Practitioner marketing is a powerful tool for creating market education content that is authentic and persuasive. Often employed to help a company achieve thought leadership in a highly skeptical audience of experts, practitioner marketing, also called practitioner content marketing, is more than influencer marketing. Influencer marketing primarily relies on social influence, as evidenced by a social media account and followers, including followers in your target market. Practitioner marketing is a form of content marketing where the content is generated by someone with specific subject matter expertise at or above the level of your customer.
Markets that need practitioner marketing tend to be skeptical markets—They are typically those that deliver products and services that require specific, hard-to-acquire, applicable knowledge. While more difficult to recruit, evaluate and manage than the average social influencer, practitioner-generated content from outside your organization is worth the extra effort. Practitioner content has authenticity because it is generated by an expert whose expertise is the influencing factor for your customers. It is even more persuasive, because like influencer marketing, it comes from outside your organization.
When generating education-focused content, your goal is to inform your customers about the solutions to the issues that practitioners raise on your blog via thought leadership pieces. These are best if they focus on approaches, metrics of success, and details that should not be neglected, rather than a straight-up product pitch. Customers at this stage of the buyer’s journey are interested in information specific to the perceived problem, not your product. Hit them with your product details too soon, and watch them run away, trust broken, saying, “I told you so—This company just cares about pushing product, not about providing solutions.”
How to create education pieces with practitioners
The appeal of practitioners to audiences is that they sit outside your organization. The danger of practitioners and product is that practitioners sit outside your organization. How you manage this tension successfully is where your role as practitioner content manager reveals your inner genius and skills.
Start with topics
It turns out both genius and skills can be acquired. The first step really sits with you or whoever is managing your practitioner network and content—Topic generation. If you picked the right thought leadership topics, the world of your customer should be abuzz with conversations about the knotty issue your practitioners raised in their thought leadership pieces.
It is unlikely, having revealed the raw, gaping technical wound in your industry, that your practitioners are clueless as to the characteristics of a good solution. Using their original thought leadership content, some solution topic ideas should follow. It is likely, even if you are not as technical yourself, that you can tease some logical education topics out of the original thought leadership content.
Let nature take its course
Yes—Let your practitioners run wild. Give them multiple topics to choose from and see what they select. You may even want to have your practitioners peer-review your topic ideas to see if they think they are interesting. Let them adjust the topics. It helps if you have identified what conversations need increased share of voice. (Hopefully that share of voice calculation was the strategy underlying your thought leadership pieces, but I regress.)
Recognize, reward, repeat
If you are engaging your practitioners properly, they should feel rewarded for exercising their creativity. Even if advice given comes in a arrogant, bombastic shell, take it as if it was coated in chocolate. Adopt what is useful, and tactfully remove what is not. Reward engagement with more requests for engagement, and evidence that practitioner engagement influences you. Show an ability to act on suggestions, and let practitioners know when an idea, approach, or diatribe has made an impact on your customers. Present a few hard-to-solve problems, ask for input on a conundrum, and above all, make sure you show and glorify any impact your practitioner’s participation has had.
Employing your practitioner network to take the step beyond thought leadership and enlighten your customers about the attributes of solutions is a persuasive way to educate your market without once mentioning your product. Use your imagination, your practitioners’ expertise and imagination, and your share of voice strategy to generate education topics connected to your thought awareness pieces. Then watch your practitioners exercise their expertise as you build a beautiful education content runway together.