businesses, the operation is more complex and therefore more fragmented. One person or department may be in charge of product selection, merchandising and display. Another may be responsible for social media (signage) and others for pricing, staffing, public relations, and calculating the gain or loss from the activity. Each participant specializes in a particular function, often called silos, and they tend to see the entire operation through a particular lens or viewpoint. There are many tasks, but there can be only one coherent message.
It’s a lovely clear, warm day with a light breeze blowing, and it seems everybody has the same idea and is having a garage sale today. How are you going to compete? What overriding benefit or value are you going to pitch? They only see your posted signs fleetingly as they drive by. In just a few words, what will you say that could make a difference? And what if you’re not the only one making up signs? Do you think it might be important that you coordinate your content?
Timing is critical. You don’t post garage sale signs two months before the event, but online publicity efforts may be planned a year or more in advance. What tools will be most effective to raise market awareness (web content, email campaigns, reports, press releases, white papers, case studies, blogs, and coordinating social media), and what will the content for each of these be?
An online content strategist’s work is like an orchestra conductor. It is not enough to have great music and superb musicians. There has to be subtle coordination, all participants acting on cue, with one overall effect. We have come a long way from a billboard on a country road.
Develop a baseline and an action plan
In order to develop a baseline against which we can measure all future marketing actions, I like to begin with a 35-point review of your current website in the context of your overall corporate history and current marketing goals. We analyze content strength, use of links, ease of navigation, graphics and animation, graphic design, and SEO essentials. This is the equivalent of a complete check-up of your online vehicle before commencing a major road trip. This process generally takes two to three weeks, and you get a full written report complete with screen shots of your website pages and others showing best industry practices for comparison. Concrete recommendations are made to help you achieve your articulated goals, and a plan to monitor your progress. For more information about this contemporary and comprehensive website check-up, click here.