Most engineering marketers are creating more content in 2017, according to our 2017 survey of engineering marketers research report.
All this rush to create content is, not surprisingly, leading to an abundance of poor quality content. This flood of content increases the competition for every post you publish, and the fight for each search term becomes more intense.
The response from some marketers and publishers is to write fewer, longer and more thoroughly researched pieces of content, ones that will be shared on social media, and that will rise to the top of search engines. If your approach is to write more short posts while your competition is writing longer and more detailed posts, you are unlikely to succeed.
As the chart above shows, the top-rated challenge for engineering content marketers is creating engaging content. This concern was also the top concern last year, with 50% of marketers citing it. However, in 2017 it was named a top concern by 62% of engineering marketers.
A related challenge was finding resources for creating content.
The struggle is real my friends. And it can lead to some disappointing short-term outcomes.
What does poor conversion content look like? And how can you avoid it?
Creating engaging content is the top challenge
It wasn’t so long ago that you could post a short blog post of say, 400 words, along with a picture of a cat and get a lot of views and social media shares. That ship has sailed. Now those posts get no Internet love at all. Many marketers are tasked with getting engineers to write blog posts and white papers, only to find that they just can’t get it into their priority queue. The result is that the marketer has to accept a poor quality post from the engineer, or write it herself.
The short post, written by the busy engineer, doesn’t explore the content in enough detail to be successful on the Internet. The more detailed resources produced by the competition get a higher ranking, and your content gets no traffic. You, and the engineer whose valuable time you took up, might as well have not bothered.
The alternative of writing it yourself seems attractive. Just interview the engineers and write down what they say. But doing so results in content that is not technically satisfying to your target audience – engineers want to really understand how things work.
When it comes to the more difficult pieces of content, like an asset for a lead generation campaign, things only get worse. For these types of assets, you absolutely need at least 2,000 words to explore the topic along with a lot of research, preferably some of it original, so that you have something to say that readers can’t find elsewhere.
As a publisher, we too often see poor quality conversion content when a marketer asks us to run a lead generation campaign…..and then hands us a sales brochure to use as a gated asset. Often, they just don’t have anything else ready to release.
This has become so prevalent that we’ve had to implement a new internal review procedure of content assets. This has led to some internal smack-downs with the sales team who, bless their hearts, always go to bat for their customers.
Please understand that even though you may call a document a “white paper”, if it only talks about your product, it is not likely to meet the educational requirements of an engineering audience.
Here is a comment from an engineer who goes by the handle Vaqulus on the popular forum site, Eng-tips.com,
I just downloaded the 'White Paper' entitled [Name Removed]. Disappointed is a word that springs to mind. Surely there is more to the term 'White Paper' than is fulfilled by a sketchy, one-page advertisement.
Publishers spend most of their energy building their audience. They are not willing to risk alienating those skeptical engineers by accepting a poor-quality asset from you. There are numerous resources available to help you create a valuable white paper for a technical audience.
You may be thinking that if you can get an engineer to download your product brochure, that they are likely to be a good quality lead and one that is closer to an MQL. That line of thinking naturally can lead you to request that a publisher circulate your product brochure as an asset in a cost-per-lead campaign. If the publisher accepts it, you win.
You win because the publisher takes on the risk of exposing your product to a large population of engineers and you only have to pay for the ones that convert to leads. This is a poor decision by the publisher, but I can understand why you might want to give it a go.
There are two things you must do if you want to overcome the engineer’s skepticism
If you want your eBook or white paper to resonate with an engineer, you need to overcome their skepticism. To do that, you need to inform first, and save the selling for the sales team. The first key to overcoming that skepticism for your downloadable asset is to make it vendor neutral. If your document mentions your product only, then it is unlikely to be considered a credible source.
Second, it must be technical, in that it has to show in detail how a solution can work. This second point is actually more important than the first point. If you can write a document that is so technically fascinating, you may be able to limit your exploration of solutions to only one class.
Content that converts takes time and resources
There is no denying that content creation is painful, time consuming and expensive. If you are trying to maintain or increase the frequency of your content posts, it is only natural that you will run the risk of lower quality content.
You might get away with it on your blog, but in a white paper or research report, it can be deadly. Here are a few tips to make sure that your top-of-funnel asset meets the needs of engineers:
- Write from the perspective of the engineer and the problem they seek to solve, rather than from your perspective of the product and what it does.
- Speak about your product in general terms as part of a class of solutions, rather than saying that your brand is the only solution to an engineer’s problem.
- Consider different topics, including; i) industry trends and how they impact the engineer, ii) problem / solution formats, and iii) thought leadership through industry research.
There are lots of other resources available that can give you a more thorough overview of writing a conversion asset for engineers:
- Eight Rules for Writing Great White Papers
- How to write a Technology White Paper that will generate a ton of leads
- The Myth of the Two-Page White Paper
We have increasingly been asked, even by well-funded larger companies, to help them with content creation. This often arises when the marketer finds that the white paper they were promised by an external agency or internal team has not materialized. Although we can’t “magic up” a white paper, given a little lead time, we can create an excellent survey and research report that can be turned into multiple content pieces. These include blog posts, webinars, and of course, the gated research report itself.
The other approach vendors are requesting is for publishers to do a secondary filter on the people who download a top of funnel asset, asking these prospects whether they are interested in something that would give them a higher lead score, such as a case study. We’ve run a few campaigns of this type.
I hope this post helps you create better quality assets to assist your prospects on their journey, but if you are still struggling we can provide an assist.