HOW Design Live Speaker Spotlight: Mark O’Brien

Mark O’Brien, president of the web-design consultancy Newfangled, has built a career on helping creative pros understand how to build really (really!) smart websites. He’s a frequent HOW Design Live speaker and presenter for HOW’s series of online design tutorials, where he frequently covers search-engine optimization and content strategy. Mark will be sharing his deep expertise about content strategy as a self-promotional tool for creative professionals Creative Freelancer Conference coming to San Francisco June 22-24.

We recently fired a few questions over to Mark about what he’s working on and what he’s planning for his CFC workshop.

First, tell us a little about you and some of the cool work you’re doing right now …
These days we’re doing a lot with responsive design (along with everyone else) and Marketing Automation. I’m particularly thrilled about the latter. MA is a very natural next step for us as conversion-focused developers since it builds on everything we’ve been talking about for the past decade or so and takes it all to the next level. The rules are the same, it’s still all about focused expertise, contacts, and content, but with MA you can wring every bit of value out of those three core assets by using these new tools to get the right message to the right prospect at the right time. It’s very powerful stuff and now it’s affordable for people who need it (but will still be perceived as outrageously expensive by those who don’t).

Content … it’s often kind of an afterthought in the web design process, or at least something that designers aren’t super involved in. What about website content do designers need to understand?
That’s a pretty big question that doesn’t have a succinct answer, unfortunately. Basic site content is the same as it ever was, and I think everyone pretty much gets that.

Some sites and businesses need a content strategy, though, and that’s a completely different thing. The big picture of understanding a website’s content strategy is understanding how content specifically facilitates the key roles of attracting, informing, engaging and nurturing prospects. Different kinds of content are required for the three primary stages of the buying cycle: research, evaluation, and purchase. Having content that is specifically crafted for personas in these stages is important to make sure that you’ve got the right kind of content for your different audiences, but also so you can observe who’s engaging in what kind of content and through that observation learn what stage in the buying cycle they’re in. You can then use that info to make sure you’re delivering the right stage-specific content to them.

HDLlogoAt CFC, you’ll be speaking specifically about content as a self-promotional tool, a way for freelance designers (web and print) to generate new business. If I’m a designer, isn’t my portfolio enough?
Nice setup, Bryn, thanks. Your portfolio is enough to show people you do great work once they get to your site. But your portfolio isn’t going to bring people who need your help but aren’t looking for you specifically through search engines, nor is it going to help prospects understand why your work is good, or what it might be to work with you. It’s also not going to allow them to get to know you slowly over time while they’re deciding who they should hire. Content does all of these things. You need both great work and great content which describes your expertise if you want your site to generate business for you on a regular basis.

What are the 3 things you hope CFC attendees will take away from your workshop?
1) Why a content strategy is required for your site to consistently generate business for your firm.

2) How to create content strategy that addresses your key personas and covers the 3 primary stages of the buying cycle.

3) How to put a content plan together that allows you to do enough to have an impact on your business while not over-committing yourself.

Catch Mark’s post-conference workshop at the Creative Freelancer Conference, part of HOW Design Live in San Francisco, June 22-26.