Can content = cannibalisation?

08Dec11

Over the last 3 years, it feels like the world has woken up to the advantages of online content.

Working in digital, I’ve rarely needed to extol the virtues of content. But recently, someone suggested to me that on-site content could actually distract customers from the main goals of a website: to obtain new customer leads.

How could content distract web users?

If you have a company whose operation is based almost entirely offline, your web operation could simply be viewed as a lead-generation tool.

And this makes sense – you have a highly trained call centre that converts customers expertly. Naturally you want to drive people to call you, not to mooch around your website for hours.

And this raises the question – if you weigh down your website with too much content, are you cannibalising your leads?

What do I mean by ‘cannibalisation’?

Joe Bloggs comes to your website with the idea that he might like to buy business insurance (for example). He has a few questions, but he manages to find all the answers using your comprehensive website content (win!).

But now he has all the answers, so he doesn’t need to call your highly trained call centre to ask for help.

Is that an opportunity lost?

I don’t think so.

The overriding suggestion is that businesses can lose opportunities as a result of over-educating their prospective customers. Here’s why I think this argument is flawed:

  • Comprehensive content makes your site more discoverable. There’s a good chance your customers found the site in the first place due to a natural search query. With skeleton content that is rarely updated or added to, your site is unlikely to increase its rankings and attract new leads in the first place.
  • Detailed, well-written content helps gain prospective customers’ trust. Content is a brilliant way to show potential customers that you’re experts, thought-leaders and that you’re trustworthy. In fact, it’s one of the only ways.
  • If web users don’t find what they need – they will leave. If a potential customer can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, it’s highly unlikely they’ll pick up the phone to call you. It’s far more likely that they’ll simply leave and go somewhere else that does have the answers.
  • Content is vital for customer retention and social engagement. Customer acquisition is important, but retention is equally so. If there’s nothing for customers on your site, what will make them come back? How can you hope to engage them in social spaces if you’ve nothing relevant to share?

I want to be impartial and consider the counter-argument. So if anyone reading this disagrees with my argument, I’d love to hear your point of view.

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