- Make sure your content or design budget has some room for content strategy, research, planning, and design. We can work with “low cost”, but “no cost” will send your content into the world completely unprepared.
- Cut costs by eliminating formal reports. Small business owners really don’t get much value from what usability expert Steve Krug refers to as “the big honking report”. Reports are time-consuming to write and expensive. Forget about them. You’re better off actively communicating with your content strategist. Share working notes, spreadsheets, doodles, and ideas. Talk to each other! Write everything down, but don’t worry about getting a polished presentation report.
- Get involved! With a limited budget, your content strategist will appreciate a helping hand. Gather up any existing customer or competitive research you have. If you don’t have any, go get some. Define your core brand messages. Think about what you want your customers to do on your site. Make sure you are super-duper clear on your specific business goals and customer needs and motivations. Then share this with your content strategist. Discuss it, shape it, evolve it, test it. Sit in on customer testing.
- Use quick-and-dirty guerrilla testing methods. Every design or content budget should include a content strategy component, and content strategy should always include testing. This is the only way that you’ll be able to prove the success of your content. There are tons of different ways to test different things but here’s a couple ways you can test quickly, easily, and for next-to-nothing.
Customer validation testing:
Surveys. Validate any assumptions that you made about your customers. Work with your content strategist to define customer goals, motivations, and demographics. Get your content strategist to put together a short survey that you can distribute to past clients or anyone else who fits your customer profile. Your understanding of your customers will skyrocket when you start listening to them.
Benchmark testing, before and after your content strategy is implemented:
Web metrics. If you don’t currently have web analytic software, set up Google Analytics (free) and get a snapshot of your web traffic and performance prior to redesign. Go into as much detail as your budget and expertise allows. Then compare these benchmark metrics to post-launch metrics at 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year.
One-On-One Customer testing. Always do customer testing of some sort. If necessary, sit in a busy coffee shop and offer people who vaguely resemble your customers a free latte for spending 15 minutes to help you out. Or hang out where your customers are, and offer them... something, anything that makes sense and that you can afford.
Get somebody who knows what they’re doing (your content strategist or usability expert) to put together the test scenarios and conduct the tests. You stay to watch and learn. You may want to run perception testing, key task testing, readability testing, or any combination of these, depending on your research goals. There are lots “right” ways to test, but always remember: Any customer testing is WAY better than no testing.
- Be open-minded! Your content strategist will probably come back to you with some new ideas on how to develop, distribute, or manage your content. If they’re good at what they do, those ideas will somehow fit into your budget and timeline, and will reinforce your business goals and your customer needs. You’ll probably know, deep down, that their content strategy makes really good business sense. But you may find yourself panicking, thinking, “Whoa. Hey, I didn’t mean I wanted to change everything.” What you’ll really mean is, “Do I really have to pack in my brochure-ware site and get with the 21st century?” If you want to keep doing business online, the answer is probably yes.
At least you have a sound content strategy to guide you on your journey!