I like to get the most I can out of everything. I use things for as long as I can. T-shirts become painting shirts, then rags, that sort of thing. My children have to convince me that it is time to replace something since I always find new uses for things.
It turns out that you can apply this thinking to your content strategy, as well. Specifically, you may be able to get a lot more insight into the content requirements of your users than you think, by really considering the data and feedback you have available – and how you can get the most out of it.
For the past two years, I have concentrated on doing just that for a large team of technical content developers at Dell EMC. Here are five takeaways that you can use to wring everything you can from the data available to you.
Let’s assume you don’t have a budget to interview users or run a study. The first step is to understand what data you already have available. This may seem simplistic, but think big and spend some time here.
Analytics, feedback, and comments from your internal stakeholders are more obvious sources of feedback. But step back and reach out across organizational silos. You may just find new sources of useful customer feedback.
For example, maybe there are product studies, field visits, or UX testing sessions where content experience is included. Product surveys done by your marketing organization may surface issues customers face accessing product information.
Calls to the support center are a great way to understand challenges customers have with the product that you may be able to create content to address, while industry surveys can give you insights into future planning. Make sure to include ad-hoc sources of data. You may be able to get more out of casual hallway conversations with stakeholders if you formalize this as a valid source of feedback. And of course, always make sure that your intended use of the data is consistent with company policies and any legal restrictions that might apply to it.
A data inventory can be performed in a similar fashion to a content inventory. Create a spreadsheet to help you understand the value, owner, and cadence of the data. Use the spreadsheet to prioritize the data and uncover new opportunities.
For example, maybe the product survey you found doesn’t currently have a question about content experience, but the survey owner is willing to add a new question. Perhaps customer support calls would require a lot of effort to work through, but you can glean faster results from a focus group with the support team who routinely correspond with your customers.
Keep in mind that it’s probably not practical to use every data source available, so you need to choose your starting place. Consider product or corporate strategy when prioritizing. For example, if time-to-value is a focus, you may want to weigh data focused on the early ownership stage, so that you can uncover content opportunities to support that strategic focus.
Data on its own isn’t going to help your team create more useful content. If you already have a reporting platform and content strategists with the right skill set, you are way ahead of the game. But for many content teams, this requires capability building, meaning three things have to happen: you have to create the data and feedback reports, you have to deliver these reports to the right people, and you have to support the use of the reporting.
It’s helpful to take an iterative approach to your reporting. Think about what you are trying to show with the report (maybe a survey summary or a web analytics report), then design and deliver it to the right people. Over time, you can improve the reporting, using feedback from your recipients, or adding in deeper analysis. The ultimate goal is to deliver insights, not data.
It’s also important to consider what delivery will work for your team. Do you have a single SharePoint you can use for all reports? A Confluence site where you can post reports for each product your team’s support? If you have data coming from different teams who use different platforms, think through a way to consolidate this for your team – a page with a set of links is more effective than expecting people to track things with their own bookmarks. Email should be your last resort, except as a notification, as things get lost this way.
You’ll need someone who can think analytically, can put themselves in the customer’s shoes, and who has in-depth knowledge of existing content. Depending on your team’s experience, you may need to provide support to create awareness of the work you’re doing, to actually drive content change. You may need to document the process, create instructional videos, or have working sessions with the teams to help them understand how to use your new reports.
Now that you have your initial sources and reporting underway, start looking at going deep and wide. Keep in mind that many data sets can be used in more than one way.
For example, web feedback can be parsed through for issues that should be immediately actioned (such as technical errors or missing links), but it can also be analyzed to uncover themes which can then be used to proactively solve customer problems. If a single customer requests a diagram to accompany an article, you probably aren’t going to run off and create one. But if you see a recurring theme, you may want to dig deeper and modify your strategy around non-text content.
Segmentation is another way to wring your data. By going wide with data, you can apply it to high-level decision making, i.e. ‘Should we make videos or work on responsive design?’ However, if you are able to look at the data by product line, or by type of respondent, you can get a whole different set of insights.
You may be able to get even more value by combining data sources. If you have feedback on specific content, and web analytics on that same content, consider joining those together to get a more complete view of the content. Or, if you have a theory from one of your data sets, i.e. ‘We should create more troubleshooting content,’ you can validate it using another data set, such as customers that keep calling about these same three problems. This can help you make wise content decisions.
None of this has value to your organization if you don’t use it to drive action. Although you may want to think that your beautiful reports, single location reporting repository, and carefully written procedures are enough, chances are, they aren’t. You’ll need at least two more things: Buy-in from the right stakeholders, and a way to measure your impact.
Both of these require more than a paragraph, but you need support from your management chain to ensure that you have the time allocated to get the desired results. You need content developers who are willing to create new types of content. Depending on the kind of changes you want to make, you may also need the support of your subject matter experts or other stakeholders.
In a world where customer experience is everything, creating the right content is a high-value activity, and using data and feedback to support decision-making about what content to invest in only makes sense.
That’s why getting the most from your data is a priority. And if you find gaps or ways to make your data more scalable, you’ll have the information you need to make the business case for even more data!
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