Last week I took a long, hard look at my closet.
Some things were out of style. (Pleated corduroy, anyone?) Some things didn’t fit. (Mom’s not the only parent carrying extra weight after a new baby joined the family.) It was painfully obvious: I needed some new spring clothes.
When it comes to picking out clothes, I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m pretty hopeless. Sure, I can spot a cool shirt. But ask me to pick out matching pants? Or socks? Or a belt? All bets are off.
I knew I needed an expert. So I put myself in the capable hands of the sales staff at a men’s specialty store. Thanks, Mr. B Clothing
When you look at your website, you might see what I saw in my closet.
Maybe your design is a few years old. Perhaps the content is out of date. Maybe that Flash video just doesn’t work anymore.
You need an expert, too. And that expert is a content strategist.
To know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been.
A sales associate does this by determining your size and style, and by comparing your look to what other fashion-forward people are wearing.
A content strategist also analyzes your size and style. He or she reviews your current website—and your competitors’—and compares branding, key messages, voice, content, design, architecture, and SEO.
This helps you to know exactly where you stand.
To know what to say, you need to ask the right questions.
A sales associate might ask you where you plan to wear your new clothes, who you’re wearing them for, and what you want them to say about you.
A content strategist will ask you similar questions. Who is your website for, and what do you want it to say about you? He or she will ask questions to learn about your sales process, your target audiences, and the goals of your website.
When time and budget allow, a content strategist will also talk to your customers—current and potential.
It’s important to know what information your customers want and how they prefer to receive it. For instance, do they skim your website or do they study it? Do they prefer to read text or watch videos?
A content strategist may also conduct user testing—that is, he or she may watch a few of your customers perform specific tasks on your website to see what works well and what trips them up.
It’s time to prepare the strategy.
A good sales associate walks through the store—getting ideas, grabbing clothes that can be the foundation of your wardrobe, and putting together outfits that match your tastes, fit, and budget.
A content strategist does similarly. He or she uses the analysis and research findings to create a sitemap and goals that are the foundation for the entire website.
4. Writing and Editing
Now the hard work begins.
A sales associate brings the options to the dressing room and helps you determine what works. “Keep this. Toss that. No. Yes. Maybe. I want to see this on you in green.” The final product: a look that’s totally you.
A content strategist works hard to make similar judgment calls. He or she writes, edits, and writes some more. The final product: Content with a voice, look, and feel that’s consistent with your brand; SEO that drives traffic to your website; and compelling calls to action that generate leads or sell products.
When the content is done, it’s the designers’ and developers’ time to shine.
Ta-dah! I’ve got a new wardrobe, and you’ve got a new website.
Once your website goes live, you’re done, right? Not so for the content strategist. For him or her, the end of this phase of the project is only the beginning.
A good sales associate is there for you after the sale. Maybe you need an alteration later. Or someone to steam your shirt when you need to look sharp for the big meeting. (Did I mention I’m bad at ironing, too?)
A diligent content strategist is there for you after the website goes live by keeping an eye on your analytics. Maybe a page isn’t converting as well as you want. A content strategist could make a small suggestion, such as a different offer or a tweak to the SEO, which could make a big difference.
Here’s what you really need to know.
If you’re like me and want to know what not to wear, the services of a sales associate can help.
If you want to know what not to web, you will benefit from the services of a content strategist.