One of the points I continue to harp on is the relation of product training to product marketing. Prospective buyers, the target for marketers, want to be customers. They research a company with a candidate product to see if that product can solve their problems. Customers want to know how to use the product to solve their problems. It doesn’t take a great leap to see that training content — material, presentations, etc. that demonstrate how a product solves a real problem — is so potentially valuable in a re-purposed form to entice prospective buyers.
When I started my business more than 10 years ago, I went to the training divisions of product manufacturers to solicit business in the creation of product training (using simulations, in particular). After awhile, I could see that money in a company typically flows first to product marketing, and second (or somewhere down the line) to product training. In many companies I’ve been in contact with, it seems that training has typically been viewed as a necessary evil in which they want to invest as little money as possible (since it seems somewhat irrecoverable, the cost of doing business), whereas the real stuff happens in marketing. After all, marketing is so closely tied to sales, and that’s where all the money is coming from, right?
I have always said that smart manufacturers, no matter what they produce, understand that their business is training. If you have a fantastic product but mediocre or poor training, your customers will not understand how to take advantage of it and not reap the benefits. Your salespeople and marketing people won’t know either what unique or compelling problems it solves. This will eventually have an impact on product sales. Companies with great products but not-so-hot training can stay lucky for some time, but eventually problems in product training will impact the bottom line.
Therefore, I am so happy that over the past few years, the field of marketing, under the banner of “content marketing,” is turning from a feature/benefit-oriented pursuit to a content and experience-oriented approach. Dust off the adage that “marketing is educational” (heard from a friend who learned that in the first day in Marketing at Wharton some time ago, and it never reappeared in his business classes) it is about to make a big comeback. I am also thrilled that more of marketing is about creating experiences, and that ties in so beautifully with interaction, such as using product simulations to re-create experiences.
I believe wholeheartedly that marketing is about weaving a compelling, interactive story with your prospects in the center of it. It is obvious that the best stories are going to be the ones that involve your true successes from the trenches of your training content–how your product solves real problems that real customers have. When people ask about where do I start in content marketing, my first reaction is of course to go to your trainers and find out what kind of problems/issues are happening in your industry and in particular, how can your product solve them or aimed to solve them.
Great training not only shows enormous respect for your customers, but also it presents an attractive, alluring quality to prospective buyers, who see themselves as future customers, asking themselves before purchase “can this product and company help me solve my problems?” Great content marketing helps the prospect see themselves more clearly as future customers.
I want to be clear. I do not believe training content is marketing content–I think while they have a lot in common, they are aimed at different purposes (purposes I am trying to expound in these pages, and one day hope to organize into a concise treatise). Nonetheless, when we as marketers see the light in terms of the value in pursuing ‘content marketing’ (the value), the starting point is truly in our (expansive) backyard already, in the training division.