When we first started putting things together we not only began building product but we also began creating content. As mentioned in a previous post, we simply didn’t want to leave this opportunity on the table, especially since it was in the realm of our control.
And as we’ve shared we’ve experimented with a number of product iterations (e.g. news feeds, bots) as well as content strategies (e.g. email newsletters, twitter, this blog). Like any good startup, experimentation, early customer feedback, and speed are our greatest assets and a distinct competitive advantage.
But what we’ve come to realize more and more as a team is the convergence of these two. Or, rather, how intimately tied together they are in today’s world.
You see, just like most folks, engineers and software programmers participate in digital communities in an attempt to gather resources, learn about their technological universe, and collaborate with others so that the best products can be built and so that they can continue to grow, personally and professionally.
And this is especially important in a technology professional’s universe since the lightning-fast pace of change that exists around the tools, technology, and practices is an ever-present danger.
The bottom-line is this: If we are unable to stay tactically and strategically relevant then we become obsolete and we will be eventually replaced.
Does this sound like an existential threat? Yes, in many ways, it is. And I don’t like to be overly-dramatic, but, I (and many of you) know acutely the feeling of having discovered that we may be “behind” when it comes to newer forms of technology, systems and practices.
And I’ve got many more years left in me to build so I want to be as up-to-date as I possibly can be!
This is why our team has been discussing deeply the tie between actionable data from the work that we do and the content that developers and teams consume to become the most relevant and effective creators of value. Again, these two have converged and their relationship is truly intimate.
Nis Frome has written a 3-part series on the intersection of product and content that’s worth reading when you have a spare moment. Here are a few extracts that resonated strongly with me:
In this regard, the product enables the best practice or value proposition to be realized, but only after content communicates the practice worth realizing in the first place.
Another way that I’ve thought about it personally is through a “food” metaphor (perhaps because I wrote this before lunch and I’m finding myself to be incredibly hungry at this very moment): The content sets the table (and expectation) for the customer and the product becomes the glorious meal which they consume.
Nis gives a few really great examples of companies that are doing this well which I was familiar with but didn’t quite think through their strategy in this tone and light. But after further consideration they are most definitely executing against this strategy and winning.
To this end, content shouldn’t just be treated as a derivative of product — it should validate the value proposition the product enables in the first place.
We actually have too many successful companies to name at this point in time that have used content specifically as a vehicle of validation and, after extensive testing, build a product directly on top of it. Or, rather, the content became the first iteration of the more obvious software product. The famous (and recently acquired) Product Hunt comes to mind immediately.
Nis summarizes his first part of the series with this slam-dunk:
Customers buy products because of what those products enable them to do, the value of which is communicated and partially delivered (in the form of education) through content.
I won’t be shy and tip-toe around the fact that that’s what we’ve been trying to do through our own content efforts as we’ve built something behind the scenes.
You see, what we’re doing is simply-put, is this: We are building a new market (and possible industry) which we’re calling #EngOps and our efforts around our blog that will be on display through our product offering. And our content leads the way publicly educating our community about a better way of building software.
And it’s not lop-sided either as we’re able to listen and hear from our (future) customers in near real-time, gathering feedback through the variety of channels that we’ve deployed.
We can use the content to drive product development, gain market and customer insights, and build veritable momentum in the right direction toward product-market fit and profitability.
I know, I know – we’ve got it incredibly good and I don’t take it for granted that we, at the very moment, are a small, super-agile team that can create our own rules at this point in time around content and product. Because I know, from experience, that larger and existing teams will struggle to adopt this new form of thinking because of speed, bureaucracy, and cultural philosophy.
But I have hope for all of you! I believe that it’s not too late to bring tighter alignment between your traditional “content marketing” organizations and product. And, in many ways I think that we’ll be able to help because that’s what our product is hoping to accomplish.
Together, we’ll take a great trip (a flight, perhaps) to an exciting future where organizations and teams have the data they need to make the best decisions around and for the folks that matter the most: Their team.
(If you want some bonus thoughts, I share a few about content and story on my vlog.)
Also published on Medium.