Can Simulations make Content Marketing for Products more Relevant?

By | March 4, 2010

Nice post by David Dodd of Marketing Interactions, entitled “Does Your Content Marketing Make You Different?“.

Leading off with “Being recognized as unique, different and desirable is what every company strives to achieve to stand out in their marketplace”, David describes how our mentality as vendors still often makes us think that our customers will believe what we ourselves think is different about us.  However, the reality is almost the opposite: the more we try to stand out with distinctive phrases or pitches, the more we end up inadvertently sounding exactly like our competitors.

I take from this lesson that we need to keep things pointing back at our product, and illustrating what is distinctive about our product, tying any general statements back to specifics on the product (or service), rather than vague terms that all our competitors use to describe their products as well.

This discussion is timely for me because I am in the midst of a web site redesign, and while I’m sure I’ll be making some mistakes, I am trying to practice what I preach.  In the process of developing content for my web site, I continually run into the trap of thinking “why don’t I put in something about us being the experts, and how we really focus on superior customer support/service.”  Clearly I need to convey these points, but the trap is that if I describe it in those terms, or keep things too much in the clouds, I am really sounding like everyone else.  Of course we are experts at something (would we say that we are just mediocre in whatever we choose to do?), and of course we’re going to say that we strive to make our customers happy.  Again, things we need to convey in specific terms, because we’re not giving our prospects anything tangibly different from our competitors (who are always better funded, better looking, better connected, better staffed, etc.).  David captures this thought nicely in the following:

Sadly, what we promise isn’t always what the prospect wants. Or we’re up at the 30,000 foot view so our messaging doesn’t have any immediate impact that’s easy for the prospect to hone in on.

I don’t think this means we should be all-consumed with product descriptions; rather, we need to focus on what the problem our customers are facing are, and how our solution/product addresses those issues.  Also, like I talked about in my last post (“Short but sweet…it’s not about the benefits, but your product“), we definitely need to keep the product front-and-center.  That’s where product simulation can come in, especially when we present our products in the context of solving relevant customer problems.

Certainly we can define a set of problems that our product addresses, and possibly miss some applications — essentially, we can be over-specific.  However, we have to ask ourselves which is worse: whether we miss our prospective buyers because we are too specific in our message, or we miss our prospective buyers because we don’t rise above the noise (our competitors).

The best answer, of course, is the way my wife typically presents these questions: neither :-).  In all seriousness, I think it comes down to how strong our brand is to get us to the table.  If our brand is strong in this product category, then we may already above the noise.  However, if we are unknown or weak, our products may be overlooked, and therefore we need to demonstrate how well we understand the problems our customers are facing in specific situations.  We have found situations in which simulation training for one company so much identifies the right problem, they are so compelling, that the pieces are being used by the company’s competitors for training by association. We’ve talked with the competitors and they are certainly aware they’re risking directing people away from themselves!

David’s post reports from a recent IDG survey that buyers say the find relevant content only about 42% of the time, meaning most of the time, buyers are not finding relevant content about what they’re looking for.  I think we can increase our content marketing relevancy by illustrating how the product solves specific buyer situations.  Of course this goes hand-in-hand with understanding who are buyers are (through buyer personas, as David Meerman Scott advocates).

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