Why it’s so important to understand the difference between Product Marketing and Content Marketing

1st February 2024

So, you’ve downloaded a white paper or e-book expecting a really useful guide on a topic you’re interested in. The first couple of paragraphs look promising, and then the company’s sales pitch is shamelessly dropped. Instead of something educational, you may as well be reading a sales brochure!

Why do so many B2B marketers still confuse product marketing with content marketing?

Content Marketing – what it isn’t…

The most common reason for getting it wrong is our default desire to sell, sell, sell!

Traditional sales messages are all about us…

  • What do we want to say about us?

  • What products/services do we offer?

  • How long have we been doing it?

  • What are our USPs?

What’s wrong with this approach?

  • We’ve already done it on our websites, brochures and other marketing materials.

  • It’s not sustainable – once we’ve done it once,, what comes next?

  • There’s no engagement or two-way interaction with the audience.

So, we lose everything that’s so powerful about content marketing….

Content Marketing – what it is…

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing promotes content that has genuine value to your audience, without pushing your product or service. It is content that benefits them on a day-to-day basis while reflecting positively on your company as the expert who shared their wisdom.

Advertising interrupts what people are trying to read, watch or share. Content marketing attempts to be what people read, watch and share.

Being a source of quality, relevant, engaging content on a regular basis helps build long-term relationships, rather than just bombarding people with sales messages. This makes them more receptive to our marketing messages when the time is right,, or may even result in them looking for us.

So aim to produce content that will educate, entertain, inform and influence.

Applying the principles of storytelling (forgive the shocking use of marketing jargon) can actually help. What do I mean?

Storytelling is the oldest form of imparting knowledge and much of how we look at what we like to call facts is influenced by stories and how we interpret them.

Stories make important messages easier to communicate…

So what’s the formula?

The structure of your content could look something like this:

1) Set the scene; who is this article for and how will they benefit from reading it?

2) Talk about the challenges and pain points that are keeping them awake at night. This starts to establish credibility, and also shows empathy, which is a likeable quality.

3) Give away something practical that your reader can take away and apply for themselves. Sharing your knowledge freely builds your credibility, trust and like-ability.

4) Add your own unique insight, something based on your own experience. This may demonstrate your product or service in a real-life scenario but shouldn’t be too pushy.

Product Marketing

The content required to support this function includes everything from core sales messaging and the product descriptions on your website, to your sales decks, product data sheets and customer case studies.

This is the right place for all the ‘me, me, me’ messages we mentioned earlier. It’s where we can dive into the features and benefits of our products, and explain what sets them apart from our competitors.

Sales Funnel: Top Versus Bottom
Many people say that ‘content marketing is designed for top-of-the-funnel marketing activity, while product marketing comes into its own at the bottom of the funnel.’ I actually tend to disagree with that statement, as it’s not that simple.
Great educational content also has a key role to play at at the bottom of the funnel – the ‘nurture’ stage.
Equally, product marketing doesn’t stop once the product has gone to market. The process of marketing a product goes on well after a purchase has been made .
The conclusion
Cutting through the noise is probably the biggest challenge facing B2B marketing today. Mastering these two important types of content can have a huge impact, but only if we understand the difference between them and the right way to deploy them.

About Ben Hollom

I’m a former agency owner, strategist and head of marketing with over 25 years experience, I now work with ambitious agencies and businesses, using my experiences on both sides of the agency – client relationship to support them on their journ...

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