Collaborating with technical subject matter experts on blog posts

Let’s face it: You can’t sustain your company’s blog all by yourself. But you don’t have to. The great thing about marketing B2B technology is that you’re surrounded by super smart people. Collaborating with technical subject matter experts (SME) on blog posts can be incredibly fulfilling. Oftentimes I find that SMEs are as passionate about technology as marketers are about creating great content. Together, you can make a great team.

So, who are your subject matter experts? They are your engineers, developers, administrators, technicians – anyone who helps build, deliver and support your company’s products and/or services. These people offer a dual advantage: First, they know your technologies better than anyone. Second, they are also very similar to your target audience. Because they are trying to solve your customer’s problems, it’s very likely they are interested in the same topics as your customers. Actively engaging with your company’s technologists will take your blog to a new level.

Now you just have to convince your technologists to contribute. This can be a challenge given how busy everyone is these days. It’s also possible that they don’t feel comfortable writing for a public forum. That’s ok. SME blog contributions can take several forms:

• A 30-minute brain dump with you or another writer
• A suggested topic, links to background information and any additional context for a blog post
• A link to an article or report and the SME’s roughly written response to the said content
• Audio recordings of Meet Up presentations, conference sessions, etc., that they attended with suggestions for a specific angle or why it’s of interest
• Technical details or specific anecdotes that he/she adds to a blog post you’ve started
• And, of course, a complete first draft

Each of these scenarios requires varying levels of effort from you depending on the SME’s writing capabilities and your understanding of the content. But whether you write the first draft or edit the SME’s first draft, I highly recommend that you send the blog post back to your source for a technical edit. Highlight any edits and revisions that could have changed the original meaning. When writing in Word, turn on Track Changes. In Google Docs, go to Editing > Suggesting. This will give you both assurance that the content is accurate, while helping you build a solid partnership.

And what if you’re still met with resistance from potential SME contributors? In an ideal world, you’d have management’s support and contributing to the corporate blog would be part of each person’s job responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be much. Consider how much content you’d have if each of your technologists was required to contribute to the blog once or twice a quarter. You can certainly make a case to management, but whether or not contributing to the blog is a requirement, it helps if your subject matter experts actually want to contribute. Here are some tips for making it worth their while:

• Give your technical SMEs the byline – no matter how small their contribution.
• Make sure everyone understands their options for contributing, and make it very easy for them to do so.
• Offer occasional writing seminars. This will make your job easier over time.
• Hold a seminar on the value of personal branding, explaining how it can help their career and offering tips for promoting their contributions via social media.
• Be flexible and show respect for their time. It might be difficult to enforce deadlines, so try to have multiple blog posts in progress at once to cover yourself.
• When a new blog post is live share it internally and publicly thank the contributor.

Finally, express your gratitude – again. At the end of the day, the corporate blog is primarily your baby. The immediate benefit of SME blog contributions is yours. Let technical subject matter experts know you appreciate their hard work, and be open to suggestions. With a little bit of luck and hard work, you’ll have more content and topics than you know what to do with.

Spending on information security still favors preventive measures

Worldwide spending on information security products and services is increasing. That’s the good news. The bad news is that organizations continue to favor preventative measures over detection and response – which is key to fighting advanced persistent threats (APTs).

According to Gartner, worldwide spending on information security products and services will reach $81.6 billion this year, an increase of 7.9% over 2015. Preventive security will continue to show strong growth, as many security practitioners continue to prefer preventative measures.

On the one hand, it’s no surprise that security practitioners continue to invest in preventive measures rather than divert some of those funds to detection and response. Security teams are resource strapped. They don’t have the people and skills to deploy, manage and use an effective combination of tools to detect threats, stop them, and then recover the environment to a known good state. So instead, they’re pouring almost everything they’ve got into prevention.

On the other hand, it is well known (I thought?) that preventive measures do not stop APTs. Today’s threats can evade preventive controls and sit on the network any length of time before they are finally detected – if they are detected.

Gartner reports that consulting and IT outsourcing are currently the largest categories of spending on information security. This could be IT organizations’ saving grace. Gartner reports that managed detection and response (MDR) is emerging, with demand coming from organizations that don’t have the resources to do it themselves. With more MDR providers emerging targeting the midmarket, Gartner foresees these services being an additional driver for security spending for both large and smaller organizations.

In addition, solutions such as security information and event management (SIEM) and secure web gateways (SWGs) are evolving to support detection-and-response approaches. Gartner expects the SWG market will maintain its growth of 5 to 10% through 2020 as organizations focus on detection and response.

Takeaways for technology marketers

If your company provides a detection-and-response solution:

  • Continue to drive home the message that preventive solutions do not stop APTs and that a modern security strategy requires detection and response.
  • Create content to help security practitioners make a business case for your solution.
  • Highlight in white papers, blogs, etc., how your solution makes it possible for even resource-strapped organizations to have an effective detection-and-response strategy.

Other notable statistics

Gartner also reports:

  • The average selling price for firewalls is expected to increase by at least 2 or 3% year over year until the end of 2018.
  • By 2018, 90% of organizations will implement at least one form of integrated data loss prevention (DLP), up from 50% today.
  • Public cloud adoption will impact firewall spending by less than 10% until the end of 2019 but will have an impact after that.
  • Half of midsize and large organizations will add bigger, more advanced inspection-oriented features to their network firewalls by 2019.

Content strategy best practices for b2b technology marketing on a budget

Creating a content strategy can be an overwhelming prospect for small and startup B2B technology companies. It’s a Catch-22: You need content to help drive leads and sales, but you need sales to pay for the content. Then there’s the issue of where to start. How do you make the most of a limited budget?

Whether you’re a small or startup B2B technology company, there are two key words to remember when creating a content marketing strategy: prioritize and re-purpose. Prioritize those activities that will generate the greatest return on your marketing dollars, and be on the constant look-out for new ways to re-purpose the content you already have. Let’s take a closer look at each of these best practices.

Content Strategy Best Practice #1: Prioritize

There are myriad types of content that companies can create to generate and nurture leads. These include blogs, case studies, infographics, microsites, videos, webcasts, white papers… the list goes on. You may be tempted to spread your budget thin in an attempt to create as many different types of content as possible, perhaps even without a clear plan for how the content will be used and promoted. It’s also common for companies to dedicate the majority of their resources to one or two of these, while neglecting others that will help them achieve their content marketing goals more effectively – not just in the near term, but also the long term.

Before you go headlong into one project or another, make sure that it meets your immediate objectives. Are you looking to generate leads? Nurture leads? Nurture and retain existing clients? All of these are important, but if you’re just getting started then your No. 1 priority is likely lead generation. Prioritize your content accordingly.

In my experience, the types of content that will generate the greatest return on your investment are:

White papers

White papers are a tried-and-true lead generator. In fact, according to a study by Drift and Mattermark, “44% of the fastest-growing B2B companies offer downloadable content, like ebooks and white papers.” But not any paper will do. The paper must be engaging, well written and provide value to your readers. It should identify a problem that challenges IT organizations, explain the impact of that problem on the business and provide a solution that includes – but is not limited to – the use of your solution.

“Gating” the white paper – requiring prospects to complete a form to gain access to the content – is also important. Drift and Mattermark found that 28% of the fastest growing B2B companies use gated content. Doing so enables you to capture contact information that you can use to nurture the lead.

Blog

A blog is a must-have. Case in point: 80% of the fastest growing B2B companies maintain a blog and/or online publication – and for many reasons. A blog allows you to demonstrate your expertise by regularly writing about the issues facing IT organizations and the industry at large. A blog also serves as a forum for sharing your company’s accomplishments and conveying your company culture. And, of course, a well-written blog helps prospects find you on Google.

Ideally, I recommend publishing a new blog post twice a week. If you can’t do twice a week, then publish once a week. But set a schedule you can meet, and be consistent. This will help ensure that new prospects (and Google) find you as well as encourage existing leads and customers to return.

Case studies

Case studies validate your technology product or service by explaining how it was used to help solve a problem. Case studies are great tools for your sales people as they engage with existing leads who are in the decision making process. Make your case studies available via your website (keep them ungated) and share them with your sales team.

Content Strategy Best Practice #2: Re-purpose

Good content doesn’t come cheap – especially when it comes to B2B technology. You may need to spend $2,000 on a white paper or $300 per blog post (at a minimum!) in order to get the quality you seek. Instead of trying to drive down the cost of content, increase your return on investment by re-purposing it. Considering just the three types of content above, you can:

  • Slice-and-dice the white paper into a series of blog posts (don’t forget to include a link to register for the white paper)
  • Include summarized case studies in the white paper to validate your position
  • Summarize a case study, focusing on one particular aspect, for a blog post (again, don’t forget to link to the full case study)

The key to successfully re-purposing content is to rewrite it. Do not copy a section of your white paper and paste it into WordPress as a blog post. Instead, read the section, determine your SEO keyword(s), and rewrite the section so that it’s appropriate for your new medium. Better yet: Pay a little extra to have your white paper writer also write these blog posts. They shouldn’t cost as much as a “new” blog, and you’ll be sure that everything is of the same high caliber.

But don’t stop with your existing marketing content. Think about all the materials your company creates just in the course of doing business. Sales presentations and statements of work, for example. These, too, can be re-purposed. Just be careful not to make public any information that is sensitive or confidential, and don’t include any information pertaining to your client unless you have explicit permission to do so.

It may take a little effort (or additional cost), but when you re-purpose content you’ll increase your content marketing ROI and reinforce your message across various mediums.

Top cloud infrastructure service providers

When IT organizations evaluate cloud infrastructure providers, the same two consistently rise to the top: Amazon and Microsoft. That’s not likely to change any time soon.

According to Synergy Research Group, Amazon and Microsoft lead the cloud infrastructure service market (Note: This includes IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud). Amazon is three times the size of Microsoft and has a clear lead in all major regions and most segments of the market. However, Microsoft is growing much faster, with a 100% year over year growth rate compared to Amazon’s 53%. This isn’t surprising when you consider that enterprise IT organizations are already familiar with Microsoft tools. Transitioning to Azure presents a much lower learning curve than AWS.

IBM and Google round out the top four cloud infrastructure providers, which together account for well over half of the worldwide market. These providers are growing more rapidly than their smaller competitors, with combined revenues growing 68% in Q2. The next 20 largest cloud providers – which includes CenturyLink, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Rackspace and Oracle – grew by 41%.

Other notable stats:

  • Synergy estimates that quarterly cloud infrastructure service revenues (including IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud) have reached $8 billion.
  • Twelve-month revenues are close to $28 billion.
  • North America accounts for over half of the worldwide market.

More stats: Amazon Leads; Microsoft, IBM & Google Chase; Others Trail

 

Rebranding Bedell Communications

About a month ago I realized it was time for a new website. I’ve redesigned BedellCommunications.com a couple times since I began freelancing in 2008, but the time had come for some self-reflection and rebranding. My little company-of-one has matured a lot over the past year, and I’ve had to decide how to accommodate further growth – do I turn Bedell Communications into an agency? Do I hire a couple contractors to help out from time to time?

Neither of these options sounded appealing – at least not for the time being. I love writing, and I love being a part of a team. I consider myself blessed to have a really good group of clients that I enjoy working with and for. But I also love knowing that I am ultimately responsible for deliverables. When companies hire Bedell Communications, they’re doing so because they like my work and that’s what they get – every time.

I am also in the fortunate position to not have to actively engage in sales. Most of my work comes from return business and referrals. Between this and the fact that my clients do business with me, I thought it was time for a more personal feel. So I ditched the corporate website for a blog.

My goal with this blog is to provide helpful resources to other content writers and producers in B2B technology marketing. IT is not like other industries when it comes to marketing, and all too often I find that advice is watered down. It doesn’t quite align with the realities of writing and marketing to this audience. I hope to provide a real resource that technology marketers and copywriters can use.

For example, I spend a good amount of time looking for independent research to cite in white papers and blogs. Third-party research from analysis firms can be gold, but it can also cost as much as gold – and free research is hard to find when you need it. I was haphazardly keeping a spreadsheet of the various statistics and findings I came across, but it wasn’t enough. So I’ve started blogging about them. Not only do I now have a collection of stats to draw from, but hopefully you’ll will find it useful, too.

Over time, I hope to provide other tools that freelance copywriters and B2B technology marketers will find useful – and I look forward to your feedback.