Here are the slides and a summary of the talk I gave at Congility 2014, back in June.
I must admit I was not a 100% sure I had picked the right topic for the talk. Sure talking about micro companies at a conference where nearly everyone was working for big organizations was a bit odd? But I really wanted to, because these very small companies matter a lot in Europe, and they aren’t getting the attention they need and deserve. So I gave it a try. And guess what? I don’t think I could be happier to have done it.
We all know slides without context don’t generally work wonders, so you may want to have a look at this storify, based on the tweets some of the audience wrote (and what a kind audience they were!).
If you feel like more, here are the main points of the talk:
Size doesn’t really matter: Content is important and difficult for everyone
Content is a business asset and even the tiniest company needs a website with useful, compelling content. As users, we want efficient content no matter how good or small the company behind that content is.
One could think that it is easier for small teams to create useful content and hence communicate efficiently with their customers, and one would be right. It is probably easier. But it’s still non-the-less difficult. So difficult, that the results aren’t generally good.
Micro companies are not small in number (at least in Europe)
Micro companies have fewer than 10 workers and often create very little content (sometimes just a webpage). But not all their numbers are small: they represent 92,1% of European companies, and they employ just under a third of the working population. (Source: A Recovery in the Horizon? Annual Report on European SMEs).
There a good few reasons why micro companies aren’t creating better content
There are various reasons why very small companies aren’t doing better with their content. To start with, they are often led to believe that it is normal for them to create their own content (hiring a copywriter is an option sometimes, albeit one that looks like a luxury). No one teaches micro companies how to create this content though, and they are certainly not aware of the risks they run with poor content. These three factors are significant enough. But there’s more.
The main problem micro companies face is a pretty deep one: they are generally not aware of their key messages, they tend to create content without having a clear goal, and the majority have never thought that, like it or not, they have and convey an identity. Also, even though micro companies often have a very deep and direct knowledge of their users, they don’t seem to use it when it comes to creating content.
And that’s ok. It’s normal. It’s a fact.
It needs a solution, though.
Content Strategy at a micro scale is crucial
Content Strategy can help a lot at a micro level. We need to be active:
Spread the word: No matter how small a company may be, it needs good content, and it needs a strategy to create that content.
The line “Content Comes First” has worked wonders. It’s really good that we’re saying it, and I believe pretty much everyone agrees with it. But it’s not exactly true, is it? It’s thinking that should come first. Systematic thinking about the problem we want to solve needs to come first. Let’s say that again and again and again. (Guess what the title of my first post ever was? Yes, Thinking comes first).
Be there: Let’s not give up on micro companies just because we feel “they’ve no money and they don’t know what they want”. Let’s try to understand their needs and find ways to help them create good user experiences.
A way to start is to make sure they carry out an analysis. And the analysis phase doesn’t start with an audit, it starts with the key questions. Companies need to know what questions they have to ask themselves, how to find the answers, and how to use those answers to create good content. This doesn’t come naturally in organizations. It’s our role as content strategists to guide them.
The beauty of it all
Content Strategy applied at a micro scale has a very direct impact on content, on people and on the business itself. The overlap between Content Strategy and Business Strategy is very big at a micro scale. And change is very direct, because in a very small team decision makers are often the executors.
Why a child in a swimming pool?
If you had a look at the slides, you may be wondering what’s it all about with the little fellow and the swimming pool. That’s my youngest son. When he was four, he couldn’t swim. But he thought he could. You see, everyone else swam, sure he would manage as well, wouldn’t he? But he had never learnt, no one had ever taught him, or even told him that swimming is something one needs to learn. He wasn’t aware of the risk he ran if he jumped into the swimming pool without a float either. Mind you, it’s not that he wasn’t a great swimmer. He couldn’t even float.
Give micro companies a float, and they too will be able to swim. They need to create great user experiences as much as anyone else.