Getting a content strategy underway (part 1): Justifying the investment
This is the first in a four-part series that serves to set you up for getting a content strategy underway. Of course, you could just get started, and my 16-week online content strategy programme is designed to help you do just that. However, there are often people to persuade and decisions to make that hold us back from just diving in. This series helps you to think through – and get through – those stages.
In this post we consider the question of investing in a content strategy. Whether that’s an investment of time, taking staff away from other work to give the dedicated focus that a content strategy really needs, or an investment of budget to have additional support (like the my team and I at Pickle Jar Communications) to do that work for you while you sustain existing priorities and business as usual.
In order to justify the investment, we might be asked to talk about the return on that investment (ROI)…
Can we even put an ROI figure on content strategy work?
Yes, and no. But really yes, if we actually really think about it and break it down. I’m not convinced that you can promise an ROI before you’ve even started your content strategy development because, y’know, you haven’t even got clear on your goals yet. However, you can at least start to define how you want the ROI to look and therefore shape your case for investment accordingly.
What examples of a return from investing in doing content strategy well might we offer?
Here are just some places to look, with a few resources to help you too:
– Creating a better audience experience leads to more and/or better “customers” (this article on the ROI of user experience (UX) work – which I see as part of content strategy work – provides some data to back this up).
– Audiences having their actual questions answered how and when they want those answers leads to less time spent by an enquiries team handling simple queries. Chatbots can be great for this but are completely dependent on strong content strategy and planning to make them work properly (see this article on the University of Adelaide’s plan for using chatbots to increase international student recruitment without increasing the size of the enquiries team).
– Less time spent handling simple enquiries leads to more time available to handle complex enquiries that make a real difference and lead to true loyalty and advocacy (read about how Georgia State University reduced Summer melt through this approach).
– Defining a clear user journey and content flow opens us the ability for us to put actual £$€ figures on each piece of content as they move through the engagement funnel, thus demonstrating ROI at each stage and knowing precisely where to make adjustments (the wonderful Mike Powers of IUP delivers brilliant workshops on measuring content and talks about how you can assign a monetary value to this – it’s an old version of his talks on this, but this video recording of one of his sessions might help you think this through).
– Development of content models and structured content enables greater ability to re-use content, creating a single source of truth for multiple places of “publication”, which in turn creates masses of time saved (this tweet about the amount of time saved through a design system is comparable for content strategy – a design system is like the visual equivalent of having repeatable single-source content “blocks” or fields).
– Investment in audience research leads to far less time wasted in iteratively trying to “guess” what the right content might be, and instead get straight to developing it right first time (our own audience research work for Study in Sweden led to them being able to make some highly targeted and creative decisions around which events to attend to engage prospective students in China).
– Investment in proper measurement and ongoing content evaluation leads to less time spent “hoping” that it’s working and more likelihood that it will actually work or knowing when it suddenly stops working and why, getting to the best approach much faster.
– A consistent approach to content maintenance and implementing proper accessibility standards, generated by developing proper content audits and content governance reduces the likelihood that you’ll incur large legal costs because that out of date piece of information mis-sold or mid-led someone, or because your content was inaccessible or damaging in some way. This is especially important in a world where lawsuits relating to websites are on the rise. And while we can put a cost on a lawsuit, the harder cost to estimate is the damage to your reputation.
Summarising the return
So, in summary, when we’re looking to talk about the ROI of proper content strategy work we’re either talking in terms of:
– Money saved (lower costs per acquisition, for example)
– Time saved (designing a single point of truth and re-usable content blocks and modules)
– Money gained (through creating a better audience experience).
And if your content strategy is designed to be in service of reputation enhancement, still think about which of the above three this falls into as it absolutely will align with one of them.
Putting your case for investment together
So, you now understand the potential return of your investment, it’s time to figure out the investment cost itself too. This is likely to be a blend of:
– Your own staff time
– Stakeholder contributions
– Agency or consultancy support (ask us for a quotes to provide support for you)
– New systems, tools or technology purchases
– Training and professional development costs.
In our next post in this series we’ll talk about how to describe content strategy to your stakeholders, an important part of persuading them to invest.
If you need help with costing your content strategy project or getting started, my team and I will be only too happy to help. Reach out for a discussion.