Supporting marketing with technical content


Tech comm and marcom have long occupied opposite ends of the content spectrum. The stereotype is that tech comm is text-heavy, dense, and badly formatted whereas marcom is shiny, beautiful, and content-free. From there, the debate just intensifies:

Table 1. Marcom versus tech comm: the stereotypes
Marcom Tech comm
Design or automation? Design Automation
How much detail? As little as possible As much as possible
Assumed impact on revenue A lot None
Primary purpose Persuade people to buy Inform people
Writers are product experts? No Yes
Customer interaction with content is measured? Yes Rarely
Affects product positioning? Yes Yes, but not on purpose
Important? Yes No
When do people read? Before buying After buying

The reality is not so simple. Some information products fall into a gray area between the two disciplines. White papers, for example, are full of technically detailed information but are intended to be persuasive.

Data sheets offer factual product specifications, but are generally used as part of the sales and marketing process. The purpose of a data sheet is to provide a potential buyer with specifications on a product so that the buyer can determine whether this product is appropriate for her needs. But a paper data sheet is not necessarily the best approach to this problem, especially if your product has a lot of possible configurations.

Instead, why not offer a web-based form that asks for some information, narrows the options down to a manageable number, and then lists those products in a chart for easy comparisons? Companies often have all of the information needed to do this, usually locked away in a printed or PDF data sheet.

Stash all the specifications in a database (in fact, the product design team probably has a database already). Then, create a web interface that allows the buyer to query the database to see which product makes the most sense for their requirements.

Enabling the buyer to “query the database,” however, does not mean giving the user a literal database query experience:

Configuration tool that will not get used

Instead, give them a friendly interface that lets them quickly narrow down their options and choose the one they want. You don’t have to expose all of the fields in the database—just the ones that help people narrow down their choices.

A better database selector. Notice that the word “database” does not appear. The product list on the right updates as you make selections on the left.

One powerful way of unlocking business value in your technical content is to rethink its presentation and its usage. In many cases, technical content has marketing applications, and by providing a more user-centered approach to the content, you can increase the value of the content.



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