Product + Content marketing = Engaging content
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Illustrations by Alejandra Céspedes.
We are prone to believe that the further along from conversion your ICP is, the less they need to know about the product (they are just discovering they have a problem). While that is partially true, some of the best products out there create different content because it has a precise product/brand angle, even before people know they are ready to buy.
In this piece, we will discuss why content marketing and product marketing should work in sync to create highly engaging and unique content.
As always, this is a way to think about a problem, not an ultimate answer, but feel free to digress in the comment section.
Content in Marketing
There isn't a single corporate hierarchy, but according to what we have seen, content areas are usually allocated in the marketing department. It makes sense. To do marketing, you need content to do the following:
Inbound SEO type of content
Indeed there are more, but you get the point. Content traditionally belongs in marketing because to do marketing, in many ways, is a storytelling function. Plus, it makes sense to identify the themes customers are actively looking for and create content around their awareness levels to drive pipeline and sales.
Product Marketing, on the other hand, often sits within Product and sometimes within Marketing. They’re often the ones who create positioning & messaging documents, sales battlecards, write product launch emails, in-app communication, and other launch related assets. Still, this person sits in a hybrid place closer to the product than marketing.
However, just because we have traditionally structured things this way doesn't necessarily mean it is the most effective way. Product marketing and content marketing should be more aligned so that the entire funnel is covered with the creativity of content marketing and the detail and product expertise product marketing has to offer.
Content Marketing and Product Marketing: Two sides of the same coin.
Three structural phases stand out whenever content marketing teams plan how to create new pieces. The first is to understand the problem/pain and break it down according to the customer's awareness. The second is the way SEO can be used to further add value to the piece (matching keywords with intent). And finally, some more advanced marketing teams also develop an integrated strategy on how to distribute content, how to repurpose it, and how to make the most out of it for the brand (however, this is not always the case).
After you have these components in place, you can finally create your piece. And if you get it right, in theory, you will resonate with your ideal customers.
While there are many metaphors or mental models to see content marketing, most content marketing uses those three steps. If not, brands tend to produce more critical "thought leadership" content that aims to be noticed not due to its SEO potential but its unique point of view and contribution to any particular field.
Product marketing, on the other hand, traditionally focuses on marketing the product at the lower end of the funnel. That means, on some occasions, product marketing may collaborate with content marketing teams, but in many other cases, they can get in each other's way given that the content production process is fractured between TOFU (content marketing) and BOFU (product marketing).
We think instead of getting in each other's way, both areas could learn from each other and help the product elevate content (more on this in the next section).
We recently came across this post from Zach Leete, who explained how having product marketing and content marketing collaborating is a bit more complex than one anticipates. While there are many reasons why this may be, we can narrow them down to a couple of them. First, content marketing is focused on intent, meaning generating awareness around the category and problem the ICP has. And second, product marketing leverages selling points and angles that may be way too oriented on conversion rather than awareness (you can also see this as two sides of the same coin).
What if we could find a way to reconcile these content areas? What if product and content marketing are underperforming, given their lack of collaboration?
Content marketing and Product marketing in sync.
This is going to be a cliché thing to say, but knowing your customers' deepest needs is at the heart of everything. To do so, we suggest beginning the process by identifying the ZMOT (zero moment of truth essentially that tells you what led your prospects to realize that they have a certain problem), and analyzing the ICP needs to solve three fundamental questions:
Why buy anything? (Awareness)
Why buy now? (Awareness + Consideration)
Why buy us? (Consideration + Conversion)
We have also observed a pattern in terms of the type of employees that help the organization answer those questions, as you will see in the following image:
While this is not 100% accurate, thinking about organizations buying your product with this lens allows us to understand how product marketing and content marketing should be more aligned than in most companies today. Let's dive a little deeper and rest our case.
Let's start with the roles.
Executives: These roles usually have a primary objective for any organization: to make the best decisions possible to help the company grow. They are the ultimate decision-makers who delegate some of the decisions to their managers but are almost always gatekeepers regarding crucial determinations.
They may not need to read the SEO-focused content marketing blogs, and a thought leadership piece would be more appealing. Their job is to decide and strategize. And, to make better decisions, you need to understand as many mental models and angles as possible.
They need to be aware of your problem and the product that solves that pain, and then they need to think about how it improves their strategy. Once they have clarity on that probably, one of their top-level managers will do thorough research about the types of solutions they could buy, and finally, they will sign off on the decision.
They need to know enough about the product so it is considered valuable, they need to understand how the product matches their strategy and make the decision.
Managers: Their job is to make sure all gears are in place. They may not be the ones who make crucial decisions, but they still call the shots on already established systems to make sure they are efficient and profitable. In parallel, they are also the ones who can influence executives to acquire new tools and technologies to improve operations further.
Managers may not have the time to research and figure out the right tool for their business, but they know they need to innovate to improve processes. Usually, they set a task for their staff members to research to facilitate decision-making. Finally, the manager may call the shots if the decision is not crucial to the business (or if the budget does not exceed a certain amount).
Staff: Staff members are the ones who execute whatever is needed to make sure organizations are profitable. Their primary job is not to call the shots, although they often participate in decision-making (at least in healthy and balanced organizations), but to get things done.
When it comes to buying new products that foster organizational innovation efficiency, they usually have to do the research required.
Most of the content we put out there for all three players in the buying process is created exclusively by content marketing. Indeed they will find content that matches their intent, but the nuances and selling points product marketing can leverage may be missing.
Likewise, suppose product marketing builds the entire content strategy. In that case, it may not be optimized for keywords for Google to rank because the PMM team might not have matched awareness keywords with crucial features in the product.
We believe we could find the sweet spot in the balance between (product marketing and content marketing). This combination generates a different organizational culture that fosters collaboration and innovation.
Instead of running two parallel strategies (content marketing and product marketing), we could run an integrated system that provides detailed product selling points + intent and awareness topics. Content marketing gains insight into how to position the product, and the product team learns more about how their ICP builds awareness around the category. It becomes a symbiotic movement that generates value instead of causing friction. New features can be created based on intent, and a better product description helps executives, managers, and staff members in the decision process.
Imagine doing that without adding stress to content marketing areas and having to write selling points they may not know about (they are not product experts). Plus, without expecting product marketing to be aware of larger contextual trends (they are not SEO/intent experts).
Content marketing and product marketing are similar even though their objectives are different. But what if they weren't? What if the objective is a larger shared goal of adding as much value to your ICP plus timely product information that highlights your solutions' importance?
We created a table just to highlight some of the ways in which we think both product and content marketing can elevate any product content below:
It is time to think about internal partnerships across departments. If you aren't, chances are your competitor is and will win simply because they know how to create the right content, for the right person, with the right product feature.
Content should report to product marketing, and product marketing should report to content marketing. Through mutual accountability and collaboration, your content production and delivery will stand out and help you win.