The Best Content Marketing for Product Manufacturers: Problems Your Products Solve

By | January 21, 2011

As the marketing world plunges into ‘content marketing’, thought leaders are helping companies understand developing strategies for how content marketing can help their business soar.  For example, Joe Pulizzi, the content marketing guru, recently wrote an interesting post, “Starting a News Service for Your Industry“.  In it, he sketched two points from a panel discussion he was on with David Scott Meerman.   I want to discuss the first point here:

1. …[A]ll websites in the future will look like news sites.

Joe explains, “[s]imply put, it means that you become the media company for your industry niche and your customers….”

He goes on to explain about creating content to become “the go-to source on everything that happens in your market….”  This sentiment is indirectly echoed in a point from “Outlook 2011”, an article in the January 17 issue of B-to-B magazine:

Top Trend #7: Feeding the Content Machine: …”One way we are feeding the content machine is by hiring journalists,” said Mark Wilson, VP-corporate marketing at Sybase Inc.”

Without hearing the panel directly, I think the idea of making a news service is along the right path, but it is overly general.  I would narrow the mission to the type of news that a company is uniquely positioned to create: specific news about industry issues and problems that the company’s products enable or solve. In this vein, I think the most compelling forms of relevant news are case studies and training that is directed at showing people how the products solve real customer problems.

Maybe my point is obvious, but I think it is important to articulate.  If the mission is too general, for example, simply to collect news about the industry, it is easy to stray from the connection to the company itself and hence dilute or negate any impact.  For example, a few years ago there was quite a buzz about Office Max’s “Elf Yourself” campaign.  While the campaign was a huge hit in terms of generating traffic, often lauded as the big hit of social media in 2007,  its impact on ‘brand awareness’ is debatable, which is what Office Max was quoted as the intent:

OfficeMax VP of Marketing and Advertising Bob Thacker said: “We were looking to build the brand, warm up our image. We weren’t looking for sales. We are third-place players in our industry, so we are trying to differentiate ourselves through humor and humanization.”

In Kathryn Milette’s post “The Success of Elfing Yourself?” on Gooruze, she points out that in her informal research, almost 50% of the keyword traffic did not mention any company, and of the traffic that did mention a company, more than 50% named companies other than Office Max.  She rightfully asks the question: “As I look at these numbers, and considering this is year two for Elf Yourself, I wonder how OfficeMax interprets <50% brand awareness from this viral campaign. What do you think?”  A few comments I have discovered in a quick search on this topic reflect the sentiment

It was an amazing viral campaign, I can’t recall how many emails from people who “elf-ed themselves”, still it did not make me want to choose Office Max over Staples…

To illustrate my point in a positive way, I found an exchange in an interview between Joe Pulizzi and Ann Handley, author of the new book Content Rules.  The interview appears in the first issue of the quarterly “CCO: Chief Content Officer“.

J: Give me an example from your book, Content Rules, of a company that’s doing it right.

A: Kodak is doing a great job for two reasons.  First, Kodak blogs don’t talk about their equipment.  They focus on how people are using their equipment, which is a subtle thing but it’s huge!

Later in that interview, Joe rightfully asks “but when you are ready to buy, are you more likely to buy from that company that’s been giving you all this wonderful information?”  Ann replies: “…[y]ou want to start off as a resource, as a source of education.”

These questions and answers really nail it for me.  Of course my angle is about using interactive simulations that let viewers experience how the company’s products solve real problems.  The more we can educate prospects, rather than merely trying to sell to them the features and benefits, the stronger we can build the connection and improve the chance of the sales.  We are helping the prospect to align to our narrative, not in some evil way, rather, because we truly believe our product is going to help them solve that problem.

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