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Getting Started with Practitioner Content Marketing

July 18, 2021 - Practitioner Marketing - , ,
By: Chris Riley

Marketing approaches like growth hacking, relationship marketing, and practitioner marketing are great. Understanding their value is easy, but getting started and getting them to fit into existing paradigms can be challenging. Practitioner content marketing, in particular, requires a high amount of planning and patience to be successful.

The best promoter of your product is not you; in fact, it’s people who can spread your message—practitioners. People like to buy tools that peers have validated. You often do not get to participate in those conversations directly, but practitioner content marketing provides an opportunity for this kind of involvement.

In practitioner content marketing, you publish practitioner-created content. It allows you to build credibility with an unbiased, third-party point of view, extend the reach and value proposition of your blog beyond customers and trial users, and build a base of peer-to-peer conversations.

To get started with practitioner content marketing, you first need the practitioners. This alone can be a huge task. You can start by contacting your top users and customers, and finding regular participants in conversations about your product on social media—even if they are users who aren’t necessarily positive.

Identifying the Best Practitioners for Content Marketing

Reaching out to the world at large is a good goal but not the best place to start. Once you have identified potential practitioners based on technical expertise, you need to dig a bit further to discover if they possess the right traits to produce content. The best practitioners:

Want to Contribute Content for Practitioner Marketing

The interest often needs to be backed by money. While many practitioners want to write, they have to justify the time that it’s taking from other activities. The Fixate network finds that it takes about six hours per topic to write expert blog content. For some practitioners, it takes much more time, but seldom less. Compensate them an amount commensurate with not only expertise, but also time commitment.

Have a Cause They Want to Promote

If the practitioner does not have a point of view and an overarching theme they are trying to share with the world, their content will be dry and sound forced. They may not even complete their first post. Make sure their content is fueled by passion.

Want a Personal Brand

Not everyone wants to be heard. But in the age of social media, there is more and more competition in establishing a voice among your peers. A strong voice makes resumés more interesting, enhances peer relationships, and even helps people get promoted.

Aren’t Afraid to Write

In our experience, getting people past the fear of putting their words out there is an exercise in patience. You need to first make sure the writer understands they are not alone. Content won’t go out into the world unless all parties, including the writer, feel good about it. Another point of complication is that the best practitioners are not always the best writers; their ideas may be good, but the execution may be rough. So make sure you give them proper copy-editing support. Lastly, it’s important to reinforce the reason you approached them. You’ve reached out to them because you are confident that they are highly knowledgeable in their field, and that their knowledge is interesting to the intended audience. The general feeling among practitioners is that their posts will provide valuable knowledge to readers.

All of the above must be present to build a group of regular contributors. It’s a recruiting task that takes practice and effort. Our general success rate is 70% for every practitioner we approach.

The Practitioner Content Marketing Production Process

Once you have your practitioners, you need to get the content. This involves building amicable, supportive relationships with your contributors and establishing processes for your content marketing strategy to be successful.

Practitioners Are Procrastinators, Too

Money helps, but writing a blog post is not habit, nor is it at the top of their list of things to get done. Nagging serves no purpose. The relationship with an practitioner is a fragile one, and you need to make sure you don’t scare them away. Setting deadlines is good. But making sure they understand how you are going to promote their content and how you will support their efforts is especially important.

Create Structure

The person managing the creation of practitioner content often has other responsibilities. For example, a product marketer with this responsibility likely focuses, also, on sales enablement. Practitioner content marketing should be treated as a specific task, not an afterthought, and have an established process.

Publish and Promote

If you receive practitioner content but don’t publish it in a timely manner, or share it after publishing, then you will not get repeat or quality practitioners—in which case, you are just shooting yourself in the foot. Practitioners need to know that you value their content and respect their work. If commitment is an issue, Fixate can help.

Mix Up Your Practitioner Content Marketing

We often see companies that handle their own practitioner content marketing simply stick with one super fan that writes a lot. But then the blog looks like a personal blog, and the value quickly diminishes. You should have at least four rotating contributors producing a minimum of six blog posts a month to maintain a good blend of contributor and vendor blog content.

Keep it Honest

Remind your contributors that they need to write about what is interesting to them and their peers, not what promotes your product. This is part of practitioners’ motivation as well. Do not force contributors to write about specific things, and do not modify their content in questionable ways. For practitioner marketing content to work, it needs to be credible. This means that if you do not like something because you feel it is too far off from your messaging, simply choose not to accept it and move on. Do not try to transform someone’s thoughts into your own. It will backfire.

You Also Have to Be Credible

Marketers are not always experts in the field they market to. But in the case of practitioner marketing, it is hard to motivate, measure, and recruit practitioners if you don’t also speak their language. You need to be able to hold a conversation about the topics they are experts in and not shy away from the depth they can cover. Otherwise, they might feel you are not qualified to even review their content.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot more to practitioner content marketing than a blog post. For many organizations, practitioner marketing is such an additional internal expense and effort that they decide it is not worth doing it themselves.

Check out this infographic that measures the success of practitioner content marketing versus producing content in-house.

The value of practitioner content marketing is tremendous. But it’s not a toe-in-the-water type of effort. You have to go all-in. When you do, you’ll build a quality and credible relationship with your market that will create new leads and foster customer growth.

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This post was originally published in April 2019 and updated in July 2021.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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