A content design approach to content marketing

Clare Reucroft, , Opinion

Content design uses information to solve needs. Content marketing uses storytelling to increase conversions

– Jessica Sherratt, Head of User Experience at Code Computerlove

These are two distinct ways of looking at content. Content designers work for their users’ needs and content marketers work for their business’ products and services. It’s push versus pull content.

Essentially, content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts). These materials don’t explicitly promote a brand but they are intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.

For example, Red Bull as a brand does a lot of promotion around adrenaline sports. But the product itself is never specifically centred or mentioned.

Content design versus content marketing

Both content design and content marketing have a clear focus on business goals and understanding the audience. This focus is informed by data and evidence - there’s a strategy to the content. We aren’t just mindlessly dreaming up what we think people want. No, it’s based on fact and insight.

We also know that our content does not sit in little corners, all alone. It’s interconnected and there’s a purpose to it. Content is reliant on consistent messaging across all channels. We use strategy to help us do this.

But let me step back into my content designer shoes for a moment. There are clear differences too.

Content design:

  • focuses on accessible experiences,
  • is a team sport (designers, product owners, researchers, strategists… they’re all your best mates),
  • uses language research to tap into how an audience is talking about something.

Content marketing:

  • can be done alone more easily,
  • focuses on sales and conversions,
  • looks at the reach of content and its potential to convert.

How content marketing can use content design

The core principles of content design are to make sure your work is inclusive and user centred. Content marketing uses content as an approach to take your product or service to the market.

So, if your organisation is looking to market something, using content design principles will help you:

  • talk in your customers’ language,
  • understand your user needs so you can position products in the marketplace,
  • create inclusive, accessible content so that your product or service is available to anyone,
  • understand the right channels to reach the right people, and what the right content is for those channels.

If you underpin content marketing with the content design principles, your marketing will be better, more inclusive, and more ethical. As a bonus too, you’ll sell more.

Accessible content = increased reach and revenue

If all content marketing was accessible, then, in the UK alone, you’d be opening up your services to the 13.9 million people living with a disability. They have a spending power of £249 billion a year. That’s a huge market to ignore.

By adhering to the Readability Guidelines, this ensures your content marketing is easy to understand. When you create clear content, you show your customers that you care about them. You value their time. You talk to them in a language they understand. You don’t expect them to spend brain power on translating your messages into their words. You treat them with respect.

As an example, consider people with a hearing impairment. If your organisation was selling headphones, you may not consider these people as a target audience. However, this community may purchase headphones to ensure people in a public place do not assume they can hear them.

I’ve met people who are deaf that wear headphones on the London Underground. That way, people don’t assume they can hear them when saying things like ‘excuse me’.

Accessible content is better for everyone. Not all access needs are permanent. Some are temporary and others may be caused due to the environment or situation. From a marketing perspective, accessible content makes you available to anyone, in any circumstance.

Consider captions for video content. These are great for people who are deaf and those people who are in a busy place without headphones. Captions on YouTube are an accessibility requirement but they are so much more than this. They open up your content to more people and improve the experience for everyone.

Data + user needs

The use of data in marketing is often used for audience segmentation. I have seen data, such as democratic data or analytics, used to target specific audiences.

This is the opposite of how data and insights are used to support the creation of user needs in content design. Instead of narrowing our view of the audience to target people, we use data to work on the user needs. This improves our understanding of how we can open up to more people, without spamming them.

User needs benefit content marketing professionals to understand how to reach new audiences or for brand awareness with campaigns. The user needs allows you to meet people on their terms, at the right time, on the right channel, with the right content, using the right language.

Content design + marketing = profit

Good content benefits your organisation. It saves you time and money. People will engage with you more and they will come back. When you meet their goals in the first place, there’s no need for negative contact like phoning the helpline, complaining about your service, or shopping around.

Good content and a clear strategy helps your audience take action. This helps you achieve your business goals. Good content design in your content marketing translates into earnings and cost saving.

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