By Tim Ludwig
Successfully selling deliverability means speaking the language of whomever you’re selling to.
Within the technical communication bubble, tech comm speak is a natural, professional language. Once outside of your department, tech comm speak causes translation issues. Consider the times you’ve lamented that your department is overlooked when pitching new ideas or implementing changes—tech comm speak is likely at the root of it, again. A term that most technical writers use and understand might mean something drastically different to those you are communicating with.
Take deliverability, for example. In the technical communication field, deliverability is a capability that allows an organization to distribute content across multiple channels—a requirement in today’s business world. In marketing, deliverability is the ability to push messages into the individual email inboxes of those the company is targeting with its promotional campaigns.
Technical communication teams have various levels of deliverability maturity. Some organizations build basic content deliverability capabilities (think single-source, multichannel publishing). More mature teams attempt to extend deliverability across all distribution channels—an omnichannel content delivery approach. Deliverability can change per audience.
The catch is that those responsible for approving changes in your organization often are not part of the technical communication literati. It’s your job to translate tech comm speak into something meaningful for stakeholders who don’t speak your language.
Start by answering the question they’re all thinking: “What’s in it for me?”
It would be best if you answered that question with real, honest-to-goodness, tangible functionalities with capabilities. What outcome can your suggestion result in that will provide stakeholders with a clear path to a win that they understand?
The Function of Deliverability
Before you march into a meeting with your organization’s upper management, you should prep your script.
Don’t improvise. Prepare a clear message. You might know what deliverability means to you and your team, but you have to shape those words into something that someone who is not a technical communicator can grasp.
Start with the function of deliverability. What is deliverability capable of providing to the organization?
It’s easy to blur the lines between delivery, deliverables, and deliverability, so start by separating them into simple categories as they relate to information development:
- Delivery is the process of publishing content to various channels and serving it to those who need it; it’s the where of your content.
- Deliverables are the content itself (e.g., physical copies, electronic); they are the what of your content.
- Deliverability is the processes of content creation that streamline both delivery and deliverables; it is the how of your content.
Consider using this level of specificity. Otherwise, your audience may misunderstand what you are attempting to communicate. Do an excellent job of explaining the differences, and you will avoid confusing your audience.
Once you’ve defined deliverability as the how of your content, it’s time to put on your sales hat.
Convincing Stakeholders to Care
It’s your time to shine, but on your audience’s terms and in their words.
The language you use to convince them to care must be compelling. Consider the following:
- If you want them to spend money, you have to highlight the value.
- Don’t make assumptions about their preexisting knowledge—that could become your downfall.
- Use concrete examples of value instead of conceptual benefits.
Once you’ve explained deliverability in plain language, it’s time to put together some use cases that will give your argument some weight. Deliver your points using the key performance indicators that the business values most, and connect them to the capability you’re seeking to develop.
Deliverability is only one capability required to create an information-enabled organization.
Remember, you’re not orating in the ancient Roman Forum. You’re delivering a concise pitch that needs to pack a punch. Ditch the Aristotelian diatribe you had planned for this capability, and drill down on one of the most significant value points.
You have options. Tell them about the top functional powers that this new paradigm of delivery can enable—things like automated formatting, API-ready content, rapid content updates, or maybe something they didn’t even realize was possible, like personalized content experiences at scale.
Optimizing deliverability ultimately affects both your customers and your internal personnel. Personalization of content is a value proposition and aspect of deliverability that directly influences the experiences you provide to customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders.
Let’s review a couple of business cases based on real-world situations that you might use to put a little more weight behind your argument and make a convincing case to stakeholders.
Deliverability Enhances SaaS Documentation
You’re a project management software-as-a-service (SaaS) company with frequent version releases. You have a small team that needs to stay on top of documentation updates and make sure that new documentation is always available and outdated documentation isn’t.
Personalization and Deliverability Capabilities
- Use multichannel publishing, making sure content in all of your deliverables is updated consistently, immediately.
- Filter content by audience segment and characteristics to ensure the right people are getting the right content.
- Use variable content to update standard components that you repurpose across information products (deliverables) in seconds.
Benefits for Your Organization and How to Sell Them
The sales team can generate information faster for individual prospects. They can use content filters to match buyer personas and have the ammunition they need to tap each audience they’re hoping to influence.
Product teams don’t need to wait for documentation to be complete to release the product.
Documentation teams can take the lead, giving extra prerelease prep time to marketing and sales.
Deliverability Enhances Hardware Documentation
You’re a medical device manufacturer with a product that doesn’t see many updates. While the product remains relatively stable and doesn’t change much over time, it’s a complex product with customer support as a significant cost center. The support staff and the documentation team exist in silos; the technical communication team focuses on compliance, while support concentrates on customer service.
Personalization and Deliverability Capabilities
- Provide your organization with a single source of truth from which to deliver content.
- Improve content review cycles, and provide defensible audit trails that address compliance regulations.
- Automate content publishing everywhere, and break down silos between departments (like documentation and customer support), which is incredibly time-saving for large user guides full of regulatory jargon.
Benefits for Your Organization and How to Sell Them
Audits are a pain, but they happen in our industry, and they’re necessary (you can lean into this pain point, noting how annoying audits are to management). According to a 2021 industry benchmark from Greenlight Guru, three out of four medical device professionals reported that they weren’t confident that they would pass an unannounced audit by the US Food and Drug Administration or (in the European Union) Notified Bodies.
E-signatures and review cycles all but eliminate audit anxiety and enable moving away from an overfocus on risk reduction in your documentation to using your content to empower sales, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the customer self-support and self-service experience.
Optimizing your content delivery system allows you to deliver content to multiple channels (websites, user manuals, online and in-product help, knowledge centers, chatbots, voice assistants) at the same time. Prospects, customers, internal support teams, and compliance auditors will all benefit.
Your sales team will view your newfound content deliverability prowess as a competitive differentiator: “Our documentation is better than theirs, and we have happy customers to back it up.”
These are just a few examples of how you might translate technical communication capabilities into business uses. To ensure leadership understands why they should approve a change in how you create, manage, and deliver content, focus on selling the value of the capabilities those changes provide and how they will transform the organization.
Now It’s Time to Deliver
A quote from STC Fellow and content strategy maven Ann Rockley applies perfectly to this problem: “You’re always going to sell a business case to management on the capabilities they can gain.”
Leaders invest in capabilities that deliver measurable results. While product features and their benefits are essential to understand, leaders are intensely focused on results.
Take yourself outside the technical communication echo chamber, and make the change valuable for the stakeholders you’re hoping to sway. Reconfigure deliverability to express its value outside of your department, then lean in to functionality that leads to those value points. Make the potential benefits of adding a new capability straightforward and easy to understand.
Sure, it’s easier said than done. When the time comes to purvey what deliverability can do in language that will sway stakeholders, this is an excellent place to start.
TIM LUDWIG (email@example.com) attempts—with middling success—to use language to break complex things into simpler things. He’s found that the technical communication world is the perfect place to do this. Tying language and our rapidly evolving technological landscape together, he relishes the daily challenges and learning. He practices this as a copywriter for Jorsek Inc., makers of easyDITA.
Greenlight Guru. 2021. “State of Medical Device Quality Management and Product Development Report.” Accessed 21 January 2021. https://www.greenlight.guru/state-of-medical-device.
Ludwig, Tim. “Selling to Your Superiors: Convincing Management to Adopt DITA.” 7 February 2020. https://easydita.com/convincing-management-to-adopt-dita/.