Why a Lone Writer Won’t Cut It: Content Creation Lessons from Microsoft

The face of B2B technology marketing is changing, and that demands a pivot when it comes to content creation.

Long ago, you’d create content aimed primarily at the C-suite; today, you also need to target the practitioners—the developers, IT teams, or security professionals who are actually using your product, service, or platform.

What’s fueling this change is bottom-up adoption: individual users or teams adopting and promoting a product or technology within the organization rather than top-level decision-makers. When your cyber monitoring system or DevOps observability tool is the best one out there, the product adoption takes place through hands-on use and advocacy rather than the older model of pitching it to executives.

But how do you get your product or service into the hands of those practitioners you want—make that need—to fall in love with it?

The answer is simple: you have to provide them with top-quality online resources to make that bottom-up sales journey as seamless as possible, because that’s what’s going to impact your bottom line. You have to give them content that’s valuable, that they can use to make their work easier.

Effective B2B tech content marketing goes beyond merely establishing you as a thought leader in your industry, since it’s not just customers you need to impress. These days, software vendors are pursuing strategies that let them build community and a fan base, as Armosec has, for example, by embracing open source (e.g., Kubernetes), giving their offering a much-needed boost by creating a fan base. 

It should be obvious that you’re not going to create all of that with just a few blog posts. Yet this is in fact one of the most common misconceptions of B2B tech marketing: “All it takes is a good writer.”

The thinking goes that if this one magical writer persona within your organization can sprinkle their fairy dust, hit the right note, communicate your product or service’s unique selling points well enough, then your bottom line will start to soar.

I wish that was true.

Let’s take a look at why that “one good writer” will never be enough—and what you need instead to drive effective, efficient content production.

Why “One Writer” Can’t Cut It

In crowded markets, high-quality content at scale is essential to stand out and differentiate. You need content in different formats, aimed at different audiences, reflecting a balance of technical expertise and creative skills.

So where did the “one writer” myth come from?

Traditionally, when tech B2B organizations were primarily targeting the C-suite with primarily written content, it might have been enough to bring a tech writer, or a few writers, on board who would then acquire a strong understanding of your technology.

But in today’s world, it takes a lot more than that. Why?

  • It’s not just writing. Tech content creation must be driven by strategy and based on knowledge of what’s current and relevant for the targeted field. That takes research, and beyond research, it takes passion about the field. 
  • Writers need information. You can’t create technical content without experts. Writers (especially freelancers) can’t bring together other stakeholders, such as marketing execs, designers, or subject matter experts. For instance, your tech team may need to build real cloud environments to use and demonstrate a real technical case to enlighten writers as to how the product actually works. 
  • Marketing needs data. Writers coming from non-technical backgrounds or even from other companies may not understand the target audience and their preferences, pain points, and interests, which needs input from multiple stakeholders.
  • It’s more focused. For content to appeal to experts, it must speak with expertise. While one writer may have deep expertise writing about DevOps and Kubernetes, they may be less comfortable creating content around cloud security and data analytics. 

This last point is very important. Writers need to draw on their specialized knowledge when they’re creating content—for example, if you’re creating a blog post about Kubernetes, you want it to reflect thought leadership and depth, an authenticity that will ring true with DevOps engineers, cloud solutions architects, and other hands-on “practitioner” personas who are in the trenches every day. A key cornerstone of the bottom-up approach is that practitioners are looking for content they can identify with.

Asking a writer to cover topics outside their comfort zone will inevitably lead to problems. Some writers will refuse to take on tasks outside their comfort zone, leaving you stranded when you need content.

Others may take on the task anyway, creating content that flounders and doesn’t hit the right note for experts; an over-general post introducing cloud and SaaS won’t work for the developers and IT managers looking for an observability platform. In fact, the worst-case scenario here is creating “fluff” content—that offers no true value

In addition, you need multiple writers because you need multiple types of content; content aimed at the C-suite still has its value along with the nitty-gritty technical pieces that you need to appeal to practitioners, plus content that appeals to mid-level leaders by showcasing business and team-management benefits.

That’s why a single writer, however great they are, will almost never be enough. Not to mention that writers with different backgrounds and experiences can sometimes offer fresh ideas, unique perspectives, and a wider range of expertise to your content.

Building a Well-Oiled Content Machine

You wouldn’t play baseball with a team composed entirely of right-fielders. Obviously, you need different people at work in different positions, with different types of expertise, depending on what kind of content you’re producing. But even if you have the right people in place, you also need efficient, effective processes to make sure you’re working at your best.

Build Your Dream Team

So who do you need on your team?

Here are a number of the roles along with their basic responsibilities. 

  • Content strategist: Research, create an editorial plan and direct the content pipeline.
  • Managing editor: Content pipeline and planning; find and manage freelance SMEs and editors.
  • Subject-matter experts (SMEs): Research, create, review, consult. This person can be a freelancer (e.g. external security expert) or internal contributor.
  • Writers and editors: Turn technical content into clear and engaging articles. They also handle basic SEO and marketing aspects, such as understanding industry pain points and terminologies.
  • Designers: The designers create the visual elements of the content, such as the layout, graphics, and images.
  • Operations team: Overseeing delivery, execution, and keeping content up to date and accessible.

For example, a standard blog post primarily needs the services of writers and editors, while other types of written content like reports, one-pagers, and case studies require more intensive graphics and packaging to create a valuable content asset. Video content, on the other hand, will require specialized skills such as video producers and editors to handle scripting, storyboards, animation, sound, and final production.

Obviously, in smaller operations, one person will be able to serve in multiple roles. But in large enterprises with extensive production needs, clear separation of responsibilities is helpful.

But in addition to these key team members, even the most straightforward types of content require a clear and well-planned content creation process.

Mature Content Processes

In addition to a team of talented people, you also need solid project management and processes to make sure that content is produced on time and within budget. A clear process will also ensure that your writing or producing team members are able to coordinate effectively with the SMEs; for instance, by arranging for a demo of the platform’s network discovery or vulnerability flagging features so that they can share this with your audience.

Regardless of what type of content you’re creating, the process usually includes:

  • Define scope and goals. Set parameters and expectations for content creation, including target audience and goals and how these fit within the overall content strategy. Are you creating a blog? A white paper? A script for an explainer video? You’ll need a different process for each one.
  • Create a plan. This includes timelines and resources, ensuring a structured approach. This step also gives SMEs and other technical consultants a heads up that their expertise will be needed.
  • Research. At this point, the writer or producer will gather information by consulting with product specialists, SMEs, online investigation, and more. They’ll also research the market and current trends to ensure accurate, informative, current, and engaging content.
  • Outline. The writer or producer will develop an outline or storyboard to ensure that all important information is included and to avoid surprises later on. Technical personnel as well as marketers have an opportunity to share input about the direction of the final piece.
  • Draft. Rough ideas take shape so teams on all sides can review and polish the content. SMEs are brought in to make sure content is appealing to technical personas while marketing and C-suite ensure that the messaging is aligned with the brand values and longer-term strategy.
  • Review and revise. Based on feedback from editors, product specialists, marketing specialists, and others, writers and producers tweak and optimize the content to ensure that it meets all of the initial goals, audience interests and needs and to create a strategy to best use the final asset to achieve the desired results.

At IOD, we bring over 7 years of experience to every one of our partners, ensuring that tech content project management has become part of our DNA. This lets us guide projects successfully even when customers aren’t aware of all these steps—or if they’re not even sure where to begin.

Example: Microsoft Case Study

When Microsoft needed to produce over 15 technical case studies within just a few weeks to build trust and encourage new members to join their Founders Hub, they chose to partner with IOD. 

There was no chance of handling this task in-house, as there was too little time. They initially considered outsourcing the project to individual freelance writers—but this, too, takes a long time to ramp up, including making sure that each and every freelancer is an authorized vendor.

Instead, they turned to IOD, and we were able to set up a dedicated production force which was up and running in no time.

IOD’s diverse and skilled IOD team brought with them the creative and technical abilities to tell compelling and technically accurate stories that resonated with Microsoft’s target audience of startup founders.

Best of all, the production process required minimal involvement from Microsoft’s team. Once the startup stakeholders approved the case studies, IOD delivered a comprehensive and ready-to-publish series of case studies well within Microsoft’s deadline.

IOD’s streamlined content production process and technical expertise enabled Microsoft for Startups to produce deep technical content for their #StartupsOnAzure campaign in record time. This helped establish Microsoft for Startups and their customers (Founders Hub members) as thought leaders while increasing conversion by driving CTOs and startup founders to participate in Founders Hub.

Win with Teamwork: The IOD Approach

You need a steady supply of high-quality content that engages and informs your audiences while establishing you as a leader in your field. That’s why you should consider getting IOD on your team.

At IOD, we practice what we preach. We were able to bring our teamwork mindset to our project with Microsoft, creating a dream team consisting of:

  • Traffic managers
  • Azure subject matter experts
  • Tech marketing writers
  • Editors

Plus, IOD’s dedicated project manager provided a single point of contact for Microsoft, which streamlined communication and made it easy for them to track the project’s progress.

Like Microsoft, every IOD customer gains two other immediate benefits by partnering with us:

  • Winning Team. IOD’s experienced, knowledgeable team was able to ramp up quickly and understand Microsoft’s needs, then develop content that met their requirements. With a wide range of tech specialists and writers, we managed to create technical case studies for Founders Hub startups spanning a wide range of fields with minimal hands-on involvement from Microsoft.
  • Winning Processes. IOD’s flexible, adaptable process made it easy for Microsoft to share feedback and request changes and revisions as needed, ensuring the final product was exactly what they needed.

At IOD, we love writers. We have longstanding relationships with many skilled writers and we couldn’t do what we do without them. But no single writer, no matter how talented, can accomplish everything that Microsoft needed, for example. 

With a team, on the other hand, bringing together complementary skills and expertise, along with effective processes to manage resources, providing end-to-end services including project management, content strategy, research, writing, editing, and design… well, anything is possible.

Learn more and get in touch today to find out more about how IOD’s team can help meet all your tech content needs.

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