Mo Shehu, PhD
Immersion

Immersion: The hidden secret of expert content marketers

In-house marketers and content writers lack one crucial element in their day-to-day jobs, and it’s making their lives much harder than it needs to be:

Immersion.

When you’re thoroughly immersed in your subject matter, words and ideas flow easily. You’re able to craft logical, coherent campaigns and content assets off the top of your head.

A storage engineer talking about solid-state drives doesn’t have to *think* about what to write, because they swim in the waters of solid-state storage every day.

An in-house marketer or content writer who’s not from that background, however, has to first spend hours looking up definitions, trends, challenges, and solutions before they can write a single word.

Without proper immersion, marketing teams and content writers churn out bland blog posts, weak reports, and forgettable content that lacks a strong point of view. Cue a trickle of traffic that doesn’t convert.

5 ways to create better content and marketing campaigns through immersion

If you want to become a content or marketing authority on your topic, it’s time to dive into the deep end of it. There are several ways to do this:

1. Read published books on the topic

A book requires more rigorous research than a blog post before it can be published, and one book can provide months worth of content. Amazon, Holloway (business and tech), Rosenfeld (UX and content), and your local library are great places to source books written by your topic’s subject matter experts.

If possible, get your company to expense the cost of the books as part of your professional learning and development. Afterward, condense your learnings into a succinct guide and have the rest of your marketing or content team immerse themselves in it. If you can simplify all the complexity you’ve consumed, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to create more actionable, fluff-free content.

2. Subscribe to journals and trade magazines

There’s a journal or industry magazine for everything, and you can bet that double-blind, peer-reviewed journal sources are more trustworthy than skimming the top Google searches for content (which is what your competitors mostly do).

If you’re targeting cybersecurity professionals, for example, the Journal of Cybersecurity is a great source of topics to write about. Marketing leaders read the AMA’s Journal of Marketing, while HR leaders trust the Journal of Human Resource Management or Harvard Business Review

CIOs trust the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal, while customer service leaders might look to the Journal of Relationship Marketing for cutting-edge insights. As with books, you can expense these subscriptions to your department’s professional development budget if needed.

With magazines, you can tap into the latest trends faster than your peers to drive thought leadership. If you’re targeting business leaders, source insights into current trends and best practices from publications like The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and McKinsey’s blog. Similarly, it’d be impossible to write credibly about fashion if you weren’t subscribed to ELLE, Vogue, or Cosmopolitan magazine.

If you aren’t reading what your audience is reading, watching, or listening to, you’re missing a fundamental piece of their media diet and an opportunity to insert your brand organically into those sources.

3. Speak to subject matter experts – ideally within your own company

If you sell a tool for sales reps, talk to your own sales reps to get their thoughts on challenges they face and solutions they wish they had. This is much easier if you work in a fairly mature company with a decent workforce.

If you don’t have any SMEs internally, reach out to external experts on LinkedIn, Twitter, or via email. Of course, your pitch needs to be relevant to their skills, and consider what small token of appreciation you can give them in return. They are, after all, sacrificing their time to give you their hard-won expertise for free.

4. Dogfood your own product

Using your product every day gives you a feel for where you can improve its display, usability, or information architecture. You’ll quickly learn which user guides to create, which features and benefits to highlight in blog posts, and which selling points to include in your sales decks.

It also makes it easier to create highly tactical guides on how to use your product, how to troubleshoot bottlenecks, and hidden hacks or easter eggs that customers can leverage. You should know your own product inside out to prevent competitors from creating comparison guides or counterpoints that sway customers away from you.

5. Join online communities and conversations

Just as there’s a book, journal, or magazine on every topic under the sun, there is an online community for every topic you can think of. From Reddit communities for entrepreneurs to Slack groups for product managers, you can tap into these currents of conversation and community sentiment.

Slofile is a great starting point for finding publicly accessible Slack groups. Quora, Reddit, and StackOverflow have dedicated communities for different topics, too. Finally, Facebook Groups and Twitter communities (a new feature) can help you meet your ideal customer personas all in one place. 

5 ways marketing leaders can drive immersion in their teams

If you’re a marketing director, VP, or CMO, you can vastly improve your team’s content and marketing effectiveness by driving immersion from the top. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Buy books and journal subscriptions on your industry’s topic. Make these books available on your company’s shared drive, or set up a small library in the office. Ensure everyone on the team has access to necessary journal logins, and buy multiple subscription seats if necessary.
  2. Set aside a learning and professional development budget for every new hire on your team (or for the whole company, if you can afford it). This money goes towards books, courses, conference tickets, or any other source of continuous learning. $500-$1,000/yr per employee is a good benchmark – adjust this figure up or down as needed.
  3. Designate no-meeting days during the week. It’s hard enough for your team to focus if they’re constantly being distracted by meetings. Incessant meetings make it doubly harder to make time for learning.
  4. Sign everyone up for LinkedIn Learning. Not only does this allow them to learn natively on the platform and showcase skill badges, but LinkedIn is also a great way to network and drive more traffic and brand awareness about your product, leading to more sales.
  5. Encourage your team to share learnings regularly. Instill a culture of shared knowledge as much as you can – and rally everyone around documenting their knowledge. Refine Labs, a demand generation agency, does this well – every team member regularly shares nuggets to social media, fully supported and reshared by the whole team. At FreeAgent CRM, we have a dedicated content channel in Slack where team members can share their latest musings and get early traction on social. At other companies I’ve worked for, management set aside time each Friday for someone on the team to teach everyone else something new. In the age of remote working, you can dedicate one of your weekly or daily standups to these employee-led sessions.

Immerse yourself in your product or service

These five things — reading books on your topic, subscribing to journals and trade magazines, speaking to subject matter experts, dogfooding your own product, and joining online communities and conversations — will invariably make you better at telling your story and selling your product.

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