As a nerdy person in general (I was pulling for Littlefinger in Game of Thrones – he should have realized he was being set up) and someone who is fascinated with the right way to do content and #product marketing, it’s easy for me to get into a conversation with other nerdy people about which marketing methods are the most effective (for the record, Littlefinger would have been an excellent marketer).
Recently, I’ve had fascinating interviews with a few companies about the intricacies of how they approach their marketing strategy. What’s unique about these companies is that they all have highly specialized products designed for sophisticated audiences. As a result, any marketing that was too basic or explanatory in how it showcased the product would likely result in customers feeling condescended to. In some cases, the audience is so well informed and immersed in the field the product is designed to reach, with extensive knowledge in statistics or engineering, that the marketing must in fact rise to their level or else fall flat.
In speaking to the marketing directors at these businesses, they all recognize that they have an interesting product marketing challenge. They have to create a marketing team that fully understands the features of the product, an understanding that includes technical savvy. They have to be able to clearly and specifically elucidate how these products create value for clients. The approach that some of them have taken to this situation is to have a lot of their #content marketing come from the product marketing team. It’s a strategy that is highly dependent on skilled marketers to be successful, but one I’ve seen a handful of companies adopt recently.
Now obviously, as someone who sells content marketing services, and runs his own content marketing firm, I find it annoying when companies can completely meet their marketing needs internally and don’t need to contract with outside vendors. Companies can achieve (or at least attempt to) this self-sufficiency through a variety of different models. And even though it runs somewhat counter to my business, when I find a model that’s interesting, I like to write about it.
Perhaps the most common model I’ve seen is where a company hires product marketing people who can write. That model usually works decently. The writers are often ex-journalists, however, and so this model can be problematic because journalists lack the technical expertise necessary to fully understand the product itself. The result is that this approach might generate a lot of content, but it doesn’t always provide the depth that’s needed for a sophisticated client base. Granted, there are some ex-journalists who can deftly wade in the technical weeds — I, for one, am an ex-journalist (but I am also a CS major and a CTO of two startups). But that’s not always, or even frequently, the case.
The other common approach I’ve witnessed is to take the opposite tack and hire more technical product marketers. But this obviously has drawbacks as well. The challenge with this strategy is that product marketers become the best source in the company for content that really reflects the product, its features, and how it creates value. They get the product. But they’re often limited because they don’t write as well as ex-journalists. So the content marketing ends up being a bit rigid or dense, and rarely arrives in sufficient volume. One response is for the technical product marketers to team up with writers, but if the writers aren’t knowledgeable enough to understand what these high-level product marketers are trying to convey, you end up with ham-handed drafts. These are drafts with a lot of what we at Evolved Media call “howlers” — passages or explanations where the writer thinks they understand the technology they’re writing about but don’t. And these howlers are immediately obvious to any in-the-know reader.
Given the problems with both of these approaches, then, what’s a better way to amplify your product marketing through content marketing? Well, you could work with us at Evolved Media — a path I would highly recommend. After all, we have years of experience working with and listening to CEOs, CTOs, and product developers, and we are able to translate this knowledge into potent marketing. It’s why we consider ourselves product whisperers.
But not every company wants or can do content marketing this way. And in some cases, companies can do content marketing in other ways that are as successful as working with us. My recent conversations have illustrated this. In one case, a company uses the approach where the content marketing lead is embedded in the product marketing department. So the lead is able to listen to what the product developers and marketers are saying, and because this person is trained in marketing, but also has the technical chops and sophistication to comprehend the product details, he can effectively broadcast content derived from the product marketing team. I find the idea of embedding content marketers in product marketing to be a fresh and appealing idea.
So as the head of Evolved Media, am I worried about companies following this strategy and creating a world where our services won’t be needed? No. Not at all in fact. And the reason for this is that the people with the skills to pull this off are exceedingly rare (believe me, I’m on the lookout to hire people like her everyday). If such a superstar leaves and the output of the product marketing team drops, the whole approach collapses. It’s all dependent on having the right people in place to pull it off.
Additionally, given our industry experience, we also come up with our own ideas that play into what else is going on in the tech marketplace — a value add that almost no company can get from doing marketing strictly internally. The result is that even if companies do find a diamond in the rough marketer who can bridge both worlds, Evolved Media can still help them because we can adapt to the integrated model and complement it given how well we know the tech space.
So if you are not getting enough content out of your tech-heavy product marketing team, remember, and say it in a spooky tone, “Content Marketing is not a pit. Content Marketing is a ladder,” especially when it comes to amplifying product marketing content output
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