Generating Insights: Using Competitive Assessment to Shape Your Content Strategy


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Most organizations today are facing an increasingly competitive global market, requiring greater brand and product differentiation than ever before. In this environment, assessment of competitor content offerings provides valuable insights that can be leveraged when creating near- and long-term content strategies.

Whether highlighting opportunities for creating new content, repositioning current offerings or completely overhauling content, competitive assessment enables content strategists to provide specific, targeted recommendations that can transform a brand and win the hearts and minds of consumers.

Published in: Technology, Business

Generating Insights: Using Competitive Assessment to Shape Your Content Strategy

  1. 1. Generating Insights: Using Competitive & Market Assessment to Shape Your Content Strategy
  2. 2. 1.  Introduction 2.  Competitive Assessment Overview 3.  Step 1: Getting Started AGENDA 4.  Step 2: Gathering Data 5.  Step 3: Analyzing Results 6.  Step 4: Creating Recommendations 7.  Q-and-A 2
  3. 3. 01 INTRODUCTION Content strategy overview
  4. 4. ABOUT LAURA BLAYDON § Senior Manager, Content Strategy at SapientNitro in Chicago, IL § 15 years experience in content, digital and communications strategy § Previous clients and employers include Allstate, Sears, HSBC, Walgreens and Northern Trust § Passionate about large enterprise sites (including intranets) and exploring the intersection of business and audience needs 4
  6. 6. CONTENT STRATEGY AT SAPIENTNITRO Content strategy is the systematic, thoughtful approach to surfacing the most relevant, effective and appropriate content at the most opportune time, to the appropriate user, to achieve a company’s strategic business objectives. Content Experience Content Delivery What is the content experience for the end user? What goes into a digital solution, and to which user(s) is it targeted? What model is necessary to acquire, create, maintain and optimize content? Content Governance What operational processes and mechanisms are required to ensure the continued success of content? 6
  7. 7. CONTENT STRATEGY LIFECYCLE SapientNitro’s approach to content strategy provides a flexible framework for achieving content success. Building from this approach, we’ve tailored a process to fit the unique needs, goals and focus for any content project. 7
  8. 8. 02 COMPETITIVE ASSESSMENT OVERVIEW Who needs a competitive assessment, and why
  9. 9. COMPETITIVE ASSESSMENT: WHAT IS IT? §  An in-depth look at direct and indirect competitor experiences, generally conducted during the project discovery phase §  An exercise to inform an understanding of one’s relative position in the marketplace and identify gaps and areas of opportunity §  A targeted view of digital (desktop, email, mobile, social experiences) and non-digital (print, in-store, call center) experiences §  A complement to other research activities including user research, persona creation and stakeholder research 9
  10. 10. A competitive assessment is needed when: WHEN IS IT NECESSARY? §  An organization is just starting up, is entering new markets or is introducing new products or services §  An established business is looking for a way to benchmark against peers and “change the game” §  New data is needed, either to evaluate new channels and/or competitors, or to bring findings up to date 10
  11. 11. Competitive assessment: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? §  Provides a broad view of what others are doing and how they’re doing it §  Yields insights that can be used to inform tactics and to define an overall strategic approach §  Offers valuable perspective on creating a truly differentiated strategy §  Provides a baseline so that future performance can be measured and monitored 11
  12. 12. 03 STEP 1: GETTING STARTED Ensuring your assessment is set up for success
  13. 13. IDENTIFY YOUR COMPETITIVE SET When determining the number and type of experiences and competitors to evaluate, keep the following in mind: WITHIN INDUSTRY … § Your stakeholders will generally have opinions about which competitors should or should not be included. § The complexity of your project is highly correlated to the number and type of experiences in scope. AND/OR OUTSIDE OF INDUSTRY … § Not all competitors will have all the features/ functions/content you’re looking to evaluate. 13
  14. 14. DEFINE THE ASSESSMENT SCOPE Areas of focus could include some or all of the following, as determined by business and audience needs, available resources and the project budget/time line. Navigation & Organization Interaction Design § Navigation labeling § Error messaging § Content organization § Ease of use § Information hierarchy § Use of expected interaction design conventions § Visual design of navigation § Form design Content § Content comprehensiveness and usefulness § Content usability § Multimedia content § Education content Engagement Features & Functionality § Brand alignment § Interactive charts/tools § Editorial voice and tone § Mobile/tablet capability § Content “personality” § User profile § Professionalism/ credibility § Social media integration § Feedback forms § Home page content 14
  15. 15. DETERMINE RESOURCE NEEDS The resources you have available could drive the scope of the work, and vice versa. A few tips: § The more resources are involved, the more communication and coordination is required among team members. § A competitive assessment may be broad or deep, but one that is both broad and deep is oſten extremely labor-intensive. § When working with a diverse team, one discipline will generally need to act as the lead. Resources could include user experience architects, content strategists, visual designers, digital strategists, technologists and others. 15
  16. 16. 04 STEP 2: GATHERING DATA Gathering inputs to inform your assessment
  17. 17. LEARN TO LOVE (OR LIKE) EXCEL For any competitive assessment, a spreadsheet is your best tool for: § Capturing initial, qualitative findings § Assigning quantitative scores § Ranking competitors by scores § Totaling scores by areas of evaluation § Identifying overall patterns 17
  18. 18. PERFECT YOUR METHODOLOGY §  Have a well-defined, documented methodology for gathering, evaluating and scoring, including: § Amount and type of qualitative data § Definition of each score § Ensure all parties involved in data-gathering are aligned on the process § Refine your approach as needed during the assessment, based on findings SAMPLE SCORING KEY 4. Superior ! Provides an exceptionally good experience 3. Satisfactory! Meets basic user needs" 2. Unsuccessful! Does not meet basic user needs" 1. Failure! Provides a very negative experience" 0. N/A Lacks a particular feature or quality" 18
  19. 19. CORRECT FOR INCONSISTENCIES Even if only one person is gathering and analyzing data, inconsistencies will happen. From this: You can minimize these by: § Setting aside time to review raw qualitative and quantitative data at key points throughout the process to ensure consistency. § Performing a final review of data to clean up outliers and edit qualitative findings as needed. Forms, phone, email options Product content is robust and features links to related information from individual product pages, which is helpful. There appears to be more detailed product information than virtually any other site in the review. To this: The majority of the non-product content is concentrated in the Resources section, which contains news (primarily press releases), events and research articles (located in the Library section), as well as product information and information geared toward investment professionals. The information that appears to be the most robust and have the most potential value to end users, in the Library section, is organized only by date and author and is therefore difficult to locate by topic, making this section not as useful overall. The news content is similarly poorly organized and therefore not useful, although the number of users who would actually be reading this information is likely limited. Hmm … which one did the content strategist write? 19
  20. 20. 05 STEP 3: ANALYZING RESULTS Identifying key insights and patterns
  21. 21. Goals for your analysis include the following: ANALYSIS GOALS §  Identifying patterns in the data for each competitor, and for the competitive set §  Highlighting overall themes that can be used to frame the analysis and guide recommendations §  Finding any outliers in the data, which could be the result of a unique competitor or inconsistencies in the evaluation process 21
  22. 22. QUALITATIVE ASSESSMENT Qualitative assessment involves reviewing detailed findings and identifying themes, both within each competitor’s experience as well as across the competitive set. Excerpts reveal positive and negative findings: Competitor #1 The site devotes the entire "above the fold" area on their site to guiding users to product detail pages and analysis tools. Product detail pages provide very robust information and are easily digestible. Related documents are easily accessed in the sidebar of each page. Competitor #3: The site contains a very confusing, disjointed presentation of product information. Product listings are inconsistent in multiple places. Product detail pages offer plenty of information, but they are also poorly formatted. PDFs are completely separate from the rest of the product information. Competitor #4: The home page main feature uses unnecessary animation to present some of the product information. The drop-down in the main navigation contains the entire product catalog and is overwhelming. Product landing pages are confusing and exhibit poor information architecture. 22
  23. 23. QUANTITATIVE ASSESSMENT     An effective quantitative assessment requires “horizontal” and “vertical” analysis across competitors and areas of evaluation. Interac+on  Design   Error  messaging   Interac3on  visual  design   Ease  of  use   Uses  common  design  conven3ons   Form  design   Average  score   Naviga+on  and  Organiza+on   Naviga3on  labeling   Content  organiza3on     Memorability   Informa3on  hierarchy   Naviga3on  visual  design   Average  score   Content   Product  informa3on   Comprehensiveness  and  usefulness   Content  usability   Mul3media  content   Research/educa3on   Home  page   Average  score   Features  and  Func+onality   Interac3ve  charts/tools   Tablet/phone   Account  system   Social  media  integra3on   Feedback  mechanism   Average  Score   Personality   Brand  strength   Editorial  voice  and  tone   User  engagement   Professionalism/credibility   Average  score   OVERALL  SCORE   Client   Compe+tor  1   Compe+tor  2   Compe+tor  3   Compe+tor  4   Compe+tor  5   3   2   3   2   2   2.4   4   3   2   2   3   2.8   4   4   3   4   4   3.8   1   1   1   2   3   1.6   2   2   1   2   3   2   3   1   2   2   2   2   2   2   3   2   2   2.2   3   2   2   3   3   2.6   3   2   3   4   3   3   2   2   2   1   1   1.6   2   2   1   2   1   1.6   2   2   2   2   2   2   3   2   2   2   2   3   2.33   4   4   2   4   4   3   3.5   4   2   3   3   2   3   2.83   2   2   1   2   1   2   1.67   2   3   2   1   3   2   2.17   2   2   2   1   2   2   1.83   0   2   1   3   1   1.4   4   3   3   1   1   2.4   4   3   4   2   1   2.8   3   3   3   2   1   2.4   0   1   2   1   1   1   2   2   2   3   2   2.2   2   2   2   2   2   2.08   3   3   3   4   3.25   2.92   3   3   3   3   3   3.08   2   3   1   2   2   1.84   2   2   2   3   2.25   1.8   2   2   2   3   2.25   2.04   23
  24. 24. 06 STEP 4: CREATING RECOMMENDATIONS Determining an approach based on findings
  25. 25. 1.  Document the high-level themes from your analysis. ORGANIZE YOUR FINDINGS 2.  List improvement opportunities that relate to each theme and address major gaps identified in your findings. 3.  Show findings in a summary view as well as a prioritization chart, as appropriate to the project. 4.  Know your audience and present findings and recommendations accordingly. 25
  26. 26. USE VISUAL ELEMENTS Where possible, use charts and graphs to illustrate scores and facilitate understanding of results. Also consider whether additional information, such as a feature or tool comparison chart, could be useful. Establish a visual language throughout final deliverable(s), and use charts and graphs to illustrate key comparisons. Client   Compe+tor  1   Compe+tor  2   Compe+tor  3   Compe+tor  4   Compe+tor  5   26
  27. 27. PROVIDE VISUAL EXAMPLES Visual references are useful for orienting your audience to the specific components of an experience your findings reference, as in the following financial services example. 27
  28. 28. ALIGN WITH BUSINESS OBJECTIVES Organizing findings by business objective, priority and feasibility allows stakeholders to see a path to immediately implementing “low-hanging-fruit” recommendations. Sample recommendations (excerpt): Business Objectives Recommendations Priority Feasibility Increase Credibility §  Create more “thought leadership” content. §  High §  Medium §  Clearly reference media mentions and awards throughout the experience. §  Medium §  High §  Create editorial guidelines to aid in the creation of clear, consistent content. §  Critical §  Medium §  Audit and update current content to ensure it accurately reflects the brand voice. §  High §  Medium §  Define a common vocabulary for use in specific areas. §  High §  High §  Provide opportunities for customer feedback. §  High §  Medium Strengthen Brand Improve Customer Satisfaction 28
  29. 29. CREATE A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE A well-executed, robust competitive assessment yields valuable insights that can be used to inform short-, medium- and long-term content strategies. If you’re ambitious, you can use assessment findings as a platform to: §  Jump-start business planning and prioritization sessions §  Create a case for a more focused, sustained measurement program §  Develop a strategic road map to guide future content creation, feature/functionality development, authoring capabilities, etc. §  Secure the necessary resources to successfully execute your plan 29
  30. 30. 07 Q-AND-A
  31. 31. THANK YOU! Laura Blaydon Senior Manager, Content Strategy SapientNitro © 2013 SAPIENT CORPORATION | CONFIDENTIAL