This is a guest post from our partner Intuitive Stack. It's a professional services firm specializing in helping businesses tackle complex content problems. By taking a holistic and data-driven approach to content, they help content teams achieve their business goals, whether that means growing revenue, improving operational efficiency, or reducing risk and compliance issues.
Content strategy is essential for any organization that produces products or supplies services. Whether your organization is for-profit, nonprofit, or a government agency, your customers and colleagues need information to use, sell, support, and document your offerings. A well-thought-out content strategy can ensure that information is efficiently distributed, while also helping your organization achieve its business objectives.
To illustrate, we will examine two scenarios in which a content strategy helped to solve real-world problems. In the first scenario, a call center was receiving a high volume of calls seeking information. In the second, a company that had grown through acquisitions was facing content chaos as multiple groups created content independently without a plan for alignment.
These are just two of many potential scenarios that illustrate the importance of having a content strategy. With a clear plan in place, your organization can efficiently manage the distribution of information and achieve strategic goals.
Streamlining Customer Support: The Power of High-Quality Documentation
Customers had learned over time that calling support was the path of least resistance. No company strives to offer poor support. Internal metrics showed a consistent call volume and a high closure rate. However, upon closer inspection, more nuance was revealed. By analyzing the data, they found that 90% of the calls were requests for information and not due to any problem or defect with the product.
This may seem like a minor issue, but it meant that customers were wasting time on the phone rather than accomplishing their own goals. No customer wants to call support; they do so because they need information to help complete the task in front of them.
The operations team realized that if they could provide customers with better documentation and resources upfront, they could reduce the total number of support calls and free up their time for more complex issues. Customers benefited by having their answers sooner so they could complete their actual task.
To address this challenge, the team proposed a new content strategy that focused on creating high-quality documentation, starting with how the content was published.
A dynamic web portal was chosen that allowed for personalization and better customer service; could be kept current with the latest updates, rather than semi-annually; would scale with new acquisitions made by the company while in hyper-growth mode; and integrated with other systems, allowing for strategic reporting to the leadership.
Achieving the ultimate objective of reducing support calls required numerous critical initiatives needed to be undertaken. These included:
Updating the content model and information architecture of the user enablement content
Adopting a new source control system, enforcing a style guide that promoted uniformity
Publishing HTML to a new web portal
Successful implementation of these projects laid the foundation for the web portal's success and provided substantial benefits.
Throughout all phases metadata played a pivotal role in numerous aspects of the plan. It had a number of uses: authors applied metadata to assign categories; systems monitored the progress of content from draft to review, approval, and publication; customers used it to search and filter items; and technicians created user- or site-specific 'workbooks' before visiting a client.
Unlocking the Value of Content in Mergers & Acquisitions: A Step-by-Step Playbook
Most companies aim to grow year over year. Occasionally this growth is achieved through acquisitions rather than increased product sales. When a company grows through acquisitions, it typically uses strategies to evaluate potential targets. These strategies can cover diverse areas such as culture, communication, human resources, and finance.
However, most strategies fail to assess the pre-sales and support enablement content. When acquisitions occur, content chaos is often the result. Teams that previously created content for their own needs may now face new requirements based on the needs of a new organization, like sharing and reusing content at scale. Meeting these goals requires a content strategy, which could be part of the integration playbook when evaluating and onboarding new business units.
A content strategy integration playbook provides criteria for evaluating potential targets, assisting executive leadership in evaluating ROI and planning accordingly. Some aspects might include:
Content audit. Create an inventory of the existing content, including asset types.
Content model. Establish a process for analyzing the target company's content model and comparing it to your own to identify gaps and overlaps. This process considers the structure and templates rather than specific words and images. Are there any custom or specialized models? What metadata schemes and taxonomies exist?
Content analysis. Outline the process for analyzing the acquired company's content to identify gaps and overlap with the acquiring company. Unlike the content model, this portion of the playbook is concerned with messaging.
Content map. After an audit and analysis have been completed, map the target company's content to the acquiring company's content strategy, looking specifically for opportunities to repurpose and reuse content.
Content strategy alignment. It's possible the target company already has a content strategy. Does their strategy align with yours? Here is where the question of 'why are we creating this content?' is addressed. Review any frameworks, distribution channels, style guides, and approval processes.
Technology stack. Review and analyze the wide variety of systems, tools, and workflows for creating content across all teams and distribution channels, including pre-sales and support enablement content. Identify opportunities for automation and roles and responsibilities. Increasingly, having a plan for the use of machine learning, natural language processing, generative artificial intelligence, and other systems in the content creation process must be a part of the evaluation.
Governance. Ensure alignment between the two organizations for the process of reviewing, approving, releasing, and archiving content. This will also describe how questions will be addressed, and who is responsible for making decisions (typically a team with members from various departments).
Training. The target company's team may be asked to adopt new tools and processes. What training is required to successfully onboard them to the new way of working? Develop training materials, and be prepared to conduct training sessions and monitor performance.
A content strategy integration playbook, like the one outlined here, will help executives ensure that the merger or acquisition goes smoothly and effectively, with minimal disruptions. Content is the largest untapped asset in most organizations; this playbook helps to unlock the value.
Who Should Be Responsible for Developing Your Content Strategy
If you're part of an organization fortunate enough to have an in-house content strategist, regardless of the title—or if you're really lucky, a team of them—you know the answer to question posed by the title. But even an in-house expert or team of experts benefit from external counsel.
From an external consultant's perspective, they investigate and make recommendations. It is ultimately the client's decision—your decision—what recommendations to follow or dismiss.
A content strategy consultant helps you tackle any content-related challenge you're facing. They are there to guide you, assist you, or develop a content strategy with you, depending on what level of engagement you need. A typical engagement with an external consultant starts with an initial consultation where they listen to you explain your needs and objectives in your own words. If there's mutual agreement it's a good fit, the consulting team dives deeper into your concerns and work on a plan for how they can best help. Then, they'll schedule a follow-up meeting where they summarize their understanding of your challenges, but this time using their own words. Finally, they provide you with a proposal, agree on the terms, and sign a contract.
The first phase of a consultancy is typically a discovery project or workshop. This is where the consultants roll up their sleeves and work closely with you to uncover or establish facts that may not have been shared during the initial consultation. They'll initiate a kickoff, hold interviews with stakeholders and experts, and analyze the content landscape to clarify goals, challenges, and develop recommendations. This phase of work results in a comprehensive report that covers key areas and incorporates many of the aspects outlined in the playbook scenario.
Some may view a discovery project with hesitation, but it is critical for clarity and alignment regarding business and project goals, scope, and resource needs. This serves as a foundation for future phases, typically implementing recommended solutions. These recommendations may lead to additional projects with new scope.
Choosing an External Consultant
External consultants can help you in a number of ways. They're neutral third-party advisors, which means they're not involved in any office politics that could hinder or derail your projects. Their recommendations should be based on what they believe is best for your business, regardless of the project. Many consultants have diverse experience and are skilled at providing guidance and advice, especially when you're short on resources like staff or budget.
Consultants provide a service: their expertise. You may see some software vendors choosing to partner with consultants to offer pre-sales guidance or post-sales implementation support. This strategic partnership helps clients with a best-of-both-worlds solution. The software company is leaner and stays focused on its core mission to develop software. The consultant helps guide a customer with developing the content strategy, evaluating a tool, and sometimes implementation. This makes customers happier in the long run, as a tool is only useful when it's part of a strategic plan.
At the end of the day, a content strategy exists to serve the goals of your business. In this article, two scenarios were described, but the possibilities are endless. Just imagine what your business could achieve with an enterprise content strategy in place: you could expand into new markets if your content was translated or bring products to market faster with shorter production cycles. You could align on processes after a merger or acquisition or even provide your service team with virtual reality training for safety, efficiency, or waste reductions.
Intuitive Stack is all about content strategy. We're experts in the content creation process, and we love making tools and workflows modern and efficient. We strive to reduce friction wherever we can, and believe that building bridges between content silos is the way to go. We also believe in letting machines do what they're good at, so people can focus on higher-order tasks.