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Planning your Dynamic Content Effort: 4 Things to Consider, Part I – “Where” and “Who”

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Miryam Brand Miryam Brand, Suite Solutions

When planning for dynamic content, focus is key. It is too easy to get sidetracked by something “cool” that is not what your customers need. Keep these 4 questions in mind:

1. Where does your content “sit”?
2. Who are your users and what are they looking for?
3. How do they access your content?
4. And finally, to what degree do your users want or expect to interact with your content?

The answers to these questions will determine what you tackle first in your dynamic content efforts. They will clarify how you already meet these needs and where the gaps are – in taxonomy, accessibility, types of content, and interactivity.

In this post, we will take a look at the first two questions: where and who.

1. Where does your content “sit”?

Our first question is also the only one not focused on the customer. In a perfect world, all your content would be living together in Edenic harmony. But most organizations have content — important content — in separate content silos. These silos are created and managed by different teams. For example, marketing content is usually kept completely separate from technical documentation and produced in a different format. Similarly, service agents frequently maintain a separate system for answers to common issues or questions that they use in place of the standard technical documentation.

The result is twofold:

1. Lost information within the organization — for example, technical documentation writers are not always aware of frequent issues that need to be addressed while service agents are not always aware of the latest features documented in the standard documentation.

2. Customers do not have access to all relevant information at the time it is needed.

The key to bringing these content silos together is to think integration, not demolition. Silos can exist — in fact, the different content teams in your organization have their own workflows and preferred formats for a reason — but they need to “speak” to each other. The ideal solution is one that can “serve up” content from the different silos as needed, for all the users of content both inside and outside your organization. In other words, the system needs to draw content, both structured and unstructured, from the different silos into a single accessible repository. That repository should be designed so that the important and relevant content is easily accessible by the different users of your content: both employees and customers.

What if your organization is not ready for this kind of integration? Dynamic content can be implemented at a department-by-department level as well, beginning with only one type of content, as long as this is the most important content to your users. Your “test case” should be where it will be most profitable, whether in terms of sales, employee efficiency, or customer satisfaction, so begin with where the users are (see the next question). You can then integrate other departments as the project grows and profitability has been shown.

This brings us to the next question:

2. Who are your users and what are they looking for?

At the most basic level, your content is designed for two different audiences: internal (employees) and external (customers). Some content, such as technical documentation, is intended for both audiences.

Within these two larger groups, there are specific roles or stages that are meaningful to your organization. (This is key: roles or customer stages that may be important to other companies may not be meaningful for yours.) Does your marketing team want to access only the more general technical information, or do they need the same depth of information that your service agents do? Because of the overload of information in today’s organizations, it is important to give each team the easiest access to the information they will actually use. So if your marketing team needs regular access to your technical documentation, be sure to provide them with information that is relevant and not overwhelm them with the entirety of the technical documentation in your organization.

Role Filtering and Classification

This can be accomplished through a classification system that tags each piece of content according to the roles it is important for. (Note: “roles,” plural. Rare is the content that is relevant to only one role in the company.) This classification allows easy filtering by role. It should preferably be applied to each content component — that is, each piece of information that is independently relevant. A strong taxonomy will allow you not only to classify by role, but also by product and function.

All of these separate facets in your taxonomy tree enable the efficient use of your content. Service agents, for example, need fast access to specific pieces of information regarding specific products quickly. They do not have time to flip through a manual. In fact, most consumers of business content, whether employees or customers, are looking for specific information. Our job is to make sure they can get to it and that it answers their needs.

Defining Employee Needs
How can we define those needs? This is the goal of User Centered Design, which uses ethnographic and other techniques to analyze audiences for their goals and use scenarios. Your classification will need to support these different use scenarios in order to provide the right information in the right context.

Defining Customer Needs
Customers, too, frequently want to access specific information right away. Tagging content for customers needs to take two categorizations into account:

1) Role of the customer contact
2) Stage in the sales process

Role of the customer contact

B2B customers frequently have multiple contact people who use your product. Each one may need a different types of information. If your product is part of your customers’ own production process, there will be customer contacts who need the same level of technical information about your product that your own service agents require. Like them, they will want to reach the relevant information about their product right away. In this case, not only should you have filtering per role, but customers should see only information regarding their product and product version. Automatic filtering that displays only products and versions that the customer is registered for can cut down on a great deal of initial confusion when searching for information.

Stage in the sales process

The way customers relate to our products changes over the customer life cycle. Different information is required by:

  1. Potential customers considering your product (pre-sales)
  2. Customers using your product directly after purchase (post-sales)
  3. Established customers who need maintenance and support

Some companies divide pre-sales into even further categories:

  1. Awareness
  2. Information gathering
  3. Evaluation
  4. Selection/Purchase

This is where the power of integration can truly be felt. By integrating your content delivery with your CRM solution, you can “serve up” the right content for potential customers according to the stage they are assigned by your CRM. This requires working closely with your CRM and marketing team to ensure that the correct type of information is tagged for each stage of your customer’s experience. Once again, defining content as important for pre-sales does not mean that it will not be useful for an established customer as well. Content components can serve multiple functions in the customer life cycle.

Categorizing content relevant for new customers in contrast to content useful for maintenance and support is more straightforward. New customers will need a lot of how-tos and walkthroughs of your product features. This sort of content should be prominent for this class of customer when they visit your site or documentation page.

While a good taxonomy is crucial, it won’t be worth much if your carefully tagged and curated content is not accessible to your customer. Your content needs to be both easy to find and available wherever the customer is. In addition, the format should be according to customer preference – printable or mobile, online or off. This challenge is the topic of our next post.

What do you think? Any important considerations in the “where” and “who” of content consumption you’d like to add? Comment below!

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