I began my career in 1998, when the typical website developer was a jack of all trades. We wrote code, created images, wrote copy, designed interactions. Then came the specializations. And while they were designed to make everyone’s role clearer, they often succeeded in creating boundaries, especially when it came to user experience and content strategy.
I remember a discussion I had several years back with a lead UX architect who was insistent that his team was the only one that truly did strategy. Content could engage after the framework and flows were defined, almost a paint-by-numbers exercise. UX defined where the messaging was placed, Greeked in the text, and the copywriters made their updates in the final comps. I knew that devalued my team’s contributions, so I worked with them to establish the role of content strategy and its place in the design process.
Prepaid is a highly competitive environment – to be successful, you have to deliver a great customer experience. You need to fulfill their needs and exceed expectations every day, every minute. With no annual contract binding a customer to your service, one poor interaction – whether it’s purchasing a phone or plan, paying a bill, or troubleshooting an issue – can have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. If your customer can’t complete a task or get what he wants or needs, he may just take his business elsewhere.
If our website copy and, more importantly, the strategy behind it does not enable that customer to be successful, we fail. Along those lines, I talk to my team a lot about measurements and understanding our key performance indicators. In order to create successful content, it is critical to understand upfront the problems you are trying to solve so you can track success or make changes to generate improvements.
How we manage content is also critical. The pace of this business is unrelenting, and customer needs are always evolving. When I started, there were only a few parts of the site that we could update without going through our development team. In order for us to meet the business and customer needs, we had to change how we use our content management system. We’ve made huge strides in that area, and we are now in a position to read and react faster, based on demand.
First, make sure you demonstrate business and customer value. Regardless of your discipline, you need to make sure your strategy supports the company’s bottom line and contributes to the customer’s ease of use. Know that you may not always get it right the first time – that’s where measuring and optimizing play such vital roles. Don’t just rely on analytics reports. Own your results and know how your strategy made a difference.
Second, be prepared to showcase success. You don’t just work on the website, you help to motivate, inspire, and enable customers. You increase revenue by engaging customers and easing them through the purchase flow. Make any influencers you come in contact with walk away knowing how content strategy contributes to the company’s success.
Lastly, never underestimate the value of trust, both with your team and your stakeholders. Always put an emphasis on follow-up and meeting deliverables. Nothing will undermine your work or credibility faster than mistrust. And, conversely, gaining trust unlocks the door to stakeholders’ support and endorsement.
One of the challenging, yet rewarding, aspects about working on the web in the prepaid space is that things are constantly changing. You can never get too comfortable with how your content is working today, because some business driver or customer need could make it ineffective tomorrow. To meet that challenge, I encourage my team to seek out ways we can innovate through content and then empower them to push their idea through.
Inspiration for innovation can come through a variety of sources: social media feedback, industry blogs, metrics, personal experiences, and training. As a leader, you try to expose your team to as many sources of inspiration as you can. For example, I’ll sometimes send out a Facebook thread that contains some feedback about the site. That feedback often sparks ideas that get incorporated into the strategy for a project.
We’re in a discipline that’s very accessible – everyone has an opinion about content development. To combat skepticism, my team and I work to make sure that copy decisions are grounded in strategy. At Cricket Wireless, our content strategists create a document at the onset of projects that details out our considerations – things like our audience and demographics, our KPIs, our voice of the customer research, the marketing strategy, and the competitive research. We have that document ready to review to ground our stakeholders in why we have taken a given approach. If you have done that well, it tends to focus everyone and limit the “I think it should say” discussions.
When I joined Cricket Wireless in October 2014, we were still in the start-up phase. Our team was much smaller, and we were figuring out the best way to work with one another. Processes were still being defined. Over a year later, we have definitely matured – and that maturity has helped with content advocacy.
We have made big strides in coordinating our messaging and making it work harder across all channels – from online to in-store and advertising. Our team works very closely with marketing to ensure customers have a seamless experience regardless of where they prefer to interact with us. I believe that has played a big role in our success.
Now that we are growing and gaining more customers, the focus is shifting to providing a great self-service experience. Content plays a huge role in helping people gain confidence that they can troubleshoot issues, pay their bills, and manage their account. We have a huge opportunity to better understand our customer needs and provide the right content at the right time, so I see our influence only growing.
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