How to become an overnight expert on pretty much anything

When B2B copywriters need to get to grips with a new topic, they have a few tricks up their sleeve. Here are four ways to get just enough expertise – fast.

How to become an overnight expert - a quick guide.

Contrary to popular belief, being a B2B technology copywriter isn’t all glamour. Away from the constant accolades, the endless parties and the rapturous attention of an adoring public, your beloved copywriter has a lot to cope with.

When we’re in our enterprise tech comfort zone, life comes easy:

  • A white paper on PaaS integration for data centre managers, you say? No problem!
  • A blog post for HR directors in EMEA on IoT use cases in 5G networks? Piece of cake!
  • A picture book on Lean Startup product development methodologies for under-fives? Hell, yeah!

But when we’re dragged out of that comfort zone by new clients, new tech or new topics, that’s when we have to bring out the big guns.

Here’s a sample of some of the topics I’ve had to learn about from scratch (and fast) for client projects over the last few months:

  • Refined-oil storage facilities
  • 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T Ethernet standards
  • The global aluminium market
  • Positive pressurisation in electronics enclosures

So how do you get up to speed on seemingly impenetrable topics and quickly turn around an insight-packed, beautifully crafted piece of weapons-grade B2B content? I’m glad you asked…

1: Know what you need to know

First things first: figure out your audience. A decent understanding of the what your readers already know (and what they’ll be thinking about next) will point you in the direction of the stuff you need to know.

As luck would have it, our very own Fiona Campbell-Howes, persona-maven nonpareil, once wrote a rather nifty blog post bursting with red-hot tips on whipping up a quick buyer persona.

Second things second: know your limits. When time is tight, you can’t spend three weeks immersing yourself in every element of the topic – stick to the brief and narrow your research down to:

  • The things you definitely need to know so you don’t come across as a gibbering imbecile when you start writing
  • The things it would be really nice to know so you can sound like you write about this stuff all the time

2: Research fast

Now, I know you’ve all done research before, but this is different. When you’ve only got a couple of hours to find what you need, you have to zero in on the most trusted trade-news sites (the client can point you in the right direction here) and industry analysts for the topic at hand.

It’s important not to fall too far down the rabbit hole, clicking link after link after link in the vain hope of finding a single source of enlightenment. But if you’ve followed step 1 above, you’ll be able to stay focused on finding what you really need.

And remember to keep it current. Set your search parameters so you’re only seeing things from the last 12 months, otherwise you’ll end up quoting crusty old reports predicting trends that have either been and gone or never happened.

One last note on this – don’t panic. You’re not cramming for an exam, you’re trying to find useful knowledge to create a specific piece of content for a specific purpose for a specific audience. Once the client sees the fruits of your labours in the outline, they’ll give you a steer on which points need to be expanded/reconsidered/fired into the Grand Canyon.

3: Phone a friend

When I say “phone”, I mean “bellow across the office at”. And when I say “friend”, I mean “already overstretched co-worker”. But you get the idea.

I’m fortunate that the Radix team is replete with arcane knowledge on areas of technology so obscure that nobody is really sure if they actually exist within the boundaries of space-time. As my colleague George Reith will tell you, for example, “The lore of bit depth quantisation is very deep.”

If you’re not lucky enough to work in an office full of unnervingly geekish folks like George, fear not – I’m willing to bet your social networks are full of people with expertise on all kinds of unlikely topics. So maybe you *could* just phone a friend, after all.

4: Talk to the real experts

This is the bit where you grab your client by the lapels and demand answers.

At the end of the day, when push comes to shove and all’s said and done, the only sure-fire way to get real insight, real fast is to talk to the experts on your client’s team.

The people on the ground who live and breathe this stuff will quickly validate or debunk all that research you just did. And they’ll add unique insights that can enrich your copy and elevate the finished piece into something genuinely valuable for your audience.

Putting copywriters and subject-matter experts together is absolutely critical for creating great B2B content – you neglect it at your peril.

What are you waiting for?

So come on, people! This diem isn’t going to carpe itself – get out there and learn something new.

Or if you’ve got an upcoming campaign on a topic nobody else seems to understand, why not put our skills to the test? Get in touch at

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