OUR THINKING/ARTICLE

Tech’s appeal: What does a tech audience really want to hear?

In May, our CEO Rob Mitchell went to Madrid to present our latest research at the Digital Enterprise Show (DES). Being at DES, he was surrounded by a huge tech audience hungry to hear the latest trends from the tech industry.

Given that sort of demand, you would be forgiven for thinking that crafting content for this audience must be relatively straightforward. In our experience working with a number of global clients, however, tech thought leadership is rarely as effective as it could be.

In past articles, we have highlighted where producers of tech-focused content thrive and provided our tips on producing content for the industry, but our Learning from Leaders research goes further. The research provides vital insight into how this audience interacts with thought leadership – an understanding that’s crucial to creating thought leadership that hits its mark.

For the purposes of this article, we have split the tech audience into two categories: the Actors and the Directors. The defining difference between the two is seniority, with the Directors occupying C-suite roles, and the Actors occupying more junior positions. How do these groups consume content? Are they consuming it differently? What will catch their eye, and what are they tired of?

The Actors: Micro-detail, told well

The Actors are the geeks. They want to dive into specifics and scrape as much actionable knowledge about their specialties as they can. Some may occupy managerial positions, but they are still focused on the detail.

They love technology, and are much more likely to read about topics specific to tech than those in more senior positions. But our Actors also crave content on business operations, such as the supply chain and HR – more than twice as much as their C-suite colleagues.

This group wants to see content on specific business practices, so for the Actors, case studies are king. They are going to brands for content that provides actionable insights and solutions to the problems they face at work every day, and real-world examples are vital for conveying this.

Our research not only tells us about what they consume, but also about how it’s delivered. For our Actors, storytelling is key, but only 4% say they always get a clear and compelling storyline from thought leadership – and nearly two-thirds value this as one of their top two priorities. Yes, they need the topics that relate closely to their everyday work, and that often lends itself to content jam-packed with action points and key takeaways. But that doesn’t have to mean the storytelling is secondary, and content producers neglect it at their peril – whoever their audience is.

Pro tip: Spell out what your insights mean in practice and on the ground. This audience wants to hear practical advice and real-world accounts, so case studies will hit the spot.

The Directors: Heavyweight issues, fresh insights

The Directors are the leaders. They are often integral parts of the C-suite, and are therefore key players in the decision-making process across functions. The good news for marketers is that 90% of this group say that great thought leadership can positively affect that process.

The key difference is the areas of focus. While the Actors are deep-diving into process, the Directors are absorbing broader knowledge relating to business strategy and environment. Within tech topics (which, on the whole, don’t come out on top in our latest survey of favoured themes), their focus is on AI and machine learning: often, they need to keep abreast of current big trends and the latest buzz in order to talk with authority at high-profile speaking opportunities. Five years ago, the big trend was digital transformation; today, it’s AI.

They may be focusing on seemingly ubiquitous topics such as AI and machine learning, but the Directors are highly discerning. Their tolerance level for overcovered topics is low, and half consider ‘over-coverage’ as a key failure of thought leadership – compared with just 28% of the Actors. So don’t be afraid to tackle the high-profile issues, but make sure your insights are unique.

And finally, the formats. We find that the C-suite across industries still values the traditional long-form report, and tech is no different: 37% say they prefer longer copy, while only one in five of their less senior colleagues feel the same.

But remember, the Directors are still voracious consumers and are spreading their limited time across more and more content, so make yours memorable and easy to digest. Long-form copy doesn’t have to mean endless reams of impenetrable text – make your content browsable by signposting the most important nuggets of information, or risk losing these valuable, time-poor readers before they get to your insights.

Pro tip: Go big, but make it easy for them. Pull-out statistics, punchy sub-headings and knockout data visualisation will give a big, long-form report more impact, and make a big topic more digestible.

Earlier this year, we interviewed a number of ‘Directors’ to find out how they like to consume content – watch the full video here:

Know your audience

Don’t get us wrong – we know that splitting the diverse tech audience into just two broad categories could be accused of oversimplification. But audience segmentation is a valuable tool in the content producer’s arsenal, and it’s best to start simple. Separating your audience into two broad groups can be a useful stepping-stone to more complex separation.

So next time you’re writing thought leadership for a tech audience, first work out who they are. If you are targeting Directors, then appeal to them with a broad topic in one format that they’re able to quickly scan for high-profile, interesting insights without having to jump from place to place. Of course, this group is a highly desirable target, but that doesn’t mean that the Actors should be ignored – after all, they are the C-suite of the future: 68% are under 45 years of age. Give them the detail and actionable insights they want, written into a compelling narrative that holds their interest and your content is sure to resonate.

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