Engineers are the prominent and most accessible subject matter experts (SMEs) in our industry. Beyond day-to-day applications, operations and mechanics, they have a critical understanding of how and why things work. Their advanced knowledge in specific fields allows them to think differently, solve challenges and provide technical, detailed guidance when needed.
They also have a wealth of knowledge and keen insight into your organization. With your help, engineers can become some of the best contributors to your content team and add value to your organization’s assets with original thoughts that affect customers at any stage of their journey.
It’s your responsibility to coax the knowledge and insights out of your engineers, but marketing’s approach to accessing information from them is often misaligned with how they think. Or, their interest in helping is tied to the way you ask for their help. They need the right invitation to author original content that lies within.
If you’re looking for the quickest way to cut yourself off from their wealth of knowledge, ask them the following question:
“Hey, what do you want to blog about next?”
Asking engineers—who are busy with operations and may not be familiar with content production—to author your next blog post or newsletter isn't an engaging way to gain their involvement and, thus, their insights. They might come down with a sudden case of writer’s block and detach themselves from contributing altogether.
Instead, provide them with a problem worth solving, like a customer challenge, along with the space to speak or react authentically. Then watch what happens! Your need to publish a blog post won’t grab their attention, but making the lives of customers easier will.
Provide your engineers with a problem worth solving, along with the space to speak or react authentically.
- Rob Hawse
Let me explain.
I work with engineers often. The best of them have an innate ability to identify problems and solve them. It’s what they live to do.
But instigating engaging content from your engineers (your subject matter experts) becomes tricky when they’re uncomfortable with the idea of writing, figuring out where to start and don’t have a complete understanding of a customer’s journey from awareness to consideration to decision—and all the touchpoints along the way. The customer journey is important here because content needs to be relevant and timely to the audience.
So, make them comfortable. Explain the principles of a customer’s journey to engineers for clarification that will eliminate potential knowledge gaps. Create a safe space for engineers to be authentic. Ask the right questions, too.
Instead of “What do you want to write about for our next blog post?” ask, “How would you solve XYZ challenge for ABC customer?” This specified approach works for engineers because it allows them to flex their knowledge from a starting point. Giving the right direction with the right context and information makes all the difference.
The questions you ask, and how you ask them, jumpstart an engineer’s evolution from subject matter expert to thought leader. A thought leader has a willingness to be bold and share unique insights from their perspective. When asked to explain a solution to a challenge, in a space where authenticity is welcomed, there’s not a drop of hesitation to be anything but original. Topics that are hyper-relevant to customers, paired with the right questions and an engineer equipped to answer them, result in content marketing utopia.
It’s up to you to coach your engineers as they ideate, analyze challenges, deliberate on solutions and impart their knowledge. When they communicate ideas and original thoughts, keep the ball rolling with follow-up questions, ask for clarity and go the distance to uncover what your engineers mean.
It’s also your responsibility to get your engineers involved from the start. Racking your brain for the next content mother lode can take hours and to no avail; with your engineers in the room for initial conversations, they can make contributions that help big ideas come to light.
Sounds simple, right?
Consider these efforts to tap into an engineer’s wealth of knowledge and turn it into a valuable content asset.
1. Identify the Talent
To identify your top talent, gather a content creation team and include engineers who may be a good fit in thought leadership workshops. Here, you can guide and mentor them—with the help of customer journey basics—on how to ideate, generate and contribute toward topics that fit within your content strategy.
Start this meeting by reviewing the customer journey; friction points will surface, and ideas will quickly follow.
Engineers will connect with this approach because they’ll see bottlenecks and be compelled to share their recommendations for fixing them.
Once they’re familiar with the customer journey, engineers will have many opinions on how to move prospects further along through various funnels or how to solve current customers’ problems because they understand challenges from their origin. More than once, I’ve been in a workshop with an engineer who generates five to ten hyper-relevant topics in rapid succession when presented with a challenge or problem in the right way.
2. Establish Opportunities For Content Creation
Including engineers in customer conversations is a natural and easy way to facilitate content creation. The importance of their participation is two-fold:
Discoveries and ideas from these conversations provide direction for content. Does a customer want to know why the extra software package is necessary? Your engineer can list five reasons—and explain them—in a blog post, webinar or case study. Did a prospect vocalize the need for a specific solution? The engineer can take this information and point the potential customer toward the best option or configuration, accompanied by reasoning.
Another way to keep engineers inspired and inclined to produce great content is to show them how their contributions impact sales.
At the beginning of each meeting, pass out a report of metrics along with any comments their content received. Engage the engineer to evaluate personas and make recommendations on how content can be modified based on feedback, audience questions or new discoveries.
When engineers understand the customer journey, it will only improve customer relationships, sales conversations and your organization’s content creation process. To avoid scaring them off or shutting them down before they can get started, a thoughtful, intentional approach is needed when seeking authenticity from your engineers and positioning them as valuable thought leaders.
Keep in mind that while not all engineers are created equal, that doesn’t mean one is more important than another. It’s not uncommon to have an engineer who will take the lead on a content assignment and author the deliverable from start to finish. Or your engineer might give you a big idea and leave you to fill in the rest, relying on their expertise when needed.
Above all, take time to identify, inspire and set your problem solvers up for success because they’re the ones who can provide the most relevant customer insights and advance content marketing efforts for the better.
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