Talking Shop…on Content

Talking Shop is True’s invitation-only forum where senior ecommerce and retail clients discuss the many hot topics and challenges affecting their businesses.
We devoted February’s event to the c word.
No, not customers, or campaigns, or conversion… but something that influences all of those and a lot more to boot. We talked about Content.
Sometimes it feels like everyone is talking about content – it’s the subject of blogs, conferences, industry meet ups, marketing calls from people you’ve never heard of….
Which is all a bit weird really. It’s not as if it’s something new. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember “the empty days” of the internet.  
We’ve always had content. The thing that’s changed though is what content can do.
Constant invention and innovation in digital mean the possibilities for content are endless. Never mind inform, educate and entertain – content can persuade, provoke, excite and electrify. It can change opinions, shift mindsets, spark conversations and utterly transform a brand’s value.
So it’s little wonder the talking points around content are endless too.  What is it? Who is responsible for it? How do you do it well? How will I know it works?
It feels like the world, and certainly the internet, is full of definitions, models, framework, plans, strategies, advice. There are a lot of businesses making a lot of money from making it feel like a difficult, complex subject.
True’s preferred mode of operation is to make the complex simple.
Content for us means bringing 3 key considerations together to create something that works from every angle. Those considerations are discoverability, structure and brand.
For an agency dedicated to delivering ever-improving results for our clients (ie True), content is a vital tool in improving discoverability and conversion. It’s how we keep pace with SEO changes and keep your brand highly visible.
As user journeys become increasingly complex beasts, it’s essential that we are delivering value to all the right people, in all the right places, at all the right times. All the way through the sales funnel (whether you’re selling products or information) people are researching, refining, reappraising, being constantly swayed by things they see, hear and read.
Sadly, users don’t just land on your homepage and casually stroll through your carefully planned purchase journey. They research – so your brand should be out there influencing that on social, with guest articles, with video or imagery, with inventive, cut-through content that sets you apart.
Users read reviews, and the replies to those reviews. Do you need to engage with the conversation? Do you need to explain why your products are best and keep pushing people along that conversion funnel?
Content is perfect for signposting those steps. If watching a video showing how simple your product is encourages conversion, we need that video in the right places, on and off site.  
So don’t panic if a customer has forgotten to read the perfect user journey manual and lands directly on a product page. Content can cover it – giving all the information and reassurance users need to prompt conversion.
Like it or not, we’re all in sales. And we’re all inherently self-centred.
Every salesperson worth their salt knows that the key to selling is persuasion. Which means showing users what’s in it for them and delivering it, fast. It means making sure they don’t have to work hard to get it. It means compelling users to act by presenting a logical, well ordered, convincing sales pitch.
We learn everything we can from data, analytics and the market context to identify different levels and types of content needed (eg written features, case studies, tools, charts, tables, Q&As, webinars, infographics, opinion pieces, videos, surveys, timelines, news etc) for each step of the user journey.  We consider where and when to deliver that content for maximum impact. This information informs our creative briefs and guides our content, design and technology solutions.
Content is integral to our creative approach. It’s not just words and pictures but the way we create the experience, how we convince people they’re in the right place, how we bring the brand to life and move people through a journey that feels timely, relevant, valued. Great brand content can really set you apart, differentiate your business, build relationships, ignite conversations and inspire trust from your customers.
The True definition of content is anything and everything that delivers value to the user. That includes:
All UX copy: navigation labels, calls to action, forms, checkout messages, error messages, terms and conditions (yes, even terms and conditions). All of these have the power – and maybe even more power than those campaign features or hero frames – to differentiate your brand. Attention to detail speaks volumes.
Standard information: all the housekeeping or evergreen stuff your users expect to see – about you, customer service, product information, help and advice, delivery and returns – all content, all opportunity.
Campaigns: the area that traditionally gets all the attention and investment. This could be special promotions, featured products or services or distinct offers.
Fresh content: this is powerful stuff. Timely, topical content keeps your site fresh, active and relevant to your users.
In other words, we consider all information on your site as content.
It’s vital to the user experience. Functionality is content too. Every interaction can tell a brand story.
3 considerations, 1 strategy, 1 plan
So far, so simple. And it only gets easier. Now we bring our 3 principal considerations together to create:
1. The content strategy covering why, how and who:
Why do we need it? What’s the overarching purpose and reason for every piece of content.
How will you create all the content you need?
Who needs to be involved and what do they need to do?
2. The content plan covering what, where and when
What is the aim of every content piece, what are we communicating?
Where is best to place your content and how can you amplify it?
When should it appear in the customer journey, and when is it refreshed?
With that absolute clarity, we can set about creating great content that works from every perspective.
So finally, I’d like to leave you with another c word: commitment.
Content is a long term relationship, not a one night stand. Don’t fall into the trap of filling spaces, making sure all the keywords are in there and then leaving your customers to it.
Put your users first, understand the journey, look at the competitive context. And make sure you are always their best option.
Your content is never done. Measure, hypothesize, test, learn, improve - and then try something new. That’s when amazing things can happen.
If you’re looking for help with content strategy, planning or creation, we’d be overjoyed to help. Talk to Jack.