For B2B Technology Marketing, Engaging Content Requires a Whole New Kind of Technical Writing
According to a 2016 report from CMI and MarketingProfs, 72% of B2B tech marketers consider the creation of engaging content a top priority. However, just 19% ranked becoming better writers at the top of their to-do list.
Ann Handley, chief content marketing officer of MarketingProfs, found that revelation particularly concerning: “The best content marketers need strong writing skills, because the foundation of content marketing is writing (no matter what form that content ultimately takes),” she said.
Some might say survey respondents lumped writing in with “creating engaging content,” but she doubts it. “My sense is that many of us vastly undervalue writing in the content process, which is why we have a tough time creating “engaging content”—and why that has consistently been a top challenge in the past six years.”
While I understand and always appreciate any effort to promote the value of writing, I also understand why becoming a better writer may not count as a top priority for B2B tech marketers. For one, the challenge may have much more to do with time than ability. Quality writing requires time--lots of it. And if content marketing weren’t already a big enough challenge — between the hours spent creating and distributing great content and carefully testing and measuring how it drives profitable action — imagine what it’s like for B2B marketers specifically in highly technical and scientific niche markets.
Sure, B2B tech marketers may be tasked with many of the same responsibilities as other B2B content marketers. But the difference is they’re often educating an audience about deeply complex technical information, research, systems and software. More, the writing must effectively engage a highly trained, expert audience on a level that will also generate and nurture leads further along what tend to be pretty long sales cycles. That’s not easy.
I would argue that much of the "writing challenge" in B2B tech marketing involves the specific challenges and nature of technical writing in B2B marketing. Unlike traditionally standard forms of technical writing, B2B-tech writing is it's own animal.
Standard technical writing can mean many things.
Forms of Standard Technical Writing:
- Instruction Manuals
- Standard Operating Procedures
- Research Reports
- User Guides
- Feasibility Reports
- Formal Technical Reports
- Technical Specifications
- Process Overviews
These are just a few of the forms that count as "technical writing. " And, despite their differences, none of these traditional forms meets the requirements of technical writing for B2B markets. Unlike these other forms of technical writing, B2B market-tech writing does not focus exclusively on technical knowledge.
B2B-Market Tech Writing: User-centered (as opposed to product-centered) technical writing that presents technical information in narratives that highlight the big-picture value of a particular technology. It answers the question, “what will this technology enable me to do”?
You may well be sat there thinking ‘that’s all well and good but how on earth do I change our content to reflect this?’ The answer is that it certainly doesn’t come overnight, and it takes real effort to produce content which stands out as remarkable in your field.
Ultimately, it all boils down to needing to add some life into your content marketing and telling a story which grabs the attention of your prospects from beginning to end and beyond via a call to action. Putting something in the context of a real life situation suddenly makes it far easier to understand. It’s this context that not only tells your prospects why they need to spend time reading your post, but also keeps them engaged and likely to act on what they learn.
Here are some ways to think about B2B tech-market writing that distinguish it from traditional technical writing:
Focus on Differentiation:
One big reason B2B businesses struggle with effective content creation is due to an inability to stand out against competitors, or failing to grasp the imagination of their audience. Particularly in the IT sector, much of the blog content you see is highly technical, and as a result has no differentiation from competitors who are peddling the same product. It’s no big revelation to say that B2B has multiple decision makers, many of whom aren’t in the slightest bit technical and are actually looking at the impact on wider business goals or end user experience instead of specification. Ultimately, regardless of sector or focus, you’re always talking to a person and none of us have time to add boring, lifeless content to our to do lists.
B2B technology marketers tend to focus on product, not audience.
This tendency plagues content marketers in every category, but it tends to hit tech marketers particularly hard. When it comes to tech, the smallest details about functionality, experience, usability, security, etc., can be what makes or breaks a deal, and marketers don’t want to risk missing the chance to cover all the great aspects of their technology by forgoing promotion in content for a longer-term strategy of audience education and value.
Answer the "Why Question:"
Always make sure that the “why” is at the forefront of what you’re writing. Many companies are offering the same products, so why should they buy it from you? What is it that you add, or how do you explain things, which makes you different? Many prospects may not even realize that they have a problem you can help them with, so stand out from the crowd and offer a fresh perspective, which shows why your business is relevant to them. Rather than focussing on the messaging of your vendors, what do you do which solves for the customer and should make you top of their list when it comes to choosing who they should work with?
Present Your Individual Expertise in Personal Narratives
Make sure to present Your story — who you are, where you come from, and what you stand for — is often as important to your audience as what you actually sell to them. Especially in the tech space — where it’s easy to lose your voice, your story, and your unique brand in the complexity of what you do — your story is what will set you apart and identify you as a thought leader.
By “individual expertise,” I’m talking about the specific insights and experiences you can share, in your voice and tone, that are unique to you. Your expertise is just that: Yours. Yes, you exist in an industry with other leading experts, and maybe you share some ideas with them. That’s OK. But your own experiences, practices, stories, and voice can help set you apart, and your ability to communicate new or bold ideas bolstered by that personal information can make a difference. Tell real-life stories about experiences in which your expertise came into play.
And when you share your expertise with your readers in a way that educates them, adds value to their lives, and helps them solve their own problems, you’re shifting the focus of your content to your audience, not your products and services — and that can dramatically improve its effectiveness.
Or, Partner with a Marketing Firm that Specializes in Technical Writing for B2B Markets
Of course, as mentioned above, all of this writing requires extensive time--and time, in the world of B2B marketing, is becoming an increasingly rare resource. According to a 2015 study, 51% of B2B marketers struggles to complete all their tasks within a 40-hour work week. 80% say they are understaffed. When it comes to creating technial writing that engages B2B audiences, limited time is likely the greatest obstacle.
For an increasing number of companies in B2B tech markets, partnering with a marketing agency that provides the necessary writing expertise is becoming the most effective way to meet marketing goals. Professional writers can interview subject matter experts on particular topics, and then translate that knowledge into something which stands out. Often, someone removed from the organization can bring a fresh pair of eyes to your expertise to makes it more understandable.
CMI also recommends hiring a marketing agency, adding that even the best writers will need to be brought up to speed on your brand – and may not be on target with the first draft. Give the relationship time to develop, knowing that consistency and clarity in your brand voice makes it much easier for multiple resources to hit the mark.
And, speaking of marketing firms that offer expertise in technical writing for B2B markets…
If you have questions about writing, I’d love to discuss!
Contact us anytime!