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So what is Content Strategy?

It's identifying desires and intentions, then being clear about your expectations.

What You Want from People

If you're like most business owners (myself included), you have three main desires:

  • Lots of happy customers
  • Strong word of mouth / referrals from past customers
  • Predictable cash flow and consistent profit

There's two ways people tend to approach the fulfillment of these desires: play it safe with everyone or stand out to a few.

  • When you're playing it safe, you want to fit into a category and be familiar. This means you strive to appeal to everyone without offending anyone, and try to avoid making a negative impression. If this is your strategy, your website should "look like what people expect". Be aware, though, that "being like everyone else" is the same as hiding in a crowd. Any new business you get will be based on sheer chance.
  • When you choose to stand out, you want to appeal to specific people to get a much stronger response rate. Because you're the right fit for them, they are much more likely to tell other people about you and bring in their friends. However, there's also the risk some customers will believe you are NOT the right fit for them, even when you are.

In all likelihood, you'll be seeking some balance between the two approaches. Just be clear on them, so you know what you are offering.

What People Want from You

Now that you know just WHAT you are offering, you can tell people all about it. You'll need to allow your future customers to:

  • See what you are offering
  • Find answers to their questions
  • Get a taste of your offering
  • Start talking to you

Your job in the first three seconds (or less!) is to show people something they need before their attention wanders away. Whether you're playing it safe or standing out doesn't matter in those first three seconds; it's only during the next 5-10 seconds, after you've grabbed the interest of your visitor, that style-words-imagery will start to shape the impression being made. If this impression is positive, then something good may happen next: a sale, an inquiry, or a compliment.

I can help you understand how all this works, pick the right path, and build you something that does the job.

The process begins by establishing intention, motivation, and expectation. Or, expressed as a series of questions:

  • What points do you want to make?
  • To who?
  • How you will convince them that your points are true and relevant to their happy existence?
  • What do you hope/expect to happen as a result of being so darn convincing?

Once you've got that figured out, you can go into the second level of establishing what the risks, underlying assumptions, dependencies, resources, and metrics for success will be. In other words, you're asking more questions to understand why you think it's going to work.

This combination of desire + explaining why it works is how I think of strategy as a whole, and it's a universal process. The mindset is the same whether you're making designing fighter jets or making websites.

Visualizing Strategy

Once we know what we want to say, there are thousands of ways to create that impulse to act. Some simple examples of this:

  • If we want to make people feel happy, we use images of smiling children in joyful nostalgic situations, with bright colors and open compositions. When done well, this can create the right environment for message to be received positively. Yes, maybe you SHOULD buy that convertible, because you might feel like THAT.
  • If we want people to feel nervous, we could use images of car accidents set in environments that are eerily familiar to their own neighborhoods. Lots of heavy type could close-in on the imagery, further oppressing it. Perhaps it's time to strongly consider purchasing some kind of accident insurance?

In other words, there are ways to arrange images, words, and graphics to create both emotional and logical reactions in viewers. That's what design is all about.

For your own communication needs, we'd like people to have positive associations with you, and have a specific reason for it. There are thousands and thousands of reasons why anyone wants to see anyone; the challenge is to pick:

  • specific reasons that are...
  • the most "naturally you" and are...
  • the most effective at generating net growth

Once we know that, it's easy to pick the right graphic elements that help "sell" the reason to your audience: this works well in the"stand out" approach. If instead you're choosing the "play it safe" approach, we use the straightforward layout to make it very clear what you are about, and use emotional associations (like the above two examples) to help make the content more striking. In either approach, it's achieving clarity about how people can appreciate and resonate with YOU that is the foundation of my design process.

I love doing this. It's the writer/storyteller in me, mixed with a smidgeon of strategic thinking.