One of the challenges brands face today is how best to align their product messaging across their many sales channels. In a recent study on the influence of the Internet on consumer buying behavior, Nielsen reported that 67 percent of consumers are likely to make a purchasing decision based on web searches. This behavior seems to apply across most major product categories, from food to hair care to consumer electronics.
Must Reads for Content Managers
The call to action is clear: to influence buying behavior, you need to have a comprehensive approach to producing and distributing your product information online.
In my previous post, I introduced Content Everywhere and pleaded for content producers and managers to stop their presses to read it. Content Everywhere does not necessarily hold the secret formula that will solve this challenge for everyone, but it does offer a way of thinking about content, both its production its distribution, that may help with this challenge.
Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose
If your product is typical, the basic go-to-market content you will require includes images of the product from several angles, lifestyle images that target your demographics, a product video and/or product tour, product specifications (structured data), a product description (unstructured data), and retail packaging content.
Because of the differing requirements of your own brand.com site and your retail channels, it’s likely that you’ll have to produce variations of any number of these content pieces, particularly your product descriptions and videos. What Amazon demands of you will be different than what Babys R Us or Walmart requires. In many cases, you may be allowed to reuse content verbatim, but because Google might penalize you for duplicate content and undermine your entire marketing strategy, you’ll need to either have custom content ready to go or leave it to your retailer to create that content for you–an option that should be considered only as a last, desperate resort.
Add to that challenge the convergence of devices and platforms you must now optimize content for, and suddenly what started out as a half-dozen or so pieces of content that neatly described your product has now turned into a mash-up of dozens of content iterations. And worse yet, it resides in an insupportable (and unsearchable) hodgepodge of .zip files and subdirectories across your organization’s desktops and production servers.
The production of this content is certainly a budgetary and logistical challenge, but a far greater challenge to your business is how to control your product and brand messaging throughout this ordeal and store the content pieces for easy distribution for your many organizational and channel needs.
Enter Content Everywhere. Let me explain the foundation of Sara’s arguments.
Structured Content Will Always Win
When you produce content for a particular end-use (a landing page on your website, for instance) you have most likely produced a big, unstructured mess of words, sentences, headers, and paragraphs that is designed to fit the needs of that particular page.
But unstructured content, by definition, will need to have structure if you want to repurpose it. If you want to create another content deliverable out of that landing page, such as a sell sheet, email blast, or social media message, you’ll need to perform time-consuming and potentially expensive surgery on it.
By producing content from the start in self-contained “chunks” and structuring that content by tagging and storing it in those chunks, you can easily call for a specific chunk with a simple command through your content management system. This way, you can more easily repurpose content for your many business needs.
Breaking Down Your Organization’s Content
To take an example from journalism, let’s say your organization has published a comprehensive overview on ObamaCare. It’s become popular with your readers, with your Facebook wall and message boards lighting up with readers chatting about their pre-existing conditions (yuck, but whatever).
To strike while the subject is hot, you want to publish additional pieces on the subject. To save time and resources, your writers would rather repurpose some of the content you’ve already published for their new articles.
“By producing content, marking it up in discreet chunks, storing those chunks in your database, you become far more nimble in your content production, and your content becomes more versatile.
If you’ve tagged your article in your database with the broad strokes of “healthcare,” “ObamaCare,” “Health Care For America Plan,” and so on, your writers will be able to quickly access all the articles on ObamaCare in your database. But if each of the articles contain specific parts of the health-care bill they want to reference, such as “pre-existing conditions,” they’ll need to rely on your system’s search engine to find those particular passages. And search engines will fall short contextually; they’ll only look for keywords and phrases. So your writers are likely to miss out on retrieving valuable source material.
Wouldn’t it quicker (and cheaper!) if the content producers in your organization could use a simple command to pull chunks of content about pre-existing conditions from every article in your database? With some fairly simple XML or other markup language and a content management system that supports it, it can be done.
Cross-Section of a Content Chunk
By producing content, marking it up in discreet chunks, storing those chunks in your database, you become far more nimble in your content production, and your content becomes more versatile.
Below, a basic visual of what this approach might look like for the ObamaCare piece.
Although articles were originally published as a long, unstructured pieces of content, they were tagged and stored in discreet units. So when the writer wanted to produce a related article, she simply pulled tagged content out of the database and added an introduction and conclusion.
The content has now been repurposed with half the effort and twice the accuracy and consistency as would have otherwise been the case. No more cutting and pasting, and no more endless emailing colleagues in search of a source of the information you need.
This is an overly simplified summary of what Sara discusses in her book, but it should give you a good introductory picture of the process. In my next post, I’ll explain how this approach could save you many dollars and hours as you prepare for your next round of product launches.