They are everywhere—platforms and blog mills that offer content as a commodity. Content to feed the content marketing blog beast. It’s cheap, it’s convenient, and it’s a costly mistake.
The nature of a commodity is that it is undifferentiated from what is produced by another source. The advantage of treating your content as a commodity is that it lowers the price. However, with that, the differentiation is lower. That means your brand, your company, and your product is associated with a content offering that is by definition indistinguishable from that by another source.
If you have slapped together a blog for the sake of having one, and no one cares about your brand identity, that’s probably ok. But if you have a goal that includes industry leadership, undoubtedly you have a strategy that includes thought leadership. And commoditized content will not get you there, particularly if you are in a technical market.
Practitioner content marketing to create thought leadership
Practitioner content marketing is an approach to building thought leadership by publishing content about important technical issues or problems in your market space. The content is written by practitioners from outside your company. Because the content is authored by experts outside your company,it has more authority and is more persuasive than anything your own engineers can produce. Hosting authored practitioner content on your company blog, or having a whitepaper delivered via a developer-to-developer community is critical to establishing your company in a leadership position. It distinguishes your brand amongst your competitors. Having a practitioner take a technical position that may support your own company’s position gives your brand authenticity and resonance.
The key attributes of effectively deployed practitioner content are that it is:
- Written by an expert (hint: if your customers are developers, it may include code)
- Attributed (the value of the practitioner is that they aren’t from your company)
- Not a product pitch (thought leadership speaks to the customer about their world, not your company)
Why use practitioner content marketing?
With skeptical technical audiences, practitioner content is more persuasive than the material produced by your company. Unless you are speaking to existing customers about the specific details of your product, your company has zero credibility about the issues your prospective customers face. But practitioners are JUST LIKE your customers. So when they speak, people listen. And if your company is smart enough to host their content, those skeptical prospects just might start to believe that you have something to offer them.
Why practitioner content beats commodity content
Maybe you are trying to manage your bottom line. A blog mill sounds good—lots of content for less money. However, you should be thinking of your top line. What brings in more revenue?
Brand awareness is easy to ignore, because it is hard to measure. But let’s face it—You can’t fill the top of your funnel if no one has heard of your company. The best way to ensure awareness is to tie your brand to topics that drive a conversation in your market segment. Our practitioner content begins with a Share of Conversation (SoC)/ Share of Voice (SoV) calculation that helps us discern the topics and the competition for the chatter, the buzz, and the conversations that drive brand awareness and the competition for that conversation space. From this, we generate topics, and then we deploy practitioners in our network to cover these topics. This drives the conversation for our customers. It can drive yours, too.
In contrast, a commodity content blog is, well, a commodity. It makes you look like any other company in your space—indistinguishable, making your brand a commodity, too. And if you have a tech product, that’s a dangerous game. For every platform sold, there is an open source one ready to be modified by a developer who can’t understand the value your company brings to the table.
Sucks to be a commodity, doesn’t it?
Voice of the customer
Great salespeople will tell you that every conversation begins with the customer’s needs, not your product’s features. This is just as true when you are using content as a way to drive traffic to your site as well as awareness of your company. With commodity content, you are likely to put out content that sounds a lot like a clanging bell saying “me, me, me!”
Practitioners, however, are like your customer. They could easily be your customer. And when they write, they write with the voice of your customer to your customer. Which means your customers listen, look forward to, and value your practitioner-written content. It also encourages interaction, which means you might actually hear from your customers.
But, only if you listen.
A technical vision and mission
Just like any other market segment, developers are more interested in working with companies that espouse a vision and a mission. These are often linked to a strongly held technical vision and mission. Your company spouting it is key, but even better is having a posse of developers outside your company writing about their deeply held technical positions that support yours. It’s hard to get that from a blog mill, even one that says they provide technical content.
Techies like companies that take a technical stand. But they won’t believe your line in the sand when it is drawn with content anyone could write.
You may be choosing commodity content because you are risk-averse. You don’t want to defend a decision to spend your budget on quality content. However, the risk associated with high-volume content is high. Plagiarism, technical inaccuracies, and topic and idea poaching are rampant. Your brand can suffer only so much dodgy content. Either way, you take a risk. One may not pay off as quickly as you like, and one might actually damage your company’s reputation.
Thought leadership in technical content marketing means you avoid product pitches and focus on your customers’ world. Creating content that resonates with your target customer is easier if your writer is like your customer, a.k.a. a practitioner. However, if you have relied on commodity content to inform your customers, then rest assured, you will achieve the goal of filling an RSS feed without distinguishing your company from the others. If you are content to be part of the noise of content marketing so you can check a blog box off your to-do list, you are good. But if you are serious about investing in your brand positioning to fill the top of your sales funnel, then you won’t commoditize your blog or your brand.