September 29, 2020
The 2 most basic components of product marketing are:
- Positioning: How you and your customers should think about your product, generally
- Messaging: What you say to customers to communicate your product’s purpose and value to them
Both of these should underpin what you write and how you distribute it.
Imagine a company whose sole business is catering for office lunch; we’ll call them LunchEx.
In their product positioning, LunchEx can make some choices about how to talk about, and categorize, the service they provide. LunchEx needs to figure out:
- What type of business they are. A restaurant that’s delivery-only, or a delivery service with a kitchen attached? You could imagine how these might be the same business. But each suggests different competitors, pricing, and offerings. Each occupies a different position in your brain.
- Who their customers are. Is their customer a startup CEO who wants to be able to easily provide in-office lunch, or a facilities manager who’s looking for a standard solution to cater meetings? Again, same business with very similar activities, but positioned and talked about differently.
- What problems they solve. Do they improve employee happiness (because the food is so good), reduce cost (because they’re good at inventory management), save time (because it’s one click to cater a meeting?) LunchEx probably solves all of these problems incidentally, but there are a few they should make a decision to focus on.
- What activities (or competitors) they replace. Do you sign up with LunchEx instead of having a company DoorDash subscription? Or does LunchEx let you postpone building a company cafeteria? Again, maybe both, but product marketing can help you think about where to focus.
All of these are fundamental questions about the positioning of the same, or very similar product – but they all suggest different answers to the space that the product takes up in prospects’ minds, to the followup questions they might ask, and even to the ways in which LunchEx might expand.
Product positioning and content strategy
All of these decisions about your product suggest:
- Different topics and keywords you should target
- Different content that you should produce
- Different strategies for distributing and promoting that content
Following the LunchEx example a little further:
- If LunchEx is a delivery service that specializes in food (as opposed to a restaurant that does delivery)…
…that suggests a higher weight on people looking for “food delivery service”, as opposed to a restaurant that happens to deliver, which suggests needing to target different cuisines with the “delivery” keyword. And that suggests content that relates to how to choose a food delivery service, for example.
- If the problem LunchEx solves is “meeting catering”…
…that’s an important topic, especially if there are marketing communication artifacts or copy about this problem already. And that suggests content that relates to how to run more successful meetings or how to choose a caterer.
- And of course, the use cases, such as “food health and safety at the office”, “ethically-sourced office lunches”, and “cost-effective catering”…
…are all possible topics either on search or in another medium – if that’s what LunchEx is targeting as part of their marketing strategy.
Product messaging and its effects on content strategy
Once you’ve made a decision about your product’s positioning, another big question is the messaging used to talk about the product.
The messaging is the words that you say about your product, rather than the category it occupies and how your prospects think about it. In the same way that product positioning guides what you talk about, product messaging can do the same for the words you use.
For example, for LunchEx, your messaging pillars might include talking about how LunchEx:
- Saves money – because LunchEx is cheaper or more cost-effective
- Makes your employees happier – because they save time on ordering, because the food’s better, because ethically-sourced ingredients are used, etc.
- Ensures health and safety – because LunchEx ensures certain ingredients are not used; because of LunchEx’s inspection record
Each of these can also provide another wealth of topics to use in content marketing:
- Ways that businesses can save money
- Ways to improve employee happiness
- Ways to improve health and safety
- Ways to deal with food allergies among employees
- Information about employers’ legal liability for catered lunches
And so on.
Content distribution and product positioning
Once your content has been produced, you also need to distribute it. And this is where product positioning comes back into play. Who’s the economic buyer, and who are the interested parties? Who will recommend your product and talk at your conferences? Making this determination has a huge impact on the distribution strategy for your content.
If your product is intended for facilities managers, that suggests a different perspective on the connections you need to cultivate on LinkedIn, the Slack communities your content marketing team will want to join, and the publications where you can syndicate content.
For example, a product that simplifies life for facilities managers might be more successful in a facilities management LinkedIn group, or through promotion in partnership with a company that provides package check-in services.
On the other hand, if your product solves problems for startup CEOs and other team leaders, your strategy for finding those people will be completely different – it might involve partnering with an incubator or VC, joining exclusive Slack communities, or taking advantage of referrals.
Research on what topics are popular is very important, but it should come second to a basic understanding of what those topics are and who cares about them. Product marketing drives content marketing, not the other way around.