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Better Content Starts Today

  |  January 7, 2003   |  Comments

Susan offers nine fresh approaches to better Web site content.

Now that all those hum-drum resolutions have been made and ignored, here's a new one for 2003: Resolve to post better content. Not sure how? Following are my suggestions for developing effective and dazzling content in a year that will surely challenge us all.

Reposition your dart board. Your Web site has targeted women for the past five years. Has that gotten you anywhere? Granted, your home page and other main site pages should focus on your target audience. But "women" is an awfully big (and nebulous) pool of people.

Try targeting demographic groups that are important to your enterprise but are often ignored. Single mothers are a largely unexplored consumer group with considerable market clout. The same goes for women 50-plus and women of color. And don't forget seniors. In 2003, those on the cusp of the baby boom turn 60 -- a watershed year for folks who marched for free speech and civil rights and popularized John Lennon long before his music became background noise in elevators.

Check the hidden costs of your content development. Are you spending hours editing copy by someone who wasn't born to write? Perhaps it's time to take inventory of your team's assets and weaknesses. Reassign the literary-challenged to other tasks. It's not worth the time and aggravation for nonwriters to suffer over a keyboard and editors to spend their evenings red-lining every other word.

Hold a feedback session with your best customers. Disband those awful focus group sessions at which marketers hide behind one-way mirrors. Try actually talking to your top customers. It's OK to talk electronically. The most important thing is to actually attempt true and honest interaction. Ask customers what they like best about your site and what should be deleted. You'll be surprised at the data that can be gathered from honest interaction.

Recognize consumers are overloaded. 2003 is the year of the cranky consumer. It's not just that their 401(k) plans have tanked. They're short on time and temper. Now's a good time to assess your Web site's content. Is it filled with valuable information or meaningless canned content that could just as easily read, "lorem ipsum?"

Hold off on email marketing. Yes, I know this is anathema to many marketers. Yet as I write this column, I'm switching back to my inbox to delete the 5th note from that Nigerian royal trying to unload $25K and the 10th message from the misguided marketer who thinks someone named Susan wants to add three more inches to her groin.

Truth is, I spend more time deleting email than reading it. Why? Because -- for now -- the spammers are winning. The amount of junk email I receive is outrageous. The amount of valuable content I receive via email is miniscule. It seems until things change, you're better off developing a content-rich site interested visitors can enjoy. Until the spam epidemic subsides, direct people to your content-filled site through other forms of marketing. Or, as Pamela Parker suggests in her column, you'd better make sure your emails are highly relevant and valuable to your target markets.

Put employees front and center. Most organizations are asking more from employees than ever. Why not give them a little press on your site? Feature staffers who have solved a knotty problem, gone above and beyond to help a customer, or invented something amazing. Consumers warm to organizations that value their employees. Show off your company's finest assets by profiling your "people power."

Give back or take up a cause. I bet good will and enhancing the community won't top a lot of businesses' agendas this year. Buck the trend. Encourage your organization to do something good for the community, schools, or other nonprofits. Don't be bashful about recounting these activities for your Web site. You might inspire others to consider the benefits of societal marketing.

Stretch yourself. Learn a new computer program. Study Spanish. Take a graduate-level marketing course. Read a book by an obscure philosopher. Every now and then, it's important to stretch yourself so you can see things in new perspectives. Not only will you become a better communicator and marketer, you will become a more agile problem solver (a trait that will ultimately make you more employable... just in case).

Be dazzling. Don't succumb to doom and gloom. Create content that sizzles and 2003 will be an outstanding year. Start today. And have fun!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon is the executive director of marketing and public relations for Memorial Health Services, a five-hospital health system in Southern California. In this capacity, she manages promotional activities for both traditional and new media. Susan is also a marketing communications instructor at the University of California, Irvine; California State University, Fullerton; and the University of California, Los Angeles.

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