Most marketers and founders are afraid to sell through their content because it would feel too much like marketing.
That’s because they don’t know how to create high-quality product-led content that helps, educates, and differentiates you from the sea of bad content.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What product-led content is (jump to section);
- Why people hate bad marketing, and how you can avoid that (jump to section);
- Why product-led content is useful for your startup (jump to section);
- Ways to prioritize and create product-led content (jump to section).
Let’s get into it!
What is product-led content?
Product-led content (usually in the form of an article, infographic, or video) is a type of content that aims to solve your audience’s pain points by strategically using your product as the best solution.
In some ways, this is no different from advertisements. Not every advertisement is an ad, after all. A lot of ads are just straightforward product descriptions or teaser videos. Sometimes there’s an embedded offer in the content itself. Sometimes the content makes you want something you can’t get anywhere else and offers to sell it to you. Sometimes the content has a clear call to action (like “Buy X” or “Create Account”). Every advertisement does something besides just describe the product or sell it; they do something for the audience.
But unlike most advertisements, product-led content is not explicitly trying to get you to buy something. It generally isn’t even trying to make money by directly asking for it (though some companies do that). Instead, product-led content is trying to solve a problem for the person who reads it, hopefully through your product. It is written in a way that answers the question: “What can this product do for me?”
At best, product-led content can be leveraged to create a better customer experience. At worst, it’s a crutch for lazy writers and lazy marketers.
But what’s the biggest problem with product-led content?
People don’t hate marketing; they hate bad marketing
There’s a common misconception that writing about your product means direct sales, and of course – we, as marketers, want to be the least obvious when trying to make a sale.
Because people hate marketers.
Because people hate marketing.
Because people hate being sold to.
You’ve been told wrong.
People don’t hate marketing. They hate bad marketing.
“This is what we do”
The most important thing you should do, if you’re writing a product-led piece, is to put your product in the right context. People don’t care what kind of product it is. They care about how it can help them, and that’s what you should write about.
If you’re writing about a new kind of hairdryer or fridge-freezer, it’s easy to tell the story of how “this is the best of its type” or “the first one of its kind,” forgetting that this is not really what people are looking for. What they want to read about is: what does this do to my life?
“We are unique”
Companies think they are providing unique content, and in fact, they are writing the same stuff everyone else writes. They are not excitingly communicating their message.
It’s so easy for companies and marketers alike to take genuinely creative ideas and make them bland and lifeless, or just plain dull: because they don’t realize that there are an infinite number of ways of expressing the same idea, and only one way of expressing an idea poorly.
For example, the problem with “We provide unique business solutions” is not that it’s uninteresting — it’s just boringly factual. The problem is that it stops short of saying what kind of problems it solves — which is what your customers want to know before they buy your product or service.
“Buy my product”
Integrating your product within your content is one of the most common sales techniques marketers use. However, they misuse it by adding a call-to-action at the end of the article and calling it a day.
The problem with this approach is that it has a built-in bias. If you’re trying to sell people your product directly, they will be less likely to trust you and more likely to think you are trying to sell something else.
From integrating their product into their content, most people understand that they need to be sales-focused. But there’s a good reason why one shouldn’t be: your readers don’t even know who you are yet. You should use your content to help your audience with their problem and actively show them how your product solves that.
“We’re revolutionizing technology”
For decades, marketers were taught to focus on the “how” of their products. This has led to an enormous volume of marketing content full of technical detail. People read this stuff, but they don’t understand it and don’t care about it. And since people aren’t interested in the “how,” there’s no reason to write about it.
Technical copy isn’t attractive; some people like technical content, but most don’t. The language is filled with jargon and jargon statements such as “our product is the market leader in X.”
“Here’s your third pop-up for this article!”
When you interrupt your audience while they are actually reading or thinking, you invite an explosion of “don’t do that” responses. Although you might believe that sending a pop-up after every scroll is a great idea, your readers don’t think of it that way. Unless they love popups, they’re going to hate them.
To avoid being too salesy, add useful content, not interruptions.
Why is product-led content useful?
In the early days of a startup, there is no obvious way to show how a product works, except for onboarding tutorials. The whole point of the product is that it solves a problem, but how exactly does it work? What are its features and benefits?
This is where product-led content can help. It’s not just a blog post or guide; it’s an entire experience that shows people how to use your product to solve their problems.
New users are valuable for startups and retention alike. But attracting them is hard. The biggest challenge is that most users don’t know what they want. They don’t know how to express it, and even if they do, they aren’t sure about it.
Product-led content helps bridge this gap too. When somebody visits your website and sees a product in action, they can more easily understand the value proposition, which means they are more likely to convert (or keep using the product). This kind of content helps retain existing customers.
How to prioritize and create product-led content
What is your audience’s most significant pain point?
There are three primary purposes for writing good product-led content: building your brand, communicating the benefits of your product, and improving engagement and retention with customers. To do this well, you need to know how to write about your product in a way that isn’t just selling for the sake of it – because selling isn’t selling if the reader doesn’t want it.
To achieve that, you need to understand and know your audience’s pain points. Why would they use your product? Why is your product the best choice for them?
The best way to find out the answer to these questions is to ask your customers.
In practice, it usually works best if you approach your existing customers in one of two ways. Most effectively, you can ask them direct questions about how they use the product. LinkedIn is an excellent place to get feedback from users. You could also send surveys to your mailing list.
The second way to reach out to customers is by talking to people who work in your company – sales representatives, customer support representatives, engineers – and asking them questions like:
- Are there any products or services that prospects often switch from?
- For the companies that bought our product, what was the most common reason they bought it?
- Out of all product features, are there one or two that people seem to be attracted to when buying?
Questionnaires help you achieve the main goal of identifying your customers’ pain points and crafting content around that.
Pain – Agitate – Solution
Pain: Getting more traffic on your website doesn’t guarantee more conversions.
Agitate: People aren’t converting because so few of your visitors are ready-to-buy – and you don’t know who they are.
Solution: Chillital solves this problem by creating content marketing strategies for ready-to-buy audiences based on extensive research and customer pain points.
I’m not trying to sell you anything.
The above is an example of the Pain-Agitate-Solution framework. This framework works well because most people don’t know or care that something is a problem until they have already made up their minds about it.
Before you solve a problem, you have to realize that it exists, and then you have to decide whether it’s a problem worth solving. That’s the agitate part.
Next comes the solution: once you’ve decided that the problem is worth solving, the rest follows naturally.
Keep this framework in mind when crafting your content draft.
Highlight your product
Your product needs to flow naturally into the narrative of your content. The easiest way to do this is to show readers how your product works and let them experience the benefits of using it first hand.
When you show the reader how your software works, the first step is to establish trust. So the goal of this phase is to:
- Make the reader comfortable with your software (by showing them lots of screenshots and videos).
- Make clear that you understand what they’re trying to do.
- Show them exactly how it works (through GIFs and illustrations).
Show your readers the next steps
Your content needs a clear call to action.
Start with a goal. It could be as simple as “I want people to sign up for my newsletter.” Then decide what the reader must do to reach that goal. If you want them to sign up for your newsletter, will they need to click a link? Will they need to fill out a form?
Whatever it is, make sure it’s easy for the reader to do. Make it obvious and attractive. If you can, use an image or a button with an action-oriented caption like “Sign Up” or “Buy Now.”
Now don’t stop there. A single CTA probably isn’t enough to seal the deal if your readers aren’t already convinced. You’ll need more content — blog posts, articles, e-books, videos, etc. — to build trust and prove that you’re worth signing up for. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle CTAs throughout this content too!
The power of a CTA is undeniable, but the best ones have certain traits in common:
- Focus on what you want customers to do; not what you want them to think or feel
- Create urgency by including words like “now” or “today”
- Use active verbs like “join” or “register.”
Make product-led content work for you
When you’re watching movies, two types of “product-led content” can be emphasized:
- A random product placement, such as General Motors in “Transformers”;
- A plot that revolves around the product, such as the blue crystals cooked by Heisenberg.
A good product-led strategy breaks bad. It highlights your product as the best solution to a problem.
It’s a means of differentiating your content and approach from your competitors.
Product-led content should be an integral part of your content marketing strategy. Check out how we approach content marketing for a step-by-step guide you can follow to generate leads and increase product awareness.
You can always get in touch if you have any questions. I’d be more than happy to guide you in the right direction!