Snackable content like listicles, quizzes and clickbait are popular in many industries. But some businesses demand a more substantial meal. Complex B2C and B2B sales require content that educates and informs buyers on intricate software, technology, engineering or financial products, processes and concepts.
For this very reason, we’ve discussed how curiosity about different subjects is one major competitive advantage marketers must cultivate. But curiosity isn’t enough when the chips are down. What happens when your sales team demands expert content on a tight timeline in an industry or on a topic you don’t know much about?
It’s not a rare event, especially when firms try to win business in new industries. Marketers must keep up, knowing customer businesses better than they know it themselves. That’s where hacking technical content marketing comes in.
Smart marketers—like talented engineers—hack their way to solutions that provide greater value and results. (It’s why we conduct marketing hackathons regularly at PR 20/20.)
Hacking technical content marketing helps you learn, retain and discuss an industry intelligently. It also helps you create content about complex topics in a short amount of time using a series of smart strategies and sources.
Marketers should never aim to be the smartest one in the room (how else will we learn?). But there are a few ways you can surprise prospects and internal stakeholders with your depth of knowledge about complex industries and needs—on the tightest of deadlines if necessary.
1. Start with market context.
Your customer or business may operate in a small segment of the market. But learn about the whole market first to place their position in its proper context. Why? Because the goal of hacking technical content marketing isn’t to learn more facts faster; it’s to gain a working knowledge of how the systems that power your industry work.
I typically look for longform articles on industry news or players. That’s because longform publications—like The New Yorker, The Economist, The Atlantic and Bloomberg Businessweek features—give lots of context to the story they’re reporting that’s useful to get a market snapshot quickly.
(For instance, this article about solar power in the developing world gives a quick primer on energy production trends that matter.)
These stories can save you hours you’d typically spend sorting the signal from the noise.
2. Recruit the experts.
A 30-minute phone call with a subject matter expert at your company (or a client’s) can save you weeks of work. Tailor your line of inquiry to your specific use case, but consider asking these questions:
- What is everyone in the industry talking about right now?
- What are the top 1-3 challenges these companies face?
- Where are the biggest growth opportunities in the next 12-24 months?
- What are the 3-5 trends or market factors that business leaders watch?
- How do companies make money in the space?
- Which companies are the most successful in the industry?
- What did the last crisis in this industry look like and what was it caused by?
- Who’s looking to disrupt the industry or change business as usual?
If you don’t have access to client or company subject matter experts, check your network. Most people are happy to answer a few questions by email or chat for a few minutes about their business, if you ask politely.
3. Ditch the jargon.
Too many people waste time trying to learn industry terms and jargon. These words and phrases are important in the long run to establish your credibility and speak the same language your prospects do. But I would worry about them later. Instead, work to understand how the pieces of an industry or business fit together, then go back and learn the right name for everything.
Here’s one example of what I mean: say you need to learn the financial advisory business in a short period of time. In financial services, you can’t throw a rock without hitting confusing jargon. How do you narrow down what you need to know? Assuming I had no knowledge of the industry, I might follow this line of inquiry:
- How do they make money? The answer is typically management fees.
- Management of what? Advisors generally manage portfolios of stocks, bonds and potentially other assets for clients.
- Why wouldn’t a client do this themselves? Individuals want higher returns from their portfolio, so they hire advisors with expert abilities who can increase returns through a variety of strategies.
- Like what? There are tons of different ways to allocate a portfolio and many differences of opinion on how portfolios should be allocated depending on a client’s financial situation.
So, with a few basic questions, I can determine that I need to research and understand the following:
- Stocks, bonds and (generally) alternative assets.
- The pros and cons of hiring a financial advisor.
- Portfolios and diversification.
- Allocation strategies and what they might accomplish.
Realistically, I don’t need to know anything about thousands of other topics I might read or hear about. At least not yet. And while the above is still a ton of material with which to grapple, it dramatically narrows down the scope of items I need to learn right now. More importantly, it helps me determine the right things to know, so I don’t waste time (or credibility) on topics that aren’t relevant to a customer or client’s business.
You won’t impress many experts by dropping jargon; you will impress them by displaying a sound knowledge of their business and market fundamentals.
What tips do you use to learn topics quickly? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: Nic McPhee via Flickr