Blockchain Blues, Case Study Heartache.

best practices blockchain marketing case studies For those of you who follow this blog, sorry for having been out of touch. It’s been an extremely busy summer and fall,  what with time off off touring Iceland and Scotland and then with increasingly strong demand for marketing content.

But not all tech categories are as healthy as others, and in some ways, creating quality content is becoming harder and harder. Among the changes I’m seeing:

  • Email struggles: Clients are getting more sophisticated in their use of marketing automation tools to target customized emails to the right prospects. But the logistical details (like honing the messaging and integrating it into different email templates) are still challenges. The more nurture campaigns I do, the more my stock advice holds true: Get your messaging and workflows down before jumping into your first campaign. That will save uncounted hours of rework and chaos as you ramp your email volume.)
  • Blockchain blues: After a colossal wave of hype, concerns over security, cost, and speed are spreading doubts over blockchain (the distributed database technology designed to eliminate middlemen for everything from financial trading to customs paperwork.) Every week seems to bring news of another intriguing pilot, such as the AP (my former employer) using blockchain to be sure it gets paid when its content is republished. But next there’s yet another hack of a blockchain-protected cryptocurrency or concerns that blockchain uses more power and is slower than conventional transaction systems. Suggestion: In your blockchain messaging proactively address concerns such as cost, speed and security, and back up any claims with real-life successes, not just pilots. 
  • The “T” word: The craze to use “digital transformation” to describe just about every part of the IT industry is worse than ever. While some clients agree “DT” is so vague as to be meaningless, many marketers can’t resist sprinkling it like fairy dust into every piece of copy. One client had a good definition that ran something like this: “Long lasting, quantum improvements in efficiency, sales or costs.” That level of precision eliminates a lot of the “transformation” stories that turn out to describe only conventional cost-cutting or moving workloads to the cloud (not exactly radical in 2018.) Why not hash out a one-sentence description of “transformation” everyone on your marketing staff understands, and make sure each piece of marketing material explains how you help achieve it?
  • Case study heartache: By definition, a case study must describe how your product or service helped the customer, and how your product or service is better, cheaper, faster than its competitors. But extracting that essential information from vendors’ sales and delivery staffs is getting harder, not easier. I have no easy answer for this, except to train, train, train the staff working with the client to think about the business benefits of their work. That means metrics like lower costs, increased sales, quicker time to market or increased customer retention, not internal benchmarks like meeting project milestones or the number of employees who use a new application.
  • Operationalize this. From cloud migration to Big Data, many of my clients are promoting their ability to “operationalize” IT functions with automated, consistent, repeatable processes. The aim is to cut costs, speed delivery, and reduce security and other risks with standard ways of working across the business. Describing all this can get pretty dry, though, with long descriptions of frameworks, best practices, and the capabilities you’re streamlining. I try to keep it relevant by describing a business benefit for every process the client is improving, and pushing them (again!) for how they achieve that improvement better than their competitors.    

Bottom line: There’s plenty of marketing work out there, but it’s getting harder to deliver the caliber of content that gets results. What are you doing to keep quality up amid the rush to push content out the door, the need to learn new marketing platforms and clients that struggle to describe the business benefits of the solutions they sell?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Four Email Marketing Sinkholes to Avoid

Tips creating email nurture campaignsI recently finished an email nurture campaign for a major software vendor. It included multiple emails across multiple streams for each step in the buyer’s journey (awareness, education, consideration and qualification.)

The writing was the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The 90 percent I didn’t see at first included defining the personas (hypothetical reader groups with various needs), deciding which personas should get which follow-on messages based on their reading behavior, defining the messaging for each stream, choosing everything from fonts to configuring the marketing automation system and entering the content into it.

If all this sounds a little overwhelming, it can be. It can also take attention from fine-tuning your emails so they generate interest, leads and sales. Here are the four sinkholes I found us falling into, with tips for avoiding them. Let me know which I missed and how you avoid such problems.

  1.  Oh, yeah. The content. Many of my colleagues were working overtime refining customer lists, designing email flows, building triggers for follow-up emails and fine-tuning personas. By the time I asked what they wanted in a specific email, their only direction might be “Oh, some thought leadership” or “A high-level overview focusing on our differentiators.” But they often hadn’t had time to think through what their thought leadership about a given topic might be, or which differentiators they wanted to highlight. Tips: Before diving into the detailed flow of a campaign, sit back and define what success would look like, and the three to five major points you want to stress across the email streams. Define, in two to three sentences, what your “thought leadership” is. Get sign-off on all this from the decision makers and communicate it to everyone who will edit or input the emails into your MA tool.
  2. Didn’t we change that font in the last version? If you’re running multiple email campaigns with multiple streams for multiple products, you’ve quickly got an awful lot of discrete emails to track. And they can all look pretty much the same as each subject line is, invariably, a variation of the same theme. Add in multiple feedback from multiple commenters and things can quickly get ugly. Tip: Institute a strong change control system – maybe with advice from your developers on how they manage multiple version of code – before you start handling the copy itself. We assigned a unique identifier to each email (such as “A3” for the third email in the first, or “education,” stream) and assigned a single person to keep everyone else on schedule.
  3. That’s not the headline, it’s the subject line! Nurture emails are made up of five or six elements, each with very specific functions and length requirements. The headline might be limited to 50 characters and meant to “Explain the main value prop” while the subhead might go up to 75 characters with the goal of “Expanding on the main value prop or describing a secondary value prop.” You want your writers, and editors, to focus on hitting these very specific targets, not trying to remember which component of the email they’re working on. Tip: Create very specific and clear templates with the required length and the purpose of each text blog, and make sure everyone from writers to editors to the admins who enter the text in your MA tool use the same template. Including any stock photos, illustrations or other graphical content will help the writer match their text to the tone of the illustrations.
  4. Wait. You want me to enter all this in the MA system, too? Every MA platform has its own user interface. None of them are rocket science but each takes time to learn. It might seem straightforward to have your writer not only draft the content but enter it in the system. But do you want to pay them to learn the system and do data entry rather than crafting great email copy? Tip: Consider hiring a dedicated staff to do the uploading so your content and strategy folks can concentrate on what they do best.

Those are my tips for staying out of the muck and mire of email marketing. What  hidden problems – or clever fixes — have I missed?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

No Messaging, No Payoff In Marketing Automation?

how boost ROI marketing automation When I work with clients on white papers, Web sites and other collateral, the hardest part is often getting them to explain what the heck they want to say.

Veteran marketer Tom Grubb has found the same thing while implementing marketing automation at companies such as CA Technologies. In this guest post Grubb, chief strategy officer at digital marketing agency Digital-Pi, explains how a lack of proper positioning can hobble entire marketing automation efforts.

What do you hear from the Monday morning quarterbacks after your marketing program results are in and they failed to deliver great results?

“Your subject line sucked.”

“The landing pages were confusing.”

“I told you not to put that graphic there.”

That white paper?  Really?”

Yeah, you could have tested your subject line, landing page, graphics and the offer.  But there may be something much bigger lurking beneath your lackluster program performance than a tweak here or a swap there that you overlooked:  your company/product messaging – or lack thereof.   If you don’t get your messaging right and tight, the revenue you take will rarely equal the marketing investment you make.

This ah-ha moment struck me during a two-day engagement in San Antonio with an established SaaS business going to market as a newly independent company.  Ken Rutsky, an expert on messaging and positioning asked me to collaborate with him to advise on technology, demand gen, and go-to-market.  We had a game plan for the two days centered on funnels, forecasting models, user experience and a marketing technology stack. After we defined the structure and segmentation for their market, my partner Ken the messaging master drove a mini brainstorming session that resulted in a rough messaging and positioning architecture for their business.  That evening, Ken worked his magic on the day’s rough messaging turning ideas into words and structure in a way that was clear, concise, logical, and effective.

When we reviewed his work with the team the next morning, it was clear to me that this was the cornerstone to the success for the rest of our work – and the marketing programs that would soon follow.  The big idea is this: marketing automation and program execution divorced from great messaging and positioning can significantly reduce ROI on marketing investments.  ­By the same measure, great messaging and positioning can enable – and therefore greatly improve your returns on marketing investments.

When I was at Intuit, getting messaging and positioning right and tight was table stakes for every Intuit business unit.  I learned Intuit’s “message mapping process,” but more important I learned the power of using a messaging methodology to get everyone in every role at the business on the same page.  All were able to clearly articulate what was unique, compelling and great about our products.  It made marketing so much faster and easier because we always stuck to the blueprint, no matter what tactic or program we brought to bear.

If messaging and positioning are so important – so fundamental to great marketing – why then don’t more companies build and maintain a great messaging foundation?  Here are a few reasons that come to mind:

  • Company somehow believes they have it – but they don’t
  • Messaging is not aligned to where the company is today
  • Messaging is not aligned to where the market/competition is today
  • Various factions in the company make up their own versions of messaging
  • Messaging was built by someone who doesn’t really understand how to build great messaging
  • Stakeholders were left out of the message building process and don’t understand or have any interest in following it
  • The messaging is not documented in a usable way

And what happens?  Everyone at your company can interpret your company’s value to mean something different on any given day, for any marketing initiative.  All marketing disciplines are diminished: public relations, demand-gen, investor relations—all of it.

So what can you do?  For starters, give serious thought to getting someone outside of your company to help you get your messaging defined; if you have messaging in place, ask yourself if it could use a refresh, a re-think, or another set of eyes outside your business to give it a look.  Our visit to San Antonio was the catalyst that made creating a great messaging architecture possible for our client.  We looked at their business from the outside, bringing new ideas and reinforced some of their thinking around how they could segment their market, surface their value and differentiation, and go-to-market in a strong, cohesive way.

The message is clear: get your messaging and positioning defined and documented and put it to work in your marketing.  With your messaging right and tight, you are more likely to find that the revenue you take will be more than the marketing investments you make.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

When Is Lousy Content Good Enough?

quality content marketing SEO experts keep telling us that customers (and the all-important search engines) pay more attention to quality content than “me-too” jargon stuffed with key words.

But I also keep seeing cheap “content mills” On the other hand, I keep hearing about content mills that, as one ex-IT journalist complained the other day, “pay freelancers peanuts and expect instant turnaround.”

Is content marketing a brave new world of quality journalism funded by vendors, or a flood of low-cost and low quality spam? Former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski, reporting on a recent Innovation Summit panel of former journalists who now doing (committing?) content marketing, was pretty scathing.

Evil Empire?

Foremski argued that “most Content Marketing fails because it is trying to produce Editorial Content but the leadership (for the efforts) is in PR or in Marketing.” This results, he argues, in content that reads more like marketing or PR than editorial content, with its implied fairness, completeness and relevance. Content marketing, he says, “needs to be editorially led to be successful.” But how far will, or should, a vendor go in reporting “just the facts” if those facts reflect badly on their product or service, or don’t reinforce their messaging?

He went even further to say “Content Marketing is failing us and causing a lot of damage to society and to the Brands that bankroll this practice” when it “pretends to be legitimate third-party editorial content.”

This may very well be true when it comes to “mainstream” topics such as government, the economy and the environment. Here, readers should demand fully independent, unbiased and in-depth reporting and be willing to pay for it.

I’d argue it’s a somewhat different story in highly technical areas such as cloud computing or storage, where mainstream media lacks the skills or the audience to go deep on “how to,” “trend” or “product comparison” stories. With the trade pubs that used to provide such content hollowed out by the Internet, I think IT decision makers know they must rely on vendors to do a “fair enough” job of educating them. If vendors do a good job, there are a lot of ways to do everything from thought leadership to “best practices” without being blatantly promotional.

And Too Expensive?

Foremski’s also complains that “Creating lots of high quality content is terrifically hard and tremendously expensive — especially the way PR and Brands do it, with dozens of stakeholders involved at every stage…” As it takes time to build a brand, he says, the costs mount to unacceptable levels.

Amen on the need to streamline the production process. But even so, quality content will still cost you, even just in the time it takes your subject matter experts to conceive, write and polish quality content.

Here’s where I can report hope, courtesy of a recent conversation with an editor at a lead generation site sponsored by a major global tech firm. About a year ago, this firm began hiring  former journalists and tasked them with using traditional journalistic techniques (and talent) to create detailed, actionable content about how to effectively buy and use IT products and services.

I recently spoke with one recent (2006) media startup that is thriving through sponsorships, advertising and events driven by quality content from ex-IT journalists that are paid living wages. Another vendor-sponsored site is, after a slow start, delivering quality leads at a lower cost than previous lead-gen efforts. What is interesting is that, as the site gained credibility and the vendor invested in more content, even older stories (if they gave readers useable information) began drawing more and more hits.

It seems too good to be true – content that appreciates in value over time. Good for the reader, good for the vendor, and, yes, good for us ex-journalists who create the content.

Would Junk Work Just As Well?

But is this quality content worth it only for big-ticket, complex products and services like those in IT? Is low-cost, keyword-stuffed content good enough for commodity products or for business to consumer sales? Is content marketing just another step on the slippery slope to a society where we can’t trust who tells us anything, anywhere, anytime?

The answer(s) are “yes,” “no” and “it depends.” Trying to drive hits to a celebrity Twitter feed to sell products? Superficial retweets full of trending terms may do the trick. Selling system architects on a new approach to managing cloud services without violating patient privacy regulations? You probably need to spend enough to make sure you’re saying something new, useful and insightful, and saying it clearly.

And while I doubt any vendor will sponsor a Pulitzer Prize winning expose of, say, telecom security practices, you never know. Who thought 15 years ago that a one-time Web-based bookstore (Amazon) would be funding Emmy–winning TV shows?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Robot hand typing on a computer keyboard.With software already writing routine stories for The Associated Press (my former employer) it’s only natural to wonder when such apps might start writing press releases, cases studies, Tweets, blog posts and other marketing content.

The AP claims its robo-writing of sports and quarterly-earning pieces hasn’t cost any jobs, but freed staffers to create more nuanced, in-depth stories. But as writing software gets better, it will be able to tackle more complex stories and (by extension) more complex marketing content such as white papers and responding to (just not creating) social media content.

For the sake of (choose your age bracket) our mortgages, our kids’ college funds and our 401(k)s we need to keep moving up the value chain and away from anything that is too formulaic and hum drum. Here are five content creation “fortresses” I see as safe for humans for a while yet.

Thought leadership: In a story about a game or a company’s quarterly earnings, the inputs (runs, hits, errors, revenue, extraordinary charges, etc.) are all well known. So is the format of the finished story. (“Gregg Jones led a fourth quarter rushing blitz that led the Panthers to a last-minute 33-29 win over the Cougars.”)

But I haven’t seen software that can suggest an idea or concept you can’t describe beforehand. That’s at the core of much of the work I do with clients developing thought leadership pieces. For one client, for example, I’ve spent weeks and dozens of hours reviewing background briefings and sitting in on discussions of their technology “vision.” It’s hard and necessary work to tease out and creatively package the unique content, and nothing I can see a set of business rules or algorithms tackling.

Cleaning Dirty Data: In the enterprise application world, dirty data might be three customer records for the same person with different combinations of first and last names, which can lead the company to think it has three different customers when there’s only one. Garbage in, garbage out.

In content creation, “dirty data” is raw material that is incomplete, inconsistent, unclear, loaded with jargon, too long or too short. How do you train an application to sift through a 60-slide PowerPoint full of buzzwords and distill the new, compelling message? How would you write a business rule defining “transform” when it can mean anything from cutting the cost of on-premise software to moving it to the cloud?

Asking the right questions: The more time I spend in marketing writing, the more value I find I provide by asking seemingly obvious questions. They might be as straightforward as “How do you define the cloud?” (Ask three experts and you’ll get four different answers.) Does any robot know to even ask the question, much less keep asking if the answer isn’t good enough to use in marketing collateral? Or creatively take four seemingly different answers and combine them into a new, compelling marketing message?

Coping with chaos: Software works great in defined, predictable environments where inputs and outputs can be predicted and rules created to respond to them. Ever seen a product manager or marketing campaign that works by set predictable rules with everyone following the workflow? How would you design software that can automatically reconcile multiple dueling agendas as new “cooks” in the form of product managers and outside agencies dip their spoon into the content stew?

Applying street smarts: I’m currently moderating a LinkedIn group for IBM on sales performance management software. When one study indicated some sales people are more motivated by “the thrill of the chase” than the size of their bonuses, I reacted with a very human “Really?” based on personal experience. How would you build such real-world knowledge into an application? Or, for example, the knowledge that sales and marketing staffs never seem to get along, or that security and operations staffs are always at odds because one is paid to assure safety, the other uptime? Applying such real-world perspective is essential to showing your prospects you know their business and can meet their needs.

Don’t get me wrong. Robo-writing software will get better at all these things, and maybe more quickly than we expect. That’s why we human marketing and PR types need to keep finding the “fortresses” of expertise that can’t be quantified in algorithms and business rules.  Which ones did I miss — and are you worried about content creation robots?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Content Cookbook #5: Cloud Security

marketing campaign cloud security CIOs love the agility, flexibility and lower prices offered by the cloud. But year after year, security breach after security breach, fear keeps them from moving more sensitive data and applications to off-premise data centers.

If you’re selling cloud security, either as a cloud service  or in the form of consulting to help clients assure cloud security, what sort of content do you need to find, score, and nurture prospects?

Based on my recent reporting and a recent global survey of IT executives I helped execute for Oracle, here are some security-related questions you can use to build content for each nervous step along the cloud purchase funnel. Each of these topics can easily be expanded into a blog post, white paper, Webinar, ebook or “Top Ten Questions to Ask” cheat sheet.

Awareness/General Education Stage

  1. What questions should I, as a customer, ask to determine if the cloud is likely to be more or less secure than my in-house environment?
  2. What general questions should I ask my cloud provider about security?
  3. What types of applications and data are my peers trusting to the cloud?
  4. How do assess my applications and data to determine which are most suitable for the cloud from a security perspective?
  5. How much can I trust security certifications such as PCI? What are the hidden “gotchas” that can make such certifications worth less than they seem?
  6. (For cloud-based security as a service:
    1. What is “security as a service?” How does it work?
    2. What forms of security are available as a service (Identity management? Remote monitoring?) What are the pros and cons of each?

Product/Service Consideration Stage

  1.  What specific questions should I ask a cloud provider based on my vertical market and its industry/governmental compliance requirements?
  2. What processes, and technologies, should the service provider use to alert me to security issues? How quickly will I be notified, and what are the escalation paths if the problem isn’t solved quickly
  3. What types of encryption should they provide for data in transit and at rest?
  4. What are the different methods of isolating customer environments in the cloud (such as network traffic isolation vs. database traffic isolation? How does a customer determine which is best for them?
  5. What security service level agreements (SLAs) should I expect from a cloud provider, or a security as a service provider?

Product/Service Evaluation/Purchase Stage

  1. What specific security-related controls and reports should I insist on from my service provider?
  2. How will the provider give my internal or external auditors the information they need to help prove my compliance with essential security requirements?
  3. Specifically how do they assure my data and applications are isolated from those of other customers?
  4. Do they offer any federated identity or access management capabilities that make it easier for me to integrate my on-site security mechanisms with the cloud?
  5. Specifically how does each provider assure only proper access to the administrative accounts that are the “keys to the kingdom” for their cloud? Who performs patching, and who on their staff is authorized to log onto each host and guest
  6. How quickly will they inform me about the existence of a security breach, their progress toward resolving it, and what if any of my data was compromised?

The specific points you address at each point in the sales cycle may differ. The point is, the closer your prospect is to the evaluation/purchase stage, the more specific the questions become. Let me know how this list looks to you, and what content has worked well in selling cloud security.

 If you’d like to see a content cookbook for any other product or service, email or call at (508) 725-7258. 

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Making Pesky SME Interviews Worth It

speed B2B marketing content You know how hard it is to get time from your subject matter experts (SMEs) to brief the writer who’s creating your marketing content. These SMEs (be they sales engineers, account executives or project managers) are too busy meeting their numbers or keeping clients happy to explain it all to a writer.

So doesn’t it make sense to prep the SME beforehand so the writer gets the details they need to write a good draft the first time? That saves the SMEs the hassle of a follow-up call, endless emails or trying to rewrite the copy  themselves.

Killer Questions

Based on my experience working with “first drafts” from SMEs, here are seven critical questions they  must be able to answer if you want good, compelling copy to result from the interview.

  1. What were the business (not technology) problems that led the customer to seek your help or buy your product? The writer needs issues a senior executive would understand, such as reduced productivity, excess costs, lost sales or plunging customer satisfaction.
  2. You claim your services were “unique,” “transformational” and “optimized” the client’s operations. Just what makes them unique? What was the “bad” situation the customer was trapped in, and specifically what did you “transform” it into?
  3. Specifically how did you “optimize” your client’s operations, with dollar or percentage metrics of improvements in business areas such as sales, costs, time to market, or customer satisfaction?
  4. If  the client can’t or won’t share numbers with you about the benefits, can you at least describe examples or anecdotes to show the types of problems you solved?
  5. You list the services you provided, the industry standards you comply with, and the software, processes or frameworks you used. How are any of these better/different than what your competitors offer, and how did these help the client?
  6. You keep mentioning acronyms and buzzwords that don’t show up in a quick Google search. Remember, the writer wasn’t part of the project and doesn’t know the jargon you and the customer lived with every day. Spell out every acronym, explain what each means and how each of them helped the client.
  7. And for every phase of the project, every approach you took, every tool you used, what did you do better or differently than your competitors?

Make the Call

One other tip: Get your SME on the phone with the writer, rather than bounce emails back and forth with them. You may think getting the SME’s answers in writing will be quicker, but in my experience that never works. They often keep repeating the same jargon in each round of frustrating emails.

That’s because they are (justifiably) too close to the work, and understand every nuance of it too well to “pull back” and explain them to the writer. In a phone interview, I can insist on that “who cares?” information, and keep asking in real time to be sure I understand it and thus can explain it to your prospects. And I don’t have to keep going back to ask the SME what they really meant.

Added benefit: If an SME feels the writer is making good use of their time, and delivers content that helps them sell to customers, they’re more likely to give you more time for future content development.

What have you done to help streamline briefing calls with marketing writers?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Should Everyone Be a Writer?

finding marketing writersThe insightful Ann Handley recently created ten ways to create a “culture of writing” to get more of your experts creating content for demand generation, inbound marketing, and social media marketing campaigns.

Some of them are useful, others I’m less sure about.

But is the whole idea of getting every subject matter expert (SME) in your organization to write even worthwhile?

Publish or Perish, Guys

On the “yes” side:

  • It can get expensive to hire an outside writer to churn out enough content to fill your blog posts, SlideShare and YouTube channels, not to mention your gated white papers and email newsletters. Why not save money by tapping your smart in-house people to feed the content beast?
  • Even more importantly, these in-house experts have too much great experience, insight and anecdotes from the marketplace not to tap.
  • Finally, it’s hard to find a good writer, and to train them about the fine points of your industry and your differentiation in it. Why not instead tap the skills of our own staff, who we know and trust?

Not My Job, Sucka

On the “no” side:

  • Not everyone has enough writing talent to turn our quality content quickly and easily. For some of your SMEs, using the active tense, understandable language, creating a catchy opener and even spelling out acronyms are second nature. For others, it’s unrelenting hard work. Sure, you can teach them a lot of these skills, but might their time be better spent on vetting ideas and fine-tuning technical content?
  • Language/cultural differences. My hat’s off to the offshore product and project managers who give me the raw material for case studies and white papers. Their English is 12 times better than my grasp of any foreign language, and they run circles around me in technical and project management skills. But there’s an inevitable gap between their use of English and its use for business purposes in the U.S. Their writing is (for good reason) full of in-house jargon and abbreviations rather than the high-level business benefits readers want.
  • Writing isn’t just – or even mainly – writing. It’s reporting, asking the tough questions an outsider will think to ask that that ensure your content meets your prospects’ needs. For example, how does your product or service compare with your competitor’s? How do your fancy features reduce a customer’s costs or increase their sales? It’s often easier and less expensive to have an outside writer do the tooth-pulling than ask the SMEs to do it themselves.

Divide and Conquer

If you have SMEs who can write and like to write, you’re lucky. But even then, I would follow Ann’s tip number seven of hiring a dedicated editor. And not just a copy editor who checks facts and fixes minor grammar errors, but “…someone who can give a piece of writing a higher-level read to help improve, expand, condense, or rewrite.”

Unless your organization has a journalistic culture, does outsourcing (or hiring a full-time pro) to do some of the reporting, writing and editing mean higher quality with less total cost and effort?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.
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