The need for easy-to-access and consume product content is critical as customers spend a lot more time researching and learning about products long before interacting with a salesperson. And it's equally essential for salespeople to be able to offer customers this type of content. But despite these well-known truths, product marketing still seems to struggle for recognition and influence. Instead, it's hidden in the background producing one-page data sheets and dry customer stories.
But when a product marketing team is set up for success, their work goes a long way toward winning and retaining customers. The key, says Nick Thompson, VP Product Marketing, at Mediafly, is how you define the role, take control of that role, and how you organize your team to deliver on that vision:
One of the reasons I like product marketing is because I do feel like it's so undefined. Everybody has different perspectives on what it is and what it isn't, what falls under it, and what doesn't. I've had roles where I've had sales enablement within product marketing, and I've had roles where it's not. So to me, the role is still generally undefined. And I think one of the challenges that product marketers face is defining the role.
Product marketing shouldn't sit in a bubble, Thompson argues. Instead, he sees it as a separate group in the marketing department, working with product, sales and customers. You don't always see the customer component in the product marketing strategy, but Thompson thinks it's critical.
He believes that startups should start with product marketing and then add in demand generation (not the other way around, which tends to happen). He said that without product marketing, there is no ideal customer profile (ICP), no personas, positioning, or go-to-market messaging. And it's true; these are critical elements that are the foundation for all marketing and sales activities.
The need for visual, interactive product marketing
Thompson is the first product marketer at Mediafly. Before he joined the company five and a half months ago, the responsibilities for product marketing were distributed throughout the company. Mediafly isn't an old company. Founded in 2006, it offers a sales enablement solution that includes content management capabilities. Its first customers were TV and movie studios selling their shows and movies to airlines, hotel chains, and overseas studios. Naturally, this meant they needed to enable their customers to present a highly visual, engaging experience (what they like to refer to as the "weekend experience" or, as we best know it - the Netflix or Disney experience).
For his part, Thompson is able to take advantage of these visual, interactive capabilities to create marketing content for the company itself. One way is to create interactive content for the entire buyer's journey. While they still have some traditional whitepaper-type content, Thompson says that most of what they produce to help prospective customers understand their product is interactive, self-guided content targeted at the persona, problem to solve, or how Mediafly can help them.
When we spoke, he showed me some of this content created through its interactive presentation software, Presentify (which it acquired in October 2020), and CoPilot, which enables you to put video in your presentation (similar to Vidyard and Wistia Soapbox), explaining:
We still have some traditional ebooks, but we've started developing all of our content to be completely interactive and self-service for the buyer as they're doing their research on their own. We give them that opportunity to consume through interactive content, so they don't have to open up a 10-12 page ebook that's a PDF. And then hopefully, in the three minutes that you might have their attention for, they find what they're looking for. It's all self-guided.
Thompson also creates interactive scorecards for sales teams to help them understand how a competitor matches up against their product according to features a customer is looking for.
Another piece to consider is understanding how content is consumed because it's important to understand what customers are looking at to know the next steps to engage with them, he says:
When that person spends five minutes consuming your content, you're gathering data so that when you do, as a salesperson, get that elusive, first meeting, or any meeting after, you understand what is interesting to them. You understand where they are; you understand what they're trying to solve. And you can then come into that meeting prepared and ready to speak to those things, instead of coming in with a traditional 10-12, slide, pitch deck and pitch them stuff that they read on your website weeks ago.
If you have any role in purchasing software for your company, you can understand what Thompson is talking about, particularly in the martech and salestech spaces, but also in others. With so many options to select from, the brand that finds a way to cut through all the content offered in a way that makes it easy for a customer to find and consume the information they need to make a decision, the better chance they have of winning that customer.
And the same goes for keeping a customer. Mediafly uses the same interactive content style to share product updates, launches, and thought leadership.
When you think of interactive content, your first thought might be complicated design and development. There are some good technologies out there to create interactive content, but they often require someone who is a developer or highly design-oriented. Some marketing execs think that this high level of design and development is necessary to create impactful content. But I think we tend to overthink interactive content.
When we write content for customers, we write to understand. We follow readability scores that tell us how easy our content is to read and understand. Our interactive content can be created with the same mindset. Powerpoint presentations are a popular way to share content because you don't put a ton of text on a slide. Instead, you create a mix of visuals plus text to tell your story. Putting interactive elements in it makes it easy for customers to move through it following their preferred path. You don't need Presentify to do that (but having those capabilities does provide Mediafly with a differentiator from other sales enablement solutions).
You can also create helpful video content, whether you are presenting a presentation, doing a guided demo, or something else. And you can take advantage of customized content-driven experiences like micro-sites to allow customers to look at specific content shared with them.
Guided tours are another content type that is very useful for helping customers understand your product and how it can work for them. And then there are tools like Canva to create infographics, videos, presentations, and more - not always interactive, but certainly visual.
Customer-driven content factors in heavily in all of this. For more on that, check Jon Reed's recent post, The do's and don'ts of the customer use case - the bedrock of B2B content strategy.
The point is product marketing isn't stuck creating long whitepapers that try to meet the needs of multiple personas or problems. And you don't have to develop dry two-page customer stories or standard product demos. Instead, the options for content creation have grown and are limited by the imagination and creativity of the marketer (and, to some degree, budget).