Sticking Your Neck Out in Web Content Management


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We are tasked with finding ways to find new customers, get customers to buy more, prevent customers from leaving and getting referrals based on our superior service delivery. As a result, we begin to get busy; busy putting ideas on post-it notes, busy creating content on our website, busy looking for that next super-metric, busy feeling good about our creative design…busy, busy, busy. When the results don’t come in, we get busier, right? The question I have is whether we are busy doing the right things.

It’s common to see these groups busy in meetings showing off the latest concept in ideation learned at the latest seminar. No matter how many times I hear the term customer-centricity, or voice of the customer, or the customer’s job-to-be-done it’s quite clear that they are merely paying lip service because they know it’s what people want to hear. Then they resort to the same internally focused efforts that rarely produce the lasting results every business owner would like.

I always like to ask what job you’re trying to help your customer get done with regard to your product or service. In terms of marketing in the era of Web 2.0 (and even the semantic web of linked data) we have placed a reliance on quantity of content over quality of content. We have all gotten excited about getting our communities to assist in the creation of content as well; and we’ve all heard about the power of the Holy Grail…the long tail. But, as we’ve gone down this path, we’ve actually made it harder for potential customers to find what they want. It’s one thing to understand why your service is hired – what outcomes you are helping your customer achieve when you design the service. It’s quite another to understand which point they are at in the awareness cycle when they stumble upon your website, or whether there is anything you can do to control the stumble. But we feel successful because we’re counting visitors.

In fact, it’s quite possible there is nothing on your website that will help them accomplish what they are trying to get done when they visit. Customers have a different job to get done on your website, and it’s possible that there are many things getting in the way of them achieving that end. Gerry McGovern (The Stranger’s Long Neck) believes we should be focusing on the long neck and not the long tail; and that we need to understand and measure how well our customers (or visitors) are able to accomplish the top tasks they come to perform on your website. What we consider to be top tasks is almost always different than what our customers feel. As a jobs-to-be-done embracer, I whole-heartedly agree. Search terms alone could actually mislead you; which is reminiscent of people don’t want a ¼” drill (even though they searched for it) they want a ¼” hole (to hang a shelf, to store books).

Gerry uses a system to determine customers top tasks on a website, and as with any systems thinker, he promotes continuous improvement (get passionate about the system, not your topic). He suggests a build-and-forget strategy is inappropriate and confusing to customers, and he presents strong evidence supporting his case. However, one of the most alarming types of evidence he presents is the common perception gap found between what organizations feel is important to customers (on the website) and what customers feel is important. Here’s an example of the top 10 tasks (out of around 100)
that were identified and ranked for a car navigation manufacturer (the book is about 4-5 years old, I use my phone now), by both customers and by members of the organization.

Rank Customer Organization
1 Automatically and quickly recalculates a new route if you miss a turn or change your plans Perfect integration into the dashboard
2 3D moving maps to help you navigate more easily Best brand in navigation
3 Easy-to-follow, accurate directions Industry-leading pinpoint accuracy even when GPS signal lets you down (tunnel, high rises, forest, etc.)
4 Full postcode searches Internet and Web Access
5 Bright and clear anti-glare screen Really easy to use even by people not familiar with the technology
6 Clear friendly spoken instructions Free live traffic information: Great way to avoid traffic problems
7 Drive safely: Voice control allows you to keep your eyes on the road Free professional fitting
8 Easy update software and maps Navigate 26 countries-straight out of the box
9 Bluetooth-enabled (phone and music) State-of-the-art GPS, music center and Bluetooth all in one unit
10 Most up-to-date map information Plays CDs and DVDs in almost every possible format (MP3, AAC, WMA, DIVX)

The actual framework and scoring process shall be left for another day (or read the book). It is simply another approach that strives to achieve the messaging capability of outcome-driven innovation (personally, I believe innovation and messaging should derive from the same framework). The important thing to note here is there is ZERO overlap between the way the customer sees the world (as they seek to solve a problem) and the way the company sees the world (as it seeks to serve itself). Fast forward a few years and we see that “Perfect integration into the dashboard“is so off target it’s almost laughable (we use smart phones now), and anytime you see “brand” you know this is not coming from the customer. These people should not be designing a website based on their feelings.

The key take away I got was that it’s better to focus on the top 10 tasks (or jobs to be done) from your customers perspective, and continually monitor your changes and improve them over time. Old and irrelevant (tiny task) content needs to be disposed of, taken out of your search engine, de-indexed and/or removed from your navigation so it no longer gets in the way. As a website marketer myself, I know how hard this is. However, I’ve now got a few new ideas that I intend to employ on a site that needs some attention and I will be focusing on the long neck, for sure.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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