Tag Archives: content

Want to communicate? Let’s talk strategy

roadWant your communications to be targeted, tailored and results focused? You need a strategy.

Communicating without a strategy is like going on a road trip with no map. You’ll end up somewhere, but you won’t have chosen the destination.

You can use a content strategy to shape a world of sins – anything from a one-off sales campaign to a complete communications re-brand.

Over the years, I’ve planned and driven my share of communication strategies for product launches, company-wide re-brands and overhauls of the corporate tone of voice.

The first thing I do to plan out my strategy (straight after making a strong cup of tea) is to consult Google to see what new thinking has come out.

Results have been varied. Sometimes I find good ideas, but a lot of the strategies I found were internally-focused and lacked useful detail.

So I decided to share my strategy with you (and Google). Come along for the ride – you never know what we both might learn.

location-pinPick your destination

Just like a great road trip, the success of a communications strategy is in the planning. You need to know where you want to go, what you want to do when you get there and what ‘must haves’ will make the trip a success.

My communications strategy has seven destinations:

  1. Objectives
  2. Audiences
  3. Messages
  4. Channels
  5. Measures
  6. Resources
  7. Sanity check

I hope you enjoy the journey.

map-with-location-pinSet your objectives

Most road trips I’ve been on were planned with a combination of beer, argument and late-night creativity. After a lot of discussion and laughter, the designated driver mapped out an itinerary – usually after everyone else had fallen asleep.

Planning your communications strategy is a similar process, usually minus the beer and, hopefully, the sleep. The first step is to decide where you want to go – set your objective.

You and your stakeholders – usually Product, Marketing and your Digital team – need to figure out:

  1. What you want to achieve.
  2. What benefits you want to get out of your communications.
  3. How you know you’ve ‘arrived’.

Typical objectives are:

  • More sales through your online channels.
  • A change or uplift in how your audiences perceive your brand.
  • Move calls out of the contact centre and into your online self-service portal.
  • Or the ever-popular improve NPS.

Usually, you’re either trying to increase revenue or decrease cost.

Heads up: to sell your strategy to the higher ups, make sure your objectives align with the overall business strategy.

To make your objectives easy to measure and share with your peers – keep them short, simple and tangible.

bookCase study – servicing energy customers

Imagine you work for an energy retailer. You sell electricity and natural gas to business and domestic customers. Your call centre gets over 40,000 calls a week from customers wanting to pay bills, set up a direct debit or find out how much power they’ve used.

Those calls cost $25 a pop. Money you could save by getting customers to use your self-service portal instead. So your objective is to:

  • Move 10% of bill and usage contact centre calls to the self-service portal.

Given each call costs around $25 and a self-service transaction costs $7. If you achieve your goal, you could save your company $72,000 per week.

I’m fairly sure savings like that will get your higher ups to pay attention.

Great – we have an objective. We need to figure out who to ‘convince’ to achieve it.

audienceChoose your audience(s)

There is little point in saying anything until you know who you’re talking to. Imagine the different conversations you’d have talking to your manager vs talking to your 12 year old daughter.

So, we need to decide who to talk to – our audience. Our audience is the group (or groups) of people a) whose behaviour we want to change and b) we think we can influence.

They can be:

  • Prospects – new, unknown customers.
  • Existing customers – people we have a relationship with – who we can approach directly.
  • Influencers – partners or social commentators who have the ‘ears’ of audiences we can’t reach.

Finding the right audience is a critical part of your strategy and one that is easy to get wrong. It’s tempting to pick easy-to-access audiences:

  • Existing customers – you already have their contact details and know a lot about them.
  • Market segments – an age group, geography or demographic you think will respond.
  • Identified prospects – they’ve shared their contact details with you and have shown an interest in your products or services.
  • Or just EVERYONE – that one’s easy, just broadcast your message.

But these easy audiences can have drawbacks:

  • Existing customers – they might be tired of hearing ‘buy me’ messages from your company.
  • Market segments – you have no history with these people, why would they listen to you?
  • Identified prospects – they may not be warm prospects, their interest in your company may have nothing to do with the product or service you are communicating about.
  • EVERYONE – a scatter-gun approach can be costly and usually has a very low success rate. The bulk of your communications will fall on deaf ears.

So how do you decide who to target?

Think about your objective. Is there an identifiable group of people whose behaviour needs to change to achieve it, e.g. buy more product, transact online or give you company a better NPS rating? Of that group of people, who is likely to change their behaviour to match your objective?

That is your audience.

book

Case study – servicing energy customers

In our case study, the audience is fairly easy to identify. You want to target customers calling the call centre to pay a bill, set up a direct debit or query their electricity usage. And you need to get to them before they call.

Not everyone is comfortable transacting online, particularly when they are paying power bills of $500 or more. So you want to focus on customers who are more comfortable online.

If you target customers who have used your website before, you have a better chance of being heard.

Your audience is those customers whose bills are coming due, who have either logged into your website or app, sent an online enquiry or have used the online chat tool in the last 6 months.

edit-openWrite your messages

Now we know who we’re talking to, let’s decide what we want to say.

Your message needs to do two things:

  1. Capture your audience’s interest.
  2. Convince them to do something to achieve your objective.

To write your messages, think about your audience and what you want them to do.

First, your audience

Think about the kinds of people your audience is made up of:

  • Imagine the language they are most comfortable with – formal, casual, verbose, pithy…
  • Think about what they are likely to respond to – short text, long text, image, video, survey…
  • What actions are they likely to take – click links, call, use your website or app or walk into a bricks and mortar shop?

Think about the relationship your audience has with your company:

  • Prospect?
  • Repeat customer?
  • Disgruntled customer you want to win back?

This helps you understand what they want to hear from you and what they are likely to listen to.

What you want them to do

Now think about your objective – what you want them to do – and how you can convince them to do it. Write with their wants and needs in mind and the actions you want them to perform. You should end up with a range of messages.

You can A/B test messages to discover which ones are more successful. With a range of messages, you can target different channels and prompt different actions to meet your objective.

Don’t be afraid to use humour and more ‘human’ language to make your messages stand out. They need to relate to your message, whether you’re writing a 300 word email or a 250 character text.

book

Case study – servicing energy customers

Back at our energy company, you want to encourage customers who’d normally call the contact centre to log in and use your self-service portal.

You’re writing to existing customers, so you know a lot about them. Tailor your language and calls-to-action to your audience segments – shorter, mobile first actions to customers who’ve used your app or portal vs longer, instructional text to ones who called or filled out an enquiry form.

You can use the data you have on past behaviour to tailor your messages to:

  • Customers who pay on time – “no fuss, no hold music”.
  • Customers who regularly query their bill – “check your bill any time”.
  • Customers who are often late to pay their bills – “set up direct debit and never miss a payment”.
  • Customers who have logged into the portal before – “come back and see us”.
  • Customers who do not have a login – “quick and simple sign-up, pay your bill in minutes”.

Great, we have our messages. Now we need to send them to our audiences.

sms-speach-bubbleChoose your channels

We communicators have a lot of channels to choose from. From ‘tell anyone’ broadcast options, to personalised, one-on-one communications, we have a spectrum to choose from.

If your strategy requires large audience, broadcast communications, you can use:

  • TV or radio advertisements.
  • Billboards, decals or other outdoor collateral.
  • Web pages.
  • Social media.
  • Press releases.

For more tailored messages, you have:

  • Links to personalised web pages
  • In-app alerts
  • SMS
  • Email
  • Snail mail
  • We can even call them

We choose the channel to fit our objective, audience and our message.

Often the best strategy is to use a combination of channels, tailored to your audiences, for your approach, then offer a range of calls-to-action and let them decide how to progress:

  • Open personalised web page
  • Visit campaign page
  • Enter a code to unlock discounts.
  • Download an app.
  • Call a campaign specific phone number.

book

Case study – servicing energy customers

You know your target customers have used an online channel – your self-service portal, app, online enquiry form or the chat tool. So they are comfortable with some form of online transaction. As they are existing customers you have access to their contact details.

There are a few channels you can use for this campaign:

  • An SMS with a link to the mobile version of the self-service portal.
  • Emails with info-graphics showing how easy the portal is to use – then link to the sign up page.
  • Include details of the self-service portal in your IVR script and contact centre ‘hold music’.
  • Create a web page with details of how easy it is to use your self-service portal.
  • Publish ‘how to’ videos to show how quick and simple your online tasks are.

Note: Before you send out your messages, make sure your customers haven’t opted out of marketing messages. You don’t want to break any anti-span laws.

OK, we know our messages and how we’re going to get them to our audience. How will we know our strategy has worked?

measureMeasure your success

When we set our objectives, we put some numbers around success. Let’s look a bit closer at the types of measures you can use for your strategy.

Depending on your objective, your measures could be:

  • Number or percentage of increased sales.
  • Percentage change in brand recognition or positive brand perception.
  • Number or percentage of calls moved from the contact centre to online channels
  • NPS increase.

We can use these measures while we run our strategy to track customer behaviour and adjust our messaging and channels in response. This helps us focus on the messages/channels that work, and not on the ones that don’t.

At the completion of our strategy delivery, we can use these measures to quantify success.

book

Case study – servicing energy customers

Your objective our energy company was to move 10% of bill and usage contact centre calls to your self-service portal.

Your measures for this are relatively straight forward – fewer calls to the call centre and more logins and task completions through your online channel.

So how do you measure this accurately?

  1. Work with the team who manage your call centre technology to track the number of calls to do with paying bills and enquiring about energy usage.Remember to also ask for the number of calls for the same length of time over a similar period before your campaign.
  2. Ask your analytics team for reports on pay-bill and check-usage tasks completed through your online channels – for the same two time periods as your contact centre reports.

Those are your measures. You’re looking for a drop in your call centre calls – by 10% ideally – and a rise in your online channel tasks.

resourceResource your strategy

Now we know what we want to say, who we want to say it to and how we want to say it. The big question is how are we going to pay for it?

We have to resource our strategy. We may need funding.

Day to day communications are usually funded out of BAU budgets. Larger, more complex strategies may need extra copy writers, developers or funding for social media, Google ads, SMSs or mail outs.

If these expenses are outside your normal operating budget you need $$ from the higher ups.

Higher ups are usually interested in two things – revenue and cost. If you can increase one or decrease the other – you have their attention.

You need to demonstrate the return on investment of your strategy.

Look at the likely cost of your proposed communications and the forecast savings or revenue increase of achieving your objectives. If you can show that the former is less than the latter, you have a business case for your strategy.

book

Case study – servicing energy customers

Cost

Your communications plan included:

  • SMS customers – where you have mobile numbers and they’ve used their phones to log into your portal or use your app.
  • Email customers – where you don’t have mobile numbers, do have email addresses, and they’ve logged into your portal or sent an online enquiry.
  • Update your IVR and on-hold scripts.
  • Publish a new web page.

So your cost will look like this:

Costs table

And your savings like this:

Savings table

So your business case is:

A $32,000 investment is likely to result in a saving of $72,000 a week. An ROI of less than a week is not too shady.

owlSanity check

Right, we’re on the home straight! We know what we want to achieve, who we want to approach, what we want to say and how we’re going to fund and measure our activities. There’s only one thing left to do – apart from press Send.

Let’s sanity check our strategy before we set it loose. If you have time, a trial run with some colleagues – preferably ones who aren’t involved in the communications world – can teach you a lot.

Or try it out with friends and family – any controlled group of ‘friendlies’ will do. Simply send them your communications, using the channels you’ve chosen and, after, ask them a few questions:

  • What was the message? (What do they remember?)
  • What stood out to them? (Any highlights?)
  • How do they feel about the message? (Did you make them care?)
  • What would they do, if anything, having read the message? (Did you win them over?)

This feedback will help you test and fine tune your messages and your channels and manage your expectations about the likely outcome of your strategy.

Now you’re ready to take on your public! Or at least try a few initiatives out and see what happens. Good luck and May the force of customer sentiment be with you.

Co-authoring documents – harder than herding cats?

Today I’m working with a large team of people to write a response to an RFP (request for proposal for those playing at home). My role on the response is the ‘English Teacher’. I get to rewrite all the response contributions into a coherent, reader-friendly narrative.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

We have around 20 contributors in three countries, each adding their content to the central document. We’re in four time zones and between us all, I think we speak five languages.

We’re trying to write a sales-focused, response document, targeted to an Australian English speaking audience.

What could possibly go wrong?

Harder than herding cats

During a particularly animated team catch-up, our bid lead turned to me and said, “This is harder than herding cats”. Which got me thinking.

How hard is it really to herd cats and would it be harder than co-authoring a proposal document with 20 other people?

I happen to have a cat. So, I decided to compare my cat to the consultants I’m working with to figure out what would be harder – getting this document written or herding cats.

Cats vs consultants

This is my cat. His name is Monty.

Cat asleep on a couch

Monty

  • Monty is lazy and spends his days lying on the couch.
  • If you annoy him, Monty bites you.
  • Monty will do anything for cat milk.
  • I can’t get Monty out of my bedroom when I want to (my husband uses a water pistol, but I’m too soft).
  • Monty likes to tease our neighbour’s cat by sitting outside the living room window to show he’s allowed to go outside (the neighbours have an ‘inside’ cat). This is as close as he’s ever come to being part of a herd.
  • To get Monty to go where I want him to go, i.e. herd him, I offer him food. If it’s the right food, he is there almost before I am.

Consultants

  • The consultants spend their days sitting at computers, coding.
  • If you annoy the consultants, they argue with you (and each other) until the Webex meeting time runs out.
  • I’m not sure what motivates the consultants – possibly beer.
  • I can’t get the consultants to accept my document edits, so far, they’ve over-written my work 17 times.
  • The consultants seem to exist in herds, rather argumentative ones but definitely herds.
  • We haven’t actually figured out how to herd the consultants, i.e. agree on how we’re writing this document and what needs to go in it.
  • Herding consultants

You know what? I agree with my bid lead. Co-authoring a document with 20 people, in four time zones and from three very different cultures, is much harder than herding cats. Cats are single-minded. Dangle food in front of them and they are yours to ‘herd’ wherever you like.

Humans are opinionated and easily distracted. Writing RFP bids is neither a simple nor an easy task. Trying to distil complex, in-depth technical solutions into a structured, easy to follow narrative is no mean feat.

Combine that with different levels of English literacy and different cultural styles of communicating….

… give me cats any day!

Co-authoring the hard way

Yes, we are doing this the hard way. We started with a template, loosely assigned responsibility for each section and set the consultants loose.

Little co-ordination, different teams working on their sections in isolation – not the ideal scenario for cohesive document writing.

There is an easier way but it requires a bit of herding – consultants not cats.

We’ve sorted the technology side of things. Our documents are in the cloud, so we can all work on the same version.

The human side is where we need to lift our game.

Geographically challenged

Co-authoring a document across different locations has a number of challenges:

  1. Distance – your authors are physically isolated from each other. You can’t just walk down the corridor or gather in a meeting room to talk through issues.
  2. Time – your authors could be in different time zones. You can’t even get them on the phone or web chat to ask them a question – they are ASLEEP.
  3. Language – are all your authors native English speakers? No? This presents a double challenge.One – their content may not be 100% readable.

    Two – they might not be that easy to understand! To be fair, they might find our Aussie accents a bit of a challenge too.

  4. Culture – when you work with authors from other countries and cultures, they don’t work the same way you do. Simple things like answering ‘yes’ to a question can have different meanings from culture to culture.

Communicating with the herd

Overcoming these challenges takes planning and clear communication. Before you send everyone to their keyboards, you need to have a clear plan of who’s writing what and where they overlap.

You need to make sure everyone knows:

  1. What they are responsible to produce.
  2. Who is working on ‘adjacent’ topics – so they can collaborate and align their content.
  3. Timelines and deadlines.

And you need to keep making sure they know. We humans have rather dodgy short-term memories and we’re good at forgetting or reinterpreting what we thought we heard. So reminding your authors exactly who’s doing what will help keep things on track.

Talk often and talk openly

Where content is likely to overlap, make sure the authors talk to each other frequently. Otherwise, they can easily end up writing content that is inconsistent or even contradictory.

Getting the whole team to talk to each other frequently is the best way to identify and alleviate any issues. Try to meet daily at time that suits all locations, so you all have time to talk through your sections and compare / align the message.

Read each other’s work

A simple way to make sure your authors don’t contradict each other is to get them to read each other’s work and talk over any differences. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You’d be amazed how many teams don’t read each other’s work.

The value of a good cat-herder

OK, your authors are done and the document has content in every section. Job done, or is it? It’s likely that each of those sections is in a different style and with a different voice.

Most of my co-authors aren’t native English speakers; the document I’m working on is already quite grammatically challenged.

That’s where you need a good cat-herder to round up all the bad grammar, spelling errors, odd punctuation and eccentric word choices and herd them into a cohesive, coherent whole. In other words, rewrite the document in plain, consistent English.

Don’t underestimated the power of clear English. One consistent voice is a lot easy to understand that 20 different ones. More likely to sell your message too.

We’re working on our document for another two weeks and this is the first time the team’s had an ‘English Teacher’ on the bid.

Wish me luck.

What’s so cool about optimising content?

I’ve decided to start up my own business. “Yay me!” 

It’s quite exciting being your own boss and having control over your working day, but there’s one thing I didn’t think of when I started this…

What exactly do I do, that other people don’t, that’s “valuable”?

I thought about this and I’ve decided that I optimise content.

Problem solved!

Well, not quite because now I have to ask myself “What does optimising content mean?” and “How does optimising content add value?” Big questions for someone who is launching her own company!

So I sat down, a comfier and more long-term solution than thinking on my feet, and mulled it over.

Let’s open Door Number 1

Optimising content, on the surface, means making the ‘words on the page’ of a website better, ie:

  • Easier to read and focused on the message of that page
  • Consistent in voice and tone and matching the corporate style guide

Always a fun task, but what value does it add to the company that owns the site?

Sadly, when you’re running your own business, money and ‘value to the client’ have to be your drivers. Fun is important, but it does have to take the passenger seat.

OK, so we’re optimising content but what are we achieving?

Well, editing content on the page and making it easier to read, and focused, helps customers understand what the page is offering. Customers who understand what a site is offering are more likely to transact with that site.

One point to optimising content.

Batter up, let’s go for two points!

It’s a comfortable feeling when a web page matches other company publications. The page and the other publications feel like they are part of the same message.

Customers feel like they’re dealing with one entity. This helps them feel confident about what they’re reading. A confident site visitor is, again, more likely to transact.

Two points, we’re doing well.

But is that all there is to content optimisation – tidying up page content?

Not really.

As I explored the question, I came up with a number of other content-related improvements that we can make to a site that go way beyond the words on the page.

How would you like to improve the SEO ranking of a page?

Align the terms used to describe that page to the right keywords and watch the page move up the rankings.

Do you want more people to complete a form?

Look at the words on the form – the instructions, field names, error messages and button labels – are they simple and easy to understand? Make the message easier and more people can make it to “Submit”.

Are the navigation and internal site search up to scratch?

Maybe the words used to label and describe pages could be better? Match those labels and descriptions to the terms customers search with and they have a greater chance of finding what they’re looking for.

What about site management, is it tricky to find the right site assets in the CMS?

Yes, you can optimise content in the CMS. Get the names and descriptions of site assets – the metadata – right and they’ll be quicker and easier to find.

We’re really racking up those points now.

So what is content optimisation?

It’s finding and improving the language and labelling of all content across a site:

  • Words on the page
  • Page titles, names, navigation labels and in-page links
  • Form field names, instructions, error messages and button labels
  • Meta data – the words that label and define each site asset

And now to Door Number 2 – how does this add value?

After opening Door Number 1, this seems like a rather silly question, doesn’t it? 

If you review and improve your content, navigation, site search, SEO, form completion and the assets used to build a site… that’s gotta add some value?

Let me think… surely it will:

  • Increase the number of people coming to a site
  • Simplify the journey through the site
  • Improve the experience of the site
  • Increase the number of conversions on the site
  • While making the site easier and more efficient to maintain

Now the only question is “How do I spread the word?”

So…. my company is F Two and you can find it at www.ftwo.com.au 🙂 

And speaking of optimising content, I’m about to optimise the stuffing out of it, so do drop in and let me know what you think of it. 

Those of you of the canine-loving persuasion may enjoy the dog metaphors soon to arrive.