Content strategy is a favorite topic of mine when talking with web design clients with grandiose ideas. This is very ironic for reasons that will become clear soon in this post.
I like to talk about not using websites as glorified classified ads, yellow pages, or flyers. Websites aren’t marketing tools. Content strategy can either make or break a website I’ve mentioned before that one benefit of today’s interactive websites is easy non-techie editing. This lets you have more of a conversation with your clients.
I’ve beat this drum for years when advising my web design clients. When teaching how to make the most of their websites, content strategy comes up.
Some listen, some do not.
The ones that listen usually succeed. Even when I think their business plan is lame and devoid of a paying market, they make it. It has surprised me more than once, I’ll tell you. I’ve seen some that have failed miserably, despite having what I thought was a brilliant plan.
Ironically, it wasn’t until recently that I realized I wasn’t heeding my advice.
Let me explain this concept by giving you a real life example. Then I’ll get down to the practical at the end of this post.
My Story on Web Content
For years, the bulk of my income came from the periodic web design or print design job. Or the sale of Kindle Ebooks on Amazon.com. Other income came from my first website, Joyful Momma. I wasn’t getting rich or anything, but it was enough pocket money for those extras we’d otherwise not have.
The Content Strategy Intervention
One day, I was having coffee with a fellow mompreneur.
She was a WAHM for about 15 years, and very successful. I confessed to her I was racking my brain for a way to take my business to the next level. How could I do this without draining my time? I couldn’t figure it out. I just redid my super cool, artsy, awesome web design portfolio website. But still had yet to have anyone hire me from my website. I had sold my ebooks on Amazon.com. What I needed was something that would help support the family now that the kids were older. There was urgency as my husband’s job seemed to become obsolete.
I thought the coffee klatch would be a time of sharing and encouragement, not an intervention.
She looked at me seriously and said, “Are you ready for some tough love, or do you want me to tell you how pretty your new site is?”
Sure, I answered nervously, Hit me with the tough love. I’m ready.
I was at the point where I would do anything to succeed.
“You’re marking the wrong website and in all the wrong ways. I think the portfolio does diddly squat for me. It doesn’t convey to me who you are and what you can do for me. And yet I’ve hired you and love you to pieces. You’re the best designer and techie I know, and provide lots of value to your clients. You know a lot. But you aren’t sharing any of that on there. All I see is some groovy looking logo and retro layout. But next to no content that would help me if I was someone who knew jack about starting a website.”
She pointed out how often I answer questions online. I do this via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, or in private emails, about website stuff. I’m always sharing what people need to know to start a successful website project. I love helping non-techies get down to brass tacks, in easy-to-understand ways.
She also pointed out my desire to keep as much of my motherhood website free or super cheap (understandably). Most of my readers are tightening down financially too, and she agreed with it. She even understood how I don’t share as much of the mothering wisdom that I probably could. This is because I want to be discreet for the sake of family privacy, especially as the kids grow older. All of that was understandable.
The Million Dollar Question
“…and with all of that in mind, which I totally agree with, I have a question,” she said. “Why the heck are you trying to grow and market that motherhood website? If you’re hoping to increase income, that’s the wrong business. Why aren’t you spending that much time providing content to your design site? Instead, you’re wasting your time by redesigning it into some cool retro artsy thing every six months? How many times, my friend, have you redone the design logo? And what is that supposed to do for you? Come on, girl, you know this stuff!“
That was the million dollar question. How did I not see that before?
Early on, I used to have a basic website for advertising my web and print design services. But heck if I ever got any hits on it, or ever had someone hire me. I wasn’t gearing that site to potential clients. Instead, I was enjoying hearing from former professors and art school classmates saying how cool it was.
My super cool website just sat there, lonely, looking sweet (because I have an art degree). But it was not doing anything for me. It was begging me to redesign it every time I learned a cool new trick. I had created (cringe) a glorified flyer for my design services, while preaching at everyone else against just that. What a genius I am, huh?
How do you break out of that trap, though?
Listening to Your Customers
You start by listening to your customers and clients (or those who are your target audience, customers and clients).
I knew how to market JoyfulMomma. And I understood the purpose of that website better than I understood my design website. Marketing to a bunch of moms who are broke has little potential. Reaching people who want to learn how to save money is going to bring in a limited amount of income. Although when I started, I never thought I’d make anything off of it. It was a blessing to others.
In fact, it was also a learning curve for me. From the things I had learned, I could make a little cash doing websites for WAHM’s and small businesses. From there, I figured out how to answer their business and website questions.
I realized that I wasn’t listening to my clients and customers (and potential customers) regarding my design services.
Just like many of my clients, I had no content strategy for this design services website. On Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, via Email and in Person, I am the business tech/design answer girl. I’m the one everyone asks questions like, “How do I start a website?”, “What should I do first to launch a website?”, or “Hey, Kim, any ideas for how I can get more traffic?”
Ironically, though I know the answers to these questions, I was too wrapped up in my artsy portfolio. I didn’t realize that the best way for me to get the word out and serve any potential clients, customers, and interested parties in a way that THEY were asking was to use my website to ANSWER the questions they were already asking.
Instead, I kept right on doing that, which I was always telling everyone else not to do.
Share the Answers They’re Looking For
I already knew the questions, and I was already answering those questions, just not on a website where I’d reach and help others too. I was doing it in private emails, on Twitter, and Facebook. Sometimes a tweet on this topic would send people to my portfolio website, but the bounce rate was high. They didn’t stick around or hire me. They went looking for more information and instead found a yellow pages ad.
Epic fail, all because of a lack of content strategy.
If you’re trying to figure out what to do, take some time to brainstorm a bit. Maybe scroll through your twitter feed or Facebook interactions…or even think about conversations you have.
- question do you get asked and do you answer the most?
- are you passionate about?
- are you knowledgeable about?
Without creating a website first, sit down for a bit. Brainstorm those questions and answers, and you’ll be able to best figure out content for your website. I am a weirdo in this regard. I’m all about putting it on paper first. Why? Because when I’m at my computer I usually get distracted and start creating a logo first or other sweet graphics. Put pen to paper for a bit before you turn the power on.