I’ve found that demonstrating your business acumen—whether you’re an inside staff person or an outside consultant—is one of the most important things you can do to make the case for content strategy. I wrote a whole chapter about it in my book, “The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right.”
Here’s an excerpt from chapter 2, which is all about convincing leaders to approve a content strategy project. I’m excited for you to read it.
OK, so just admit it, you have at some point in your career muttered under your breath about some colleagues—likely decision makers—something like, “Elghhhh, they just don’t get it.” I have. And I’m not saying you were wrong. They probably didn’t get it.
But here’s the thing. In that same moment, they probably believed there was something you didn’t get. And they were probably right, too. That’s why it behooves us content folk to think like business people.
Business people think in terms of return on investment (ROI) and risk and reward. They have to. Your case for content strategy absolutely must be presented in those terms. For example, how will your project increase efficiency, eliminate costs, or boost sales?
So make sure what you’re proposing actually is a sound business decision. The people you have to convince have been burned before by bright, shiny new sites and apps and big ideas that made no impact on sales… or client acquisition… or the brand… or revenue. Their budgets, their reputations, and sometimes even their jobs may be on the line. And they’re just as worried that you don’t get it as you are worried that they don’t.
(Pardon me for being a bit negative here. It’s just really important.)
And now for some math…
To make your case, spend some time on forecasting and projections (more business person terms) based on the opportunities you’ve identified. For inspiration, think about the word problems you had to solve in math class.
Here’s an example of one I used to demonstrate the importance of doing some restructuring and making some nomenclature (how things are named and labeled) changes in a client’s intranet site. It was based on real data:
Corporate employees estimate that they spend an average of 30 minutes per week searching for something they need on the intranet. With 7,000 corporate employees with an average hourly wage of $40 per hour, that equates to $140,000 per week or $7.28 million per year in staff time.
7,000 employees x ~ 0.5 hours x ~ $40 per hour x ~ 52 weeks
That’s a lot of money, but there’s more.
Employees also estimate that once every three or four months, they have to call support for help with something that is available on the intranet but that they are unable to find. That equates to about 21,000 calls per year, each lasting an average of 4 minutes. The company pays approximately $1 per minute. That amounts to a cost of $84,000.
3 calls per year x ~ 7,000 employees x ~ 4 minutes x ~ $1 per minute
That amount doesn’t include the staff time spent on the calls, which is about $56,000.
12 minutes per year x ~ 7,000 employees x ~ $40 per hour
All told, problems finding information on the intranet cost the company about $7.42 million per year.
If we can reduce the amount of time employees spend finding information on the intranet and the number of support calls by half, we would free up 92,400 staff hours over the course of a year and save the company $3.71 million.
Continuing with this example, the next step is to estimate what it will cost to fix the navigation and nomenclature. Make sure to be honest and inclusive with your estimate. Table 2.1 shows some made-up costs for this example.
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