How Content Creators and Technical Writers Can Share Goals
Something I've noticed recently is how similar the duties of a content marketer and a technical writer are. This often comes up when looking for a "how-to" article; you either get a blog post or a manual. For example when I search up "how to setup a Node.js server" I get these two types of results:
There are several similarities in design between the two but the main difference is that the blog is more verbose and lighthearted while the documentation is straight to the point. However, they share many of the same goals, and I think that both of these mediums could learn a bit from each other. But first let's discuss what their stated goals are and what both roles entail.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the core of most modern online marketing strategies, usually in the medium of the company blog. This is because in a world saturated with advertisements, customers appreciate useful information that helps resolve their problems without trying to sell them something. After consuming this information, people are likely to trust the outlet that provided it, therefore becoming potential customers.
The two main goals and strengths of content marketing are:
- Building brand trust
- Generating useful traffic
Brand trust is about allowing brands to tell a story about themselves, showcasing expertise, and influencing conversations. Generating traffic involves improving SEO, generating leads, and building relationships with leads. The best example of a company that does both well is Hubspot. Hubspot's incredibly informative blog has cemented them as the go-to expert on content marketing - through content marketing!
What is Technical Writing?
A technical writer’s role is to communicate complex information about a product/service in a simple or useful way to users or creators. This could be instructions to use a programming language, assemble furniture, or a guide to operating factory machinery. A great example of technical documentation is the cloud service Digtial Ocean's developer docs.
Problems arise between these two writing based functions when technical writers and content marketers don't interact. Too often the content marketers write light-hearted "listicles" on the slick company blog, while the technical writers make dry manuals. Instead, the two should be working closely together to create a unified customer experience.
What's So Great About A Unified Customer Experience?
Let us go through a simple customer journey.
- A Customer has a need for a product
- They research it online
- Narrow it down to 3 companies
- Choose the company with the best product marketing
- Receive the product and need to assemble it
- Look at instructions for assembly and use
- They find that the instructions are bad and not comparable to the marketing material
We want to avoid the disconnect between technical documentation and marketing material even after the customer has already bought the product. This is to create repeat business; it's good customer support. A customer might feel like all the effort was put into getting them to buy the product, not in getting them to enjoy it. Instead, the customer should be wowed at every point of contact. When they receive a workspace, they should be provided with not only basic assembly instructions but also inspiration. There should be pictures, websites, blog posts on how other people used the same product/workplace setup, and even what other products they bought to compliment the setup. Improve the product experience in any way possible. Luckily in a content marketing strategy, those posts would already exist in order to sell the product setups.
The Different Uses of a Blog Post
Let’s take an example from Herman-Miller’s blog: How the Right Dual Monitor Setup Can Boost Productivity. It mentions first that dual monitors increase productivity, details the steps for achieving correct posture in a dual monitor setup, and then offers attractive options. This short post addresses the needs of:
1. People worried about the ergonomics of buying dual monitor arms
2. People who already have dual monitors but are experiencing pain
3. Customers who followed instructions on installing them, but are unsure where to place them
For people in category 1, they are now more open to buying the arms and are immediately given some options. People in category 2 are customers of another brand, but in the future are likely to think of Herman-Miller as a company concerned about their ergonomics. Both these categories of people have now seen several pictures of attractive Herman-Miller products and will be comparing their future options against them. The last category fulfills the customer support role; people in category 3 are likely to have a better experience with the product after being educated on proper arm placement.
Notice the intersection between user support (the technical writer role), and new customer generation (the marketing role). One blog post can share multiple purposes, so making the investments to create great content can pay dividends in multiple areas. To get the most out of your technical writer's skills, involve them in the content creation process. Their technical expertise can provide valuable information to potential customers. On the other hand your content marketers can help liven up a lot of the more dry content often seen on manuals and company websites. The best documentation has plentiful examples, real world use cases and problems written by a sympathetic author making content marketers the perfect people to be involved.
Most big organizations are stuck in silos that don't interact, and for a good reason; it's incredibly hard to manage. However, this relationship has so many similarities that I would argue they should be placed to close proximity at all times. Greater collaboration will have huge payoffs to both sides and might even meld two jobs into one.