Survey Breakdown: 33% of Writers Can’t Report Their Own Value – Here’s How to Start

The first attention-grabbing result of our survey showed us that company decision-makers and technical communicators have different priorities when it comes to content.

Companies view revenue growth as the top priority for content, but technical communicators view revenue growth as their last priority.

That may seem pretty obvious, but this symptom of company and departmental misalignment can have messy organizational repercussions. And while it doesn’t take the deftest critical analyst to know that stakeholders and technical communicators have different priorities for content, it remains a rift that needs attention.

This misalignment further magnified a common problem among technical communicators — 33% of respondents to the survey couldn’t report their own value. Basically, they don’t know how to connect revenue generation to technical documentation.

That’s a pretty big issue. Because if technical writers can’t define why their department is worth the money, they’ll have a hard time convincing stakeholders of, well, anything.

Fortunately, we’re not just here to show you the problem. Let’s look at some ways to fix it.

Mapping Value — Put Your Money Where Your Content Is

We’re talking to you, technical communicators. It’s your job to create content, but it’s also your job to identify why your content is worth creating.

And by a panel of your peers, the number one way to do that is by connecting it to revenue. What revenue-generating activities can you connect to your content? What returns are influenced by your technical documentation?

Sounds theoretically simple from our blogpost soapbox, but actually doing it requires some dirty work that might draw the ire of technical communicators. It requires a few pages from the mind of a marketer.

No, Marketing Isn’t Commandeering Your Docs

We aren’t asking technical communicators to let marketing influence your content. We’re not asking you to alter your content at all. What we’re asking is that you think of how your technical documentation can influence readers to become customers. How can your documentation bring in revenue?

To start, why not think of a list of revenue-generating activities? This might differ per organization and certainly requires some brainstorming, but we’ll start with three generic ones that have broad applications.

    • Lead Generation — how many leads come in through your technical documentation?
    • Deal Win Rates — how many of those leads become actual customers?
    • Product Upselling — how many current customers expand their current purchase after reading your documentation?

Again, conceptually it doesn’t sound so bad. Still, you need to suss out how exactly you’d measure and track these numbers. Then, over time, you’d need to compile longitudinal data to report on influence trends. Only then can you truly map the value of your technical content.

Our own company has some lead generation data from our documentation site. We found that 30% of our website leads had gone to our documentation site prior to filling out a contact form. Pretty cool, but there’s a knowledge gap because we don’t know how many of those leads became customers. The same gap applies to product upsells, too.

We track the domain and subdomain in one of our Google Analytics properties and set up a custom segment using the Advanced > Sequences rules. Then we set our filter to track anyone who lands on any page of our documentation site and fills our main site lead form within a 30-day conversion window.

Here’s an Example of How We Did It

Survey Breakdown: 33% of Writers Can’t Report Their Own Value – Here’s How to Start

Note: In Google Analytics there’s a 93 day limit on how far back you can view the data. You can work around this by using Google Data Studio connected to your analytics account. There are many tutorials on how to connect the accounts.

The point is, drilling down into this data is very possible. You just have to keep seeking the answers (and so do we).

Once you tap into the numbers, you’ll be able to paint a clear picture of the value of the content you create. This will demand attention from stakeholders, show insight into the tangible value of technical communication, and inform new ways to increase the value of technical content down the road.

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