Content plays into almost every aspect of your marketing team's work — your inbound marketing, social media, SEO, and lead nurturing strategy all rely on having great content your users love to engage with.
That said, writing content that performs in search results is all well and good but it doesn't necessarily drive users to your product. It's great to get visitors through the door, but if you aren't providing them with value and education relevant to your product, they won’t naturally convert.
In this case, product-led content is the answer. This type of content involves, as the name suggests, referencing your product capabilities in your educational content. For example, how to use Acquire to offer first-rate customer service on Facebook is a product-led piece that helps Acquire improve the customer journey.
What is product-led content exactly?
Product-led content is a strategy that centers around teaching the best practices for using your product, solving customers’ most common pain points, and educating users on helpful features.
This content is used to drive product-led growth, rather than SEO growth. Product-led growth involves showcasing your product to source and leverage new leads. So instead of generating leads from cold-calling or whitepapers, a bulk of your growth comes from people using and loving your product.
There are a few critical components to product-led content to remember when trying to improve the customer journey:
- Keep it frictionless and easy. The content should speak for itself. It should be easy to find, easy to implement, and straightforward to understand.
- Demonstrate value. Even within the first few paragraphs of your content, you need to show the reader what they can expect to achieve and why it’s valuable to their business.
- Use features and your product to gain interest. You should rely on your products to drive interest, perhaps through a freemium or trial offering to give users a taste of your offerings.
- Integrate sales and marketing with your product feature set. With a deeper understanding of product usage and the drivers behind it, your marketing and sales team can trigger value-adds, upsells, and additional content as users take new steps in their journey.
Let your product speak for itself and inform your marketing and sales strategy, and you'll be on your way to product-led greatness.
Benefits of including product-led content throughout your customer journey
There are considerable benefits to shifting your strategy to something more product-led:
- Educate your users to help them quickly become power users.
- Gain the ability to qualify your users during the sales cycle based on their product awareness and usage rates.
- Improve your retention by creating word-of-mouth marketing and empowering your users to get the best results out of your product.
Start to focus your marketing team's energy on creating meaningful, product-led content, and you'll see better engagement, more regular readers, and more meaningful feature adoption.
To help you shape your strategy, we’ll break down the steps you can take to use product-led content to improve the customer journey, and provide some examples of businesses leading the way.
Product-led content and the new buyer's journey
As users’ needs and preferences change, so do their buying journeys. The internet has shifted their strategies when looking for new products. Instead of an obvious best choice, there are tons of similar products with very little differentiation.
This has changed the way that businesses need to market products to their customers. For many, your business' marketing and customer service offerings will make the main difference when customers are comparison shopping.
To stand out from the competition, you need to create content that positions your product as the best fit for your customers’ needs.
How to improve your customer journey with product-led content
The best first step to planning this content is to create a customer journey map to help you understand where your customers are interacting with your product, when, and why. Start by aggregating the contact points you have with your customers. Here are a few points to consider:
- When do customers first come to your product site, and what drives them there?
- Do they interact with your customer-facing teams or with chatbots on your marketing site?
- What drives them to return to your site, and how do they find you?
- How many interactions with your product does it take to drive feature adoption? What about a purchase?
A good customer journey map will answer all of these questions and more. With that information, you can create the type of content that best attracts your users and meets your marketing goals.
For instance, if most visitors come to your site via SEO, it's essential to write content that will keep them on your website and, ideally, convert to a signup or an MQL. Product-driven content, teaching them about best practices, or targeting content based on where they are in their journey are all great strategies to create stickiness in your content marketing strategy.
You can also use the insights you glean from your customer journey map for behavioral targeting to share content with users at the perfect time. Proactively displaying product information and valuable how-tos to users at the right moment in their journey can feel like mindreading. It also sets the expectation that you are the knowledge leader for your segment or product and continues to drive new and existing users to your site.
How to apply product-led content per stage
Research suggests that, on average, consumers visit three different websites to make comparisons before purchasing. The same study uncovered that the amount of money users are willing to spend increases with the number of websites they visit beyond that.
Throughout this journey, the more frequently and regularly someone hears about your product, especially from different sources, the more likely they are to buy your product. This means that word-of-mouth marketing and creating content that supports the user journey at every stage are the best possible things you can do to generate more leads.
Here are the drivers behind the research users are doing and how you can create content to meet their needs:
In the first stage of the buyer's journey, people are usually just looking at companies that offer the services they’re looking for. This most often starts with searching for something like "best CRM for startups" or "most delicious apple pie in Austin." In this stage, good SEO can benefit your product-led content strategy. In addition, getting users in the door with educational content about the features of your product and what solutions it's designed to provide can be extremely helpful for people within the exploration stage and can improve the customer journey as a whole.
Types of meaningful content at this stage are:
- Definition content around standard metrics, acronyms, or software within the industry
- “Getting started” content
- Best practice guides for using products like yours
- Information on the business value of using products like yours and what users can expect when they do
The primary purpose of content at this stage should be educating users on the value of products like yours and helping them understand how this impacts their business.
After users understand the value of the specific type of product you offer, they can consider how it would change their business practices or bottom line. At this point, they usually have a few different products they are considering. During this period, it's best to serve customers content that emphasizes the benefits or demographic fits of your particular product. For instance, if you know that you are best fitted to small startups, focus on delivering content that emphasizes the values your team provides explicitly to companies within that range.
The content that you provide during this phase should serve to:
- Explain why your product is different from your competitors and what value you specifically offer to your users
- Allow users to self-identify as the type of users that do best using your product
- Compare the features of your product with other alternatives that users might take. For instance, if your product is a marketing automation solution, you could write a piece comparing your features to HubSpot or MailChimp.
You can use SEO to specifically target these pieces to individuals that are searching for comparison content to maximize the chances they’ll find yours.
When users are getting ready to purchase, it's time to start ramping up your content to teach them how to make the most of your product. You should be surfacing educational content throughout the buying journey, but when customers get ready to make their purchase, it's time to move from trial- or free-user-focused content to paid customer content. Teach customers about the features that they will get by purchasing and the benefits they’ll get.
There are a few different teams that play a part in delivering content during this stage to improve the customer journey:
- As they get close to closing the deal with your customer, your sales team can share knowledge during final meetings.
- Your support team can provide proactive information when customers reach out with questions. Tagging conversations within your ticketing system can help them know where people are within the sales cycle.
- You may choose to involve your customer success team in pre-sales conversations, in which case they can guide future customers directly.
- Marketing may surface targeted content to individuals outside of the sales cycle that look like they are close to purchasing.
When it looks as though a user will purchase, whether directly through your sales team, through tags in your customer experience platform, or behavioral tracking within your product, deliver content to empower them to become the best user they can be.
Every journey is different
Your customer buying journey may have fewer or more steps than the ones we referenced above. First, consider the unique circumstances of each customer journey and determine the type of content you need and when it needs to be surfaced. Then, map your influential touchpoints on your customer journey map, and find a way to serve relevant content during all of those touchpoints.
Top companies that use product-led content to improve the customer journey
It can seem overwhelming to start considering a product-led content strategy and how it would work for your business. Luckily, some fantastic companies are doing product-led content that you can use as examples and learn from:
Ahrefs does an excellent job empowering its users with education around digital marketing. Not only do they educate their customers on how to use Ahrefs optimally, but they also educate about best practices in the digital marketing space. Viewers know to come to Ahrefs both for education around the product, and for how to do digital marketing well in general. They’ve positioned themselves as experts.
HubSpot has mastered the art of perfecting the customer journey. From educating potential buyers on the value of specific products to teaching experienced marketers how to be even more efficient with their work, HubSpot is a well-known content leader. They have positioned themselves as a thought leader with tons of useful content that is constantly drawing potential buyers to the site.
Dropbox’s content is as much about Dropbox as it is about collaboration and working digitally. Given that most of their audience are individuals looking to do both of those effectively, they’ve positioned themselves well within their industry. Instead of writing about why you should use Dropbox, they’ve done a ton of features, like this one with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, talking about why collaborating digitally is valuable. They educate, open up discussions, and let users come to their own conclusions.
Rather than focusing their content on the product overtly, Onnit does lifecycle marketing. All of the content they create for their customers is centered around using their product, or making the most of their services — but not explicitly. Instead, they take time to educate customers on the features around the product, or aspects of the life that the product supports. For instance, they have healthy recipes, interviews with top fitness performers, and other information on how to maximize your effectiveness.
At this point, plenty of people have heard of Bulletproof coffee. The brand itself has branched out from just producing instructions for how much butter to add to your beverage, and has started offering supplements and other products. Any time someone looks for that original recipe, though, they’re brought to the Bulletproof website. As you can see below, there are tons of things for a new user to discover, once they’ve been brought to the site by a simple search:
These companies range from SEO and marketing software to fitness supplements, but they have something in common: a targeted product-led content strategy. Your product can lead your growth, no matter what industry you are in.
Let your product lead
Understanding what your customers are looking for, what their motivations are, and what drives buying decisions can help you decide what type of content to deliver and when in order to improve the customer journey. For example, you can aggregate data about what your customers are doing in your product, both pre- and post-sales.
Beyond that, understand where customers are within their journey — needs change with every step towards purchasing. Even though product-led content often leads to a sale, it can also help post-sales experiences with product adoption and expansion rates. Use behavioral analytics and customer understanding to deliver your customers' best possible experience and education by letting your product lead the way.