By Manya Chylinski published September 30, 2011 Est Read Time: 8 min

How to Create a Reliable Portal to Your B2C Content

One of the best ways to market to consumers is with educational content. In the business to consumer (B2C) market, there is a lot of information that can be shared with customers and prospects. One option for sharing those resources is to create a portal — an organized place for consumers to find information or links to information.

As content marketing grows in importance, more B2C companies are adopting this model. If you are not making content available through an easily reached portal, or if your information is not updated on a regular basis, you may wonder if it is worth the investment of time and resources. But a content portal can really make a difference for your customers, and here’s why:

  • It enables customers and prospects to easily find the information they seek.
  • It encourages serendipitous discovery of content. When prospects are interested in one product, a portal enables them the opportunity to discover additional content that addresses other questions or concerns they may have.
  • It increases the “stickiness” of your website. Customers are likely to stay and browse when visiting a portal that provides important and useful information, and it demonstrates that they can return to find regularly updated content.
  • It helps spread your influence. When content is easy to find and interconnected, people are more likely to share your links and recommend your content to their friends and family.

Take a look at three B2C companies that provide content for their customers, some of them using a portal model. They can serve as a guide to understanding the various ways content can be made available and determining what works best. At the end of the post, I’ve shared some suggestions for incorporating the strengths of these sites into your own resource centers.

American Girl

American Girl makes dolls and accessories with the goal of helping young girls grow up wholesomely through play.

The portal for content on this website is Play, designed as an online place for fun, with a little education thrown in.

Pros

  • The portal is easy to find in the site’s main top navigation bar, which is available across the site.
  • Six sections are named using terminology young girls will recognize and connect with: Girl of the Year, American Girl Magazine, Historical Characters, My American Girl, Advice Library, Activities Library.
  • Navigation and organization within each section seems optimized to take advantage of how consumers — young girls and their parents — will search and navigate through the various sections.
  • The Play homepage has links to apps (iTunes for iPhone and iPad apps), games, and eCards.
  • Emailed eCards link back to the American Girl website, which encourages new prospects to browse.
  • American Girl has a Facebook page to encourage sharing via social media for older girls and parents.

Cons

  • The Content of Play section is searchable, but the function may not be used frequently because there is not a section-specific search function — searches are conducted via the site search bar above the main navigation bar, which may not be intuitive for this customer demographic.
  • Live events and experiences (such as workshops, dining, and parties) are available only from the homepage and Stores sections. Users cannot access these options from the Play section.

New Balance

New Balance is an athletic shoe and apparel company.

There is an opportunity to create a primary portal for content on this website, which would make your consumer education materials more easily accessible. For the time being, the Wellness section serves as the primary portal that new site visitors can use to discover content.

Pros

  • The Wellness portal is easy to find from the top navigation bar, which is available across the site.
  • Sub-sections are well defined: Fitness, Nutrition, Motivation, and Time.
  • There are sidebars on the portal page with options like Featured Content, New and Noteworthy, From the Web, and Related Items.
  • Streaming wellness content from the web broadens the amount and types of content available.
  • Search results display the search term and number of hits, and results are sortable by general type of content.

Cons

  • Useful content is spread across different sections, such as Community, Lifestyle, and Training Tools, rather than being clearly categorized, and this content is not linked.
  • New Balance has a presence on Twitter, Facebook, flickr, and YouTube, but it only links to those platforms on the home page, not from the Wellness homepage or other content pages.
  • The content is not always fresh. For example, the newest content in each of the Wellness sections — Fitness, Nutrition, Motivation, and Time — was more than one month old when I last surveyed the site, as was the content in the News section.
  • The News section is different than the New & Noteworthy streaming content and is not accessible via the homepage or the Wellness section.
  • The navigation links to the News and Events sections are well hidden under the main navigation category of Performance.
  • Blog content in the Lifestyle section is not marked with a publication date and seems to be updated irregularly.
  • The Lifestyle section seems like it should be a home for content; while the home page is, the remainder of the section is devoted primarily to product sales.
  • Content in the Wellness and other content sections is searchable, but there is not a section-specific search function, which might limit its accessibility. Site-specific search is available via the search bar above the main navigation bar, but this may not be intuitive for customers.
  • Search results are not marked with a date, so customers may not know if they are receiving the most up-to-date information.

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market is a national natural foods supermarket.

The company homepage serves as the content portal for its educational content.

Pros

  • Content is easy to find — it greets you from the homepage, with streaming content from their Whole Story blog.
  • Links to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr pages, and the company blog are located on the top navigation bar of the home page and throughout the site. Links are also provided in a side navigation bar on the blog.
  • The What’s Cooking section provides recipe suggestions, as well as a link to the Recipe section.
  • The Health Starts Here section provides nutrition information and healthy eating suggestions, and provides a daily tip and a link to appropriate blog articles.
  • There is a section with Videos, as well as a customer Forums section, which is linked directly from the home page — in the bottom navigation section.
  • The Whole Story blog is used as a primary repository for much of the site’s information.

Cons

  • Three navigation sections — two at the top of the page and one at the bottom — make navigation a bit more difficult, because it’s unclear where visitors should start to look for content.
  • Talk to Us, in the top navigation section, links to social media, including the Whole Story blog.
  • Blogs and Community, in the bottom navigation section, links to Videos, Forums, the Whole Story blog and two blogs that are not updated regularly.
  • The main navigation bar near the top of the page links to Health Starts Here and Recipes.

Each company must decide how best to make information available for its customer. As you can see, each of the above sites does several things quite well, but there is also room for improvement on each.

Key takeaways for B2C resource portals

Users have high expectations for finding content easily. To keep them happy and returning to your website, it is best to make consumer educational content available via a single, easy to find portal. In addition, providing direct, easy to identify connections to and from social media sites will enable customers to share what they learn with friends and family.

Below is a list of tips for a good information portal.

The anchor page

  • Display recent and / or streaming content to let customers see what is new and popular without having to wander through pages or do a search.
  • Arrange navigation so there is one primary link to the resource portal on every page, so users can find the page from anywhere on the site.

The search function

  • Enable searches within the resource portal section, so customers can quickly find educational content that interests them.
  • Configure the search function so site visitors can choose between educational and corporate content.

Content to include

  • Make all content available, regardless of format, so consumers do not have to concern themselves with knowing if the best results are found on your web pages, documents, blog posts, or videos.
  • Make links social media and / or blog content available across the site, or at least on every page of the resource portal section, to ensure a strong connection with other marketing efforts.
  • Include links to social media and / or blog content, or the ability to “like” material, to encourage other forms of engagement.

What do you think about resource portals for B2C content? What are features of functions you think are must-haves? What are the nice-to-have features? What are definite no-nos for B2C educational content? Are there any B2C content portals you really love? Let us know in the comments.

Author: Manya Chylinski

Manya Chylinski is a marketing consultant and writer helping B2B companies create compelling content and share thought leadership and success stories. Founder of Alley424 Communications, Manya has experience in a variety of industries including technology, higher education, financial services, government, and consulting.

Other posts by Manya Chylinski

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