Content Strategy Development

Learn Content Strategy Basics

Define the term content. Describe an effective content experience. List common content challenges. Explain what content strategy is.
  • What is Content?
    • Content can take many forms: blog post on a website, YouTube video, how-to article in a help portal
    • Content is also a:
      • Product: it requires research, design, development, and iteration
      • System: it connects people, processes, technology
      • Set of data: it must be structured and modeled
      • Business Asset: it can be tied to objectives, metrics, and results
      • An Experience
  • The Content Experience
    • Comprehensive experience of customers who interact with your content during their journey with your product or service - customer-centric approach to content
    • Good content experience considers:
      • Who’s the audience? Their needs, problems, expectations, goals?
      • How, when, where do customers interact with the content?
      • How do customers feel when engaging the content?
      • Is the content easy to find?
      • How is the content presented/delivered?
    • End-to-end customer lifecycle is best described as a journey, and its best to give them a compass - a seamless, personalized experience that points them in the right direction.
  • Common Content Challenges
    • Customer can’t find answers and don’t know where to look
    • Right info is buried under an avalanche of irrelevant or outdated content
    • Content isn’t consistent or useful
    • Content is too general, basic, or jargony
    • Info is disjointed and fragmented, so customers can’t connect the dots
    • Not enough real-world examples, solutions, best practices
    • Content doesn’t address the needs of people at different skill levels
  • Roots of the Problem
    • Lack of vision: no single person at an organization has a clear picture of all the published content, and there are no strategic enterprise-wide objectives for content, so it’s hard to measure content effectiveness
    • Tactical Silos: multiple teams churning out inconsistent or duplicate content and have different agendas, so the big picture is ignored
    • Research Gaps: user research hasn’t been prioritized, so teams don’t know enough about customers to create rich, valuable content experiences
  • Content Strategy: a practice that aligns the needs of your customers with the goals of your business. Determines what content to create, what content not to create, and how the content fits into the customer journey
    • Helps you provide the right content to the right people in the right place at the right time for the right reasons
    • If you can’t articulate the strategic value of a piece of content, you probably shouldn’t create it
    • Basic process to develop content strategy
      • Craft a vision and get buy-in from stakeholders
      • Learn about customers, map their end-to-end journey
      • Evaluate existing content
      • Define, pilot, evangelize the strategy
    • Involves cross-functional collaboration, change management, lots of stakeholders
  • It takes a village - companies may have several teams that create content: marketing, product, documentation, service, training

Craft Your Content Vision

Identify and interview stakeholders. Align stakeholders around a shared content vision. Define business objectives for your content strategy.
  • Embrace the Possibilities: Path to developing a successful content strategy begins by rethinking what content is and what it can do for the organization
  • Identify Key Stakeholders
    • Start by identifying people who have the most to gain or lose from a company-side content strategy - these are stakeholders
    • Important to engage them early on in the process
    • Factors to consider when assembling a content strategy team:
      • Representation: leadership from all impacted teams should be included
      • Strategy: include colleagues that can provide high-level input on overall business objectives, priorities, challenges
      • Expertise: content experts, these could be thought leaders, influencers, technical implementation mangers, etc
  • Interview the Stakeholders - consider the following in particular:
    • What are they trying to achieve?
    • Short-term goals? Long-term goals?
    • How does content help them with those goals?
    • How do they define and measure success?
    • Do they have any concerns, expectations, and priorities?
    • What are their team’s content challenges and pain points? Needs and constraints?
  • Establish a Unified Vision
    • Different stakeholders will likely have different goals, for example:
      • Marketing may see content as a tool to drive brand awareness and boost SEO growth, but
      • Product may see an opportunity to differentiate and improve customer satisfaction
    • Tricky goal is to align
  • Narrow the Focus
    • Consider the question “Where can content have the greatest impact?”
    • By narrowing the focus, you can build a strong case for the strategic value of content, set realistic expectations, and secure buy-in
    • Example: one of a company’s top problems might be “High Support and Customer Acquisition Costs”
  • Define the objectives
    • After selecting the specific business need, you need to define meaningful goals for the content strategy.
    • What metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) will you use to measure results? Examples:
      • Reduce support costs by 15%
      • Increase digital interactions from 10% to 40%
  • Your Content Vision in Action
    • In the real world, it can be challenging to secure buy-in. Consider taking two approaches in parallel:
      • Top-down: leadership identifies needs of the business
      • Bottom-up: tackle a small pilot project as a proof of concent, and secure a tactical win to build grassroots support
  • Devise Your Pilot Strategy
    • Establish a clear business objective with a core metric to help measure success of the pilot
    • Target a specific audience and their particular needs or goals
    • Pick a realistic amount of content the pilot team can handle
    • Be prepared to make course corrections
  • Evaluate Content Maturity
  • A team of content stakeholders typically defines the objectives for a content strategy
  • “Increase the Net Promoter Score by 10%” is a meaningful, specific business goal, not “Enhance the customer experience” or “Become a market leader”

Get to Know Your Audience

Explain what user research is and what you can learn from it. Conduct research to learn about your audience. Create research deliverables to share with stakeholders and content teams. Map the customer journey. Identify customers’ needs.
  • Talk to Your Customers
    • Content strategy helps you provide the right content to the right people in the right place at the right time
    • Learn to anticipate customers' needs by talking to them (IE, doing user research)
  • The Importance of Research
    • Many companies consider research too expensive, but this is short-sighted
    • Research ensures you won’t waste valuable resources creating content that fails to meet the customers' needs and therefore saves money long-term
  • Where to Start
    • Companies generally start with an informal set of assumptions and guesses about its customers, and these assumptions may not be the same across teams/departments
    • First step, form an shared, initial hypothesis by organizing a discovery workshop with stakeholders - goal is to foster thought-provoking conversations about the audiences who rely on your company’s content
  • Test Your Assumptions
    • User research will help flesh out and correct the hypothesis
  • Choose the Right Methods
    • Many companies prioritize quantitative research, like surveys and web analytics
      • The resulting numerical data is useful, but falls short when you need to learn about customers' behaviors, thoughts, and feelings at different stages of their journey
    • Best to supplement quantitative research with qualitative research, like interviews and observation
    • Reference this trailhead module on UX Research Basics
  • Conduct the Research and Capture Insights
    • Deliverables and Descriptions:
      • Personas (or Jobs-to-Be-Done): capture data about customers and identify needs and goals in specific contexts
      • Top Tasks: tasks that matter most to customers
      • Journey Map: Diagram that illustrates all the stages and touchpoints of the customer’s journey
  • A Fully Developed Picture
    • Major benefit of running the research study is that you now have a complete, holistic view of the entire customer journey:
      • Awareness
      • Consideration
      • Decision
      • Installation
      • Onboarding
      • Usage
      • Advocacy

  • Identify the Customers’ Needs
    • Create a spreadsheet (like the one provided for free by Salesforce, linked here) that lists the stages in their customer journey
    • Document the customers' needs during each stage, considering the following questions:
      • What problem is the customer solving?
      • What is the context that triggers them to act?
      • What do they need to understand, learn, achieve?
      • What tasks do they perform? What decisions are they making?
      • What are their expectations, concerns, pain points?
      • What channels/touchpoints are they using?
      • What emotions are they feeling?
      • What happens after they achieve their goal? Or if they don’t achieve it?
  • Actionable Insights
    • Distill this information into a presentation to deliver to each department when the company rolls out the new customer journey maps
  • Find the Gaps
    • New user needs will emerge from the process, high-lighting an opportunity for content to be developed

  • Interviews are a good research method for getting insight into your customers' needs
  • Journey map is a research deliverable that visualizes the customer lifecycle

Evaluate Existing Content

Create a content inventory. Define audit criteria. Determine the scope of your evaluation. Conduct a content audit.
  • Survey the Content Landscape
    • Most organizations churn out masses of content, and no one knows how much has been published, where it is, what it says, why it was created, whether its useful, etc
    • Effort needs to be put in to evaluate existing content
  • Make an Inventory
    • First step, find all the content. Steps to do so:
      1. List all content repositories, like the main website, microsites, knowledge base, help documentation, etc
      2. Create an inventory of the content assets using an audit template like the one provided by Salesforce, linked here
      3. Include factual information about each piece of content - title, URL, location, etc
      4. Click hyperlinks on the web pages - following the bread crumb trail is a good way to reveal hidden content that’s been forgotten or abandoned
  • From Inventory to Audit
    • Next, audit the content, answering questions like:
      • Who are the audiences?
      • Is it possible to find the content? What is the path to the content?
      • What’s the content quality?
      • Is the content tagged and categorized? Is the navigation clear?
      • Does each piece of content align with business objectives?
  • Define the Audit Criteria
    • Objective details:
      • Audience, Journey stage, Calls to action, Content type, Keywords and tags, Content owner, Attached files (downloads, media, etc), Connected content (links), Engagement and performance metrics
    • Subjective details:
      • Customer need, Business impact, Accuracy, Findability, Usability (clear? useful? readable? relevant? etc), Recommendation (keep, improve, delete, merge, etc)
  • Determine the Scope - Three main approaches to content audits:
    • Full - all assets
    • Targeted - quick and narrow, best for a single project, product, service, journey or campaign
    • Representative - quick, broad audit that samples from all assets/resources. Good for an overview
  • Perform the Audit
    • It can take several weeks for a full review, and it may be hard to determine a realistic deadline
    • Best to schedule periodic check-ins to measure progress over time

  • Usability is an example of subjective audit criteria
  • Synthesize the results and share insights with stakeholders once the content audit is complete

Define Your Content Strategy

Map your content to the customer journey. Prioritize your content needs. Document your content strategy and create a content backlog. Pilot your content strategy.
  • Steps completed so far:
    1. Establish business objectives
    2. Research needs of customers
    3. Evaluate existing content
  • Find Gaps in the Content Experience
    • Next, create a Content Map to identify exactly how, when, and where the company’s content experience is failing its customers
    • Basic process to create a content map:
      1. Pick a persona (audience segment, etc)
      2. Use the spreadsheet that plots the journey stages
      3. List existing content assets that address the customers' needs at each stage - include details about how, when, where a customer is most likely to engage with that content
      4. Note content gaps, redundancies, challenges, opportunities
      5. Repeat process for each audience
  • Prioritize Content Needs
    • Next, identify which specific audiences are most important to the organization. Target them, specifically.
    • Rank the needs according to how much value it provides the customer and how much value it provides the business using a graph like the one below
    • Process can be tricky, but in the end, it:
      • Aligns your customers' needs with business objectives
      • Establishes a guiding star for all content initiatives

  • Document the Strategy - two key deliverables:
    • Content Strategy Brief - outlines strategy at a high level
      • Content vision and roadmap
      • Business objectives and metrics
      • Prioritized list of audiences/needs
      • Links to content backlog, content maps, personas
      • Key insights from the audit
      • Summary of content opportunities and challenges
    • Content Backlog - with a new strategy, there will be many ideas for content projects and initiatives
      • Determine which ideas are worth pursuing by considering:
        • Audience prioritization
        • Customer value
        • Business impact
        • Ease of implementation
        • Availability or resources
        • Technical constraints
  • Test the Strategy
    • Select a project from the backlog to implement, ideally one tied to clear business metrics so that its easy to measure and demonstrate success
    • Remember the true test of a project’s success boils down to:
      • Right content
      • Right people
      • Right place
      • Right time
      • Right reason
  • Beyond the Strategy
    • Once the initiative is adopted, the next steps are to ensure that the company has the right people, processes, and infrastructure in place to sustain its strategy over time
    • Significant content transformation doesn’t happen overnight or with a single content project
    • A content strategy is the sowing of seeds. By nurturing and tending those seeds, they’ll eventually bloom into a garden of good content experiences.

  • Consider Customer value when deciding which projects align with your content strategy
  • A pilot project can prove that the content strategy will benefit the business and achieve results