Have you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey?
With more than 15 million copies sold, the principles in this book have helped many people become more effective both individually and in collaboration with others. It also provides exceptional advice for shaping your business story.
Together, the Seven Habits can profoundly influence the coherence of your story as told through your website, company messaging, social presence, business proposals, and client deliverables. These habits, once formed, get at the heart of good content: well thought out, beneficial to the customer, audience-appropriate, actionable, and iterative.
Habit #1 - Be Proactive. This first habit involves responsibility, and derives from your company’s mission and strategy. (If you don’t have a mission or business strategy, this is a good place to start.) When shaping your company’s narrative and deciding on the avenues to tell your story, being proactive and taking initiative comes first. Your organization possesses the self-awareness, imagination, independence, and creativity to determine how you present yourself to the world.
What do you want people to know about you? How do you want to be perceived? What problems are you trying to solve? How can you effectively communicate your solutions to these problems and the associated value of your offering? When you take the time to tell your story clearly and simply, this foundation provides solid direction for your business marketing and proposal content.
Habit # 2 - Begin with the End in Mind. Having a sense of direction or what you want to become greatly influences your story. If you know you want to be a multi-million-dollar health-food company, your story will be different than if you want to be a locally-based, sustainable food provider for your community. A small-scale, specialized application developer will tell a different story than Apple.
It is time to tie your mission and strategy to your story. Where you want to be in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years helps determine your customers and audience, the quality of the products and services you provide, the types of people you hire, the avenues you use to get your message out, and the look and feel of your content. The company you want to be dictates the story and how you get there.
Because you’re being proactive and taking responsibility for the direction of your story, you begin with the end in mind (creating a mental picture of the success you want), and then you design your content to fulfill your vision.
Habit #3 – Put First Things First. Habit 1 says that you are the creator, you’re in charge of the story. Habit 2 helps create a mental version of the story, determining the end state and success you desire to have in your company. Habit 3 is where you determine the most important elements of telling your story.
Business creates the tyranny of the urgent, and the top and bottom lines often threaten to undermine and undo a company’s narrative. You start out with the intention of completing a certain number of proposals, writing a blog every week, or developing content to improve employee communication. As the year goes on, mission and strategy get lost or put away because there are too many other important things to focus on, and the inbox is filling up with demands.
Maintaining and curating your story, along with performance statistics and data proving the quality of your products and services, should occupy critical space in your businesses management practices and processes. Setting aside time to develop and refine the story, and setting roles and responsibilities to make sure the story is updated and maintained will pay off in the end.
When deciding on priorities in a content strategy, we recommend focusing on single source, reusable content that tells who you are, what you stand for, what you do, how you do it, and why you are doing it. Accomplishing this articulation at a high level, putting it one place where anyone can access and update it, and then establishing a routine for refining it will make all content-based work easier – from updating websites, to writing proposals, to keeping current on social media and interacting with your client base.
Habit #4 – Think Win/Win. Win/win seeks mutual benefit in all interactions. This applies directly to content of any type. You develop content and write proposals and copy to connect with an intended audience and grow business. When developing your story, it is imperative to consider the target audience and customer in a way that makes the relationship and interaction enjoyable, informative, and mutually beneficial. Customers get what they want and need, your company makes a sustainable profit.
Your content, in this sales context, carries ultimate importance, influencing relationships and leading to win/win agreements – i.e., contracts, purchases, life-long customer loyalty. In order to get to a win/win agreement, you must develop a script and narrative that shows you understand the customer and have an authentic and genuine approach to making things better for them.
Habit #5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. The first 3 habits focus on internal considerations – your company initiative, vision, and priorities. With Habit #4, you begin to look outward and consider the customer and how they benefit from your content, shaped by your mission and strategy. Habit #5 helps you to understand what the customer is looking for in content.
Too often, websites and marketing material miss the mark. For example, students use university websites to find class schedules, campus maps, building locations, and contact information for professors. But many university website landing pages are littered with the direction of the institution, awards, building projects, alumni events, and other largely irrelevant information. The student is a main consumer of the website’s content, but you can’t tell that the content has been oriented to the consumer.
When thinking through presenting your content to your intended audience, consider what they want to see – What do they want to know? In what order do they want to see the information? How would they like it presented (e.g., words, visuals, interactive design)? What is the best way to present the content given the message and audience? When you present customers with content that meets their needs in a way they can understand, you have a much greater chance of connecting with and influencing them.
Habit #6 – Synergize. This is where we get down to creative cooperation and interacting with your customers in a collaborative and engaging way. You begin with the end in mind, you initiate the interaction in an effective way, and now you work with the customer to achieve the end result – making your product, service, and their experience significantly better than it was before. You created a story to attract and connect with your customer, now together you are continuing to write the story.
Watch how customers interact with your content. Through web analytics, proposal debriefs, customer feedback, and performance statistics, gauge how the story is being received, and make adjustments as necessary. Take into account the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between yourself and your customers. When you can recognize your own perceptual limitations, and adjust the story accordingly, you will see profits dramatically increase and enjoy a better relationship with your intended consumers.
Habit #7 – Sharpen the Saw. In order to accomplish the other 6 habits, this is perhaps the most important. Sharpening the saw is taking care of your own company, and fostering a sense that the story is vital to all aspects of success – from marketing to sales to operations to delivery of your product or service.
Sharpening involves physical, mental, and social/emotional dimensions. The mission and the strategy of the company provide a foundation for meaning and purpose. Physical well-being ensures livelihood and endurance to live the story you are creating (Habit #1 – Be Proactive). Mental discipline allows for renewal in Habits #2 (Begin with the End in Mind) and #3 (Put First Things First), where you organize and plan for accomplishing the end you have in mind. The social and emotional dimensions feed Habit #5 (Think Win/Win) and Habit #6 (Synergize), centered on interdependence, empathy, and creative cooperation.
In all, applying the Seven Habits to your content development and management process allows you to ensure your mission and strategy live in the story you tell, regardless of the medium.
For more information on our philosophy about content and proposal development processes, visit our blog or contact Qocreate.