Content Strategy & Your Goals

Sheriff BadgeI recently read a great article on Content Strategy over on the Smashing Magazine site (one of my favorites!). I found myself chuckling at some of the examples, in that all-too-familiar kind of way.

And, although this wasn’t exactly what they were writing about, the article got me thinking about how to reframe the way I work with clients. Because I deal with small businesses, I’m very conscious about maximizing the use of their resources, including their time. It’s tempting to assume I know what they want and just forge ahead, but experience has taught me that there are no shortcuts in the process of creating and executing a digital marketing strategy. Knowledge is key to the success of any project or campaign, and that should start right at the outset. No one knows your business better than you, and an agency or digital marketing consultant cannot effectively ‘create’ without truly understanding your business and its goals.

A Familiar Problem
I knew I had to keep reading the Smashing Magazine article when I got to How to Get Started: The First Step is the Longest. In that section, the author, Brad Shorr, gives an example of an imaginary conversation between a project manager, a designer and a writer at an agency. The project manager announces the need for a landing page for a client, the designer says he can’t start the design without content, and the writer says she can’t start writing without seeing a design. A conundrum already, and they’re barely out of the gate.

This is amusing to me because I run into the same issue frequently with the small business clients with whom I work. They want to ‘see’ something before they can take a step forward, and they’re optimistic that they’ll have more time to devote to the project sometime in the future. But it’s like shooting in the dark for me if I don’t have something to start with, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s foolish – and basically arrogant – for me to think that I know what they need without them telling me.

So I’m laying down the law. :)

When you work with me, you can expect 110% effort on my part. Making you successful is my goal. The best way for us to get you where you want to go is to be clear about where that is from the start.

Thus, I’m asking all future potential clients to agree to a strategy meeting upfront. This may take a while, and you may think it’s unnecessary, but I want to understand everything you’re doing and everything you’d like to achieve before launching a one-off project for you. (Don’t worry, I’ll bring the coffee.)

You should also expect the tough questions. What else are you doing to market or promote your product or service? Do you know where you’re getting customers currently? Do you know how many convert? The average profit per sale? The lifetime value of a customer? (It’s OK if you don’t; we’ll work on it.) What has worked in the past? What hasn’t? Who’s your ideal customer?

My Confession
Though this has always been the ideal scenario, I’ve been willing to be ‘flexible’ in the past. A prospective client who is super-busy and just needs some SEO work done, feels like they don’t really have time to do a complete overview of all their marketing efforts. The issue for me is that, even if my work for them leads to success, could it have been better if I’d known ‘the rest of the story?’

The Smashing Magazine article helped me see that maximizing my client’s success means being a little inflexible on this front. All in the name of greater success!

Would You Want a Logo That Looked Like Someone Else’s?

My previous post ended with a near-cliché: You have to get noticed to succeed.

Re-reading that post got me to thinking about how important being noticed is online, too. Too many business owners who wouldn’t think of replicating someone’s store design or logo have no such compunction about using a generic template for their website. [Read more...]