Using content models for custom variations

Customized content makes your customers pay close attention. However, delivering such content requires planning and the right capabilities. Read this article to discover how content models can help you with that.

Michael Andrews

Published on Feb 27, 2020

A robust content model allows content to be less generic and more focused on specific customer needs. It can indicate what parts of content need to vary in different situations. This enables headlines, information, messages, and other content to be customized. It helps readers understand what they need to know more quickly. And it helps content teams produce content more swiftly as well.

Without a robust content model, content teams will struggle to deliver the right content to customers. Delivering content customization becomes labor-intensive and not scalable. Any organization that wants to deliver customized content needs to prioritize how this is done in its content model.

Agile content: Managing variability at scale

To manage content agilely, enterprises need a clear picture of the commonalities and differences in the content they produce.

Previously, we discussed how content models can support consistency in content. Now, let’s look at how content models support variations. When content is customized to different user needs, it becomes noticeably more relevant.

Variable items are the flipside of consistent items. After identifying what parts of content need to be consistent, the next step is to identify parts that will need to vary routinely. Look for areas where content needs to change based on specific circumstances.

Variable content is different from dynamic data such as prices or inventory levels that are sourced from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Rather, the variable content in the model will indicate opportunities to show more specific information or alternative options for how to present a message, according to the scenario.

Any content that needs to change should be a separate item or element in the content model. While many different content types and elements can vary, they tend to be influenced by four factors:

  1. Who is publishing the content
  2. What it’s about
  3. Where it’s delivered
  4. Who it’s for

When developing your content model, think about how these factors influence what needs to change in the content.

Who is publishing it: Corporate variations

Content as a Service supports an enterprise-wide content model, unlike CMSs that are focused on supporting specific websites. An enterprise-wide content model gives enterprises the ability to manage all aspects of their content: both the parts that need to be consistent, and the parts that need to vary.

Many enterprises have business units or subsidiaries that create similar content. If content is shared between organizational divisions or lines of business, what needs to be unique for each? For example, many enterprises have separate divisions to serve business customers and consumers. Their products and services may be similar, but the details about purchasing terms or warranties will be different.

In the past, each division may have produced content separately on different CMSs. When using a Content-as-a-Service approach, different organizational divisions can share content. The enterprise should also use its model to highlight content that doesn’t overlap, especially cases where related lines of business address a common topic in different ways. This allows all divisions to share common content and still be able to address their unique needs.

What it’s about: Product variations

Content about products will often involve variation. Many products are similar but vary according to their features or when they were introduced. Products from different brands may be similar but differ in key features. A company may offer a range of product models that belong to the same brand family and each one can undergo different versions. Enterprises need to track many details concerning what is different when discussing these products.

The content model can indicate what information is unique within content that discusses similar products. When the variable content is identified, the content model can support: 

    • The comparison of similar products
    • Noting the distinguishing features, benefits, and uses of specific products

Where it’s delivered: Geographic variations

Content needs to adapt to the customer’s location. Geolocation has been long used to provide specific content to readers based on where they are accessing content. But the power of geolocation may be limited by the in-built capabilities of the CMS used.

The content model can reflect aspects of the content that should vary by location. For example, the enterprise may want to promote location-specific news, such as announcing a new branch that’s opened near customers who live in a certain area. For their part, readers increasingly expect that location-specific details will adjust automatically according to where they are accessing the content. 

Examples of geographic-specific content that can vary include:

  • Localized content, such as a local promotion
  • Region-specific information, such as local service schedules

A robust content model can even let you deliver “hyperlocal” content that is relevant to a specific city neighborhood.

Who it’s for: Customer variations

Finally, content can change based on who will be viewing it. Many kinds of content can be tailored to customers—whether they are a new visitor or a returning one, if they are an existing or former customer, or if they are someone who saw an ad or were referred by a partner. The content could be alerts, offers, calls to action, special bonus information, or recommendations. The content model should identify opportunities to tailor content to:

  • Speak to specific motivations, such as addressing a customer segment’s most important decision criteria
  • Cover special circumstances, such as how to resolve a problem in a certain situation

Customer-related valuations deliver value to customers—and the enterprise. Your content model can address any content that should change to be more relevant and valuable to customers. 

Putting content teams in charge of customization

A robust content model gives content teams and marketers discretion over what content to change under which circumstances. No longer are they restricted to predefined variations that are packaged with their CMS. Content teams have new opportunities to design their content so it is more flexible and powerful.

Customization provides strategic benefits by presenting the most relevant content where it is needed. Make sure your content model indicates where content needs to change. 

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