Last month, I published the story of William Imoh and the success of his technical content marketing agency on the #TechContentCreator interview series. Following that, a couple of people reached out to ask what technical content marketing meant.
In this article, I will try to answer what technical content marketing is, what type of content constitutes technical content marketing, and what it can mean for you as a technical writer.
What does technical content marketing mean?
To help you understand what technical content marketing is, I'll start by explaining what content marketing is.
Marcus Sheridan's book "They Ask, You Answer" was my first introduction to the concept of content marketing. He described content marketing as creating SEO-optimized educational content (mostly in the form of blogs, whitepapers, and videos) for a target audience to attract, educate, and hopefully convert them to customers.
Technical content marketing is simply a flavor of content marketing; it's content marketing for a technical audience. So, following Marcus's definition, technical content marketing can be described as the art of creating educational or problem-solving content for a technical audience (typically software developers, programmers, and engineers) in order to attract them to your site, earn their trust, and hopefully convert them into your customers.
The goal here is not to sell or promote a product or brand. It's all about producing trustworthy content that addresses topics about a product or niche that the target audience is most likely curious about.
Done right, content marketing can position a brand as trustworthy and a leader in its field. And studies have shown that brands that earn customer trust are rewarded with more sales, loyalty, and positive recommendations.
An example of technical content marketing in the wild is the ContainIQ blog. ContainIQ is a Kubernetes monitoring tool, so its target audience is software engineers who use Kubernetes or plan to use Kubernetes. Therefore, they focus on creating content on topics of interest to that audience.
The value of technical content marketing
The value of technical content marketing is that it facilitates the discoverability of a brand to a larger target audience. A brand is more likely to be noticed by the right audience and associated as a leader in its industry if they create genuinely informative content on topics that matter to their target audience
Technical writers are commonly hired to write documentation. However, content in the documentation only serves people who are already customers or those who are trying out a product. It doesn't cater to the needs of the broader target audience who are unaware of a product and may need it, or those in the beginning stages of their purchasing journey.
For example, consider the industry of low code tools. Let's assume that I've seen some Twitter threads and random conversations about the potential of low code tools and how they're excellent for less technical people to build apps fast. Now, I'm curious and would like to use low-code to build out an idea I have.
The documentation of low code tools like Retool would only contain information on what Retool is and what I need to know to build an app with it. However, I may not even know that Retool is a low-code tool at this stage. I'd be more focused on consuming educational content on everything I need to know to understand the concept of low-code and if it's the right approach for my use case. After that, I'll search for tool options, compare them, and then settle for one which I think is best for me.
I'll start by googling things like 'what is low code?', 'what are low code tools?', 'low code tools vs. traditional software development, 'should I hire a software developer or build an app with low-code tool?', 'When to use low-code and when not to?', e.t.c.
After establishing that low-code is right for my use case, I'll then move on to topics like 'best low code tools', 'best low code tools for technical writers', 'low code tools under $10 per month', e.t.c.
And after I've gotten a potential list of low tools to consider, I'll then embark on comparing my options to help me make my final decision. I'll be searching for comparison guides like 'retool vs. appsmith'.
In all of these, notice how the type of content found in conventional technical documentation has not come into play? Now, imagine that during my search, I found the kind of trustworthy, high-quality educational content I needed on Retool's site. There is a good chance that I will sign up with them.
The role of technical writers in technical content marketing
Many companies have realised the value of the type of content that technical content marketing focuses on. The problem is that some are hiring traditional content marketers to do this job, which may not be very ideal.
If you're trying to win over a technical audience, you need to communicate with them on a technical level. Software engineers/developers are such a scrutinizing audience that they can easily pick up content written by someone who lacks authentic expertise or experience. With inauthentic traditional-markety type of content, you risk alienating your audience.
That's why, in my opinion, the best people to create technical content marketing type content are technical writers or developers because they possess that technical authority needed to sound authoritative. Technical writers can handle the broad niche or explanatory product articles. On the other hand, developers can write up rough drafts for more in-depth technical articles and have the technical writers rewrite and clean them up.
Some companies have now created specialized roles for this type of content under the names of Technical Content Writer, Technical Author, and Developer Writer. In other companies, the technical writer creates both documentation and technical content marketing-type content. Other companies choose to outsource the creation of this type of content to technical content marketing agencies — like William's Hackmamba and Draft.dev— so they can solely focus on growing their product.
These technical content marketing agencies act as a link between these companies and experienced technical writers in different niches. In my article on freelance technical writing, I listed some of these technical content marketing agencies that technical writers or developer writers can write for.
If you want to learn more about content marketing in general, I recommend reading the book 'They Ask, You Answer'. I learned so much from reading that book. And, if you want to learn more about technical content marketing for startups, Draft.dev has an excellent hub guide on it.
Btw, did you notice what's happening? Draft.dev is a technical content marketing agency creating very high-quality educational content to teach startups how to approach technical content marketing. That's content marketing in action. Hope you get it?