Content Strategy: Building Context & Relationships thru Product Documentation

My last post about motivating readers in technical communication made me recall an informal meeting with Valeria Maltoni (otherwise known as Conversation Agent), at the Inbound Marketing Summit last fall, in Boston, MA.

At the time, I had just read Maltoni’s post, Service: Product Experience and Content Strategy.

In her series on content strategy, Maltoni had explained how “every communication a company organizes is an opportunity to build context through content — and relationships as an outcome.”

During our brief but engaging exchange, I told Maltoni how much this excerpt from her post resonated with me, in my role as a technical communicator:

This is the phase where marketing tends to walk away, because somehow embracing customers is customer service’s job. Product manuals, service agreements, contracts — these are all marketing, whether you see it that way or not.

While chatting, I mentioned to Maltoni how my graduate program in Technical and Professional Writing had provided a good introduction to principles from classic rhetoric. I also expressed how surprised I was, when I first started working as a technical writer in industry (now years ago), to find how little alignment there often is in practice, between our respective disciplines.

Maltoni readily understood the connection between product documentation and marketing. So too, does Aaron Fulkerson, CEO of MindTouch, who in
the Forbes article, The Evolution of User Manuals, describes how product and services documentation is now a core business asset.

And you? For the marketers out there, do you view product documentation as a way to build relationships, with potential new customers? For technical communicators, what do you think about Ellis Pratt’s recent Intercom article, calling for more emotion in technical communication, as a way to help nurture loyal customers?

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Touchdown: Inbound Marketing Summit at Gillette Stadium

Oct. 6th and 7th, at Gillette Stadium, I attended the Inbound Marketing Summit, sponsored by New Marketing Labs LLC. It didn’t disappoint. It was a great venue, with great speakers, and I came away with some valuable nuggets, on curating, developing, and managing online content.

Here are some key takeaways, from sessions that were especially relevant to my interests as a content developer.

Is that Content Marketing in Your Pocket or…? by Pawan Deshpande, CEO at HiveFire

According to Pawan Deshpande, CEO of HiveFire, an online content marketing technology company,  inbound marketing starts with content. Fresh content feeds hungry search engines and drives traffic to your site, but the effort to develop that ongoing content can be difficult.

To make content marketing easier, Deshpande advised pulling together various online content, through content curation, which involves selectively identifying, organizing, and sharing content online. In the process, Deshpande explained, you can make publishing content much easier, draw in more customers, and stand out from your competition, as an authority on a topic that interests your prospects.

As an example, Deshpande pointed to Airvana’s FemtoHub.com, an industry resource on femtocell technology (see the Airvana Case Study from HiveFire) For more information, also check out HiveFire’s Content Curation: Taming the Flood in B2B Social Media.

Secrets to Content Marketing Success by Maria Pergolino, Director of Marketing/Demand Generation at Marketo

I especially benefitted from the “Secrets to Content Marketing Success” session, by content marketing expert, Maria Pergolino. In her presentation, Pergolino shared ways to “effectively engage the right prospects, with the right content, at the right time.”

Pergolini described how the various pieces of content map to the buyer decision process (awareness, consideration, decision), with product documentation correlating to the consideration and decision phases. She also provided invaluable advice about how to get more SEO benefit from PDF documents (how some product documentation is delivered), using Flickerbox.

I look forward to checking out Marketo’s Creating Content That Sells: A Guide to Content Marketing for Demand Generation.

Why You Should Be Using a CMS to Manage Your Website and Content, Panel Discussion

This session was a panel discussion, with Ron West, Director of Product Strategy/Professional Services at PaperThin, Brett Zucker, Chief Technology Officer at Bridgeline Digital, Byron White, Chief Idea Officer at ideaLaunch, Vern Imrich, Chief Technical Officer, at Percussion Software, and Joe Henriques, Director, Client Services and Partner Development, at Sitecore.

The open discussion described how various applications are making it possible for Marketing to manage both the content and the application, where that content resides.

Panelists maintained this trend eliminates bottlenecks and empowers marketers to more quickly make site changes, based on analytics that come packaged with the CMS. According to one panelist, this trend is creating opportunities for Marketing Technologists, who know both the marketing and CMS lingos. A different panelist observed the more structured the existing content is, the easier it is to migrate.

Summary

These sessions especially complemented my focus on content strategy, development, and management, but they are only a sampling of the many excellent sessions and additional topics available, at Inbound Marketing Summit 2010. ROI was a recurring theme.

I would recommend this conference to anyone interested in a fast-paced tempo, with a broad cross-section of industry and other thought leaders, in a highly distinctive Boston setting.

Other benefits: free parking, high quality food (roasted turkey couldn’t have been any better), and a uniquely open facility layout, which made it easy to listen in on speakers, while simultaneously speaking with vendor reps, or meet with others, in the Demonstration Zone. (I also appreciated that you could see the presentation slides, from any number of overhead monitors.)

For more information, make sure to see New Marketing Labs TV, available on the Pulse Network, which livestreamed many keynotes and interviewed various speakers, through fireside chats.

Postscript: Special thanks, by the way, to the Marketwire rep, for the Nerf football souvenir, which my six-year-old at home, greatly appreciated, his first week of Flag Football.

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog