Not satisfied with your content strategy? Manage the change to the ADKAR approach

Recently I attended a one-day training program, hosted by a company called Prosci, that teaches a change management methodology that “has become one of the most widely used approaches to managing the people side of change in business and government.”

Prosci used its considerable creativity in naming this methodology with the acronym ADKAR, which stands for:

  • Awareness: is there awareness that change is needed?
  • Desire: do the key stakeholders impacted by change have a desire to change?
  • Knowledge: do the key stakeholders impacted have the knowledge required to undertake change?
  • Ability: do the key stakeholders impacted have the literal ability to change?
  • Reinforcement: do factors exist that will reinforce the change with the stakeholders impacted over time?

When each aspect is rated on a scale of 1-5, it becomes evident which steps of the process are the strongest and weakest, and therefore which aspects need to be addressed for change to be successful. As a newbie to organizational change management, I found it a practical and effective approach.

I also find ADKAR interesting because it can be applied to developing and executing an effective content marketing strategy – it asks the right primary and secondary questions that all must be addressed for your content marketing to be successful:

  • Awareness: Is your audience aware of your organization and its key strengths/value proposition?  Can you define your target audience(s)? Is awareness the right part of the purchase funnel to target or do you need to move further down the funnel and focus on consideration or decision? This will inform your decisions on what type of content is required based on the audience profile.
  • Desire: What content does your audience desire? I.e., what are the knowledge gaps or key challenges they face that they’d like to address? This will inform what themes or topics your content should focus on.
  • Knowledge: Does your target audience know what your your organization’s key strengths are? Has your organization clearly identified what its competitive advantage is (which infers that you’ve conducted a competitive assessment)? This narrows down the themes and topics to be focused on and ensures they reinforce your brand/competitive advantage
  • Ability: Does your content give your audience the ability to close their knowledge gaps or address their key challenges? This guides the content development to ensure it’s focused on the audience’s needs and not promoting the organization
  • Reinforcement: Does all the content you develop and distribute reinforce your organization’s competitive advantage? Do you have an editorial calendar in place that details what content will be produced over time to create consistency in messaging? Do the specific themes/topics clearly ladder up to your organization’s value proposition?

Although different on the surface from the strategic approach I’ve written about before, underneath, the creatively named ADKAR does ask the same key questions that need to be answered to create an effective strategy. If you’re not happy with the approach you’re currently using, it may be worth managing a change.

Focusing Your Content Marketing on Your Competitive Advantage

I’ve talked a lot in past posts about understanding and using your competitive advantage to develop content that helps grow your business.

But, the question that both of my readers are probably asking themselves is: how do you identify what your competitive advantage is? What process can you go through to figure that out?

One of the ways is by answering another related question, which is: what business are you in? To many, it may sound simplistic – “we’re in the accounting business” or “we’re in the restaurant business”. But those answers, more often than not, are not the best ones and they don’t help identify your competitive advantage.

To get a sense of what a strong answer could be, think about Grocery Gateway. They deliver groceries to your home and if the average person was asked what business they’re in, that’s probably the answer they’d give – grocery home delivery.

But if you caught the billboard ads they’ve used in the past, you’d get a glimpse into what business Grocery Gateway thinks they’re in. One ad carries the tagline, “we deliver more ‘do not disturb’ time” with an image suggesting a woman relaxing in a bath (very non-sexual). The business they’re in, then, is the time-saving business, not the grocery delivery business, and this has big implications for the direction their content marketing efforts could take.

As a grocery delivery business, the range of themes and topics they could develop is relatively limited to – you guessed it – groceries and food, speaking to an audience passionate about those topics. Now there’s a lot of topics that could be addressed in that area but far fewer that would help differentiate Grocery Gateway in the minds of consumers from other grocery delivery services that exist.

However, as a business focused on saving consumers time (or enabling them to spend more time on the things they love to do vs. the things they need to do), this opens up a whole range of content topics related to time-saving tricks and hacks for a busy life, or on topics related to living a more passionate life. Either of these ideas has a much broader audience because, arguably, more people are interested in productivity, lifehacking, or “do what you love” content, for example, then food-related content; Grocery Gateway could become a daily read for a market not enamoured with groceries or cooking but with living a more enjoyable life, yet who still need grocery delivery, vastly expanding their reach. Or, at the least, it’s a topics that clearly differentiates them from the competition.

So to develop content that will focus your business on your competitive advantage, take a dip in Grocery Gateway’s tub and ask the simple question of, “what business are you in?”

Exis-business-tential Angst: Different or Interesting?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a strategist and content marketeer (yes, that spelling is intentional), I’ve always searched for the B.I.G. Diff in the brands I’ve been involved with – the one (or more) thing(s) that differentiate one brand from the next and leads to competitive advantage.

Yet this article, and the book How Brands Grow referenced therein, challenges the validity of a differentiation approach to business/marketing, suggesting that being interesting may be the better way to go. You could, of course, argue that being interesting is, in itself, a form of differentiation. But at a strategic level this “interesting” approach accepts that fundamental organizational differentiation is a) extremely difficult to do at best, and b) at worst has little effect when achieved at all.  This leaves the ability to differentiate-by-being-interesting as an executional challenge for “marketers”, not a strategic one for “business people” (both are in quotes because clearly they’re not exclusive, although many tend to think they are).

I’m still not completely convinced.  Harvard’s Youngme Moon has published the book Different that supports the idea of differentiation and I’ve clung to the mantra of strategic differentiation for too long and with too tight a grip – but it’s an interesting proposition and one that small business (or any business for that matter) should consider.

At least until their source of differentiation is uncovered and my resolve returns.

 

Planning to Use Content to Grow Your Business with The Three Simple Circles

Stains

If you’re a small business that wants to use content marketing to grow your business but don’t know where to start, I’m here to help. And as usual, I start by developing a plan.

There are a lot of people that dive into great detail about creating and executing content strategy/planning, and that stuff is all great – if you have the time to read it, I recommend you do so. But, if you’re time-crunched – and who isn’t these days – here’s a quick and dirty plan you can use to get started with content marketing.  As with any good plan, this one is made up of questions that should be asked and answered in order to guide your actions.

That said, here are three key questions you need to ask and answer in order to use content marketing to grow your business. If you picture each question representing a circle that overlaps the others like a venn diagram, then the common area of this Three Simple Circles approach is where you want to be:

  1. What’s my competitive advantage or my “BIG Diff“? Why would someone choose to buy from me vs. anyone else? What are the things about my company/product/ service that would influence someone to choose them? For example, I LOVE The Keg, and the thing about The Keg for me is that it’s great value for the money, it’s a good atmosphere with good service, and it’s very consistent experience – those things are very rare (no pun intended), if not unique, for steak houses.
  2. What are the key challenges or higher-order needs of the people/organizations I want to sell to? The answer doesn’t have to be limited to the problems your product/service solves – it could (and arguably should) be anything related to it. For example, if I run a dry cleaner, my clients have a variety of problems they need solved that go beyond having their clothes cleaned. They may need to find time to drop their clothes off, or may be having trouble keeping up with the latest fashion trends given the wardrobe they’ve got. Neither problem is directly related to having their clothes cleaned, but nonetheless, they’re still problems those clients face.
  3. Given your competitive advantage, and the problems that your clients have, what are the topics you can comment on that address your clients’ problems AND that reinforce your competitive advantage, without discussing your products or services directly?

To tie this all together, let’s go back to the dry cleaning example, and assume that you’re known for getting stains out that others can’t – that’s your competitive advantage.  Further, let’s also say that you recognize that your clients (like most people) have problems with stains on a variety of surfaces, not just clothes, including table tops, cutlery, and carpets. Putting these two pieces of insight together could lead you to develop content (e.g., advice, perspective, news) focused on anything having to do with stain removal.  Not only does it reinforce your brand/competitive advantage and speak to problems your clients have, but in this case, it also opens up a whole new world of topics you could educate your clients about that go beyond clothing stains, keeping you more top of mind than if you were just focused on clothing.

For a quick and dirty (this time, pun intended) plan to get you up and running using content marketing to grow your business, asking and answering these three questions in the Three Simple Circles approach is a great place to start.

What’s your BIG Diff?

competition_advantage

As my first post, I think it only makes sense to talk about a topic that should be the first question every organization asks itself – what makes us different?

What is it that separates you from the crowd and helps you drive more profitability and growth?  Afterall, being different in a way that doesn’t drive the bottom line won’t pay your bills.  So, what is your big difference?

I’ve recently developed an acronym that helps me identify which of the many strengths a company possess should be the one(s) focused on to drive competitive advantage.  In other words, it answers the question of what is your company’s difference by saying it must be B.I.G. :

B = Brings value to your prospects and customers, as determined by them, and brings value to your company in the form of profits.  How many times have I sat through meetings where colleagues have arbitrarily identified things they think their customer wants without really knowing for sure.  And how many competitive advantages actually drive profitability based on the existing business model? Whatever your company’s “BIG Diff” is, it must hold value for your market and for you.

I = Integrated into your operations to ensure it’s lived everywhere and offered to your customers and prospects at every touch point, making it sustainable over the long term.  Your “BIG Diff” can’t just be your latest marketing campaign that’s fun and creative but has no bearing on how you actually run your organization – that’s easily copied.  It must be woven throughout your organization at every point as that is what will ensure it’s effectively delivered. Plus, the act of integration throughout the business makes it that much more difficult to copy.

G = Gets noticed and is provable.  If your difference isn’t noticed, it doesn’t matter.  And, if you can’t prove that it exists, or at least that you’re trying to create it, no one will believe it.  It must get noticed and be provable to be considered your “BIG Diff”.

And that’s it.  In order for your competitive difference to be considered the one that your company should focus on to drive bottom-line results, i.e., your “BIG Diff”, it must be valuable to your marketd, be able to be integrated into your operations, and noticeable and provable.

Start by answering that question and you’re on your way to making your dreams grow more profitable.