Tuesday, September 30, 2014

4 Mobile Strategies for Your Business

Of the 58 percent of American adults who own smartphones, nearly half of them are using the devices exclusively as a primary search tool, according to a survey by Mobile Path to Purchase. The study also found that 60 percent of mobile users are completing purchases related to their mobile search.

Wouldn’t it be great if they were building loyalty with your brand? Mobile marketing can help you convert casual visitors to new customers.

It’s no secret that businesses have been slow to embrace mobile. A recent IDC survey of 400 IT decision makers found that 84 percent lacked a clear enterprise-led mobile strategy.

4 Tips to Kickstart Your Mobile Strategy

Security and compliance concerns can often trump fledgling mobile efforts, but with stiff competition for new customers, those willing to take the plunge are likely to be rewarded.

Here are four strategies to help get you started:
  1. Optimize the mobile-friendliness of your website. Thanks to responsive design, you don’t need a separate mobile website. However, you should customize your content for different screen users. Mobile users are more likely than desktop users to be looking for phone numbers and directions. Make these features easy to find.
  2. Remain top of mind with SMS marketing (text messages). Unlike email, customers only opt-in to receive SMS updates from companies they want to connect with. Even better, SMS is far more effective than email. A recent study shows that 98 percent percent of texts are read compared to just 22 percent of emails. The click through rate of texts is 19 percent compared to just 4 percent of emails.
  3. Use Quick Response (QR) Codes. QR codes are a great way to bridge print marketing with digital. Use them on direct mail pieces and print advertising to help users quickly access your website. QR codes are simple to make and you can link them to any web page or phone number. 
  4. Reach tablet users with video content. Mobile users are much more likely to click and view videos than desktop users. Use video to share product updates or introduce a subject matter expert. These videos can play an important part in “breaking the ice” with potential customers who don’t know your brand.   
Want to learn more? Check out:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Web Writing and Information Architecture: Why it Matters

Recently someone asked us, “If you’re just the copywriters, then why do you need to understand the information architecture?”
That person just revealed that he doesn’t know much about writing for the web.

But you do. So below, I’m going to explain why information architecture (or IA) is so important for providing amazing, convincing content.


Why IA Matters

We all know that people don’t move through a website the way they do through a document. A document is a linear experience. The web was designed to be a “choose your own adventure” experience, surfing through pages, jumping through links.  (Tweet this!)

If you want your potential customers to feel gratified while using your website, you must organize your content according to their thought processes. Content needs to lead people through a process that makes sense to them; otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

That is why the expertise we bring to content projects starts with your information architecture. The IA is a representation of the way your pages are organized, what buckets they fit into and the choices readers make as they swing through your site. If the organization of the content makes sense to them, they will register, or call or make an appointment to complete your site’s call to action.

If it doesn’t?

You’ve lost them.

Sometimes we write projects and the IA is locked. That means we have to use pre-determined organization and labels for pages. We know how to do that as well. But we have the most fun when we work with information architects and user experience designers to name overall buckets and pages properly and according to organic SEO practices. We create the best user experience when that happens.

And the best user experience is a win-win all around.

Want your content to be organized and fit together for your users? Hire copywriters—no, I’m sorry—web writers who understand IA.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Confessions of a Content Strategist: Steven Grindlay

Steven Grindlay isn’t going to give you an easy answer. But, isn’t that the whole fun of hanging out with a content strategist?

In this month’s Confessions, we meet a man who has lived around the world, owned two advertising agencies, co-founded the Content Strategy Alliance along with Noreen Compton and now works as an Instructor at McGill University teaching courses in content strategy. Currently working on a book about Competitive Content, Steven gave us all a lot to think about in regards to our poorly named discipline.

How did you get started in content strategy?
SG: “When people would ask me what I do, I found it was hard to have that elevator conversation. I would say ‘Do you have a couple of hours?’ One day while listening to someone describe himself as a systems architect, I thought Aha I’m a content architect!  Naturally I checked the term on the Internet naively believing I was one of a kind and realized that I’m a content strategist. It was good to find out there are equally nutty people out here just like me.”

What do you think the future holds for content strategy?
SG: “We really have not done a good job of communicating our value to organizations. What we need to do is address management and say, ‘Here’s why you should consider content strategy, here are the predictive results that can move your needle.’ We need to focus on the enterprise. We need to highlight the strategic value that content strategy can bring to the table; we’ve spent a lot of time rooting around and explaining the executional aspects: message architecture, audits, inventories, content mapping, taxonomies etc, all of the technical bits and pieces, but we haven’t been good at informing business about the strategic component of content strategy and how it can bring real value to the table.”

What do you think some of the major themes are in the marketplace right now?
SG: “The next big thing has to be addressing the disconnection between the CS community and business. Our industry is very fragmented—people saying very different things, best practices are not consistent, there’s not a lot of consensus out there— it’s hard to imagine a business leader  getting excited about a practice that finds it so difficult to agree on and articulate what it does and why it’s valuable.”
This is where I interrupted and said,
AL: “It’s hard to be consistent when things are so different. Doctors can have best practices because the human body basically looks the same from patient to patient. But in content strategy, it’s not consistent from project to project.”
SG: “Oh I agree.  But that doesn’t mean every project is a reinvention of the wheel, there are fundamental similarities and common practices. The industry is filled with ambiguity and layered with complexity. I think that’s a normal characteristic of an emerging industry.  It’s worth remembering that Content strategy is rooted in communicationwhich has been around for an awfully long time but it also employs a variety of different skill sets like information architecture and user experience design. Then you add in journalism and editorial skills. On top of that you have ongoing, internet driven, instability and disruption in the marketplace.—but a lot less has changed than people think and that compounds things. It can get fairly confusing.  
In a nutshell, we seem to be technology obsessed, we fascinate over new technical minutiae, thinking  that each new innovation is a potential game changer that will rewrite the way we do things, and in some ways it may, but in reality the internet is just another medium for communication. The fundamental nature of communication and by inference content since content is nothing more than the stuff of communication remains largely the same, people have always wanted and needed to engage and converse for a variety of reasons both personal and commercial.  Connecting with each other is a fundamental human need.
The truth is that we live in a world that is a cacophony of conversations. Our strategic aim as content strategists should be to understand and ferret out which conversations are valuable and then shape content to create and dominate the conversations that can achieve specific objectives, regardless of the technology involved or how it is evolving.”
What do you think? Want to be featured in Confessions of a Content Strategist? We’re always looking for fascinating stories to tell—yours could be next. Leave your name in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Content Strategy Secrets of the Cleveland Clinic

Content strategy matters in healthcare. If you want to produce cohesive, controlled content that gives your customers a consistent experience from channel to channel, you need to establish a content strategy and use it for distribution of your content. That means answering these critical 5 questions:

  • To whom are we talking?
  • Who are we? (as a brand)
  • What are we saying?
  • How are we saying it?
  • When and where do we say it?

The below slideshare is from a set of slides Ahava presented at Content Marketing World 2014 with Amanda Todorovich, Digital Manager, Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What is Modular Content?

This blog post is too long.
This email newsletter is too short.
Our customers have 5-second attention spans.
Our analytics say they want to read for 7 minutes.

What’s a great marketer to do with so much conflicting data about what makes amazing content?

The answer is to build modular content, or content that fits together with a satisfying click. It’s about tying your business objectives to your customers’ buying process so you create content that’s the right size and length for where your customer is in the buying process.

Sounds easy, right?

Nothing with content is ever easy. (Unless you hire us.) But modular content is something you can learn how to build. Here are five tips below that will help you create content that's the right length for your organization’s needs, without reinventing it each and every time.

5 Tips for Building Modular Content That Gets your Customers to Click

  1. Use aspects of an asset; not the whole thing: When designing the idea behind a piece of content, don’t think about length or size, think about what purpose the content serves for your customers. (Tweet this!) So go ahead and create long-form content. But go back later and divide it into bite size chunks (think: bite, snack, meal) that will work on the different channels you swim in with your customers. Or, put the pieces together from the very beginning so shorter pieces create the longer form content. Backwards or forwards, both processes work.
  2. Support sales: At the end of the day, marketing and sales need to make peace and learn to work together effectively. Sales is your best insight into the questions to which your customers crave answers. So work those relationships and get sales to help you figure out which pieces of content work best at the beginning, middle and end of the funnel. Try questions like: What do customers ask when you first speak to them? What kind of validating content do they seek? How do you answer them after they buy?
  3. Think about the customer loop: Instead of the funnel, think about the customer loop (below). What types of content would appeal to a customer when you’re building trust? Long form or bites? Depends on the customer, depends on the questions. That’s why steps one and two are so critical for this process. 

  1. How does the content work together?: Modular content only works when bits and pieces can be combined to create an overall magical journey for your customers. Think about a white paper: Can you pull out quotes to use on social media? Can you produce 1-minute videos that speak to the heart of the matter concepts? Can you give an executive summary and tease the full piece?
  2. You’re not doing surgery; you’re creating a journey: Modular content isn’t about doing surgery on your content and cutting it up into pieces. It’s about envisioning the whole story you want to tell to your customers and figuring out how to tell it. Think about kids: you build on their knowledge as your raise them. A 3 year old knows not to touch things in a store; a 9 year old knows that sometimes you can if you really want to buy it. That’s because maturation creates opportunity for sophisticated concepts. So, too, it is with customers.

Treat your customers as travelers on a journey of knowledge about your products and services. Your modular content will keep them clicking for more.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

4 Tips for Reducing Readmissions with Digital Marketing

This fall marks the third year of Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). Whether you’re part of a Level I trauma center or a small community hospital, it could be costing your organization millions of dollars, and there’s something you can do about it.

Starting Oct. 1., the third phase of HRRP enacts its steepest penalties to date (up to 3 percent of Medicare base payments) when patients are readmitted within 30 days of a hospital stay. As marketers, we should be leveraging digital marketing channels to help engage patients in their care. Here’s how:

1.    Bolster your website: With more than 80 percent of Internet users looking for health information online, your website is a great platform to tell patients before their visit about what to expect, how to stay healthy when they go home and where to go for additional information.

2.    Make it mobile-friendly: Pew Research Center found that 1 in 3 cell phone users are using their phone to look for health information, but the benefits don’t stop there. A mobile friendly site makes it easier for patients to get directions and find parking. Enabling click-to-call features can help them connect with your nurse line and pharmacy when they have urgent questions.

3.    Consider a branded facility app: Roughly 3 percent of healthcare facilities today offer a branded facility app. In addition to differentiating your hospital, an app can help patients manage appointments, view lab reports and easily locate support services during and after their stay.

4.    Use in-house video marketing: According to an Arbitron study, 3 out of 4 patients and caregivers found that video display of health-related information in hospital waiting areas and cafeterias enhanced their hospital experience. Consider offering quick tips emphasizing the importance of medications and follow up care.

Effective discharge planning has been the holy grail of reducing readmissions, but why wait until patients are practically out the door to teach them about taking care of themselves?

Consider this stat: According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, 1 in 5 elderly patients is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of leaving. It’s easy to see why when you consider that toward the end of a hospital stay, a patient’s eagerness to go home or physical discomfort may prevent them from hearing or remembering their discharge instructions. 

Using digital marketing channels can help prompt patients and their families to talk more openly with your clinical team about their care. These conversations in turn can lead to care that is more patient-centered and hopefully reduce your organization’s risk for readmissions.

Coming Soon: Embracing Hospital Readmissions as a Marketing Strategy

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Do You Want to Steal Our Online Writing Process?

We know how hard it is to create great content. We've worked through every imaginable obstacle during the past eight years (almost nine, partay!) to create a content process that produces enviable, imaginative and “juicy” content to engage your audience.

Want your customers to thank you for your content? We know how.
So, what’s our secret sauce? We share our process with you below. It’s what has made our recent projects for Time, Inc. and T. Rowe Price so successful. If you want to have everyone staring at you while you walk down the hallways like you’re wearing a cape, keep reading.

Our Writing Process

  1. Gather strategic information: Our writers are former journalists. They know the scent of a great story. We review all of the information we can find about a project before we start interviewing stakeholders. Our ears are open with “minds like water,” so we can follow a fantastic storyline once it comes up.
  2. Interview the appropriate stakeholder: We’ve rejected jobs because clients didn’t want to give us access to stakeholders and subject matter experts. How can you write engaging, personal content for your customers if you don’t get their questions answered from your best possible internal resources?
  3. Create an information architecture or template: Doesn’t matter if it’s a blog post, email newsletter or website, you need a template that works for that particular project. After our research and interviews, we’re prepared to do just that.
  4. Write the content: Don’t let your 8th grade English teacher haunt you forever. Everyone has writing muscles; they just need practice. Try writing every day for at least 10 minutes. Write whatever comes to your head. While I was writing my book, there were days that I just starting writing about content to see what came up. Inevitably, there were a few gems I used in the book.
  5. Edit the content with your client: Great content comes from great editing. Don’t leave it all on the floor; leave what doesn’t matter to your customer. Or, save it for some other format or project.
  6. Edit the content with the stakeholder for factual verification: You have to make sure your content is correct and valuable. Only the stakeholders can finalize the details and particulars that make content magical.
  7. Finalizing the content: Does compliance and regulatory need to review? Do you need executive sign off? Make sure your content is camera ready; or in this case, web or print ready.
  8. Quality assure (QA) the content and links: If we’re talking about digital content, you need to proofread it once it’s inside the CMS or social media channel. Make sure all the links point to the right place and the titles and phrases make sense. For print? You can’t read it over too many times; a second, third and fourth set of eyes doesn't hurt either.

Hundreds of Aha Media customers can’t be wrong; this process works. You probably will need to tinker with it in your organization. But trust me, it’s set for a repeatable lifecycle of success, otherwise known as a recipe for awesomesauce content.