A couple years back, the GM & SVP of Oracle Marketing Cloud, Kevin Ackroyd, declared that too many B2B marketers are still doing feeds and speeds marketing and calling it “content.”
That’s still true in principle, with one distinction.
Today, marketers are too often doing feeds and speeds content and calling it marketing.
Charts, tables, web pages, infographics, data sheets, filled with specs.
All those lovingly prepared objects of content creation, as a colleague of ours once said, celebrating engineering’s handiwork.
We call it the developer’s resume.
In our world of technology marketing, we have an affinity for developers and engineers. But customers? Well, they’re partial to business success. So that’s what we have to market.
Much has been written on the topic of feeds and speeds marketing, including by our friends at B2B Marketing Academy. So we won’t pile on here.
Well, maybe a little bit.
Because chances are, if you’re an experienced marketer, you’re thinking “hey, you’re singing to the choir.”
But perhaps your company assumes customer decisions live and die by the number, size, frequency, speed, or color of something.
And you know what? They might—but so far down the purchasing process that at that point it’s not marketing. It’s simply the kit contents. It’s what’s in the box. Or as we say, it’s product documentation.
The importance of feeds and speeds
OK. Have we piled onto feeds and speeds marketing enough? Because don’t get us wrong—features and specs really are necessary.
At their core, they’re the building blocks your company uses to create solutions for the business challenges your prospects face.
And in the strictest sense, they’re the precise tool that enables a purchasing officer to ensure compliance with requirements. Without them, your proposal would be tossed out before the first round of bidding. So they’re vital to the sales process.
But as a litany of ingredients and quantities, they’re just not helpful in your marketing content. And here’s why.
5 reasons feeds and speeds aren’t marketing
1. Specs and feature descriptions have no SEO value.
There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, if you use your own brand terminology, that might make you unique, but nobody will know to search for it.
But if you use industry terminology, then so will the rest of your competitors, and you’ll languish on the outer reaches of Google’s page ranking.
And before you confidently assert that prospects would come directly to your website and bypass a search engine, remember that 72% of B2B buying processes begin with search.
That means at best (ignoring all other possible means of discovery), there’s only a 28% chance buyers will go right to the manufacturer’s website. And if there are seven competitors in your space, that’s a roughly 4% chance they’ll go directly to yours.
Which is fine, if you’re satisfied with reaching only people who already know you, and only a fraction of those.
And finally, if you’re like most manufacturers, then that sales material you provide to resellers, retailers, and other indirect channels? I bet it’s identical to what appears on your own feature description and specs pages.
Seems like a great way to get all your information out there. But in reality, Google’s search algorithm penalizes duplicate content, pushing you and all your channel partners further into oblivion.
2. Made up feature names don’t solve problems.
We alluded to this above: when you use esoteric terminology and made-up feature names, nobody remembers what search terms to enter. But that’s just part of the problem.
The other part is that they are simply not helpful to a buyer searching for a solution.
You think (perhaps you were told) that using a trademarked technology name would differentiate you. So you spend cycles and resources coming up with the coolest, baddest feature name.
But so did all of your competitors who have their version of the exact same feature.
Think of it this way: which car would you purchase? The one with Active Drive, 4MATIC, 4MOTION, Terrain Select, or Terrain Response?
You wouldn’t care! Did you even know anything about any of those? You just wanted a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Having your hotted-up feature name on the spec page doesn’t help you market it.
3. They don’t attract top- or middle-of-the-funnel prospects
Many technology companies are sincerely loyal to their existing customers. This becomes evident in their marketing material, which uses insider language and doesn’t seek to educate people outside the circle.
So features and specs pages are often simply grand announcements of the latest versions and differences between old and new. Great for your roster of current customers who will rubber-stamp the P.O. for the next upgrade – a vanishing species at best.
But prospects who need education about a solution before a purchase will turn to the manufacturer who provides it.
4. Specs commoditize your offering
As a marketer, I find specs a little depressing, because they strip the clothes off the emperor that engineering brought so diligently and passionately to life. There’s no magic in them.
Because the secret sauce doesn’t come from what went into them, it comes from what the solution makes possible. (And it’s possibilities that the company built the product for, to begin with; and entrusted those to marketing.)
But according to Pragmatic rule #8, marketing is not opinion, so I’ll get to the factual point. Specs are achievable by every other competitor in the market. They become points of niggling in evaluation, negotiating points that get canceled out during comparison.
Mighty importance is given not to the most breathtaking capabilities, but to the last, little, teeny thing. The one insignificant line item that, after all others have been exhausted, might remain different between A and B. Like the color. A USB connection. Number of cup holders. (But not, typically, the fancy feature name.)
So all the innovation and optimization and best minds you brought to your solution end up secondary to one additional cup holder that anyone could have made.
5. They become outdated with every version
At one company we worked with, Sales wanted detailed feature comparisons as sales tools, a lose-lose by any measure of effectiveness. But we just couldn’t justify the resource and effort expenditure, when any information could be found so easily, and publicly.
So a colleague and I calculated how much time it would take to keep up with feature and spec updates.
This was an unserious exercise, but the point remains. Between your manufacturer’s product updates and your competitors’, especially now in a world of software-updatable hardware, SaaS deployments, and agile sprints, only a documentation specialist would be able to keep up with versions.
Important? Sure. Marketing? No.
What to do instead
Your tech company might stress product features over customer value. So you might not have the option to eliminate the specs part of your content creation. We can relate.
But you can use them to your advantage.
That’s because features and specs can actually provide editorial value too.
Think of them as units of technological ingenuity with which you can construct positions of R&D leadership and industry innovation. Not just by translating them into benefits, but also highlighting them as strengths on their own.
Write an educational email, web page, blog, ebook or sales tool about each major related capability or feature set.
The technology will still come through clearly, but wrapped in valuable information for buyers higher in the funnel.
Now we’re talking content—and marketing—rather than just product documentation.
Better still, not only will new prospects love you, but so will your sales team, reseller partners, and yes, Google too.