Elisabeth Cullivan Thomas, a technology product marketer, is the owner of Launch Product Marketing.
Product messaging, go-to-market strategy, thought-leadership activity, customer success initiatives, content development, and global product launch execution augment her extensive portfolio of market-leading achievements.
Simply offering a fantastic product that you are passionate about does not mean you will instantly flourish.
So, how do you attract the appropriate audience and help potential buyers understand your product's value?
Developing a solid product message that articulates your value and relevance will help position your product for success.
From Chaos to Clarity: The Complexity of Product Messaging
The process of developing product messaging is complex and ongoing.
It is not unusual for a team that is new to messaging to become overwhelmed and frustrated with the length of time and research necessary.
However, the messaging toolset output is a valuable guide for all business activities.
Numerous inputs go into a messaging project, including market research, understanding your target audience, competitive intelligence, customer input, and differentiators.
Representatives from the broader organization, commonly during messaging workshops, provide information and feedback.
Working with those who interact with customers, sell the product, and develop the product ensures messaging is grounded in facts from firsthand experiences.
Eventually, you come to that 'aha' moment when it all comes together - fact-based messaging that resonates with your target audience.
The final messaging will drive all of your downstream marketing activities.
Going from chaos to clarity is challenging, but necessary.
Five Foundational Elements of Product Messaging
There are five elements of the messaging development process:
- Identify your target audience
- Understand their pain points
- Determine how your solution solves these problems
- Identify benefits your solution brings to them
- Differentiate your product from all the rest
1. Identify your target audience
The first thing you want to do is identify your target audience: Who needs your product to enhance their life?
Your target market might be B2B or B2C, a specific geography, a particular company size, or a demographic.
You may settle on something like males over age 50 or financial institutions with 500+ employees.
Part of this exercise is developing an ideal customer profile (ICP). Your ICP is the ideal customer that represents the perfect fit for your products.
Knowing your ICP is critical during the messaging project.
It helps you drill down into their unique problems, and understand how your solution solves these problems. The ICP is valid later on, too. You can provide it to your sales team.
They'll be able to target and appropriately engage with those ideal customers.
Developing buyer personas
This is also an excellent opportunity to develop your buyer persona. A buyer persona is a humanized representation of your customers.
- Customer demographics
- Customer buying behaviors
- Customer motivations
- Customer product search strategies
- Customer goals
Digging deep into your target audience will help your marketing team in several ways.
It will help you craft messaging that connects with your ideal customer and develop engaging content using the right tone.
Where to find the information?
Where do you find the information that helps you develop your ICP and personas? Look at data.
Dig into sales data and identify those companies that contribute most to your revenue. Those are likely the type of companies you want to target.
Keep in mind that this is not a one-time exercise. Constantly refine and improve your target audience. Suppose your efforts are not resonating or your sales team is not closing deals.
In that case, it's possible your messaging is targeting too broad or narrow of an audience.
2. Understand Pain Points
The next step is to identify customer pain points. Pain points may be real or perceived.
Pains may be something the customer is aware of already or may be something that you bring to their attention for the first time.
When defining the problem, you have to filter out the noise and get to the root of their pain. In large part, identifying the root cause can be part of your target audience research.
Discovering root problems
By learning about the customer's lifestyle, work environment, motivations, and goals, you should begin to get a sense of what motivates your audience and how you can improve their life.
Digging deep means looking beyond the surface to the triggers underneath.
Some specific examples of root problems are:
- A small business owner may not be able to find affordable automation tools.
- A sales team may struggle to close deals due to a confusing process.
- An agency may constantly be behind schedule because they're waiting on clients to respond.
- A marketing team might be targeting too broad of an audience or too narrow of an audience.
A great way to tackle this is to ask existing customers why they chose your product and ask the sales team what pain points prospects share.
3. Solve the Problem
Now that you know your target audience and the issues they face, it's time to determine how your product or service will solve that problem.
The ability to solve the problem is what makes your product relevant and necessary in a crowded marketplace.
The Jobs-to-be-Done methodology is something to consider when determining how your product solves a customer problem.
It emphasizes that customers want a product that is going to do a job for them.
For example, the need to find files and images quickly, prevent burglary of a home, and file taxes confidently are all jobs that a product can do for customers.
There is a quote from Theodore Levitt of Harvard Business School that supports the jobs-to-be-done method.
"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole."
A good practice is to leave out the vague features and function lists and make your solution crystal clear with all of the jargon and distraction stripped away.
When you communicate value quickly and clearly, it will better resonate with your audience.
4. Identify and Communicate Product Benefits
Presenting your solution is not enough by itself. It would help if you also emphasized how that solution will benefit your customer by tangibly improving their life.
Keep in mind that your product features are not the same as your product benefits.
The two are often conflated in marketing, but there is a distinct difference. Determine how getting the job done benefits your customer.
This is another area where you want to dig down and look at the root problem you have identified.
How does your product solve that problem, and what is the ultimate benefit to the customer?
Often, product benefits are associated with productivity gains, customer success, financial gains, and security risk reduction.
5. Differentiate from the Competition
The last step is to differentiate from the competition. Differentiation means taking a good, hard look at the competitors in your space.
What do they offer, and how do they present that offering?
You will gather valuable competitive intelligence by talking with customers.
You can speak with existing customers about the products or services they evaluated before deciding, and you can ask former customers why you lost their business to someone else.
Are you really different?
Below are two steps to determine if your product message is differentiated:
- Write out your message
- Take your company name off of the message, and replace it with your competitor's name
Does the message work equally well for your competitor as it does for you?
If so, your customer will choose the less expensive option.
You don't want customers to compare apples to apples when making a decision; you want them to compare apples to oranges.
Final tip - visit your customers.
The concept of Genchi Genbutsu is Japanese for "Go and See" and is part of Toyota's car manufacturing production ethos.
Toyota believes seeing what's going on on the factory floor, in person, is the only way you'll truly understand the situation and collect facts.
Just like visiting the factory floor, visiting customers is essential for building out messaging.
Visiting customers can mean visiting in person in a physical setting, listening in on customer sales calls, or scheduling 1-1 calls with current and former customers.
Messaging is never finished
Messaging should be fact-based. This means undertaking regular fact-finding expeditions, using your customers to mine valuable messaging insights.
Scheduling regular intervals for refining and improving messaging is also necessary as customer needs change, competition increases, and markets and products constantly change.
The best part of this messaging exercise is that it will help drive downstream marketing activities with an incredible information foundation.
You will know who your ideal customers are, understand their problems, communicate the job you do, accurately express the benefits you bring to them, and know why you are different from the competition.