My manager and I have some pretty solid conversations about life and business. One of my favorite conversations usually revolves around “shaping the path.”

Not to be confused with “dumbing things down,” shaping the path is simply the act of creating a path of least resistance when it comes to persuading an action or influencing an outcome. We see it a lot in good communication, whether personal or commercial.

Kristina Halvorson sums up the outcome of great content strategies as to either proceed a customer down a business’ buying cycle, or to accomplish an overall business objective. This gem from Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web is quite the persuasive bit. I’d give Halvorson a hug if I could since this tidbit has helped me lock in some exciting side business.

New opportunities, new paths.

I had the chance to get into some path shaping with a new client of mine as we discussed how to approach their upcoming web content project. Our team is comprised of myself as content strategist, an operations dude, and the ops official. The client is looking forward to creating a solid web presence for their transforming brand.

It was refreshing to join up with a crew that takes a content strategy approach to heart. Yes, they could get the project done quickly with a one-off effort. But, after a conversation about shaping a clear path from audience back to the client, with the appropriate governance and upkeep, it felt like we’re on the right track.

The leader of the pack agrees with creating a project that will help them not only penetrate a new market, but to also create a path of least resistance for their customers.

Many sites are selfishly built around the business. We see it often as we frustratingly eject poorly designed content. Why not start from the audience outward?

  • Audience research - what are their buying behaviors?
  • Tuning up the buying cycle - how do we get them from there to here to persuade them to give their business?
  • Making the content usable - always a key for content strategy and the best way to continue to be relevant.
  • "I don't want to make anyone sign up for a newsletter i'll never send out or anything like that. I just want to sell some stuff."

    Good call. I want to help you do that. I will help you do that.

    We’ll shape that path.

    Usability will be the key.

    A key to this project will be to pay special attention to how the content persuades potential customers down the buying cycle. Before persuasion even happens, we’ve got to make sure it’s usable.

    It doesn’t matter how gorgeous the path may be. If it doesn’t lead me to a gorgeous park that I feel like running through, it’s ignored. I’m hoping to create a path that matters and many more in the future.

    What are your experiences with path shaping? I’ve seen it from parenting to romance, to business leadership. It really is everywhere. How are you utilizing it?