Big businesses want great web content that can drive leads, tackle business challenges, and build their brand. They want internal content that boosts communication and smoothing out workflow, without any kinks or obstacles.
Small businesses want these things too! These stories seem a little harder to come by though unless you dig hard. It could also be because small businesses aren’t necessarily looking for content strategists. For those of us who enjoy the discipline and are a part of in-house teams, there are always opportunities to demonstrate the strengths and merits of practicing great content strategy.
Here’s a short story about the application of content strategy to small business problem solving. The principles of our growing discipline helps form foundations for the creation, maintenance, and care for lasting, beneficial web content, even in a small business environment.
I hope this story demonstrates that content strategy can influence small business. Many examples of work seen across the web tend to be with larger projects. I believe the principles are quite beneficial for businesses of any size. Revisiting this project hopefully inspires other web professionals who are in similar shoes as mine.
An employer’s recent challenge was to create a method to collect the most market data from incoming leads. While we knew that things were going well for the company, we weren’t quite sure what our market was exactly thinking about our service, how they felt about us, or even how they found out about us outside of one-of interactions from time to time. This was mainly because there was no set method to collect this incoming data, other than the occasional chat with an advocate of the business.
This isn’t a multiple-page website, or a massive product catalog, or anything like that. It’s one page. One tool. However, we can use principles of content strategy to ensure that this tool is as effective and useful as it can be.
The objective: create a sustainable way to collect this data that won’t hinder workflow.
Implementing and iterating in small business is quick and agile. It sometimes feels like efforts and processes are forgotten due to attention shifting to the next item of urgency. This is where principles of content strategy kick in.
Principles of content strategy involve paying much more attention to the source of content, how it affects work flow, and how it works towards achieving company goals and objectives. Erin Kissane’s book The Elements of Content Strategy is a great overview of how content strategy can add maintenance and sustenance of content to any project by any web professional. Kissane hopes that her book can act as a guiding light into any new project, and in this case, it definitely does.
The challenge was part market research and part information science. As a practice that borrows and bridges web professions together, content strategy isn’t a panacea to all content problems and challenges– it’s a toolkit used by web professionals who want content to bring sustainable value over time.
An audit and a recommendation.
The content auditing and workflow recommendation could quite possibly be two tools that every small business can use. Having someone take a look at processes and come up with new ways to improve them with the use of web content is beneficial for smaller organizations with people wearing multiple hats that aren’t always operations or content development.
Auditing the current system involved asking the users, which were the staff, about their methods in collecting data from potential clients was the first step.
In this all-hands-on-deck environment, everyone has the opportunity to speak with a potential client. Everyone has their own ways of speaking to these customers. So, creating a uniform method of collecting data is key.
It reminded me of a story about beer trucks. Basically, each truck has a crew and every member knows how to operate every function on the truck. This way, if someone needs to fill in for another person, they can do so confidently.
I wanted to apply the beer truck theory to our data collection.
After taking all anecdotes and stories into consideration, we came up with different methods and recommendations that add this data collection to the staff workload. Since everyone’s work flow involved the company intranet, we decided to use that as the medium.
The recommendation: to create a web form that allowed the entire staff to easily collect market data and opinions about the service.
Collecting data to build user research for future content.
After months of testing, we came up with a web form that fit the company intranet allowing us to capture much more market data than we’d ever been able to. With an increased understanding of our users, we can now influence and improve upcoming content with this user research.
“Now that this web form is up and running, we can forget about it and move on.”
Just kidding. We have to give a damn about this piece if we want it to continue doing good. That said, there’s a development path involved with this web form now, even though it’s doing its job very well. Alongside development, the form will undergo frequent quality assurance testing, and it will be tuned quarterly to ensure that our data is being properly collected and stored.
I know the story is a little vague because it would be unprofessional and impolite to describe a private project in detail, but consider the obscure tale a win for content strategy in the small business sector. It’s an internal win, but that means more confidence in applying similar principles and practices to external content onto the web. Improving the quality of lasting people-facing content is the real goal, regardless of where you come from in the web profession spectrum.
Principles of content strategy can be applied and should be emphasized in touch-and-go environments like small business. Creating methods that help sustain and nurture valuable content not only helps businesses attain objectives, but can also act as an internal testament to how a business solves its market challenges using sustainable web solutions and practices.
You know, stuff to be proud of at the end of the day.