Copywriters are expert narrators with proficiency in digital marketing practices. However, many of us write for an audience looking for technical content that is well beyond our scope of knowledge.
How then might a “dumb writer” produce compelling technical content? Simple. We think like journalists and engage folks with the right expertise.
We rustle up SMEs (subject matter experts) and interview them. Then we do what we’re best at — filling in the blanks with narrative so it becomes a coherent, compelling story.
How to find SMEs
Discussion boards are great ways to figure out what your target audience cares about. SMEs tend to congregate there, posting content, and looking for engagement.
For example, the Spiceworks IT community is a great place for B2B technology content creators to gather insights and interviews. Spiceworks users make it especially easy by listing specific areas of expertise and recent projects in their profiles. In my experience, these guys and gals are happy to lend their professional input and do interviews. Here is an example of this at work, a how-to article about setting up free anti-phishing user training.
Certain Reddit boards geared towards professionals also provide opportunities to engage SMEs as well, though its anonymous user set can be a little more hit or miss.
Another popular tool for journos and experts is the HARO (Help Out a Reporter) professional network. It is a free service designed to connect writers with the appropriate SMEs for the content they are working on.
Engagement foments content sharing
When a person provides expert input on a subject, they are compelled to share among their professional circles. This is great for your content. It is wise to choose SMEs that are active on social channels to participate in your storytelling. I usually start by reaching out to SMEs with active blogs who might provide a valuable backlink to content where they are featured.
Include in-house experts whenever possible
It is important to gather input from sources within the company that hires your content services. It establishes good rapport by ensuring that your client has a voice in the content while positioning them as a thought leader. They often have a unique perspective on the subject worth mentioning; as it pertains to my work with Newegg, product managers there know more about computer hardware pricing trends than anybody else I could ask. Readers of retail blogs are looking for insights about pricing, so it fits nicely in the content.
The best way for a pure writer to create quality technical content in the absence of a technical background is to reach out and engage like a journalist. Look for SMEs on discussion boards and within the company. Good old-fashioned news gathering techniques lay the foundation for quality content upon which a copywriter applies his or her own expertise–forming a compelling, engaging narrative.
One of the first things they teach in journalism school is the inverted pyramid style of storytelling. B2B content writers should take note and use it too.
A news writer essentially tells the whole story in the first paragraph–the lede as it is called in the industry–usually in two sentences or less.
How do you write a lede? Think in terms of questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Choose which of them are the most important to your reader and go for economy of words when answering these questions. Such is the nature of front loading B2B content.
The supporting facts and background narrative come in the following paragraphs and build out the lede. Journalists do this order of importance, from top to bottom.
Business writing should be structured the same way. Why? It is the best way to get to the point and hold the reader’s attention which is priority number one.
Driving SEO value
Google wants to know what your article is about in the first 100 words or so. Getting in your keywords right away is critical for indexing your content. It helps you to state clearly why your article fits the target keywords, and helps the article get right to the point.
Front loading applies to all business writing
One of my favorite copywriters, Josh Bentoff, is a big proponent of front loading in all forms of business writing. Whether it’s white papers, proposals, or pitch e-mails, any form of business correspondence should follow this rule. This is great advice and something every copywriter should strive to do at all times. Just get to the point and the rest takes care of itself.
Front loading for page conversions
A lot of B2B content is designed to move readers onto other pages. This might be a sales page, onto other content about specific products and services, or a call to action to sign up for more information (a lead generation or conversion). These are all different points in what marketers call the “sales funnel.” A direct, linear route through the funnel gives your content a fighting chance for keeping readers’ attention long enough to move them towards a conversion.
B2B writers should take a reporter’s approach with the inverted pyramid structure and get to the point in as few words as possible. Front loading the important facts and concepts improves all facets of B2B writing. Adopt this attitude in all organizational communications.
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