Taking care of business: The untold story

by Mark Borkowski

One key (yet underutilized) resource available to every business is its content. Most companies think of content in terms of what they post on their website, blog, or Facebook page, but content is much broader and more far-reaching than that.

“Effective content should not just reach a particular audience,” according to Jason Helfenbaum, president of ClicKnowledge, a writing and consulting company, “it should also resonate with them and compel them to think or act in a certain way.” For employees, good content makes them more informed and efficient, and for customers, good content leads to conscious, informed purchases.

“Often companies don’t proactively think about what kind of content they need. They miss opportunities to develop strategies that leverage their existing knowledge to solve problems or to expand markets,” explained Helfenbaum.

“For example, a company fulfills its obligation to create an employee handbook, but instead of planning for the project to meet objectives or goals, the handbook becomes an unnecessarily expensive binder left untouched on a shelf. Management misses an opportunity to guide employees to reinforce key principles while avoiding common pitfalls.”

Instead of being an afterthought, both training and content development should be part of essential business operations with resources allocated to them. Though any content strategy should focus on making a company’s information accessible and applicable, it should be scaled according to an organization’s complexity, size and needs. Regardless of whether you are an organization of 10, 100, or over 1,000, there are several universal guidelines that can simplify and enhance your company’s content goals and objectives.

Know all the variables

Before you can develop an effective content strategy you first have to know all of the variables at play. Helfenbaum is used to seeing lots of initial gaps and incorrect assumptions, especially when creating online courses.

“When we had to problem-solve in school, we were given all of the necessary variables. In real life and in business, however, we don’t always know or have all of the information. Organizations need to ask questions until they uncover all of the moving parts. Then they can address challenges head on.”
Doing a needs-analysis helps to ensure the success of content objectives within projects such as online courses. Professionals and departments that do not engage in this type of exploration run the risk of falling short of meeting their goals and objectives, or missing the mark entirely.

Avoid information silos

It is not uncommon to find other departments often have plenty of pre-existing content you can leverage. Unfortunately, while the information is there for the taking, you usually have no idea of its existence.

A common example of this is when marketing creates content without any input from sales, and sales withholds their knowledge of what they need to close a sale based on customer feedback from marketing. Worse still, are situations where only a single employee possesses particular knowledge or expertise. When that employee leaves, that knowledge and expertise leaves too. In knowledge-based industries, lack of preparation for this can be especially devastating.

This happens because of what are known as information silos. To break down these silos, companies need to create a culture and system for sharing information and content. Doing so will lead to improved knowledge, efficiencies, and opportunities.

Create content for your audience

The goal is to target your content by personalizing it for your audience. “Most corporate websites are narcissistic,” noted Helfenbaum. “Most often, they tell you ‘this is who we are’ instead of ‘this is how we can help.’”

Once, the seller controlled the flow of product information, but in today’s age of the Web and social media, customers can find any information they want. If your customers do not understand what you’re trying to say, and if you can’t address their needs and concerns, they will simply look elsewhere.

Continuous and ongoing dialogue

Corporate content has evolved. Gone are the days when companies controlled customer exposure to product information. Now your product is on continuous display and evaluation in social media and on the Web. We have evolved from talking at our target market to talking with them. Employees should also be brought into this conversation. And out of this dialogue comes the opportunity to discover missing variables, to share information, and to create a content strategy that increases sales and improves employee performance.

Mark Borkowski is president of Mercantile Mergers and Acquisitions Corp. Mercantile is a mid-market mergers & acquisitions brokerage. You can contact Mark or his staff at www.mercantilemergersacquisitions.com

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