Mark Gross, President, Data Conversion Laboratory, appearing Manufacturing Business Technology
Manufacturers face immense pressure to increase revenue and decrease costs, but reusing the content in existing catalogs, documentation and training materials rarely springs to mind as a path to either. Frequently outdated sales materials, and the relative ease of gathering competitive information online, contribute to challenges facing manufacturers who need to stand out from the crowd and dominate their markets. Take some cues from retail channels and focus on customer experience and content strategy, and you can open up new opportunities to add to the bottom line.
Your legacy content, locked away in parts catalogs, user manuals and training workbooks, can help you jumpstart a revenue generation model that also supports productivity and efficiency goals. Begin with a content conversion strategy: a framework for identifying what’s in your legacy content, what has reuse potential and how to convert it to a format that can be published across channels and media types.
As you formulate your content conversion strategy and plan to implement changes, you can do more than simply scan and convert old materials into electronic forms. By looking at your customer experience and marketing goals, determining which conversion standards are best for your needs, analyzing your legacy data and consulting with industry experts, you can develop an approach that minimizes rework and maximizes quality control.
Today’s customers, whether consumer, commercial or government, are no longer content with bulky print catalogs. They’re demanding online, easily searchable content to make buying decisions. This content still needs to be accurate, valid and consistent to meet regulatory, safety and compliance requirements.
If you are in or planning to enter global markets, your customer experience goals are multilingual and multicultural. Your content conversion strategy must address how to transform content, often stored in print-based catalogs, into electronic formats for easier localization and production to multiple formats. Much of that legacy content is likely to be duplicated across versions of catalogs and document sets, and the cost of converting so much repeated content can quickly become astronomical.
Areas of Opportunity to Increase Revenue
How do you overcome these challenges? Focus your strategy on these areas of opportunity:
Audit Your Content
A catalog-based sales model presents some particularly thorny content development and maintenance challenges. Even the simplest order form typically contains 15 or more fields laid out in multiple columns and rows. A full product or parts catalog often includes identical or nearly identical information in multiple places. The catalog might be organized to include collections of parts or products, and corresponding photos. Sales material or teaser copy adds to the complexity. Multiple versions, yearly or more frequent releases mean that you have mountains of content that could be put to work for you.
The only way to get the full picture of what you have and make it future-ready is to perform a content audit. The audit determines what you already have (e.g., printed catalogs, order forms in three languages or four versions of a training seminar). More importantly it helps you identify what you need to rewrite or remove, and what you can reuse.
If your collection includes years of parts data, multiple versions of collateral, or significant company acquisitions merging legacy data in multiple styles, a content audit that combines automation with manual spot checks produces big benefits in conversion planning. Automation is key to conducting the audit, and conversion software can help. Software analyzes the content to identify what content is unique, what is duplicated, and what contains errors or typos. For example, a scan of paper documents can extract data, check for spelling mistakes, and apply special fonts to highlight frequent errors or red flags, such as a zero (0) mistaken for the letter 'o.' Tagging data types upfront simplifies the production processes where structured documents compile modular content and style it correctly for output to multiple media.
Improve Your Web Searchability and Customer Experience
Manufacturers can be their own worst enemies by moving too slowly. After-market providers are often quicker to get parts and pricing data online, and so more easily located by customers. Converting content and making it future-ready and then developing the best customer experience possible using that content can level the playing field.
Customers rely increasingly on the internet and social sharing to find information; you need to make your content available online and localized for specific languages and cultures in your target markets. If your company isn't a top result in a web search, the loss in SEO equals loss in revenue. Imagine turning outdated catalogs and obsolete training materials into accurate, searchable materials that build trust for your company as the leading authority in explaining and selling those parts.
It's not enough to just get your content online. It needs to be tagged with the right metadata, such as part number, usage descriptions, installation instructions, price (which may fluctuate), or location. Properly tagged content, integrated into your purchasing and post-purchasing online tools helps customers move through the buyer journey from search to purchase easily. Building the best customer experience builds trust and displays your organization as an authoritative source of content and products.
Build Partnerships With Consistent Information Across All Channels
When the manufacturer sits at least a touch point away from end consumers, the content must address dealer and distributor needs too. The content strategy should govern production and maintenance of the information that helps your dealers or distributors sell. Structured, modular, properly tagged content is easier to maintain and compile, producing the appropriate inquiry, parts data, order forms, sales training and marketing collateral for each link in your supply chain.
Consistent brand messaging via clear, easy to produce, easily found content that distributors can hand over to customers, improves both partner and customer relationships.
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