Extracts of: “How to Make the Leap from Product Marketing to Content Marketing”
Author: By MICHELE LINN published MARCH 27, 2016
Education creates a better customer; product pitches are focused on sales
Talking about feature/function only addresses pain points for those who know they want to buy. What about those who know they have an issue but can’t articulate the problem, let alone the solution? As the often-quoted Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
If you only focus on pitching your product, you won’t be able to connect with people who are looking to solve challenges. By the time they know they need a solution, chances are they may have found an affinity for another brand which has answered their questions along the way.
But, when content marketing is done well, it helps with everything from building brand awareness through sales to customer retention and up-sell. You, as a content marketer, can get much more than a sale. View Robert Rose’s recent video about the Strategic Content Marketing Spectrum in which he details the many benefits of content marketing apart from the sale.
Education builds a relationship; pitches help with one moment in time
Even when your prospects understand that they have a need and are looking for specific information, product pitches only take you so far.
I love this story about the genesis of Darren Rowse’s website, Digital Photography School, detailed in Joe Pulizzi’s book Content Inc. As Darren shared, his site started as a camera review blog:
… I started a camera review blog that was my first commercial sort of blog and that had gotten to the point where it was full-time, but it wasn’t a very satisfying blog to write. My readers would come for one day to research a certain camera and then disappear and never come back. So I always had this dissatisfaction with it that I wasn’t actually building a community. I think that’s what really feeds me: Having ongoing readers. I always wanted a blog that was a bit more about helping people in a long-term way.
As Darren discovered, features and benefits can be useful. When people are choosing between several options, having information about exactly what someone is getting is really helpful – and helps close business. But, that type of content doesn’t create long-lasting relationships or affinity for your brand. People make the purchase and don’t have a need to revisit your website.
Darren shifted his focus (his content tilt) and decided to create “a website with simple tips to help digital-camera owners get the most out of their cameras.”
Aha. Darren now has created a loyal community of digital camera owners by educating them on how to use their cameras. The result is that they have a desire to continually return to the site – and Darren has multiple ways to monetize his audience.
Content Marketers: Your WHAT Doesn’t Matter if Your WHY Is Lacking
Education helps people feel smart; product pitches simply check a box
Many marketers couch the benefits of their products and services under the guise of “saving time and money.” While efficiencies are important, they often focus on what is good for the business in general.
What about the person influencing or making the decision? What do they truly care about?
Chances are that people want to feel secure in their recommendations and choices. The risk of making a bad decision can result in a ding against their career – or, in extreme cases, a lost job. If you teach people, you empower people. When you help them learn something, you help them feel like the smartest person in the room (or at the very least, competent as compared to their peers).
A great example of a company that educates its customers instead of pitching them is John Deere, one of the companies profiled in CMI’s documentary, The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing.
As David Jones, publications manager for John Deere, explains:
People know when they are being marketed to. The John Deere brand still stands for something. It stands for quality, it stands for honesty. That’s been a critical component of not just The Furrow’s (magazine) success but of John Deere’s success overall.
Education is an investment that reaps returns for years; pitches are short-lived
During a recent coffee shop conversation, Chris Moritz shared an analogy I love: Content marketing is like your 401k.
When you get started, you invest but you don’t see a lot of immediate benefit. However, not only does your investment grow over time, it also compounds so you reap substantially more.
This chart shows the money you invest (blue) and how much that money grows over time because of compound interest (red).
The same is true with content marketing. You invest now – with time, people, and resources – and you will continue to see the benefits grow exponentially. Most people who have been using content marketing already have examples of this – content created a while ago that still generates traffic, leads, etc.
For anyone trying to get more from the content they create, content marketing can yield results for many years. For instance, when I was looking at year-end data for CMI, more than half of the top 30 posts were published in 2014 or earlier. That is a lot of traffic – and newemail subscribers – from content we invested in years ago.
When product pitches make sense
While content marketing focuses on truly educating your customers, there is a (small) place for product pitches within your overall marketing. There comes a point in the sales cycle where people truly want to understand your features and benefits – and how they stack up against your competition. If you can provide this information in a straightforward and genuine way, you’ll engender trust as well.
Like many people, I get a lot of product pitches. By and large, many of them fall flat as they don’t directly tie to how I do my job. How can this product be used in my specific application – and how does it truly differ from other products out there? If you can frame your product pitches to answer specific questions, this can be a huge benefit to your customers as well.