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Getting Started with Practitioner Content Marketing

April 2, 2019 - Practitioner Marketing - ,
By: Chris Riley

see the practitioner marketing ROI infographic

New 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 marketing in particular requires planning for things that are completely out of your control.

The best promoter of your product is not you; in fact, it’s people who can spread your message—practitioner s. People like to buy tools that have been validated by one or more peers. You often do not get to participate in those conversations, but there is one way.

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

To get started with practitioner content marketing, you need the practitioners first. This alone can be a huge task. Here is where you can start:

Contact your top users and customers.
Find regular participants in conversations about your product on social media—even if they are users who aren’t necessarily positive.

Reaching out to the world at large is a good goal, but not the best place to start. Once you have identified the individuals, you need to rally their interest. The best practitioners will:

  • Want to contribute content: The interest often needs to be backed by $$$. While many practitioners want to write, they have to justify the time that it’s taking from other activities. The Fixate network knows that it takes about six hours per topic to write expert blog content. For some practitioners it takes much more time, but seldom less.
  • Have a cause they want to promote in your market: 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.
  • Want a personal brand. Not everyone wants to be heard. But in the age of social media, there is more and more competition to have a voice among your peers. A strong voice makes resumes more interesting, enhances peer relationships, and even helps people get promoted.
  • Not be afraid to write: In our experience, a lack of fear of the blank page is rare. Getting people past the fear of putting their words out there is an exercise in patience. You need to first make sure they understand that they are not alone. And content won’t go out into the world that all parties (including the writer) don’t feel good about. Another point of complication is that the best practitioners  are not always the best writers—the ideas may be good, but the execution may be rough. So make sure you give them proper copy editing backing. Lastly, it’s important to reinforce the reason you approached them. You’ve reached out to them because you are confident that they know what they know, and that their knowledge is interesting to the broad audience. (The general feeling among experts in the field is often that the people reading their posts will know more.)

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.)

Once you have your practitioners, you need to get the content.

  • practitioners are procrastinators, too: Money helps, but writing a blog post is not habit, or 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 the content, and how you will support their efforts is especially important.
  • Have a process: The person managing the creation of practitioner content often has other responsibilities. For example, if that person is a product marketer, he or she likely also has to be focused 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 get practitioner content and don’t publish it in a timely manner, and share it once it is published, then you will not get repeat or quality practitioners—in which case, you are just shooting yourself in the foot. If commitment is an issue, a company like Fixate can help.
  • Mix it up: 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-to-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 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 have to be credible also: 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 expert in, and not shy away from the depth they can cover. Otherwise, they might feel you are not qualified to even review their content.

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 doing it on your own versus using some help.

Infographic showing how using influencer content increases your content marketing ROI

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 the market that will create new leads, and foster customer growth.


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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