Tag Archives: white papers

Meet me at LegalTech?

I’ll be browsing the exhibits at the ALM LegalTech conference in New York next week, if you care to meet up.

I’ve been around the Legal Technology market for quite a while, taking on writing projects for the attorney, corporate counsel and legal technologist audiences.


I’ve done numerous legal-focused projects including:

  • Media relations counsel for Litéra, a vendor of document change management software chiefly to law firms;
  • Case studies and white papers for the Information Governance Initiative, a consortium of tool vendors in the Records Management, eDiscovery and related areas – I’ve written white papers for Active Navigation, Equivio and Nuix;
  • A customer story for Anaqua, a patent law case management tool vendor;
  • Contributions to the corporate blog for Bridgeway Software, a matter management vendor;
  • Contributions to the blog of Robert Half Legal, a leading recruiting firm for law firms and corporate law departments.

Before launching Peter Dorfman Creative Services, I was Principal Knowledge Manager, globally, for the Office of the General Counsel at Hewlett Packard for three years. I managed the Legal intranet for a department of 1,200 operating in 77 countries, and led communications and collaboration projects for the Litigation, Intellectual Property and IP Licensing, Mergers and Acquisitions, Ethics/Compliance/Privacy, Contracts and Commercial Law, Antitrust and Competition Law and other disciplines. I had a key role in the department’s Legal Process Outsourcing effort as well.

If you want to get together in New York, or if you just want to talk about how I might be able to help your content marketing program succeed, contact me directly.

Leave a comment

Filed under content marketing

Convergence: One Year’s Meme

Peter Dorfman Creative Solutions celebrated its first birthday on December 1. It’s a good time to stop and reflect on what I’ve learned from a year as a freelance content creator.

I leverage not only my original training as a journalist but three decades of experience in marketing, implementing and writing about technology. So it’s hardly surprising that most of my content marketing initiatives have been technology-related. It is intriguing, however, to see the way disparate projects with disconnected clients tie back to a common idea, as though companies operating in distinct market segments all are inspired by the same dominant meme.

conferenceIf that’s the case, this year’s meme has been the erosion of the wall between the world of corporate Chief Information Officers and the businesses they serve. The distinction between the rationale for the business and the IT assets that enable the company to execute that strategy is disappearing, as markets, marketing channels and the products sold through those channels all become increasingly digitalized.

“It’s impossible to live in this society and not be inundated with technology,” Barry Libenson, CIO of the West Coast grocery retail chain Safeway, told me in an interview. “That’s the reality, even for a large brick-and-mortar operation like ours.”

A Seat at the Table

I spoke to Libenson in connection with an article for the magazine SupportWorld, published by the customer support professional organization HDI (“Come Together: Business and IT Executives See Their Roads Converging,”November/December 2014). He was describing the preoccupation with the digitalization of virtually every important business process. People of a certain age remember when enterprises could be run by executives who never touched computer keyboards and had admins filter and print out their emails. Such a thing is inconceivable now. For a CIO like Libenson, the result has been that he now has a seat at the table where business strategy is developed, and technology is no longer just an enabling tool but is a core part of that strategy.

My background in IT Service Management (ITIL) and my nodding acquaintance with the software development discipline have led to a series of content projects related to this convergence recently: White papers and two eBooks focused on Agile or Lean development strategies intended speed up the process by which pragmatic business challenges are translated to enterprise software.

Developers have argued for decades that the traditional process by which software is designed, built, tested and deployed is too slow and too disconnected from the needs of the business to be practical. Now, agile development methods by which software is rolled out in small, rapidly developed increments are ubiquitous. It would be unthinkable to develop new mobile apps by anything other than agile methodologies with constant feedback from the business. This is not a fad; it’s simply that these software tools are essential competitive weapons, and that change in competitive markets is so rapid today that there is no way conventional development methods could keep up.

More to the point, however, it is no longer feasible for the business to call a meeting with IT, draw up a set of requirements, and tell the developers to come back in six months with a finished application, expecting it to reflect an understanding of the original business problem. The new reality is that Marketing, Finance, Operations and other business functions must adopt technology developers as trusted partners, invest in bringing the techies up to speed on what the business actually does for a living, and allocate business people’s time to development projects as fully involved product “owners.”

Esoteric But Practical Concerns

Business people also must develop an appreciation for some seemingly esoteric factors that can impact the timing – indeed, the feasibility – of critical development projects. A series of writing projects for Nlyte Software provided an object lesson with respect to the data centers that serve the infrastructure needs of enterprises.

The data center is a huge black box to most line of business executives. They think of it as a remote installation stuffed with expensive hardware that houses their applications. Beyond that, the executives rarely give the data center a thought until some capacity issue becomes a reason why they can’t have some IT enhancement, or can’t get it in the current fiscal quarter. Nlyte markets software that provides advance warning when data center resource issues have the potential to become bottlenecks for business system enhancements.

While IT people are the immediate consumers of the data Nlyte’s tools produce, business people need to develop an appreciation for processes like Configuration Management and Change Management, so that they at least know enough to anticipate that issues like data center capacity could get in the way of a critical business initiative.

The convergence of the business and technology currents in enterprises is a halting, imperfect process. But it is irreversible and it is not just driven by millennials – it is captivating executives at the peak of their experience and their command of enterprise strategy. It seems likely to be an important continuing theme in 2015 content projects.

Is mission convergence a theme behind the products or services you sell into enterprises? Contact Peter Dorfman for help articulating that point to technical and business audiences.

Leave a comment

Filed under content marketing, IT Service Management

White Papers aren’t quite dead yet

I got involved, a couple of weeks ago, with some fellow social media/content marketing geeks in a LinkedIn thread about marketing white papers. It started with the hypothesis that white papers are losing their cachet and being replaced in the marketer’s bag of tricks by infographics and video. It was a silly supposition that got shouted down unanimously, and it got me thinking about all the times I’ve heard that blogging was dying out.

Why are content marketing folks so fond of issuing death certificates?

white_paperWhite papers are in no danger of extinction, although I concur in a general way with the suggestion that long-form communication is in decline. White paper authoring accounts for a significant chunk of my business, and I haven’t seen any slackening of demand for these essential tools.

At certain key points in your sales cycle, you’ll get past the stakeholders who are only interested in bulleted summaries, and will find yourself addressing the players who need to know the details. These rarely are the first people you encounter in sales process. They typically are people with functional or budget responsibility — people who can say no.

They’re the ones who have the incentive, and the patience, to read the long-form explanation of your value proposition. It’s been my experience that these people tend to be unimpressed with video as a medium, unless it’s crucial to see the product in action, and they tend to feel infographics gloss over important specifics.

Effective marketing organizations understand the process the prospect will go through in deciding to contract with them, hire them or buy their stuff – what is popularly known these days as the customer’s “journey.” Along the way, just about any buyer is going to have questions that can’t be answered by a glib PowerPoint slide. The trick to making effect use of white papers is to anticipate those specific questions, who is likely to ask them and at what point in the cycle the issue is going to arise.

If your analysis of the customer journey tells you there are five such moments, that’s a signal that you need five distinct white papers. Your target may be a business audience or a technical audience, and business and technical white papers may require distinct editorial approaches. It also is possible that a given adoption issue that you must address to close the deal may have both business and technical aspects that need to be addressed.

The white paper’s job is to answer the question or objection, in a way that establishes credibility, either for your company or for a specific author, as an authoritative expert on that specific issue.

If the document addresses a technical question, it may be appropriate to associate the white paper with a named author, such as your Chief Technical Officer, the inventor of your offering, or an unaffiliated third party such as a widely known industry analyst. (Needless to say, there are costs associated with commissioning white papers from outside pundits, but your judgment may be that the borrowed prestige of the expert justifies that expense.)

For each white paper in your kit, focus on:

  • What your audience needs to learn, and
  • What you need to persuade them to do. A “call to action” is a conventional feature at the end of a white paper.

I have mixed feelings about overt selling in white papers. There’s a conventional wisdom that you shouldn’t – that a white paper is supposed to be above the sales process. If you plan to place the piece with a white paper syndicator or publish it on a third party web site, this makes a degree of sense. But there will be exceptions – if your offering is genuinely unique (I have seen such things), there’s not much point in pretending that you’re referencing/explaining a generic class of offerings. In any event, coyness about the role of the white paper can be overdone. The reader who matters to you is a stakeholder in an organization that is a prospect for your offering. He or she understands that if a document carries your branding, it’s a selling document. There’s no use kidding anyone about this.

The white paper is something you provide either early on, to arm your prospect to sell up through his or her organization, or later when introduced to the potential champion (or a potential naysayer). You need one to address each element of your messaging that is likely to start an in-depth conversation.

When you present a white paper, you’re asking a lot of your audience (a lot of attention, and a lot of time). Introduce the document in the right context, when they’re engaged in the decision process and ready to make that investment. The more you know about your sales cycle, the better you can target the white paper, in both content and delivery.

Leave a comment

Filed under content marketing

Knowledge Management and steamed milk

I’ve been involved, in one way or another, in the esoteric science of Knowledge Management for more than 20 years. I’ve lived through KM’s many ups and downs, and I’m happy to admit that it’s never been an easy sell. A lot of people aren’t sure what KM is, much less why they need it. (If this happens to be an issue for you, drop me an email and I’ll give you my take on a definition for it.)

Suffice it to say it’s a complex business process, and adopting KM is more than a matter of buying a piece of technology, slamming it in and expecting it to solve a problem for you. This is true of a lot of business processes for which there are associated classes of software solutions. Each of these is a discipline involving an array of process, cultural and other pragmatic issues that have to be resolved in order fSteamed Milkor the technology you buy to have any measurable utility.

In fact, this is true of just about any product, isn’t it? Even milk – how many variations on milk are there in the supermarket’s refrigerator case? Heavy cream, light cream, half & half, whole milk, 2%, 1%, skim – each of these is a lifestyle choice, and I’m leaving out the whole issue of organic milk (versus…whatever we now call the alternative to organic), to say nothing of rice or soy derived synthetics.

It’s now a matter of expert opinion, what milk is. Your milk purchase is now the punchline in a lengthy shaggy dog story.

Lately, combining two disparate business preoccupations of mine, I’ve been talking to vendors of enterprise software, including KM tools, about their Content Marketing objectives. The gist of Content Marketing is that any brand, technology-intensive or not, is really a complex story, in which the buyer engages with the seller and assumes a part in the play. This is as true for SharePoint as it is for milk. The milk story might involve an elaborate daily ritual in which the buyer whips up a fresh cup of latte. The SharePoint story, analogously, could involve a team of attorneys collaborating on the drafting of commercial leases.

As a seller, your goal is to differentiate your brand and establish yourself as a source of good information – content – that gives the buyer the confidence that you can ensure that the story has a happy ending, whether it’s a perfect latte or a tightly crafted lease, every time.

Over a couple of decades in the knowledge management game, I’ve evolved a brief litany that I recite to give consulting clients a sense of what decisions are involved in addition to selecting and buying software – in fact, typically well before software adoption becomes an issue. Here it is:

Process – People – Content – Tools

At first, this may seem irrelevant to your business, especially if you’re not in the knowledge management field. But it occurs to me that this little bit of doggerel applies to many kinds of technology adoptions. I deliberately drop the product itself to the end of the list, because the non-technical issues have to be confronted to establish a context in which the buyer can successfully adopt the product. That’s a model that fits a wide array of technologies, even beyond IT.

  • Process – The technology buyer is paying attention because he has a business process he suspects would be more effective if a technology like yours were incorporated in it. But what process is it? Is your product really a fit for that application?
  • People – Business processes don’t run themselves. Making any new process or any significant change to an existing process a success will require some degree of organizational culture change. Is the buyer’s team prepared to make that change?
  • Content – Most technology adoption in organizations is concerned with data or information – capturing it, making sense of it, sharing it, and putting it to work. If the adopting organization is producing the wrong information, or presenting information in an impractical form, then no technology, yours or your competitor’s, is going to provide an effective outcome.
  • Tools – Once you understand the buyer’s process, people and content constraints, is your technology the right fit? Can it be shoehorned into place even if it isn’t a perfect fit? If all the stars are aligned, that’s the time to talk technology options.

PPCTThis model has served as an effective way to help clients approach complex technology adoption projects with an appropriately broad perspective. But a new use for my little mnemonic suggests itself: As an organizing principle for a technology vendor’s Content Marketing program.

If you market a software tool – in KM, for example – you already are accustomed to a long sales cycle, as prospects work toward satisfying themselves that your tool is more likely to get them to a successful outcome than your competitors’ tools. If you accept my premise that a successful outcome requires more than a rich feature set, a friendly user experience or a low price, then here’s another proposition: Your marketing objective should be to convince the buyer that you are the authoritative source on the Process, People and Content issues that create the context for successful use of the tool.

Each of these objectives could be met in different ways. It may be that the most effective way to prepare the end users for the change to come is to involve them in a sponsored community of users from other organizations that have come through the experience satisfied and still gainfully employed.

To educate the buyer on process issues, it may make sense to produce a branded White Paper, walking the buyer through a process-oriented roadmap for adopting the business process in which your tool will be used (as opposed to the tool itself).

As for content, think about creating a set of generic templates for the kinds of documents or files you anticipate will be stored in your platform, and offer them through your web site. Think beyond your own tool, and design them for general utility in the business process you support.

If you’re still with me, then your plan should be to fill out your library of marketing content with materials that establish your credibility as a source of expertise on the processes in which your technology is applied; on the methodology for taking the adopting team through the culture change that is required for success; and on the design and delivery of world class content for these applications.

Leave a comment

Filed under content marketing, knowledge management