Words mean something. They communicate, inform, inspire. The words we use tell others about us. Our skill with them can be one important element of our success. In business, words mean money. In a recent NY TIMES article, David Streitfeld characterizes Groupon’s financial fate as hinging on its successful use of words. True? In part, yes. But the same is true for companies like PayPal, IBM, and Dell. Their language may not be as punchy as that used by Groupon, but their business strategies are different, their target audiences are different, and their content should reflect that.
It’s surprising how many organizations fail to use language that matches their expensive marketing persona research. We know target customer personality profiles, where they live, how they live, but not necessarily how they talk. What words, phrases, tone or tenor should we use to show that we are members of the communities we’re selling to?
PayPal moved from “hip and trendy” language in its early days to the more formal language of a financial institution. It grew from a micro-payment app for Palm Pilots to banking to financial services. Its customer base broadened. It went global. It had to meet international regulatory guidelines. The more informal its language was the more difficult it was to operate globally.
Companies like PayPal who do match language with business and marketing strategy are in the minority. Even fewer are able to keep small armies of tech support, marketing and product writers consistently accurate and effective. And by extension, far fewer keep up with User Generated Content created by customers.
We also have to ask about search. Are you writing content in a way that lets people find you? How can you tell? How often do users talk, or search, in the same terms as your marketing department?
Consider Yankee Candle’s launch of “House Warmers.” A catchy name and a fully developed marketing concept. Candles, with light and scent, do warm a house. But no one was searching for “house warmers.” How did Yankee Candle improve sales? With adjustments to their content, people found the new products and sales rose. But how did they know why sales were stagnant? And which words would they need to change to fix the problem?
After more than a decade of linguistic research, we’ve learnt a lot about how the most successful communicators use words and language to the greatest business effect. What has evolved out of this is the notion of Content Strategy. It touches every department and every means of communications with customers – online, off-line, social media, sales, marketing, tech support, product literature, translation and yes, financial reporting. Over the next few weeks I’ll introduce the latest Content Strategies now being pioneered by both global titans and start-ups.
Goal setting for brand and content management.
Discovery of terms and language that move your business forward at the speed of your customers.
Validation – measuring the effectiveness of your content across communications channels, and adjusting your content based on market place feedback.
Deployment and upkeep of content over time.