As he announced his plan to take over his company’s blog for the next 30 days for “Product Awareness Month”, Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner said something that made my ears perk up: 

“We’ve never written much about our products on the blog, in fact, we’ve actively avoided it to let the content speak for itself as an educational pillar of the community, and to remain non-salesy.”

He then admitted this came with a problem. No one has been using their newest set of products: pop ups and sticky bars.

“1.06 sums up my frustration at the adoption rate of our new products,” said Oli in his kickoff blog, referring to a ratio that should be much closer to 3. (That would equal 100% adoption.)

Bummer: Users are only using 1/3 of the Unbounce platform

To me, this is an extraordinary confession. If Unbounce, which has grown to a multi-million dollar company almost entirely through content marketing, hasn’t been successfully getting customers to adopt new products and features, how are other product companies doing on this front?

Probably way worse.

So if Oli’s throwing caution to the wind and diving into a crazy blogging challenge to make those product adoption rates go up, I’m paying attention.

Get comfortable with being “salesy” (it’s more profitable)

Oli’s discomfort around product-focused (“salesy”) content is commonplace among content marketers. I’m going to blame Hubspot for this.

Hubspot’s Inbound funnel tells content marketers that they must not get caught “overtly” selling something. That would be tacky! We are definitely NOT here to sell you our software and services. We want to entertain you. We want you to like us. We want you to sit at our table and we’ll buy you lunch. For free!

In fact, Inbound sums up the entire post-sales process as “Delight”, as if the key to growing a B2B product business is like handing out ice cream.

Inbound makes sense as a marketing framework, but doesn’t account for all the hard work that goes into post-sales.

Unbounce has been a poster child for how well the Inbound methodology can work. Their content efforts to date enabled them to establish and create demand for a brand new category: landing page software. No small feat.

BUT, Unbounce is also a prime example of how limiting the inbound approach is for B2B SaaS businesses.

Unbounce’s product adoption woes are proof that even if you have a highly impressive inbound marketing operation, the gravy train will eventually slow down.

As the category they created has matured and more competitors have entered the space, Unbounce can’t get away with just selling landing page software anymore. To sell your product, you have to sell your product too.

B2B SaaS buyers often go through a complex buying process, jumping through hoops and multiple layers of objections to have their purchase approved.

They would LOVE to know stuff like this – all of which make it easier for them to get through those internal hurdles and pick you:

  • the value props of the features, products and integrations (real value propositions, not just the fact that you offer them)
  • how your features and functionality work together to make their jobs easier (e.g. use cases, tutorials and examples)
  • the business case for buying your product vs. the alternatives (makes their buying process easier)
  • that you’re responsive to customer requests (it’s a big plus if you incorporate their feedback into the roadmap)
  • that you have resources to help them implement and successfully onboard different types of users at their company (higher likelihood of a smoother transition to your product)

Some of this is stuff that should be on your marketing website anyway. But offering more content around these topics creates confidence that your team is committed to bringing its customers maximum ROI for their monthly/annual investment.

Product marketing pulls a lot more weight

Prospects don’t know how valuable your product is until you tell them. They can’t connect the dots around all your products and features if you don’t do it for them.

All I’m saying is that you can keep publishing dozens or hundreds of posts divorced from what your product actually does:

What is the value of pumping out more of these?

Or just dive right in like Oli did and show up with 30 different ways that your products make your customers successful. I’m betting Unbounce customers learned more about sticky bars and popups in the past month than all the previous months combined because they finally stopped being afraid to talk about it.

You can find the whole month’s worth of posts on Unbounce’s blog

If you have a great product to sell, put your heads together with the product and customer success teams and develop product-focused content that sells.

You can do it without detracting from the customer experience either.

This webinar I developed for ProdPad’s new customer feedback product got over 12x the signups as our regular product demo. It was still mostly a demo, but selling a compelling angle resulted in this content pulling a lot more weight.

This webinar did really, really well. You can watch it here.

We also developed an angle for our tangential audience (developers) like this one:

We also continued to support the post-sales funnel with content for our primary audience, product managers:

If you have product with a strong value proposition, then talk about it. Talk about it in all the different ways you can, from all the angles that might interest your audience.

Product marketing never stops pulling its weight: first, it helps draw in leads and prospects by showing them what your product can help them do and second, it helps you communicate new features and functionality to your existing customers.

I’m grateful for Oli for opening up about Unbounce’s product adoption issues – I suspect many other businesses are struggling with the same thing. And if you are, I would bet on following Unbounce’s lead. Create content sells. Don’t worry about being “salesy.”