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Content strategy must focus on differentiators

Content strategy must focus on differentiators

“We are a customer–focused solutions–provider working in partnership with our clients to create win–win scenarios in the marketing sphere.” Sound familiar? Unfortunately for you and I, in life’s short journey we will never get back the wasted seconds, minutes and hours spent listening to these and other business clichés.

Mercifully, nowadays few websites are just as indulgent in their use of words however when planning a website content strategy it is essential that businesses focus on their differentiators and let the user know what they are as quickly as possible. This is good practice for three reasons; firstly it’s good marketing, secondly it’s invariably what the user wants to know however thirdly and perhaps most importantly it’s what closes the sale for you.

We can say this with certitude because we see it backed up consistently in the review of website analytics. We are fortunate to work with clients across many sectors, many sizes and boasting a wide variety of differentiators; in virtually all cases the most popular pages on their websites are the pages which reinforce their points of difference. Frequently we see evidence of users skimming through pages which outline areas of commonality with competitors and spending more time on more pages to do with differentiation.

This has immediate implications for many websites.

Consider a B2B professional services business such as an advertising agency or a legal firm. Their content strategy should focus on what makes them different, i.e. their client list, their portfolio of work and the CVs and experience of their senior people. If they are involved in thought leadership it should also include their latest thoughts and opinions. Their content should include but not focus on their services or their values, as their services and their espoused values are likely to be very similar to those of their competitors. Once a user has identified that you provide the service they need, their interest isn’t in you declaring your expertise further, but in you proving your expertise further, through differentiators.

Think of a regional jobs website wanting to promote jobs of a certain type within a certain sector. Many of their marketing claims will be identical to those of their competitors. “We only match the right candidates with the right opportunities”, “we have access to 1000s of CVs”, “we have all the right accreditation” are all important but don’t compel the user to do business with it rather than its competitors, who are saying pretty much the same thing.

Users don’t want to read these generic claims, or at least they don’t want to focus on them. They want evidence of differentiation, which they achieve by finding the job which is right for them. Differentiation is proved then by the volume of jobs on the site, the accuracy of the site search, the description of jobs, and the ability to find, filter and select. In short, users demand implementation of differentiation, not declaration of differentiation.

This is a principle we observe universally across all business sectors.

For B2C retail, differentiation is driven by product range, delivery speed and price. For travel offerings it’s about flexibility, price and user–experience. Universities set themselves apart by helping their users find the perfect course delivered by the best lecturers, giving the opportunity for the best career. Analytics, common sense and marketing best–practice consistently align to remind us that across all business sizes, sectors and areas of competitive advantage, websites must base their user experience around differentiators.

It is a truism that design and navigation should serve content always, however more specifically they should serve differentiated content that proves key points of competitive advantage. If your business doesn’t have a clear one, or can’t prove itself to be the best at something, no amount of flashy graphics, cool plug–ins or “brand experience” can close the deal for you.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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