Product marketers. They are the golden goose of software companies. This mythical combination of technical product knowledge and writing prowess. Marketing is depending on them for a steady stream of whitepapers (a.k.a. golden eggs) so they can generate demand for the business. It sounds wonderful, but alas, it is really more of a fairy tale.
The Reality of What Product Marketing Does
According to Pragmatic Marketing’s Annual Survey, on average product marketers work 46 hours per week and 53% of that time is spent in meetings and managing email. Another 20% is spent supporting development efforts and 15% is spent helping sales with existing customer deals or prospects. That leaves a measly 9% of their time spent creating and reviewing marketing materials. Not a lot of golden eggs can be created in 4 fragmented hours a week.
This lackluster level of content productivity yields tension between product marketing and demand generation teams. Product marketing feels pulled in too many directions and isn’t able to make any of their internal clients happy. Meanwhile, demand generation is frustrated that they don’t have the killer assets needed to generate demand. It’s an unhealthy state that many of the software companies I work with are faced with. The good news is there is a solution.
How to Get More Golden Eggs from Product Marketing
The answer is to stop expecting product marketing to ever write another whitepaper. They are too time intensive for them to actually dedicate the time to. Particularly uninterrupted time where they can get all their ideas fluently represented. Instead, ask your product marketers to outline whitepapers.
Product marketers are at the epicenter of development, sales, product management, marketing and your customers and prospects. They absolutely have the best perspective on what topics would make for a good whitepaper to engage your target audience. But remember, you’ve only got 12 hours a month from your product marketers.
Here is what you need them to do:
- Create a 1-2 page outline for a whitepaper (2 hours)
- Research supporting references and add links to the outline (2 hours)
- As needed, speak on the topic in an interview with the writer (1 hour)
- Edit the final draft (1-2 hours)
So in about 6 hours of their time, you can set yourself up with all the information that a professional copywriter needs to fill in the blanks and write the whitepaper.
Wait, a Copywriter?
Yup. The key step here is having someone that can dedicate uninterrupted time to write that whitepaper. This can be someone on a content team within your company or, if you don’t have such a resource available, you can outsource to the gig economy with a professional copywriter. The key here is getting someone who understands your complex product/service and can take what your product marketer provides and run with it.
That resource will be able to write that whitepaper in a fraction of the time it would take your product marketers (and for a fraction of the cost). For example, when given a solid outline, I am able to write a 20 page whitepaper (with appropriate graphics and white space) in 8-10 hours.
How to Get a Solid Outline from Product Marketing
The last barrier to overcome is how to advise product marketing on creating those outlines. The format of the outline will change depending on if it is a research study, thought leadership or product-focused whitepaper. However, here are some key elements that should be included to make an outline ready for a writer.
- Target Audience – It is critical to describe who the target audience is and why they would want to read this piece. If you don’t have this info, don’t bother trying to write it.
- Hypothesis, Problem or Overarching Idea – Explain the concept of the paper in a summary paragraph.
- Evidence – Provide the reasons (better yet statistics) that prove the hypothesis/problem/idea. Include hyperlinks to stats, supporting studies, articles, etc.
- Solution – Provide the steps the reader should take to solve the problem, realize the idea, etc.
- Case Studies – Provide any case studies (named or anonymous) that support the problem or solution.
- Action Items – Provide next steps for the reader on what they should do to improve their situation after reading the paper. Include CTAs as needed.
The key to making this easy on a writer is to supply all of the sources that they should read to support each section. This makes the learning curve less steep and results in a paper with lots of meaty references. And don’t forget to design first! Think of a creative concept with the writer before writing begins. This will help the writer enrich the text with a chosen theme and determine appropriate ways to breakout sidebar content.
Product Marketers—Producers of Excellent Outlines
You’ve now got all the ingredients to change your approach with product marketing and start getting steady production of those golden eggs! If you are still short on content resources, I can help! Working with a contractor can be very cost effective, just be sure you consider it a long-term relationship. The better that resource understands your product, the higher the quality (and faster the writing time).
Product marketing will be thrilled that their expertise is being used to create so many great whitepapers and demand gen will meet those aggressive quotas. It’s a change that has a big impact on internal working relationships and your marketing pipeline. Time to get those product marketers outlining!