What is practitioner marketing? While Influencer content marketing is gaining traction as a strategy for business-to-business (B2B) marketing, for technical markets, its origins in business-to-consumer (B2C) influencer marketing may result in misguided efforts to identify influencers. This is particularly true in very specific technical markets like Bioinformatics, DevOps, SecOps, and Big Data. Enter practitioner marketing—Content written by subject matter experts who are still actively technical. They may be developers, scientists, or engineers. They are probably not journalists. They are likely influencers, but not only influencers. In fact, they can easily become influencers.
As influencer content marketing crosses over to B2B marketing strategies, it is clear that many B2C influencer companies are facilitating social influencers. This tends to be measured by most influencer platforms as the number of followers or shares/retweets, blog comments, etc., which leads you to professional opinionators, often journalists, who have a lot of followers on social media.
If your only goal is to get your product mentioned on TechCrunch, this will be enough for you. If, however, your goal is to persuade a technical person that your company understands their world, that your company is THE EXPERT in a space that is a small niche populated with lots of players (like, oh, container security, or biotech and AI), then press release-fueled product stories in the popular press, however technical the bent, will be insufficient to turn clicks into customers.
Say “Influencer,” Mean “Practitioner”
What is truly persuasive to a deeply technical person is a detail-fueled opinion about technical issues by another technical person. It is an expertise-riddled diatribe that packs a passionate punch. Yes, I’m talking about passion. Wet, hot code—code expertly wielded by a developer facing the same problem as his audience, not just a marketer or journalist glibly summarizing the high points. It is trench warfare, but reported from the trench, not a studio in New York.
A practitioner lives or dies by her ability to use tools to solve her problems—even more, by anticipating a problem. So when a practitioner says, “Hey, this is an emerging unaddressed problem, and here is the right way to think about it,” fellow practitioners listen.
They may argue, they may object, but in the end, if the practitioner they followed has the best answer, or even a good answer, they will do one more very important thing—Imitate.
The Imitation Game
Ultimately, the arc of content marketing campaigns is to attract, educate and persuade. Without this tempting configuration, you are putting out information that will face the closed lips of a recalcitrant toddler.
In order to get consumption, and even better, conversion—your practitioner has to be indistinguishable from your customer, not your company. And winning that imitation game is what persuades customers that you really get them, and can help them.
So, how does practitioner content stack up at each step?
- Attract. Practitioner content will entice skeptical customers by focusing on a niche problem that is faced at the monitor level, not the C-suite. Influencer content may gloss over this issue as one of many, focusing on a larger theme.
- Educate. Practitioner content is deeply technical. It has to be in order to educate another deeply technical person. It raises issues, and educates readers about the right approach. It doesn’t necessarily promote a product directly. Influencer content is probably technical and accurate, but will likely not go into enough detail to inform someone who is already somewhat of an expert.
- Persuade. The art of persuasion is in the beautiful storyline developed by the practitioner whose rant resonates and solution works. The heart of the practitioner and the customer beat as one for a brief moment. The influencer will get the occasional nod and snort, but no heart-beating unity.
Practitioner Content Matters Most
Let’s not misunderstand—Practitioners that have a following do matter. They need to have people who enjoy reading their work. Most importantly, they have to have the technical depth to support their passion for their subject. This is what will ignite the like-minded passion in their readers and your customers.
Practitioner Content Matters Even More in Tight Markets
The market space for developer tools is highly fragmented and highly populated. Whether your market is life sciences tools, SecOps, DevOps, Big Data, IoTOps, BotOps, or Bioinformatics, you are facing a lot of competition from bright people solving more or less the same problems.
Yet, we all know people use facts to justify emotions. When facing a technical skeptic, this doesn’t mean paying a journalist or celebrity to use and talk about your product. Even if Elon Musk was your spokesperson, if he couldn’t speak directly to the technical problem, and the innovative solution and implementation at a detailed, technical level, he would be dismissed as a talking head.
Instead, enlist the practitioner. Developers have very strong emotions tied to their work. Engage them as only a fellow practitioner can engage them—with deeply technical content.
There’s nothing wrong with borrowing a leaf from the book of B2C marketing and applying it to B2B. Developers are human. However, for influencer marketing to successfully cross over to your B2B content marketing, you need to look at influencers with more than a following. You need to look at influencers who can light a fire in a heart that pumps code.