Monday, July 12, 2010

Bottoms up (Part 2 of 4)

In Part 1 of this four part post, we looked at the use of a pyramid to visually represent the levels of good solid messaging. Pyramid based message structure will give you simplicity, balance and logic if done correctly. Today we will investigate starting at the bottom, with the capabilities of the product, to begin the formation of the overall messaging. I find this approach most beneficial when positioning an individual product release.

List the individual elements and start to see if there are natural groupings. You are looking for 3-5 buckets that can be used to logically group the items in a balanced way. Many times general buckets like ease of use, performance, or visibility emerge. You are not trying to write the message, but identify the groupings. The bottoms up approach makes sure that you don't exclude an important point, and results in a more logical flow.

Its weakness is that it leads to less imaginative or compelling messaging, especially when the capabilities are not differentiating. A quick scan of your capabilities, lined up under the groupings, will let you know if you are not fully supporting a point. If all summary groupings have a roughly equal number of items you are ready to move up the pyramid. If not, keep working. Next up, "Stuck in the middle with you."

Product messaging (part 1 of 4)

Creating the message is one of the most important tasks for product marketing. While there is some creativity involved, there is a process which can yield results for anyone willing to do the work. In the next three posts I will summarize the three different approaches that you can take to develop your message platform.

The basic parts of a messaging exercise involve;
a) Your high level message - This is a summary message that many equate to a tag line or elevator pitch.
b) The supporting benefit-oriented messages - Usually 3-5 points that are the proof points of the higher level message.
c) The detailed capabilities or features that support each of your benefit points.

It is helpful to think of messaging as a pyramid. Each element supporting those above it. For purposes of example, we will look at Apple's messaging for the iPad launch.
a) The high level message was "The iPad is a magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price."
b) The benefit messages are, "The best web browsing, email, movie/picture viewing and reading experience." The focus is on what the iPad is best at with lots of feeling descriptions... fun... feels right... etc.
c) The details that provide support are: Thin, light, 10 hour battery life, ground up redesigned applications, starts at $499, 9.4 inch multitouch display, 1024 X 768 resolution, 1GHz Apple A4 processor, 802,11n wireless, etc.

The basic question of approach is, "where do you start?" But you are in luck, you can start at the top, middle or the bottom of the pyramid. Next week, "Bottoms up," or "We know its features... now what?"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The final 10%

I am reminded of the importance of finishing well after watching World Cup soccer this weekend. So much of the time product marketers worry about the beginning phases of a project, the creative, the plan, the team... that they forget that it is all about the finish. It is the last 10% that makes the difference between check-box "done" and "wow" success.

I am talking about the extra time and effort to finish well such as the personal phone call to the key sales reps, the third check before you hit send, or the hand written thank you note to the key players. The last 10% is what differentiates your project from the similar one being done by your competition. It is the part that makes it yours, and makes it a project that you are proud of. What is keeping you from sticking the final 10% of your project?

You can make excuses; I am too busy, I just inherited this project, this is good enough... but is that really going to get you and your company success in the marketplace? How are you going to earn the right for the next project, if you do not finish well? Seth Godin has an excellent post entitled "Hardly worth the effort" that visits this subject.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tell a Story

People don't care about your products or features. They care about what your product enables them to do. The best way to communicate this value proposition is a story. History has taught us that one of the most effect ways of passing on information is to use a story. We have been learning from stories, ever since childhood.

The general elements of a story are the situation, complication and solution or resolution. Good examples of this approach are found in newspaper articles. Instead of building a long technical argument that arrives at a logical conclusion, get to your point up front and let the audience decide if they want or need to read on to get more detail.

Here is a short example from my current product:

"Every organization depends on the reliable movement of files, from batch integration, to the movement of large images or catalogs, to the synchronization of remote locations or disaster-recovery sites (situation). When organizations depend on unreliable FTP, valuable IT resources are used to answer the “Where is my file” question (complication).

In this new era of rigorous security and shorter processing windows, Connect:Direct is the point-to-point file transfer software optimized for high-volume, secure, assured delivery of files within and among enterprises (solution)."

Even better if you can get a customer to tell the story, which adds credibility and can provide a personal connection point for the audience.

To learn more about building your stories, you might want to slog through the Minto Pryramid Principle. (Long read but some good logic on how to make your writing clearer)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Three questions to ask before every presentation

1- Who is the audience?
This seems obvious, but you don't know how many presentations I have sat through that were meant for people not in the room. You have to consider the audience; what do they know about the subject? What questions will they have on their mind? Why are they here? Knowing your audience will let you pick the right approach, the right content and connect with them.

2- So what?
The burning question you should have ringing in your ears throughout the presentation is your audience asking, "So what?" What does this mean to me? What am I suppose to do with this information? If you answer this question for your audience, based on the correct audience information, you will engage them like never before, and get the best chance to succeed with the third question.

3- What is the desired action?
What do you want the audience to do with what you have told them? Do you want them to buy something, think about a problem, or start a conversation with a particular audience? At the very least you should want them to share something they learned with their colleagues and friends.

Equipped with the answers to these three questions you can then craft a more compelling presentation than the last one you delivered. I guarantee it. For more tips on presentations, check out Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Stop shouting and start listening

Most marketers spend months creating their message, making sure they have three points with support for each one. Then they agonize over how to creatively present that message. Then they pick a mass marketing channel and start blasting out the message.. it reminds me of trying to have a conversation during an argument. When one party is solely focused on shouting... it is time to change the channel, delete the email, or just walk away.

Today's successful technology marketing is about listening. Start by listening to your target buyers to determine what they need, how they research and find solutions to those needs, and how and where they connect with others to share their solutions.

I find so many marketers showing up in social media and they are still shouting. Start by knowing your audience. Listen to them, hang out, then contribute to the conversation. Become a trusted source and then you can talk to your friends, instead of shouting at strangers.

Many marketers assume that their target market is just like them, so they can just use themselves as a stand in instead of doing their homework. Wrong approach.

Try buyer personas as a tool to help make sure you are listening. A couple of good resources are Buyer Persona blog and Pragmatic Marketing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Things" get marketing

I admit it. I am a sucker for tech gadgets. I also appreciate great marketing when I see it. As I was looking for apps for my new iPad, I ran across a "to do" manager called "Things". Two items worthy of note: a professional video and a $20 price tag!

The Video
Cultured Code, the creator of "Things", obviously did the homework to know their audience. They counted on the early adopter of the iPad to be looking for cool apps that showcase the abilities of the iPad device.

They knew that Apple had created a certain look and style for advertising the iPad. What they did was leverage the advertising investment that Apple was making, to promote "Things", and did they ever get it right.

The Price
Because they had their product and promotion ready for the launch, they were one of the first "to do" list managers in the market on the iPad. Instead of basing their pricing strategy on the iPhone, as others did, they correctly judged that the early adopter audience would be willing to pay much more than the standard $5.00 price point. Can they hold that price.. maybe not, but they are on the top grossing lists of applications.

Know your audience first, then develop your go-to-market strategy.