There’s lots of great content to create. If you are anything like me, you are constantly having content ideas. Blog posts, web pages, videos, infographics, mailers, you name it. With all of these ideas swirling around in my head, how am I supposed supposed to decide what to do do? The three rules below help me stay focused and keep my content strategy sharp.

The Three Rules Of Content Management

  1. It must meet a key business objective;
  2. It must meet a user need;
  3. You have to be able to pull it off.

Business Objectives

Before you decide to create new content, you should be able to articulate how that content furthers you business objectives. It’s easy to just dive in and start creating things. Some of them might be beneficial, some might help a little, and others might not further your business at all.

You could start a blog, a podcast, make a pamphlet, create a Facebook ad, or any number of other things. Each of those things take time, energy and resources, and you don’t have any to waste. Whatever you decide to do, it had better align with your goals.

Learn more about this with the important distinction between Strategy and Tactics.

User Needs

There are lots of things that you can do to further your own goals that don’t necessarily meet any user needs. You could send out 20 marketing emails a day to your customer list. That clearly aligns with your goals of increasing sales, but does anyone want that many promotional emails?

Obviously, that’s a trite example, but it illustrates the idea: your content needs to be something your users/customers actually want/need. At a minimum, it should be something that won’t be a huge negative, like flooding their inbox with spam.

Can You Create It?

This one can be hard to be objective about, but it’s extremely important. There’s lots of great content to create. But, let’s be honest, you can’t create all of it.

The first time I saw Apple’s product page for their Power Mac, I was blown away. As I scrolled, things subtly animated. The computer rotated and came apart into a 3D view showing the inside of the computer. I’ve seen countless othe pages, videos, and brochures that blew me away with their design, elegance, and technical prowess.

However, with the budget and team that a small e-commerce team has in place, many pieces of content are simply out of reach. Or, maybe you can do them, but it will be at the expense of other efforts that are more profitable.

Ask yourself a few questions to start. Do you have the time to devote to the project? Will you have enough time to maintain it once it’s started (shout out to all of the blogs started with the best of intentions but that haven’t been updated in a year)? Do you or someone on your team have the tech savvy necessary? Do you have the budget for the project?

The Time We Made An App

Asking if you can pull it off is a rule I have because of my painful experience in biting off way more than I could chew. I had a great idea for a mobile app  for my store Rope and Rescue. It would let cell tower workers (and anyone else that used safety equipment) track their gear, log usage and inspections, and order new gear once their old gear wore out.

I wrote up a detailed description of all of the functionality and made some sketches of the main screens (not a bad start to Defining the Project). I emailed my functionality document out to a bunch of app development companies for quotes. After a few intro calls the quotes came back, ranging from $30,000 – $120,000… Ouch. For the size of my store, this was way out of reach.

Feeling deflated, I let the idea drop. Then, one day, our web designer sent me a link to Adobe PhoneGap. It’s a program that lets you build an app using HTML and CSS, just like if you’re making a regular website. It then turns your code into an App. Amazing!

For the next few months our team put the app together. It came together and worked quite well! We had plans to build additional functionality into later versions. If it went well, maybe we could even justify getting it professionally done in the future.

But, as these thing happen, our web designer left the company for another job. Me and our print designer had no idea how to maintain the app. If we discovered a bug, we couldn’t fix it. When Google or Apple required an update of some kind for their App Store, we couldn’t do it. I went out looking for someone that could help, but Phone Gap is too specialized and no one supported it.

As great as the idea was, the fact is that I had no business making an app. Me and my team didn’t have the resources to maintain it properly.

Where Credit Is Due

One of the best resources I’ve ever found on content strategy is Content Strategy For The Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. I learned my first two rules (must meet business objectives and user needs) and lots more here. This book is a fantastic intro to content strategy, making it practical and manageable. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Implementing the three simple rules in this post will save you a world of headache and make your content better.

What content tips do you have? Don’t be shy, leave a comment below.