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.

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.