In my last post, I talked about chunks using hypothetical ObamaCare articles to help you visualize what Sara Wachter-Boettcher is talking about in Content Everywhere. In this post, I want to provide an example of a client who, by not thinking in terms of chunks, effectively treats product-detail pages as throwaway content and is therefore not maximizing their value. I’ll also offer some detailed examples of what a tagging structure might look like and show the value you can gain from your content by taking that approach.
Must Reads for Content Managers
- Content Everywhere by Sara Wachter-Boettcher (available on Kindle)
- A List Apart: Explores the design, development, and meaning of web content
My company, content26, produces product-detail content. We’ve produced over 1.4 million unique pieces of content for hundreds of brands of virtually every size. We’ve created single Amazon A+ pages for sole proprietors who hope to revolutionize industries with their niche invention, and we’ve built out product-detail content across global sites for thousands of SKUs for $50B multi-brand organizations.
One thing our clients have in common is that, to the best of my knowledge, none of them–at least the folks at the channel marketing level–are seriously thinking about content the way Sara is. And they should be.
Here is an example of one client who could benefit from Sara’s approach.
Case Study: How to Store Unusable Content
Recently, a large consumer packaged goods client contracted with us to build out their content for 1,000 SKUS and 20+ brands. Their corporate initiative is to populate their entire retail network–domestically and globally–with enhanced content that is centrally managed and approved. Compared to most of our other clients, theirs is a forward-thinking approach to a common branding and messaging challenge.
They are also building out a new database to store this content and have asked us to populate that database with the unstructured content we are delivering to their retail channels. The content they will be storing looks something like this:
On one hand, storing this content in a central location that is accessible by the entire organization puts our client clearly ahead of the curve. But how easily, if at all, can this content be repurposed? How can their marketing teams make efficient use of these coded pages?
If the company first organized and tagged the content in “chunks,” those chunks could easily be retrieved by anyone within the organization, and the company would retain greater control of its messaging across their channels and campaigns. Let me walk through a hypothetical scenario to describe what I mean.
Acme Router: A Retail Messaging Challenge
Let’s say that Acme wants us to build content for their new router. Specifically, they want this content for their two main retailers, Amazon and Newegg. Acme wants consistent messaging across their channels, but the challenge is that each retailer requires a certain amount of unique content due to its own marketing and demographics as well as its platform’s technological and content requirements.
Let’s visualize what the content on each product page might look like, starting with Amazon:
Because of Amazon’s diverse customer base, Acme should produce content that anyone will understand, what marketers sometimes disparagingly refer to as the “grandmother approach”: if Grandma can understand how it works, everyone can.
Let’s ignore the ageism for a moment and look at the resulting product overview that will be used for the description’s introductory paragraph:
Enjoy a high-speed Internet connection for email and social networking with the Acme Wi-Fi Router. Operating at up to two times the speed of normal G technology, the router allows you to easily surf the web, video chat, and use social media. An easy three-step setup gets your connection up and running in no time.
User benefit headers within the product description might include “Connection Speed Ideal for Email and Surfing the Web,” followed by text describing that user benefit. For example:
The Acme Router features speeds up to two times the speed of standard G technology, providing a reliable high-speed connection. This makes surfing the Internet and staying in touch with friends and family a breeze. In addition, it lets you connect to the Internet on either your laptop or desktop computer, providing versatility to suit your needs.
The “Bullet Features” along the sidebar would allow for an “at a glance” look at the product’s technical details, such as “Dual Band WiFi delivers 450 + 1,300 Mbps” and might also include warranty information, dimensions, and so forth.
The Newegg product page, on the other hand, supports a more vertical structure and might look like the image to the right.
Newegg sells to a more tech-savvy customer–Grandma’s geeky nephew (yes, and niece)–so the actual content would focus on the technical details of the product. Each “Technical Feature Header” and “Technical Feature Text” block would address a particular technical feature of the router, such as “Simultaneous Dual Band.”
You’ll notice from the color codes in the layout, the Amazon and Newegg descriptions share a certain amount of content: Product Title, Product Features, About the Company, Box Content, and Images. The producer/writer of these pages would build the content with this shared content and basic “chunk” structure in mind.
The deliverable to the retailer might be an unstructured piece of content with the necessary retailer-specific code (HTML, CSS, and so on) to hold the design in place, something like this. (In my next and last post in this series, I will address the problems this unstructured content has on a retailer’s mobile strategy, but for now let’s ignore that.)
But the product-detail content the manufacturer stores in its database could be visually represented like this:
The naming convention of the tags is flexible, determined by the product type and whatever business rules you set for content related to that type. The more logical and specific you can make those tags, the easier it will be on your sales and marketing teams. So the “User Benefit Text 1” for routers might be more logically named “SpeedFeature” to directly refer to the content that describes the router speed that all routers in your catalog will have. For your line of hard drives, on the other hand, the first product feature might be tagged “CapacityFeature.” If you’re selling baby strollers, perhaps it would be “SafetyFeature” or “ComfortFeature,” and so on.
You can determine the tagging rules for each product type. And each product could have as many “chunks” as the product and your business demands. In both the Newegg and Amazon examples, by producing a product description as you normally would for each of those channels and storing those descriptions as structured content in your database, you now have dozens of content chunks you can serve up to your diverse audiences: a chunk for Grandma and a different chunk for her geeky niece.
How Your Grammatically Challenged Can Shine with Content
Once you have properly tagged and stored your content, your organization has suddenly become idiot proof. Your Twitter– and text-challenged channel managers can now produce the basic content a new retail channel might require without fear of publishing dangling modifiers or inaccurate product details.
For instance, to build a basic product description for one of their other retail accounts, they could simply call out a command through your content management system for <SKU>, <ProductTitle>, <ProductOverview>, <Bullet:Speed>,<Bullet:Security>,<Bullet:Ports>,<Bullet:Warranty>, and <BoxContents>. They might have to stitch the content together and place it in a spreadsheet, but in the end the product would be represented by accurate and brand-approved messaging.
Or perhaps you need product-detail content for a social media campaign or an email blast. Depending on the campaign’s focus, you could call for any of those particular content chunks and tweak the language according to their particular needs.
For example, an email blast could rely on one of the Amazon chunks and could be as simple as this:
Tired of slow connectivity at home? The Acme Router features speeds up to two times the speed of standard G technology, providing and maintaining a reliable high-speed connection. This makes surfing the Internet and staying in touch with friends and family a breeze. For a limited time, we’re offering the router at a screaming deal…
And if your target audience is fluent in Klingon, you could pull the chunk from your Newegg description instead.
The point is, if you mark up your content logically according to your business needs at the start, you ensure your organization will have easy access to the core messaging it requires at any given moment. By tweaking a sentence or two, virtually anyone in your organization can generate accurate, pre-approved, modular content that’s ready for prime time.
In my next and final post on this subject, I’ll get to the sexy stuff and show how chunking your content can save your mobile strategy and can, in Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s words, future-proof your content. Or, in the words of Nassim Taleb (another writer on my short list of absolutely must reads), I’ll show you how you can make your content “antifragile” in this ever-evolving world of devices and platforms.