How technical content on the Web is turning traditional marketing strategy on its head

Kathy Sierra famously summed up most marketing departments’ approach to content in this slide:
kathy sierra - How we treat customers

To paraphrase her, the website and brochure are a thing of beauty, while the user manual is a thing of boredom.

Today, the way people use the Internet means this approach to marketing needs to change


According to Rahel Bailie,

“In a knowledge economy, content becomes an important corporate asset.

Potential customers see, and judge, your content assets before they ever see your physical assets. They search to compare product specifications or service offerings. They look through your documentation to see how a product works.”

This can be backed up by research that showed Hewlett-Packard experiences user sales journeys where 90% of users never even touch the product before buying. The knowledge users gain is from reviews and product content on the Web.

This means Kathy Sierra’s diagram needs to be flipped. We need a new, inverted, marketing funnel. It’s a marketing funnel where the technical content that’s important to the prospect is at the beginning of the customer journey, not the end:

new marketing funnel

This model actually isn’t new. The ancient Chinese way of trading, GuanXi, has roughly the same steps, as does the Duct Tape marketing funneDuct Tape Marketing Hourglass.

We’re seeing this approach to marketing also extend into FMGC goods. for example, Coca Cola’s 2020 marketing strategy is driven by content:

inverted marketing pyramidThere’s a risk Google and the rest of the Internet will decide how your business is perceived and marketed.

Whether you like it or not, your technical content is becoming more important in a marketing context, and if you don’t write your stories, someone else will write them for you.

Are you taking a strategic view of your technical and user documentation?

It’s content that drives your relationship with your customers and prospects on the Web, and the technical information that people want to know is now starting affect the sales you make. This means you need to take a strategic view of your technical and user documentation.

4 thoughts on “How technical content on the Web is turning traditional marketing strategy on its head

  1. Thanks for the mention of Duct Tape Marketing Ellis – actually our approach is called The Marketing Hourglass and is something we’ve been using for about 10 years now.

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