How to Design an Organization that Delivers Content as Product, Part 1

Content Delivery Channels

We're fast approaching our appointment at Confab2011, the content stategy conference, May 9-11. As I did with my session on influence at SxSWi, I will be building upon the topic to leading up to the day when we (some of us, I know there is a long waiting list) meet.

You should think of content as a business asset, a product. This was always important. However, it has become even more so with the increased popularity of Web sites and the understanding of the value of search.

Google created a tight loop between organic and paid search, thus giving us the owned, earned, and paid trifecta of content marketing.

As a commercial entity, you want to make sure you do your best to be found by those who likely need your services. However, there is a time for every purpose — and piece of content. Recently Doc Seals lamented that (emphasis mine)

The Web is changing from a world wide library with some commercial content to a world wide mall with intellectually interesting publications buried under it, in virtual catacombs. Google’s mission of “organizing all the world’s information” is still satisfied. The problem is that most of that information — at least on the Web — is about selling something. The percentage of websites that are Web stores goes up and up. SEO only makes the problem worse.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Attitude adjustment

To go from start to success in transforming the way you think about and produce content, you will need to first get out of your own way. Stop being an insider, someone who speaks from his own point of view. Start being an investigator, someone who is truly interested in finding a connection point.

Here's an example of what I mean, fresh from my inbox, with names changed to protect the innocent:

I am writing in response to the e-mail correspondence you addressed to Name Surname, Important Title at Big Company. I appreciate this opportunity to assist you on behalf of the Division Office.

I have begun researching your concerns, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you directly. Please contact me at the telephone number listed below, at your convenience.

I tried calling twice already at the number listed and have gotten the voice mail. The legal disclaimer at the bottom of the email is more clearly stated than the message. What's wrong with the copy, you may ask? It reads perfectly nice. That it does.

Now take a look at the point of view and, with the knowledge that it's coming from a customer support group, what do you see? A version of "I'm sorry you feel that way", when it is you who put me in that feeling mode.

Check the box on telling me who you are and how much you are appreciating the opportunity without actually giving me any sense that you care. In fact, this is putting it back on my plate. Hey, we've begun working it (the issue we created), now up to you to tell me more.

My initial email contained most information this company needed. I added the missing piece by sending a second email. Let's see what happens.

Much copy still reads as if the organization made the time to see you now. That needs to change — the organization that produces that copy needs fresh thinking and doing to make an impact where it counts.

Leave the ego home. Find the pride again.

Communication channels

Clearly this organization, like many, is set up with a customer support call center that, in turn, has a call tree that is looking more and more like a real tree in Modena after the improvised pruning people are done. All stump, two or three main branches left, and no life after that.

A sad picture.

Imagine what would happen if customers could choose their preferred communication channel. With social, they already do, and too bad for you if you're not listening. However, that makes it harder for your organization, not easier.

With choice, many may go for email. Which is great, if you think about it. Solve their issue, open a channel and gain permission to deliver content with that interaction. Use judiciously to deliver good information, alerts, tips, curated news, and so on, and you will be white listed for bidding on the next purchase or a recommendation.

Other customers will prefer telephone contact. It happens already in the travel industry. People who buy on discount sites, then contact the company for requests and changes through a phone number instead of sending an email. When the ecommerce site is set up for email communications.

There are many ways to ask and find out. You could be tracking off the Web site, getting sample responses from customers during routine service visits, etc. Make the ask an action item. Or you're shelving the problem as recurring.

And give people the option to change their mind with one click.

Who's in charge of delivery?

If you believe, as I do, that content is a product, who's in charge of delivering that product? We'll talk about this part next week. 


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