Six Steps to Align Your Content Strategy With Human Behavior — and Boost Your Marketing Results
In 2011, National Instruments was facing a “good, bad, and ugly” Content Marketing situation, according to Lauren Moler, Web Content Producer.
The Good: NI had a new online messaging architecture.
The Bad: None of the content creators were using it.
The Ugly: Customers were not finding the information they needed.
Rather than start from scratch to develop all new content, Moler researched to find a different solution. She landed on the concept of “mental models.”
Her inspiration came from the classic book, Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior, by Indi Young.
Young defines mental models this way:
“Mental models are simply affinity diagrams of behavior made from ethnographic data gathered from audience representatives.”
“The top part of the model is a visual depiction of the behavior of a particular audience, faithfully representing root motivations. The bottom part of the model shows various ways of supporting matching behaviors. Where support and behavior are aligned, you have a solution. Where a behavior is not supported, you have an opportunity to explore further.”
“Using a mental model can advance several tasks for you — both from a tactical and strategic standpoint. It can guide the design of the solution you are working on. It can help you, and your team, make good user and business decisions. And, it can act as a roadmap, ensuring continuity of vision and opportunity as the makeup of your team evolves over the next decade.”
Lauren Gives Presentation in Austin — “I’ll Give You a Piece of My Mind! Building a Content Strategy with Mental Models”
Lauren got the greenlight to implement the mental modeling process in one area of NI’s business: it’s Academic Program.
The result was exceptional. Within six months of implementing the solution based on the mental models, the business unit achieved two key results:
- 70% increase in contacts
- 51% increase in online revenue
Mental modeling is being rolled out to other business units.
Lauren presented NI’s mental model case study at last year’s Content Marketing World conference — and again on the evening of February 25th at the Austin Content Meetup.
Here’s an overview of the six steps in NI’s mental models process.
Step 1 — Inventory Content
“Our process started with an inventory of our existing content,” explained Lauren. “We had to start somewhere so we began by logging the following content information on an Excel spreadsheet.”
- Page title
- Content Summary
- Quality Assessment According to Best Practices
- Phase in Content Marketing Process
Step 2 — Identify Customer Profiles
“We started quick and dirty with just a list of bullet points,” said Lauren. “We included any bit of information significant enough to better understand our customers.”
Step 3 — Define User Tasks
This involved brainstorming with the team to extract ideas from all of the knowledge holders. Lauren said that involving everyone in the process was key. “At NI, we have a distributed publishing model with a lot of content creators and a consensus culture.”
To encourage participation, charts were posted at key places in the company and people were encouraged to add their insight. “We used an analog approach — post it notes!” she said. “This allowed us to get our hands on the content in a tactile way.”
Step 4 — Group Tasks into Related Tasks
“We looked for patterns within the content and grouped them into information buckets.”
Step 5 — Map Content to Tasks
NI’s mental model is a chart that plots user content needs and NI’s content along the follow six steps in the buyer’s journey:
- Initial Success
- Beyond Proficiency
Step 6 — Create Content Templates
To facilitate content creation in a company with thousands of content creators, Lauren used the results of mental modeling to create site maps and content templates.
Lauren says that in addition to gaining exceptional results, NI also gained several key insights from mental modeling:
- NI had content gaps
- NI had been de-prioritizing key marketing tasks in favor of marketing offers
- NI wasn’t repurposing its content
- NI had some good content
“The mental model process allowed us to see key areas where we could use our existing content, which content we could repurpose, and where we needed to create new content.”
Although NI deals with massive amounts of content, Lauren encourages companies of all sizes to use mental model to create content strategies.
“Whether you’re a company of one or 1,000, creating mental models is a great exercise to manage your content creation.
“You’ll get a handle on your content and see how it maps to your customers’ information needs. This insight is invaluable.”