Over recent years, we have seen many presentation on how marketing and technical communications content shouldn’t sit in separate “silos”, never to be shared between each department. Unfortunately, it’s not simply a case of getting both to agree to share content.
In the book Selling the wheel, Jeff Cox and Howard Stevens tell the story of a fictional technology start-up company inventing and marketing the wheel. Through this parable, they look at the lifecycle of a business, and how selling changes over that lifecycle.
The early stage
In the early years of a organisation’s life, it needs to have a sales person who is able to close one-off deals with as many “early adopters” as possible. At this stage, marketing and selling teams focus on selling the opportunity associated with the product, and selling the power and practicality of the product itself. At this stage, the organisation typically does not focus on customer support or service. Early adopters are often left to solve problems themselves.
The growth stage
In the growth stage, the organisation begins growing and taking on larger clients. These new customers want expert assistance both before, and after, the sale is made. Marketing and selling needs to be technically expert enough to deliver a solution tailored (and possibly customised) to a buyer’s need. This often involves instructing the users on how to use the product. This means providing demonstrations and training, as well as an installation service.
The organisation also needs to offer support. It also needs to test the products fully prior to release.
The mature stage
When the majority of the market is using the technology in the product, the organisation focuses on existing customers. They want customers to buy more, and pick up new business from competitors messing up.
The focus is now on maintaining relationships with customers and prospects. The organisation needs to manage complexity, pay attention to the details, and make sure the customers’ needs are understood within the organisation.
The commodity stage
As the market matures, and the market becomes saturated, the product moves towards becoming a commodity. The goal is to become the market leader with the most efficient supply chain.
The focus is on differentiating the product, where possible. This is typically done by offering superior service and by creating a positive customer experience. There is less need for requirement for customisation, but perhaps more opportunities for offering value-added products and services.
Because of the high competition, there are often mergers and acquisitions between competitors. Their products may need to be incorporated into the product portfolio.
The changing role of technical communications content over the business lifecycle
These different lifecycle stages mean the importance and role of technical and marketing communications content will change over time:
- 1st stage – The organisation needs content that demonstrates the power and practicality of the product/technology. It needs to be credible, and it needs to be consist with the marketing message.
- 2nd stage – The organisation needs content that enables installation, customisation and customer training. It also needs content that enables it to fix mistakes.
- 3rd stage – The organisation needs content that enables it to manage complexity – make things easy for existing customers. The technical content must help in avoiding the company from screwing up.
- 4th stage – The organisation needs content that enables it to provide great service. This might be enabling customers to solve problems easily themselves, or enabling the Support team to provide great service.
This means it’s not a simple case of co-creating or sharing content between the Marketing and Techcomm departments. Different approaches will be needed, depending on where the organisation currently sits in the lifecycle we’ve described above.