The Content Corner: Treating the Citizen as a Customer

A rising sales concept graphic of an old-fashioned thermometer

There is a tendency in government to discount a range of strategies closely connected to marketing. A good example, and a recent buzzword, is content marketing. Content marketing’s main goal is to drive a user to click or sign-up; to turn them into a lead or a buying customer. We’re the federal government, we aren’t selling anything, we don’t care about conversions or lead-generation. Wrong.

Citizens visit government websites more and more often to solve a specific problem:

  • find out about health care benefits,
  • veterans services, and
  • especially around this time of year—information about taxes.

The solution to their particular problem is our product, and creating copy that helps them find that solution and solve their problem is our marketing.

If we begin to approach content generation from that perspective: by visualizing an end goal for our site visitors, then our content will become much more focused. We all need to remember that content has a purpose—it is there for a reason—and not because you have to generate text to populate a section of your site. This is where the principles of content marketing can serve us well. Here are some suggestions on how to make them a part of your content strategy.

Purposeful Content

We just discussed this above, but it is worth repeating and possibly worth making into a mantra and a slogan like “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!” How does the content you are creating help your customer get to where they need to go? Some may argue that if the content is not actively assisting the user in their journey, then it has no place on your site. Always visualize your content’s purpose and relationship to the user.

Understanding Your User

The most effective way to ensure your content acts as the user’s guide is to know where they are going. What are their motivations, why are they here, who are they? This gets into many topics surrounding personas, user interviews, and accessibility. Only by knowing as much as possible about your site’s visitors can you understand what they want from you and expedite that journey. It’s really hard to help someone if you don’t know what they need.

Design Matters

Even when you understand what the user is looking for, how you present that information is just as critical. If they don’t realize that you are providing them exactly what they are looking for then your efforts to better understand them are wasted. This is the critical importance of user experience design (UX). UX focuses on not only how scannable your content is or the typography, but delves deeper into more psychological aspects. Is your content inviting? Do your colors and design inspire trust in the user? If those words sound like marketing concerns, you are right.

The idea of treating the citizen as a consumer is nothing new, the use of terms like customer service and the proliferation of satisfaction surveys in the federal government make that clear. But do we truly treat them like a potential customer worthy of a marketing strategy? Are we trying to make sure their interaction with our brand is a positive one? Are we displaying empathy, developing trust, and fully focused on making that “sale”? If not, we should be.You’ve just finished reading the second article from a new column called The Content Corner. This column will focus on helping solve the main issues facing digital professionals including producing enough content and making that content engaging.