Be a hero, follow the money, and market yourself. Got it?
Really? On top of everything I am responsible for as a product manager, you’re telling me I should care about content, too? Isn’t that someone else’s job?
Yes, you should care. Even if there is a dedicated product marketing manager responsible for messaging, demand generation, and sales enablement, as a product manager, you should contribute content. And if you are responsible for the go-to-market side of product management, you absolutely positively should contribute content.
But who has time? If one more person asks me for screenshots, I’m going to scream.
Sounds like a software product manager!
Screenshots are not content marketing. Not that marketing doesn’t need them to create product assets, but what I’m talking about is providing context around personas, market problems, market stories, and customer successes with your product. Content that leads to your product, not with your product. Content that helps buyers buy and helps move them along their journey to buy and use your category of products. Raw content that can blossom into engaging content that buyers want to consume.
The content might spawn an ebook or video or blog entry or infographic or short social media post. And no, I’m not saying you are responsible for producing the content into finished form (more about this later).
About screenshots: If you just grab a lot of screenshots without first understanding what story the screenshots should tell, you’re wasting time (yours and marketing’s). Start with the problems you solve and tell the stories of how your product solves those problems within the context of your personas’ lives. Otherwise, why should they care?
Seriously, why should I care about content marketing? One more time, three great reasons:
1. Be a Hero
Product managers are often compared to superheroes. After all, it takes superhuman strength and superpowers to identify market problems worth solving, get your product funded, guide development to build what the market wants to buy, help marketing tell the world your product exists, help sales figure out how to sell it, and keep the product, marketing, and sales machines fueled, maintained, and operating at full capacity. All good.
But even if you are doing a great superhero job, you might still blend into the background at your company. Like Clark Kent. Sometimes you need to put on your cape and tights and let everyone see your heroic activities.
Translation: Create some content to help market and sell your product. After all, you can have the greatest product in the world, but if no one knows about it, who is going to buy it? You need this to have a successful product. Be a hero for the product manager (you).
If you’ve been doing your job right, listening to and observing the market, looking for compelling problems to solve, understanding the context of users trying to get their jobs done, and hearing what buyers want and why, you have the basis for content to help buyers buy. Share, share, share your knowledge!
I’m freaking out. Are you saying I need to produce all of this amazing, finished content?
Unless you’re two guys in a garage in pre-startup mode with no money, what you need to provide is the market context, not the finished production-quality content. It’s like working with development. You provide context about what the market needs and they build the product. Which brings us to the second reason you should care about content marketing.
2. Follow the Money
If you look at the departments you work with, only one of them seems to have money to spend.
According to an infographic created by TAMBA (a social media agency), the average marketing organization is spending a sizeable chunk of their marketing budget on content.
- B2B marketers are spending 28%
- B2C marketers spend 25%
According to TAMBA’s research, the top 2 most outsourced content marketing activities are writing (44%) and design (41%). Cool! Let marketing fund the production of the content while you provide the context.
Just like working with development where you create user stories, requirements, or some other form of context so they can build the product, you need to transfer your market knowledge to someone who will manage the production of the content and turn it into tasty, engaging content treats. If done right, some of the context you provide for development may be reusable to educate marketing.
The essence of what you need:
- Problems you are trying to solve for your customers.
- Describe this as if you were telling a friend or family member what the situation is that causes the problems. If you’ve been spending time in the market like you should, share specific stories about the problems customers face and why they need the problems solved. And the problems are not “need more revenue” and “we’re spending too much”. You need enough context that the resulting content is not so generic (“for everyone”) that it resonates with no one.
- Buyer and user personas. The better you can profile your personas around the issues they face, how they consume information, where they go for advice, how to find them, what their spending authority is, what their aspirations are, and how they are motivated, the better your content will be. If you don’t know anything about the people who buy and use your products, focus your research efforts on learning about them.
- How your company can help: Offer advice, resources, survey results of others like them, “how to” tips and tricks, “what’s cool”, “what’s new”, risks and rewards, customer success stories, and how your solutions solve the problems.
If you stay close to your market, every time you learn of a new problem they have can be an opportunity to create content that empathizes with them and advises them on how to solve the problem (whether it’s through your product or not).
You may be begging marketing to create marketing stuff to generate demand for your product. If you want them to pay attention to you, give them what they need most from you: context to create the finished marketing asset. To create effective marketing programs, marketing needs context about why buyers should care about what you sell, starting with non-product advice about solving their problems.
It’s really hard to market without effective, relevant content. It might be impossible. The content is the fuel that drives marketing activities and the marketing machine.
You will be a hero to marketing (see reason #1) if you provide the market context that will help the product fly off the shelves, and marketing will be more likely to spend money promoting your product if you give them the delicious raw materials of compelling market stories that engage buyers.
3. Market yourself
As product managers we get so busy, we forget to market ourselves. Don’t wait until you need a job to focus on your career. Do a great job for the company you work for, but use your successes to help you reach your career goals. If a job opportunity comes to you next week, what will your potential employer find when they Google your name?
By sharing great content on your social media platforms, you can build a presence and reputation that can help you in the future. “Don’t wait to dig the well until the well goes dry.” Too late!
Remember that you don’t have to “build” all content yourself. In your product, you should be making “buy, build, or partner” decisions to solve problems, why not do this for content?
No money? See #2. And help marketing spread the word about the content by sharing on your social media platforms.
If you want to be considered a thought leader in your category or industry, you need to create some of your own content (not the creative design, but the ideas). Maintain a list of potential topics and carve out time to periodically:
- Write a post for your company or personal blog
- Write an update for LinkedIn
- Post comments on LinkedIn groups
- Participate in LinkedIn discussions
- Do a speaking engagement (online or in person) and post the slides on SlideShare
- Tweet to drive traffic to your content
Curating content from other sources is a great way to amplify your social media presence. Be thoughtful about what you share, however. If a potential employer or recruiter sees the post, does it help tell the story of who you are and what you care about? And have you added your point of view to the content you are sharing?
Always respect copyrights and source the content you’re curating. It’s the right thing to do. But add your point of view to augment what you’re sharing to illustrate your expertise, knowledge, or opinion.
So what is content marketing, anyway?
One of my favorite marketing bloggers is Jay Acunzo. He wrote the funniest blog at Sorry For Marketing defining what content marketing is (and isn’t). According to his Jargon Monster:
“Content marketing is an umbrella term covering a set of strategies, techniques and tactics to fulfill business and customer goals by using content across the customer life cycle and the business functions in a consistent, integrated and continuous way.”
Read that again because you may not have really gotten it. What?? Really? If someone can’t get what you write the first time, then maybe it’s gobbledygook. Sadly, this was probably written by a marketer… Shameful. Here’s what Jay’s Naked Little Truth says:
“Content marketing is just solving the same customer problems as your product but through media you create and distribute.”
(My emphasis.) Imagine that. Solving the same customer problems as your product. That’s when the lightbulb went on for me about why product managers should care about content marketing. You already have the knowledge to create great content. You need the same context to define your products and services.
A great example of content that solves the same customer problems as your product is this ebook from ProductPlan:
This ebook is chock full of ideas and content addressing the challenges product managers have. When I first saw this on Twitter, they had me at the title. Click, register, download.
If the title isn’t enough for you, what about:
- How to develop a winning product strategy
- Best practices for building your roadmap
- 9 example roadmaps to get you started
If none of this resonates with you, you’re not a good prospect for the product anyway. Move on.
If you want more examples of great content, check out what my marketing team at Sage Construction did with our Job Ready program. Don’t be intimidated by the depth and breadth of content, however. We built this program agilely, theme by theme, quarter by quarter. Content became the basis of our marketing strategy, fueling the marketing machine throughout the customer journey.
I’d love to hear your successes about how your content rocked it.
- Did content make you a hero?
- Did marketing embrace your content and create awesome assets leading to lots of business?
- Did content help your career?
About the Guest Author
I wasn’t always a marketing executive and consultant. My journey from the trenches to management to the executive suite to becoming an elite member of the Pragmatic Marketing team of instructors and back to the executive suite has given me a unique perspective on technology marketing.
Let me apply my expertise and passion to help you unlock your story to engage colleagues, customers, and buyers. From idea to content to visuals to delivery. Contact or follow me: Barb@BarbaraGNelson.com, @barbaragnelson, LinkedIn.