Using technical marketing content to help your company scale
How do you know when you need technical marketing content? How do you identify or prioritize the technical marketing content you need? How do you produce effective technical marketing content? What formats best-suit to your goals?
It’s far more expensive for your company to have SMEs jumping on calls, to suffer from stalled sales cycles, to be ignored in the marketplace, or to overspend on digital than it is to invest in scalable, shareable technical marketing content.
In my experience, I see a few mistakes with regard to technical marketing content. In particular, organizations:
- Incorrectly conclude they don’t need it
- Overthink it, and spend countless hours in planning sessions rather than just getting it done
- Assume that it’s too hard or time-consuming to produce, so isn’t worth doing
- Assume that it’s not something which can be outsourced
- Decide to do it, but pick the wrong topics
- Decide to do it, but choose the wrong formats
Do you need technical marketing content? (almost certainly)
Even without knowing who’s reading this post, I feel pretty good playing the odds that you do need at least some technical marketing content. Here are four reasons why you might.
Your tech people spend too much time jumping on calls
If, at some point during the sales process, your CTO, architect, or engineer has to jump on a call with the customer, then that’s a solid sign that you need some technical marketing content.
I’ve spoken with startups where, quite literally, the CTO spends 5 or 6 hours a week giving the same spiel and answering the same questions over and over.
I’ve spoken with startups where, quite literally, the CTO spends 5 or 6 hours a week giving the same spiel and answering the same questions over and over. This sort of thing adds up and prevents your company from scaling: your tech people should be free to design and build your tech.
Incidentally, it’s also a hard habit to break, as the calls do have value and—maybe this is a stronger reason—they stroke egos.
Nevertheless, it’s a habit which must be broken if you want to scale.
Your sales cycles drag on because prospects can’t get the answers they need
Scaling your company efficiently means tightening up your sales cycles. Unfortunately, once prospect inquiries pass a certain shallow level of depth, your salespeople won’t be able to deliver a correct, consistent, comprehensive answer.
Imagine a world in which your salesperson can send over a resource—guaranteed current and correct—or point the prospect to video.
Right now, the path forward might be to schedule a call with a subject matter expert (the aforementioned CTO, architect, or engineer).
Instead, imagine a world in which your salesperson can send over a resource—guaranteed current and correct—or point the prospect to video.
Having correct answers available is a powerful way to overcome buying barriers and to keep the prospect moving through your funnel—and gives you a significant advantage over the competition.
You want to get noticed in a noisy market
Scaling your company’s sales requires getting enough market attention to feed your funnel.
Explain corner cases. Overturn common misconceptions. Challenge assumptions. Examine trade-offs. Your organic numbers will thank you.
Technical marketing content is a great way to stand out from the crowd. When everyone else shies away from technical details or doesn’t want to tackle difficult topics, you can really get noticed by becoming a trusted, go-to source for information.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming your prospects or customers know the subjects related to your solution well. They usually don’t, and they’re usually looking for answers.
Explain corner cases. Overturn common misconceptions. Challenge assumptions. Examine trade-offs.
Your organic numbers will thank you.
This whitepaper paper from Dejero explains some of the shortcomings of traditional SD-WAN solutions and highlights problems which Dejero’s solution can solve.
Your digital tactics need differentiated content
Lots of companies invest in digital channels but offer only weak or generic content. The result is they overpay for clicks and experience poor conversion rates.
Technical marketing content addresses both of these issues by increasing your topical relevance and by providing interesting content which holds your prospects’ attention and drives them deeper into your funnel.
How do you identify and prioritize topics?
Identifying and prioritizing topics is pretty straightforward: pay attention.
If I ever saw the same topic explained or answered more than once, then I knew I had a candidate for technical marketing content.
When I led a global product marketing organization, I paid careful attention to customer email threads and meeting invites. If I ever saw the same topic explained or answered more than once, then I knew I had a candidate for technical marketing content.
To prioritize, consider a few factors:
- Prevalence: What topics come up the most frequently in customer engagements? Think of the Pareto Principle: 20% of the topics are probably responsible for 80% of the question volume.
- Importance: What are your technical differentiators? It’s crucial that prospects understand your differentiators and why they matter.
- Complexity: What topics can you knock off relatively quickly, or don’t require a bottlenecked resource? You probably want some early wins as you start up your technical marketing program.
If you want to diversify your efforts, you can separate further. For instance:
- ‘Reactive’: Make sure to address the topics prospects frequently ask—Dejero has a technical showcase document which explains how their flagship technology works
- ‘Proactive’: Get prospects thinking about things which might not have crossed their minds, but have strategic value to you (e.g., corner cases which you handle, architectural differentiators which are crucial differentiators, etc.)—we did a great job with this approach at Sandvine
- Thought Leadership: Similar to the ‘proactive’ category, but perhaps extending farther into the future (e.g., examining technological evolution in your industry and potential ramifications) or exploring general industry topics—consider Miovision’s event-focused whitepaper, or eSentire’s threat spotlight, or our own Waterloo Region Technology Marketing Spotlight
But—and I can’t stress this enough—it’s better to start somewhere, anywhere, than to overcomplicate matters and get stuck in an endless cycle of evaluation.
How do you produce effective technical marketing content?
The two main means by which technical marketing content is produced are:
- A subject matter expert (SME) bangs something out and then throws it over to marketing
- Marketing schedules time with the SME to ‘interview’ them about the subject, to get a brain-dump, to ask questions, etc.
Both approaches have pros and cons. Again, I advise just getting started, rather than focusing too much on the precise mechanism.
But be prepared to constantly push things forward. In my experience, the most common reasons why these efforts stall are:
- The SME is too busy to bang something out
- The SME is too busy to meet with marketing
- The SME is too busy to review the drafts (the SME is responsible for technical accuracy)
Your odds of success increase substantially if everyone’s onboard with the project/program. That is, everyone sees the value, no one feels threatened, and so on.
And, not to get sales pitchy, producing effective technical marketing content is something which Cromulent Marketing has a great deal of experience. Leveraging marketing as a service is a cost-effective and efficient way to invest in your technical marketing content.
Seriously, we can turn a whitepaper around in a few days—please do not fool yourself into thinking that this type of content needs to be a multi-week thing.
What formats should you use?
Nowadays, there’s no shortage of formats, so how do you choose the right one?
My advice: know your goal and understand your audience, and then choose the format(s) based upon that context.
Know your goal and understand your audience, and then choose the format(s) based upon that context.
For instance, Miovision’s Clear Signals campaign targeted traffic engineers. These folks work from textbooks full of theory. Miovision gave them a welcome alternative: a relatively short (i.e., 70 pages versus the hundreds of pages within a textbook) ebook focused on practical applications and how-to instructions. The ebook was a hit.
Would an ebook work for you? I mean, maybe, but an ebook is only appropriate under certain conditions. I shudder whenever I hear a marketing friend or colleague tell me that their company has decided to produce an ebook…usually it’s just because the company thinks ebooks are cool. The ensuing project is usually a disaster.
Maybe a whitepaper? I’m personally partial to a combination of an objective whitepaper and a proprietary-focused technology showcase, and I’ve helped several clients implement this approach.
A video? Maybe a short one to grab attention, and a longer explainer? Live-action, or cheesy animation?
For B2B tech companies, technical marketing content is a requirement for scale. This content:
- Frees up subject matter experts to focus on their real jobs
- Keeps the customer buying process moving without undue interruption
- Helps your company stand out in a noisy market
- Enhances the effectiveness of your digital marketing activities
To identify topics, start with the things which are consuming SME time. Usually stuff like answering, “How does your technology work?”, “What makes you different?”, “Why does that matter?” or even especially mundane things like, “What’s your data security and privacy model?” A few hours a week of SME time really add up to inefficient operations.
Address a few low-hanging fruit, being mindful of the Pareto Principle, and with those wins under your belt expand your program into more proactive topics.
Be sure to understand your target audience and your goal for the project, and then choose your medium/media appropriately. Your CEO might want an ebook, but what your customer wants is far more important.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that technical marketing content is overly expensive or time-consuming to produce. It’s far more expensive for your company to have SMEs jumping on calls, to suffer from stalled sales cycles, to be ignored in the marketplace, or to overspend on digital than it is to invest in scalable, shareable technical marketing content.