Thought leadership differentiates your brand through a mission to change the status quo in some way. But different for the sake of different won’t convince a prospect to demo your product over a competitor’s. The magic happens when your thought leadership is linked to pain points your product solves. This hybrid of thought leadership and product-led content simultaneously creates affinity for your brand and demand for your product.
When I work with clients to develop content, I use a framework to establish the point of view and weave relevant product messaging into the narrative. In this post, I’m sharing my framework and explaining how I use it.
1. Start with Pain Points
Effective content is built on a thorough understanding of relevant pain points. Starting with pain points ensures that the content will resonate and that there will be a logical tie-in to the problem your product solves.
2. Establish the Point of View
Your point of view is where the thought leadership component comes in. Typically, your point of view shows up in the introduction, as a way to set the stage for the argument you’re making. You’ll then reference the point of view and build on it throughout the piece. Your point of view may be a belief or stance on any of the following:
- Customer pain points
- Customer priorities
- The industry status quo
- Market trends
- Conversations linked to the problem you solve
- Social issues that your audience cares about
Read Your SEO Content Needs POVs to learn how to establish points of view that resonate with your prospects and customers.
3. Identify Relevant Product Messaging
Your product messaging platform is an invaluable tool for developing this hybrid of thought leadership and product-led content. Identify which value props are relevant to the topic you’re writing about and grab the product messaging associated with these value props. I like to keep these on hand in a separate doc that I can reference as I’m writing.
4. Craft a Conducive Structure
It will be easier to make your value props clear and weave in product messaging when you have a conducive structure. One of the simplest ways to structure a piece for these purposes is to include one or more of the following sections:
When you clearly define the benefits of taking a particular path or plan of action, prospects will be more motivated to read further. You might assume that they already understand the benefits. But even if they do understand on some level, bringing them top-of-mind will help drive action.
A section focusing on the challenges common to the issue at hand gives you an opportunity to dive into the pain points you’re focusing on. This section helps set the stage for your presentation of how to best solve the problems discussed in the piece.
After you’ve made your case or presented your method or plan, make it concrete by providing examples. Describing various use cases for different industries will help your prospects visualize what it will look like in the real world. Examples and use cases also provide an ideal opportunity for weaving in references to your product value props and highlighting features.
Customer vignettes are another way to make the abstract concrete. These mini customer stories allow you to get specific on how a customer is using your product to solve a problem and reach their goals. I raid my clients’ case study repositories to find relevant stories. You can also talk to the sales team if you don’t yet have a robust collection of case studies on hand.
Don’t forget in-line CTAs as an opportunity to point prospects to product-focused content. You may want to encourage readers to learn more and include CTAs that direct prospects to case studies, buyer’s guides, product pages, etc. at relevant points in the piece.
Hybridize Your Thought Leadership and Product-Led Content
To stand out in the sea of search results, your content must be different in some meaningful way. Differentiating through thought leadership and referencing your product in a couple of places allows you to subtly lead prospects to the conclusion that your product is the best solution to their problems and that your team is the best one to help them implement it.
This post is part of the Content Partner series, where I share how marketing teams are working with me and other content strategists and creators to increase their performance. I offer a behind-the-scenes look at what my clients are doing and what I see other successful SaaS marketers doing.
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