Randy is committed to providing persuasion artistry for B2B software and IT marketing communications. As a software engineer and marketing technical writer, his 30 years experience includesMotorola, Allstate, Discover Card and United Airlines.
His expertise is expansive and today he talks about how to outsource important writing projects and maintain the integrity in your company's story.
Alzay Calhoun: Hey, everybody, it's Alzay Calhoun with Coveted Consultant. Today, I'm here with Randy Kemp. I've got him on our podcast today because he has a wealth of experience actually doing the heavy lifting, doing the writing, doing the content writing for technical companies and technical services.
He's got 30 years in software environments. He's worked with Motorola, Allstate, Discover Card, United Airlines, a lot of larger companies with complex offerings and complex sales. We want to figure out how we use content marketing in those kinds of environments, how we use storytelling in those kind of environments.
Before we get started, formally, let me welcome him on the line. Hello, Randy, how are you today?
Randy Kemp: I'm fine, and yourself, Alzay?
Alzay: I'm doing good. Let's start with...Tell us a story when you understood that content marketing was valuable, that content marketing was important.
Randy: I understood the story when I saw a lot of other people who were very successful were giving away a lot of information free of charge. By giving away information on things that people could use, they were actually getting more followers on Twitter, more people coming to their website.
I said, "They must be doing something right. Why are they giving away this stuff free?" But all of a sudden many people are coming to visit them, and they can see what they have to offer, so there must be something real to their approaches. It's just a matter of doing the math.
Alzay: Who were some of those companies? Which companies were some of the ones that you saw having success?
Randy: Social Media Examiner, for example. The person who started that was very...I can't think of his name at the moment, but he was very active in writing white papers, before white papers were popular with anyone in the social media marketing. He has a lot of very good articles.
Another one is HubSpot. HubSpot is very active in info‑marketing, and they do a lot of free stuff in marketing and sales, and they give a lot of excellent articles that I urge people to read.
Then there's more that I could give. Also some folks who are into Direct Response Marketing, like Bob Bly, and some of those, are very popular, and they give a lot of stuff away free. Direct Response is a method of measuring your success, so I look at something between using B2B with a tab of Direct Response Marketing, and copywriting thrown in.
Alzay: Very good. As you think about working with clients, or as clients think about working with you, they're going to hire you to write some content for them, what are some of the things that the client needs to already have in place so that you can do good work for them?
Randy: They have to have a good idea of what they want. First of all, they must have a solid understanding, this is what they want, this is what they need.
Also, who is going to be on the team that I work for and who's going to be the one go‑between between the client team and myself, who is that person, and who will be on the team, and who will be the reviewers. What will be their input, and how could I get a hold of them.
Having that client team in place and having what it is that you actually want to achieve, what message you want to get across. Who's going to be your target audience? Who are you going to try to reach? Do you have some idea of that, or do I have to do some research on my end, for you?
Alzay: Let's say, out of 10 times, how often is it that the client does not have those things in place when you begin working with them?
Randy: For clients that I would target, typically technology companies, they pretty much have it in place. If somebody was targeting small Ma and Pa shops, they probably wouldn't have that in place, but that's not my target client audience. Most of them do have that in place or have some idea of what they want to achieve.
Alzay: Very good. Is it fair to expect you to do that research for the client or do you ask the client to do it on their own first before hiring you?
Randy: I would hope that they would do that on their own before hiring me. You would need to have some idea why do you want me or why do you want anybody, and what do you want to achieve.
If you want me to do the research for you, I can do that, but it's going to cost you. Actually, if you're a good client and you do that work up front, it makes my job a lot easier. Then I can just put the stuff in place that you really need.
Say you come across and you say, "Gee, I need a white paper." I know exactly what you want. Let's talk about the white paper, maybe some of the approaches, and I can go ahead and create that white paper draft, and bring it back to you to review.
But if you come back and say, "Gee, I need website, I need a white paper, I need some brochures, I need some content created." At that point, there's more work on my end and more work on your end, but if you say, "Gee, I need a website, this is how many pages, this is the scope." You've done your homework. It makes my life easier and makes your life easier.
Alzay: Let's talk about scope. In your writing, do you think about writing one white paper at a time or do you say, "I need to write three white papers," or "I need to write four articles," or "I need to do a website of 9 pages or 15 pages." How do you think about scope of projects?
Randy: Starting out with, "Let's do one and test it." If you don't test the results, you're not doing your job as a company and I'm not doing my job as an expert or subject SME, Subject Matter Expert. That's the kind of term we use a lot in companies like Motorola.
If we don't test the market and put the white paper out and see what the results are, why put together then, if you don't test it. Test it once, see how the approach is working. If we need to tweak the approach, we'll do that, and then we'll go on and do a second one.
Alzay: That's also a basic Direct Response fundamental, right?
Alzay: You create the thing, you test it, and then you scale. As obvious as it sounds, it's easy to skip that step because you get excited about your own product and services, you just want to roll it all at once.
Randy: Yeah, and unless you're a big company like Microsoft or Google, you probably don't want to do that.
Alzay: When you think about working with clients and choosing good clients, what are some major warning signs for you? If I see this, if I notice this, if I feel this, I'm backing out of the deal because it's not going to be a good arrangement, what are some of those things?
Randy: First of all, I look for how long the client has been in business. I also do some research on the client just as they should do some research on me. Is the client on social media? Do they have any complaints lodged against them? If they're a consumer organization, what's their rating with the Better Business Bureau?
I also have access to Hoover's, so if it's a public company, I go and see what their bottom line is, how much annual sales do they make, how many employees do they have working for them. In other words, how solid the company is.
I also look in the Internet. Does anybody complain against this company? That's easy to find. You can't hide yourself in social media now. Somebody like me needs to do as much research on the client as the client should do the same amount of research on me before they consider hiring me.
Alzay: Excellent. You've mentioned social media a couple of different times, do you do any social media services yourself?
Randy: If it's needed, but normally I focus on B2B focuses. If a client want something like a LinkedIn profile, I can help them out with it, or Twitter since I'm very successful on Twitter, I can help them with Twitter posts, and things, but normally I would focus on Twitter or LinkedIn. I stay away from Facebook because I use that more of a personal thing rather than a business approach.
Alzay: I understand. Your typical deliverables to clients are what? They're white papers, they're eBooks, tell us.
Randy: I would say white papers, eBooks, case studies, blog posts if you want blog posts, websites. I'll help you with the Twitter or a LinkedIn account, and if you need some other services beyond what I have to offer, a linked in connection‑based that I could refer clients to good people.
Alzay: Let's talk about time frame a little bit. You've got a scope, like you said, we're going to create one white paper, how long is that process to create a good white paper? If they hire you on the first of the month, typically how long does that take? Is that six months? Is that six weeks? Is that six minutes? How long does that take, generally?
Randy: Six weeks probably would be a more accurate estimate because you've got a review process to go in place. You'd come out with a draft.
First, you need an outline, and a good writer who's going to do anything of significant. A scope should produce an outline. The outline should be reviewed by the client committee, whoever that committee is.
They give their approval, they like the outline, and then I proceed with the first draft. Then we go for a couple of rounds of revisions. You like the first draft, it takes some time to go through the client committee.
The writing process, it's not that long. It won't take as long as going through the review process, but you start with the outline, then you go through a couple of revisions. It should be about six weeks, total.
Alzay: In your process...
Randy: Plus you're also working with a designer, and you've got a graphics illustrator. You have to bring them on board. Do I bring them on board, since I'm not a graphic artist? Do I have to acquire those individuals, or is the company going to do that?
Who's going to do the project management of this project? Is that going to be on the company side, client side, or is it going to be on my end?
If I have to get a designer, and if I have to get a graphics artist, and have them involved in the process, I also have to manage that project, too. That will add some extra costs and some extra time on my part.
Alzay: Very good. Correct. That actually was my next question. What other things need to be a part of the project? You said designer and illustrator, and possibly a project manager. Is there anyone or any other skill set that's also part of this process as it comes together?
Randy: On the company side, you would need someone probably from sales and marketing. You're definitely pulling a lot of information from sales and marketing.
I have to see all of the produced literature, so far, what kind of material does the sales team take with them, what kind of material is the marketing team taking with them.
Who am I going to interview as the subject matter experts on the team? For example, if you're selling a technical product, are there some engineers that I can speak with? They have a unique perspective on the product. How about the sales team? Who am I going to speak with on that? And what about the marketing side?
I want somebody on the technical side, somebody on the marketing, somebody on the sales, that I can interview. That's going to take some time. I have a set of questions which I will send them in advance, then we'll go through and try to answer those questions before we produce the outcome, after we put the outline together.
Alzay: With that six‑week time frame, and everything you just described, we now have a finished white paper, we now have some good content. Then there is the testing process. You are not involved in the testing process, because your job is to create the content.
Randy: Yeah, and it wouldn't be proper for me to be the creator and the tester. How do you know I'm not fudging the results?
Alzay: What different ways have you seen companies measure the results of that piece of content?
Randy: Most of it would be how many people are actually reading the content, requesting it. First of all, how many people go to your website and request the white paper? That's easy. That's clickable.
Then of all those people that actually are requesting the white paper, how many come back to ask for more information? Both those are measurable pieces of info.
Alzay: With that being said, you've now given us a full scope of understanding of what it means to work with a technical writer, and what to expect through that process.
Randy: I would say not technical writer, a technical marketing writer. There's a difference. A technical writer would be somebody, you create a software product and you need to explain that product to other people, other technicians, how to use the product, you're user‑based.
A marketing would be trying to explain the technology to your potential customers who are going to buy the product.
Alzay: Thank you for that clarification, because there is a difference. There is a difference. What haven't I asked? Is there anything that I should have asked, and didn't?
Randy: You mentioned content. One of the things that you didn't mention is...one of the things I have discovered is, when you started this, and I'll emphasize it again, you need to actually create content, give away tips and information that people can use.
If the reason you do that is people come back to you, and they'll say, "Well, gee, this person's so good. Their information is so good on their website, and I subscribe to their newsletter, and I get all these valuable tips. I wonder, the product must be really good. Maybe I'll try buying it, and see."
Alzay: You're very right, because the whole point is to be helpful, it's to be helpful early in the experience.
Alzay: If you're creating content that is bland and normal, it's not helpful, which makes it difficult for a prospective client to understand how you might be helpful. [laughs]
Randy: Exactly. Even something simple, like even if you're a Ma and Pa shop. Let's say you're a plumber, and you give somebody five tips to unclog a clogged toilet. That's useful to people, consumers. If they see you're giving these tips away free, who are they going to think of hiring when they have a plumbing emergency?
Alzay: Absolutely. Randy, we've done it. I wanted to use this interview as an opportunity for folks to understand if they're going to work with a technical marketing writer, what their process looks like.
You've done that for us. I want to say thank you for your time, sir. Oh, wait a minute. I forgot something important.
Alzay: If someone wants to contact you and learn more about your services, where should they go?
Randy: Go to my website, b2btechcopy.com. That's b, as in baker, two as in number, b, as in baker, T‑E‑C‑H‑C‑O‑P‑Y‑dot‑com. That's where I have my blog. I have my links to all my social media sites.
Folks can go to LinkedIn, and Twitter, and check me out, and see that I'm active there. I've got a lot of referrals, a lot of other people giving me top ratings on skill sets.
Do an investigation. Also read through some of the articles. We have a lot of articles by me, and by other guest bloggers. I think folks will enjoy it.
Alzay: Very good. That was the last thing. Now we've done it. Now I know we have everything that we need. Randy, thanks again for your time, and good luck in the future, sir.
Randy: OK. Thank you, Alzay. I appreciate it.