How to Market my Writing Course
March 12, 2007 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Marketing Question: Suggestions needed about how I get my User Document writing course (for non-writers) in front of my target market.

Marketing Question: I have created a course that guides the student through the creation of a great User Document (manual, instruction sheet, etc). The course focuses on creating great content and producing excellent access to that content. The course is not linked to any technology, and it effective regardless of product, ot publication method.

Primary Market: Non-writer employees who get assigned to write User Documents for a product the company creates or distributes. These people may be technical or support staff. The decision makers would be these new writers or their supervisors.

Secondary Market: Experienced technical writers who want to improve the User Documents that they create or their method of producing User Documents.

Competition: General technical writing courses and books, neither of which focus on User Documents. Books on writing User Documents are very superficial. They provide little guidance in setting up a method for writing, actually doing the writing, and reviewing the User Document.

My Current Marketing:
1. Website (http://www.greatuserdocs.com) that is registered with about 50 directories. No sales, although I have had about 15 people sign up for my ezine.
2. I write articles (http://www.greatuserdocs.com/ReadingRoom.htm) for ezine distribution. I have about 10 articles "published" in about 17 ezine article directories (including isnare, ezinearticles, and writing-planet)

I used to be a member of the Society for Technical Communications, but they comprise my secondary, and much more difficult to penetrate, market.

I have been at this marketing stage about five months.

Budget: about $5000 (reluctantly, if necessary)

My Need: I need suggestions about how I get my existence and information in front of my target market.

Thanks, I appreciate any help I can get.
posted by mbarryf to Writing & Language (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I work in technology marketing -- not implying that makes me an expert but just that I've got at least some relevant experience.

I think your website looks fine for what you are trying to do*, and you are clearly following the rules in pushing your content as bait to the right sources.

I'd recommend some or any of the following:

- Refine your target market. With only $5K (right now!) to reach out, you need to be focusing on certain sectors, not just "everyone who ever needed to write a user doc." Think about focusing on just small businesses... or a certain segment within a particular tech industry, ideally one that is very tightly networked so word of your product will likely spread... or identifying an industry that is likely to need user docs but less likely to have the human resources already available, maybe by assessing education levels within the industry (which will usually correlate to how much technology staff they already have)...

- Work on your search engine optimization: if your primary targets are non-writers, and they are told to cast out on their own, they are going straight to Google. When I search user documents, your placement is good... but not when I search user documents + tutorial or user documents + how to. (In my experience, it does make a difference these days; people are becoming savvier searchers, and they know that just asking the Internet for "user docs" will return actual docs, and not so much how to make said docs.)

- Google AdSense: when I search "user document(s)" I returned zero ads (which is so shocking to me that I figure it's because I'm travelling abroad at the moment? Maybe the ads aren't shown the same internationally?). If it's truly zero, you should start running AdSense text ads posthaste.

Or, look into what the rates are right now. For what you need, which is to reach a sort of a B-2-B / B-2-C hybrid, I think you'd get a valuable click-through return if your copy is optimized.

- Brainstorm on how to reach the supervisors. If I'm a cube farmer who gets handed an assignment to write some user docs, I don't know that my first inclination will be to ask my boss for money to take an online course. Yet, the boss herself might quickly see the multiple values in spending $X00 to train Joe Cubefarmer, especially since she's saving on not outsourcing the docs themselves.

In that case, your value proposition has changed from "This will help you write better docs, you non-writer types," to "This will help your employees make docs better, faster, cheaper."

A one-page PDF "course fact sheet" would be a good feature to have on your site to support this, something that Joe could print out and hand to his boss... and maybe a "Email This to Somebody" form, with the standard auto-population of links and a short text blurb on the course.

You could also find channels to reach middle management populations, and push your articles directed to supervisors. This article alone is great reading for any small business owner who might have need of your service. Polish it up into an excellent white paper and then push it for free, anywhere you can. Release the content into the world and encourage people to share it; let people think you're giving the milk away for free.

- I think you should elaborate more on how long the course takes. Your website answers, "As long as it takes to create your doc!" ...which, while fair, doesn't give me the numbers I need to make a purchasing decision. Then you also say "five days" -- which sounds really long if I'm Joe Cubefarmer, or his boss.

Is that five days at eight hours per day? If so, you better be offering some kind of continuing education credit... because when you factor in the week's wages a supervisor is spending to put his guy through your course, it might seem more cost-effective to outsource, at that point.

- Website stuff: you could stand some overall design polishing. The site doesn't use any visual or graphic elements to help a reader distinguish the most valuable information from the rest of it. And this page, which demonstrates how meaty and useful your course is, is difficult to read and process. (At first I thought I was actually looking at the whole course, right there for free!)

And you really need to optimize your content. You have great content but you're squandering its punch.

Examples:
- On the front page, your most compelling copy is below the fold. Find a way to get your article headlines up top somewhere -- maybe on the right, with a little text chunk that randomly pulls a headline and a matching quote.

- Dump those article overviews altogether: that's dry boring stuff. Sex your teasers up with alluring quotes pulled from the article itself, and make people click through to the real content.

In fact, I'd trim all that stuff off the front page -- give your two series their own pages, and list all the headlines on top and then have those deep link to the actual piece.

- Find conferences you can speak at. Look for management development events near you where you can get on the program; most conference planners are desperate for compelling new speakers and would happily give you a free pulpit and a full house, along with a rubbery chicken lunch and a goodie bag. Then, put together a tight presentation with good materials. Give attendees a URL where they can download your slides and handouts for free when they get back to the office.

In other words, position yourself as an expert in "technical writing for non-technical writers."

Finally, be sure to check out www.MarketingSherpa.com. They are constantly a helpful resource for me, on everything from website campaigns to best practices in white papers, loads of great material and very well-researched and up-to-date.

Best of luck!
posted by pineapple at 1:28 PM on March 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


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