Start Your Content Strategy Part 2 – Create Impact
In Part 1 of this series, we used the Business/Relationship Framework to better define the kinds of customers you do business with or want to do business with. In this post we’ll continue starting your strategy by applying the Framework to specific content designed to create impact for your web users.
Remember in Part 1 we identified 3 simple segments within which we all do business or want to do business. If you missed it, I highly recommend you jump back to read it now – go ahead, I’ll wait. Here’s a brief recap:
The Transactional segment consists of people giving us money for stuff we sell or do, and not much more. Customers most comfortable living in this space share a few common traits:
- They’re value seekers. They’re looking for the cheapest price or the best deal, period.
- They’re comparison shoppers. For a meaningful purchase they’ll do a lot of research before buying.
- They’re price conscious. They’re coupon clippers and deal makers.
In the Practical segment we think a little more about why people are doing business with us, and when. The realities of this segment are more nuanced than the price-driven Transactional.
Customers in this space exhibit traits like:
- They have a specific problem. They’re not tinkering with an idea or researching – they’ve identified their need.
- They have more immediate needs. Sometimes these are distress or duress customers. Buying tires, for instance, is for many people a Practical decision.
- Convenience is king. These customers will pay a premium for convenience, often even over quality. They’ll make a purchase that works for them “for now” with plans to upgrade later if it doesn’t work out.
The Aspirational segment is where many of us like to think we do business. This is often the stuff we tell others about our business, or the daydreams we had when we started our business. This segment is rooted in emotion and experience, for both business and customer.
Our Aspirational customers can be:
- Loyal. They’ll stick with us through thick and thin. Even if we screw up, they’ll avoid leaving us and try to work it out with us instead.
- Evangelists. They’ll tell others about us! They’ll spread the word!
- Believers and Followers. These customers love what we do and will be interested in what we do next. They love the cakes we bake so much that when we announce that we’re also now selling pies, they’ll be eager to give it a try.
Coming back to Content
As we’ve been exploring the Business/Relationship so far, we’ve been considering it in terms of your customers. Now that we have a sense of the simple segments we do business with, we can transition our attention from thinking about customers to thinking about our web users.
Every visitor to your website is on a mission. The more we can understand that mission and either help them with it or get out of the way, the more pleasant their web experience with us will be. The more friction there is to that mission, however, the less pleasant the experience. And the more unpleasant a web experience is, the less likely it is that they’ll do business with us. This means we must deliver the right content for the people we want to do business with us! The Framework lets you get out of your own head about it and start thinking about the person on the other side of the screen. What do they want from your website? What content do they need to start or continue developing a relationship with you?
Transactional customers are looking for – you guessed it – content about value. Pricing, savings, specials, discounts. They’ll appreciate language about price guarantees and developing confidence that they’re getting the best price.
Look at Red Roof Inn’s website and count the number of times you see words like “deals” or “save.” In fact almost everything on this page reinforces an idea related to cost. Look at the big people image – it’s young college kids. My rule about big imagery on the homepage is that it should either be your product or people that use your product. The implication here is that young people who appreciate saving money are a target customer.
Practical customers want content that reinforces convenience. Big maps with highlights of your locations, easy hours and phone numbers. Search mechanisms or content that discusses your broad inventory or easy shipping options. Reviews so people can learn from the experiences of others. Maybe discussion about your rewards program or content about how you’re a one-stop shop that does it all.
Look at Hilton’s homepage. Hilton has a zillion hotels across different brands, from value brands to luxury resorts, but their main homepage features content centered on convenience. A big huge search bar asks, “Where do you want to go?” implying that they probably have a hotel near there – you can explore their “inventory.” You’re encouraged to join their membership program for the convenience of Free Wi-Fi and earning a vacation. In talking about the “lowest price anywhere” they create a bridge to the Transactional customers as well, but there’s much less content about deals, savings, or discounts than the Red Roof Inn homepage. The image is a bit generic, with a woman of indeterminate age communicating casual comfort, but it’s a significant shift from the energetic, youthful group in the Red Roof example.
Finally, the Aspirational customer isn’t looking for content about price or value – they want an experience. They want to picture themselves using your product. This is a great place for content that educates and demonstrates. Videos that show off the beautiful product or ease of use. Showcases about your company’s unique culture or interesting business perspective.
Look at the content for the homepage of Secrets, a luxury resort brand. A scrolling picture slideshow on the homepage shows off their products – their resorts. A color palette and font package feels modern and luxurious, different from the more utilitarian look of Hilton’s homepage . Videos on the homepage show middle-age couples walking on the beach, indicating the audience they’re speaking to. The left-most navigation items are “Our Resorts & Spas” and “Your Secrets Getaway”, inviting users to explore and discover. In fact it’s not until the very bottom of the page that users have a small sliver of content to actually book their stay (an odd decision in any case, I think) – users are clearly encouraged to do a lot of exploring before booking. Compare this to Hilton’s big and obvious search function that’s front and center on their website. And compared to Red Roof Inn’s homepage there’s not a single word about price or savings – in fact words like sophisticated, privileges, upscale and luxury say all that’s necessary about price expectations.
Putting the Framework around your business and content
With all this in mind, let’s complete an exercise to make a very simple audit of your website’s content and the new strategy that might be necessary for you to make a greater impact.
First (and be honest!) – where do you do most of your business?
- Are your customers and the solutions you provide them more in the Transactional space, with value the foremost concern?
- Are they Practical, looking for convenience?
- Are they Aspirational, drinking your kool-aid? Most businesses have some ratio of each of these.
(Again, if you haven’t yet, check out Part 1 to really get a sensibility about what the Framework is and why it matters to you.)
Second – ask yourself where you want to do business.
There’s no wrong answer – many successful businesses live in each segment. Where do live now? Where do you want to live?
Third – now look at your website or your Facebook or your recent email campaigns. Digital content that’s important to you.
Does your content align with the segment you are or want to be doing business in?
- Words that repeatedly drive home savings, value, discounts, and specials. Instilling confidence that “the best deals can be found here.” Use words like free, discounts, % off, guarantee, deal, value.
- Images that accurately represent who your products are for
- Price comparisons or savings demonstrations, such as a graph showing money saved over time, etc.
- Language that creates authority around convenience, such as locations, hours, rewards, specials. Use words like easy, simple, guaranteed.
- Images or videos showing satisfied customers, problems being solved, expectations being exceeded. For instance, if being open late differentiates you, show images of customers engaging with your business in the evening.
- Benefits of how your products, services, or store solves problems or makes life easier. Hilton might have a video, for instance, showing a weary business traveler checking in to her room via her phone, catching up on emails using wifi at her comfortable desk, and enjoying breakfast in the morning – all aspects of convenience.
- Use words that strike emotional chords about quality, superiority, or experience likepremium, sophisticated, beautiful, precise, rich, detailed, breathtaking, or other language in your niche or industry that’s equally as expressive.
- Big imagery that showcases your products or people happily using your products
- High quality web and graphic design that represents the quality you’re trying to demonstrate or communicate. This might include modern fonts, a trendy color palette or high resolution imagery and video.
- Product demonstrations, how-to and learning content, and promotional materials that help users picture themselves as your customer or product user. Videos and imagery showing your unique culture, commitment to quality, etc.
You might print a few pages of your website out on paper and just start jotting some notes about the content you’re experiencing – again, thinking of your web user and the Segment you targeted in the Business/Relationship Framework. If you identified your business and/or customers to be in one Segment but assess your content to be ineffective for doing work in that space, you’re not alone. In my workshops, many customers I work with say they want to be in the Aspirational space, and they have customers already that want to be there with them. Awesome! When they look at their web content, however, most of those same people recognize that the web experience they’re offering doesn’t reflect their ambitions. In fact many of them find that their content is catering more to a Segment they’re really not interested in growing with at all. This means not only is their content potentially not working for them, it could be actively working against them.
If you find this is true for you, take heart! It’s not a judgement, it’s a diagnosis. Through this exercise you’ve identified a problem and a goal, and that’s more strategic thinking than most small businesses ever give to their online content.
Give your content purpose
A sound, strong content strategy is the first, most crucial step to making your website work for you – and it’s the step I see least taken with small businesses. There are lots of important questions to ask and aspects to uncover to build a solid strategy for your content, but the Business/Relationship Framework is a great way to start thinking about who your audience is, what mission they’re on with your website, and how you can respond.
When you have a strategic mindset about your content, you can be intentional about it. Making purposeful decisions about who to reach, when, and how is a critical ingredient to success online. It’s no accident that the Secrets website we explored uses words like luxuriousand upscale and isn’t using images of college kids, just like it’s intentional for Red Roof Inn to use words like save and discount and to not show a middle-aged sophisticated couple walking hand-in-hand. Each is using a strategy for their content to reach their desired audience most effectively.
If you liked this post you’ll love an upcoming Start Your Strategy workshop that I’m leading at iCandy World Headquarters on June 16. We dive deeper into the Business/Relationship Framework, but that’s just the start. Join us as we build your content strategy, explore what makes a great (and not-so-great) web experience for your users, and how my modern conversion funnel can help you define the right content for the right people at the right time. It’s a fun, immersive, powerful day that you won’t want to miss.