Perhaps you’re the sales leader, and your sales people lack the content they need to sell effectively in this age of online, self-educating, stealth buyers.
Or, perhaps you’re responsible for lead generation and demand management, but you lack effective education-oriented nurturing content to support your desire to deploy multiple persona, stage and industry relevant nurturing campaigns.
You might manage channel sales and your partners regularly complain they lack channel appropriate content to fuel their lead gen and selling activities.
Or, you are accountable for any number of other content dependent, customer engaging groups across your organization. Your inventory and budgets are starved for the customer relevant content you require.
You each know the performance of your group suffers due to poor,
missing or impossible to find content for key situations.
Yet your organization is cranking out more content than ever before. What’s going on? More importantly, what can you do differently to get your needs met?
Define Your Content Use Case Requirements
What’s a use case?
A use case is a list of steps, typically defining interactions between a role and a system, to achieve a goal. Use cases have been widely used in modern software engineering over the last two decades. Use case driven development is a key characteristic of process models.
You’ve adopted process models in the form of your sales, lead generation and nurturing processes. Hopefully your process aligns with your buyer’s buying process.
The “role” in your process is your sales rep, or the content you use for lead gen communications (email, landing page, major content pieces.)
The “steps” are not just the stages of the process. They include the “interactions” — activities, information and decisions — your audiences/buyers must take at each step before they move to the next.
Your steps are your engagement plan and your associated activities. Think of these as touch points.
Your use cases are the critical, “must win” touches within and across all steps. Ask yourself and your team questions like:
- What specifically must you do at each touch point?
- What experience must you create?
- What questions must you ask, or information you must learn?
- What audience/buyer questions must you answer?
- How must you answer them — as an in person or phone/web meeting conversation, through content or a third party?
Your use case requirements work starts by defining the audience engagement map including process flows, key steps / touch points, activities and decisions at each stage.
Why Define Content Use Case Requirements
The traditional content process has been characterized as “random acts of content.” A better practice is to develop a content strategy. Use case requirements are a foundation for your group’s content strategy. They define what you need and why.
Think of yourself and your group as “content constituents” to those who are responsible to create content, or to source your team with the resources required to deliver desired results.
It’s not your job to create the content, just like it isn’t your job to design and build your products. But as you define, document and justify new product or feature requests, documenting content requirements is a professional practice that results in better performing content.
Even if content creators happen to work in your group, or under contract to you directly, everyone needs answers to these questions to create effective content.
You need this information to determine content priorities, levels of investment, timing and general content design.
Developing this competency will also help you compete for internal resources, especially as your organization evolves the way it makes content decisions.
Design Your Key Touch Point Conversations
Once the high level use case map is designed, the next level of work required to define specific content use case requirements is to design key touch point conversations.
We find it useful to think of the engagement process as a series of conversations. Regardless of the mode – direct personal, through content, or third party – conversations and stories are the methods by which audiences receive and process information they need to make decisions.
These key moments of truth (see Google ZMOT) conversations must be designed for optimal results, and minimal breakdowns.
Generally, conversations are left for individuals to figure out and execute as they see fit. But the relatively few, critical touch points are high stakes conversations. For quality, consistent customer experience, these conversations should be designed.
Here’s a light conversation framework to help guide your thinking.
- For alignment with your audience:
- Who — is or should be in the conversation (both sides), who’s missing?
- Why — what is your / your audience’s purpose: for personal, function or top business objectives and outcomes
- When — in the process is/should this conversation occur? What happened before, what comes next?
- Where — ideally, how does location affect the conversation?
- How — for your audience:
- What issues or interests do they want to discuss
- Decisions and information do they need
- Much time do they have
- Do they learn or like to receive information
- For your conversation structure:
- Set up the listening – help audiences know what to listen for
- What questions to ask, information to acquire
- Key points to make
- Answers to audience questions, support and proof points
- Scenario options
- Next steps
This conversation support should be documented and reviewed before each live conversation, or content creation effort. This creates higher empathy and focus on areas that matter. It provides structure to support optimal behavior. It will be an input to the work described next.
For a deeper explanation and checklist on designing conversations, see our Conversation Support Competency.
Define and Document Specific Content Requirements
You’ve defined and ideally visualized a high level audience engagement map, with steps and activities identified aligned between you and your audiences. You’ve designed conversations for key touch points on this engagement map.
The next step is to determine where, how and why content can help you and your audiences achieve your objectives. See the “Job for Content” list in the blog post, What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do? This provides an important approach and checklist for this work.
For each piece of content develop a Content Requirements Document for major content projects, or a Content Header for emails, blogs and landing page level work, as explained in this post. Much of this follows the conversation checklist above.
Notice in the blog post referenced above, the content quality checklist. Just as you would when purchasing or requisitioning any product, the Content Use Case Requirements document should specific your quality requirements. In 20 years of creating content for customers we’ve never received such a document. We’ve found that up front quality definitions improve outputs, lower content time-to-market, and align investments to effort and expectations for many other important benefits.
Strategic Role of Content Use Case Requirements
Documented Content Use Case Requirements help make the business case, and define the specific content you require to deliver your business outcomes. They provide essential input to your group as well as for marketing and sales content strategy work.
Once you’ve developed a complete picture of your audience engagement process, key touch point conversations, and identified support content requirements, you must determine priorities and make the financial case for the business value of each investment.
This will help you win investment support.
As you shift content priorities from product oriented “collateral” to customer oriented, educational content, you’ll realize significant new opportunities. You’ll shift your investments from short-life content expenses, to long-life useful assets that will continue to perform — literally for years if designed correctly.
With discipline, in a relatively short period, the flywheel effect of this approach will deliver considerably higher business results, and with it, a better return on content investments than you’ve ever imagined.