You may have missed our workshop at Evans Data Corporation’s 14th Annual Developer Relations Conference in Palo Alto, CA. Whether you missed it or made it, we thought we’d break down our Practitioner Content Marketing Playbook for you here. Feel free at any point to request your full copy of the playbook which includes helpful exercises that you can use to launch your practitioner marketing strategy.
What is Practitioner Content Marketing?
Practitioner content marketing is an approach to building thought leadership by publishing content about important technical issues or problems in your market space, and the content is written by practitioners from outside your company. This content can be hosted on your company blog, an asset delivered via a developer-to-developer community, or even posted on Quora or Medium. The key elements of 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 to them.
Developing Your Distribution Strategy
You began with metrics. We recommend using share of conversation (SoC), which is a subset of share of voice (SoV). The percentage of conversations your company appears in or your company’s content appears in is your share of conversation. This reveals your position, your competitors, and cascades into your curation strategy.
You’ve defined your content curation strategy by identifying a conversation, which fed into topics. This cascaded into your topic strategy. Now you have a production workflow that has been defined by your curation strategy. Next, it is time to fulfill your content distribution strategy.
Effective content distribution is essential to the success of a practitioner marketing campaign. While structuring practitioner content with the right keywords and links for search engine optimization and discoverability will help, SEO alone is not sufficient. As our Practitioner Whisperer, Chris Tozzi, has pointed out, valuable content is worth more than keywords.
At the risk of boring you with the obvious, it all begins with persona. Luckily, to recruit your practitioners, you have already developed personas of both your audience and your content writers. Understanding who you are targeting will define who your practitioners are, and on what channels you will find them. The practitioners’ channels, by default, coincide with your buyers’ channels. Within these channels, there are opportunities for promotion, links, and other activities that can serve to expand the reach of your practitioner-generated content.
Distribution Channel Overview
Distribution is broken down into three categories:
- Owned — The channels that you control, such as your own blog, website, newsletter, and social media pages.
- Earned — Media channels that view your content as worthy of promotion.
- Paid — Paid promotions such as ads, AdWords and promoted posts in social media.
Succeeding with your own channels requires discipline and regularity. Our rule of thumb for blogs is two blog posts per week. Below that frequency, it is very difficult for your content to move the needle on traffic or share of conversation. Your audience will forget about you and wander off. They may not return.
Newsletter frequency depends on the value of the news you bring and your business cycle. Once a month is a good starting point if you have a lot of information, and it makes sense for the cadence of how quickly your industry moves. If you can support weekly (even if it is a shorter newsletter) do it. Caution: If you deliver information more frequently, the frequency has to be justified by the impact of the information you are offering.
There is no shortage of tools to help with distribution in each of the three categories. Tool selection depends on category, channel, and factors such as budget.
For our marketing-focused content, we’ve had the best luck with GrowthHackers.com and social media. With our media site, Sweetcode.io, which is a blogging site featuring code-level blogs, we’ve had the best luck with Hacker News and reddit.
The best earned distribution mechanism for blog content about practitioner marketing and share of voice has been social media—with Facebook >Twitter >LinkedIn. We use internal evangelism. It’s a great way to keep everyone at Fixate IO involved.
Paid promotions result in fewer conversions than organic sources. However, if no one knows who you are, paid channels are necessary to get awareness of your company and brand. The effectiveness of a paid campaign still relies on the quality and value of your content.
Content to Channel Mapping
Map your planned content ahead of time to the channels you think will be your priorities for distribution to ensure it is in the right format. Consider multi-channel content in one piece—for example, a blog post with an infographic that can be shared separately from the written content to maximize the effectiveness of your content.
It’s a mistake to launch a practitioner marketing campaign without completing all four steps of your strategy—metrics, curation, production and distribution. You have the outline. Download your full copy of the practitioner marketing playbook to get the details on each step and also use the strategy-building exercises to create your own complete strategy, including distribution.