Convince your client to put content first

6 minute read

There’s a lot of moving parts within a web project. As an agency you work hands-on with clients of all shapes and sizes and they’re all after one thing: results. With every web project that rolls in the door, the same challenges arise:

  • How do you ensure the project meets both audience needs and business goals?
  • What do you measure to make sure the project meets these needs and goals?
  • How do you test the user experience and architecture to make sure users understand it?
  • What do you need to consider when making technology choices for your client? How will they sustain and manage their site in the future?

Well, there’s one thing that all these questions have in common - content. It’s at the heart of every web project out there and it’s high time it got the respect it deserves.Creating impactful, effective content isn’t something that should be rushed or assigned to the office intern. It has to be planned, considered, and treated with care. Not only does this planning make our jobs easier and web projects a success, it creates content-savvy clients for life.This post is all you need to convince your clients that a content first approach is the way to go. Let’s put content production at the top of their web project to-do list today.

The benefits of putting content first.

Reason #1 - Stop nasty surprises from derailing your project schedule.

When it comes to web projects, disorganised content can send budgets and timelines into chaos. How many times have your websites been set to go but content is playing catch up? Content production planning sets the wheels in motion well before that point so there’s no budget blow outs or clock watching.Another winning benefit of content production planning is early assignment of content responsibilities. Whether you go for an in-house effort or call in a pro, this means a steady stream of content is in the works straight off the bat. The whole team knows their role so there’s no last minute ‘ wasn’t so-and-so writing that’ excuses.

Reason #2 - Shift client thinking towards their audiences.

Content comes from questions - what are your audience’s needs, wants, and expectations? Asking these early on will influence your content, the look, and the overall website experience. Getting to know your audience is content 101. Everything you create centers around them.Set your business on the right track by breeding good habits. Focus on detailed planning, task assignment, and understanding the content production process. It teaches your team to focus on linking everything they do back to the audience. Not only do these activities set the path for great content, but they build a business-wide affiliation with your audience. Everyone from the sales team to marketers will reap the benefits of a content first approach.

Reason #3 - Commit to content now and reap the benefits forever.

Adopting a content first approach won’t just benefit one specific project or goal, it will set a long-term precedent for the importance of content. It’s the gift that keeps giving and it’ll have a real impact on how the client’s organisation perceives content in the future.Understanding content means understanding your business. With every audit comes a better grasp of language, relevance, your market...the list goes on and on.

Adopting this content-focused lifestyle will change everything, from how you communicate to your personality and presence.

The Content Big Five - Typical questions and their answers

Many clients see content as something for later on down the line, an afterthought. As much as this makes us agency types shed a tear, it’s not surprising. A lot of clients are in the habit of A: jumping straight into content production and B: writing it all themselves. Both are troublesome.

Helping your clients see the rightful place for content planning and production starts with answering the “Big Five” questions. These are the typical questions a client might ask you during your big content sell.

Q1. Who is involved in the content production process?

The content production process is all about figuring out what content needs to be produced. Getting a handle on what’s required and who can produce it is the name of the game.

Several team members can be part of the process, from agency planners and content editors to subject matter experts and copywriters. It can be a team-wide effort. After all, the more savvy your whole team are about the content, the better the end results will be.

As with all agency endeavours, the best content comes from a close partnership with the client.

A hands-on workshop is a solid starting point. This gives an agency an opportunity to guide the clients, posing important questions about their needs and planting a content first seed from day one.There’s loads of great guides and content strategy techniques out there that can help you get the ball rolling.

Q2. What costs are involved?

Again, no specific answer. It all depends on:

  • the scale of the website
  • the number of stakeholders involved
  • the time it takes to host a workshop for content planning and delivery
  • the development of the actual content production plan - the ‘who does what’ outline

Content production planning is a flexible, collaborative process that can be as detailed or simple as you need. Remember, don’t get hung up on the cost side of things. This is an invaluable process packed with benefits that not only delivers better results but will end up saving you money in the long run (check out Q4 for an overview).

Q3. When does this planning start?

The planning starts after the discovery phase. This phase is all about determining the content production to-do list. In short, what content you need to produce.

The content production planning stage moves this a step further and assigns writers to content tasks, as well as outlining how this will be produced. For example, will you need to interview subject matter experts for information? Are there any legal boxes to be ticked?

Q4. Who benefits from content production planning?

Well, there’s three main beneficiaries here.

  • Your agency of designers, developers and writers - We can design and build around actual messages and audiences rather than guess work and empty spaces.
  • The content process - This planning makes content needs and workflow a project priority. A defined, smooth planning process makes sure timelines and budgets are considered and met. Benefits a plenty follow here, from keeping costs down to team-wide accountability. In short, the project follows a clear path.
  • The content itself - The better the planning, the better the content. It’s that simple.

Q5. Why should I do it?

There’s loads of reasons why content production planning should be your new best friend.Here’s the teaser list:

  • It keeps web project budgets and timeframes in check.
  • It creates a consistent experience for all.
  • It puts audiences and business goals first.
  • It creates a process for your team to follow.
  • It produces only high quality content.

And here’s what happens when you don’t put content first:

  • Late content can delay a client’s website launch and in turn your final payment!
  • Designing from templates full of Lorem Ipsum isn’t ideal for anyone. Having real content to work with will always benefit the web project tenfold.
  • Last minute changes to content requirements can catch everyone out. It can upset the overall project process, focus, schedule and budget.
  • Time is wasted on monotonous piecing together of content from various sources. This makes for a rocky uploading to CMS process.

Beware: what happens when content isn’t treated with care.

So, what happens when content isn’t treated with the respect it deserves? For all those defiant types, here’s a look into what your blasé approach might cost you.

Lorem Ipsum ahead.

Beware #1 - Settling for poor content is worse than producing no content.

When content planning is lacking second rate stuff gets through the net. Last minute panicked decisions or ill-informed processes means that ‘filler’ takes the place of quality content. In this instance, you’re better off with nothing. You only get one first impression and there’s nothing like content to make it or break it.Watch out for:

  • Conflicting messages
  • Duplicated copy
  • Spelling mistakes and grammatical mishaps
  • Overuse of exclamation marks and slang
  • Differing tones and voices

If you don’t feel you can commit or do your content justice, hire someone that will.

Beware #2 - Failing to prioritise planning could see you lose to your competitors.

Content production planning is about having a firm understanding and plan for content production. More than a practical, workflow step, this is about keeping your audiences’ needs at the forefront of your mind at all times. This planning ensures content production is a smooth and flowing process, something that, in itself, can set you apart from competitors.

Assigning the best writer for each piece of content will be the difference between ok content and amazing content. Perhaps your competitors aren’t quite meeting their audiences needs? Great, you can step in and connect with them instead.With video, audio and text all heading up your content mission you can afford to be bold and brave. Shake things up, sometimes being different from the norm is all it takes to get your foot in the door.

Beware #3 - Underestimating the time it takes to produce quality content will cost you.

Undermining the time it takes to plan and create quality content is an easy mistake to make. Yes, there’s no uniform timeline for this process but do you really want to risk your entire project for the sake of a few extra days? The universal advice would be overestimate what you think this will take.

Creating content for a site could take a day, a week or a month. It all depends on what content you currently have, how many content creators are on board and the nature of the content itself. Trust us, readers know if you’ve pulled a last minute all-nighter or if you’ve invested time and knowledge.

Beware #4 - Bad planning allows poor content to make it into production.

Content planning is all about quality control. Not only does a good process assign and invite quality content creators, but it protects against poor editing and practices too.

Too many creators do indeed spoil the content broth. Overseeing the who, when and how of content editing/adding is paramount.If you decide not to go down the planning route, you will have less control over the impact and authenticity of your content. The planning process is designed to keep the bad out as much as the good in. Don’t leave your content open to collaboration and change. Run a tight ship founded on accountability and a genuine care for your content.

Beware #5 - Your project will fail with bad planning.

It might sound harsh but it’s true. Content needs to ultimately do one thing: perform for the business.If you fail to get your content in order, your project will suffer. You wouldn’t let a terrible design massacre the function of your site, so why would you endanger your content with bad planning?

What’s next? - Congrats, step one is ticked!

Well done. Hopefully you’ve just converted your clients to a new way of life. The battle maybe won but the content war is far from over. But deciding to be a content first-er is the best starting point possible for your web project.This dedication to quality content is a pledge you make to your project and business. It’ll serve you very well when it comes to the next step of the content production process.

Cheat Sheet

Convince Your Clients

A handy one-sheet to share with your clients to convince them to put content first.

About the author

Nic Evans

Nic is a freelance copywriter based in Glasgow; she believes that no matter what the medium, brief or platform, using the perfect words in the best possible way can create a story, a natural communication between people, their ideas and the rest of the world. You can learn more about Nic over on her [beautiful] website, and you can also follow her on Twitter.

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