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What is Product-Led Marketing & How To Approach It?

In the product-led era, marketing has shifted and the rules of the game have changed. It’s no longer enough to write a great case study, create a convincing website, and focus on generating MQLs.

In product-led companies, we need a better model of marketing.

I want to explain the how and why behind shifting to product-led marketing, where the primary means of user testing and research is trying the product.

So, if you want to create a marketing strategy that delivers results, aligns with your goals, and gets your teams working in harmony...

Hit play on the below video or read on and enjoy.

Marketing is in crisis – it’s time for a new approach

According to the TrustRadius B2B Buying Disconnect Report, across 779 tech companies, the vendor blog, marketing collateral, and website were ranked lowest in terms of trustworthy material as part of the buying process.

At the top?

The buyer’s own experience with the product, a free trial, and referrals.

Results from the TrustRadius B2B Buying Disconnect Report

Even outside of the buying process, Hubspot has found that only 3% of consumers trust salespeople and marketers – level with investment bankers!

Anyone can create a good website and collateral – and buyers are savvy to the fact that marketers are more focused on putting their product in the best light, rather than clarifying whether it is the right fit for each usage case.

This is a crisis of truth. Marketers are stretching reality and customers are sick and tired of having stretched reality sold to them.

Opinions from buyers on marketing

This old style of marketing operates on fear. Fear of losing the lead’s interest, fear of losing to the competition, fear of not reaching lead quotas.

Fear makes you lose focus. Your focus should only be in one place: the customer.

The best marketing is not your brand identity, your studied messaging, your website, your award-winning campaign, or your case study. The best marketing is the actual experience customers have with the product and references from your customers.

And you can’t have the latter without the former.

So, what does the new model of product-led marketing look like? Forgive me if this sounds a little flowery, but we need marketing that is based in love. In trusting, forgiving, nurturing, and being supportive of your users.

We have to shift marketing away from lead gen and MQLs to a lazer focus on helping and making customers wildly successful.

Shifting marketing from generating leads to making customers successful

There are six steps we can take to start marketing with love, creating the new model for product-led marketing.

1. Gain a deep understanding of users’ problems

At the core of your product lies the customer – your product fits them, not the other way around. Your marketing is now customer-focused, remember!

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to understand your users’ problems are to unearth the user stories that your product is designed around.

What are the user stories that your product is designed around?

Put simply, user stories are a framing method to understand the specific problems your product is solving for users. They help you think in problems rather than marketing. A user story starts with identifying the person/their role, their want(s), and the outcome(s).

For example:

  • As an SEO, I want to get Google to index my site, so I can get results from my SEO efforts faster
  • As a manager, I want to be able to understand my colleagues’ progress, so I can better report our successes and failures

Your product team very likely has a whole repertoire of these user stories.

If they don’t have suitable user stories, you can craft your own by analysing:

In product-led marketing, marketing, sales, product, and customer success are no longer siloed. They are interwoven in a cohesive experience with the product at the center, and the customer at the center of the product!

Diagram explaining the before and now of leveraging collective intelligence in your team

2. Focus your content on helping users solve problems

If you haven’t already, turn your blog into a repository for tips and hacks that show users how to solve their problems using your product.

Ahrefs’ blog is a perfect example of this in practice. Almost every post refers back to Ahrefs in the content, so whilst the articles may be explaining answers to broader SEO questions (alt text, page speed, etc.), they always find a way to naturally bring Ahrefs into the solution.

Show users how to solve problems with your product on your blog

Learn your customers’ problems and address them in how-to articles, guides, tips for success, and other solution-focused content that will deliver value to your customers whilst presenting your product as the primary or complementary way of solving that problem.

3. Knowledge bases and learning centers

A knowledge base is a central hub that offers a deep dive into a topic of interest or key problem your product solves.

Organize your knowledge base by users’ most common issue and add case context openers to the top of your help articles (explaining who might need this kind of content and why it’s important).

This could even stretch as far as creating a course that you give away for free (as a lead magnet or otherwise). Your knowledge and expertise are no longer the most important element of the buying process – it’s all about the product, remember – so giving away advice and guidance will not damage your chances of making a sale and will create a better customer experience.

If your blog posts are chapters, your knowledge bases and learning centers are books.

Educating your users about a major topic of interest

4. Don’t forget about SEO

In creating knowledge bases, you’re establishing a content-rich hub of solutions and guidance.

Make sure you’re optimizing your content for search.

If optimized well, your knowledge bases should be a major source of traffic from SERPs – especially through featured snippets and answer boxes.

If your knowledge bases are answering the key questions that your user stories have, they should be answering those questions wherever your users find them – whether that’s on your site or on SERPs.

5. Embrace reviews, good regular and bad

Reviews help you communicate everything. The most valuable reviews are the ones that include a healthy dose of cons to balance the pros.

Nobody is going to expect to see a list of negative outcomes or features of your product on your website. Consider it a given that your website is there for you to share the positives of your product.

Embracing reviews to communicate the good, the bad, and the ugly

Your reviews, then, are the place for honesty and for you to address real usage case issues.

Don’t shy away from user reviews – a great response to a user’s public review that lists issues will do more to sell your product than any number of case studies, sales pages, and testimonials.

6. Change your performance metrics

You can’t change the way your marketing function operates without changing the way you measure performance. If you try to, they will inevitably fall back to old habits to keep ticking the right boxes and meeting old KPIs.

For example, Slack stopped measuring:

  • Marketing by number of leads
  • Sales by number of leads closed
  • Customer success by cost to serve

These drive the wrong behaviours – leads at any cost and revenue-first. Instead, to focus on customer happiness, they started measuring:

  • Time to first response
  • Customer satisfaction rate overall
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Daily active users

And the ultimate gold standard metric? Recommendations.

Ready to move to product-led marketing?

Then start with a simple question:

What is it going to take to make your top customers successful?

Once you know what it’ll take, put your best talent onto making it happen in a joined-up approach based on those principles.

Here’s a quick reminder of what product-led marketing looks like and is made of:

  1. Shift your marketing focus from generating leads to helping customers – treat marketing as an extension of Customer Success
  2. Gain a deep understanding of users’ problems – start by looking at the product team for user stories
  3. Focus marketing on creating helpful content for users looking to solve their problems – do so through the lens of your product
  4. Sniff out any fluff or stretched reality in your content and eliminate it
  5. Encourage reviews of all kinds
  6. Change your metrics to drive the right behaviors internally (from # of leads to NPS)

What does successful product-led marketing look like?

Marketing at the service of the product

This is exactly the kind of reaction you want.

Marketing should be at the service of the product – to the point that it is unnoticeable, that it just looks like help.

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn about product-led marketing. If you want to know more about how you can pivot your organization’s marketing strategy to product-led, I’m offering a free 30-minute Product-Led Marketing Assessment.

Good luck – I hope to speak to you soon!

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Eduardo Esparza
Eduardo Esparza
Eduardo AKA EE, is the founder of Market 8. A true visionary with superpowers to gather the troops and inspire the team to move mountains.