Friday, July 24, 2015

Your trusted advisors

Did I mention that trying to tackle messaging by yourself results in predictable results? Something you love, but no one else does. It is best to assemble a team of trusted advisors who can brainstorm with you. The key factor in assembling your team is that they are not all like you.. But people you can trust to be honest and constructive with you.

Here are some suggestions on picking team members;
  • Get cross discipline representation.. Sales, product development, support
  • Look for a member who knows little about your product/solution but is strong in the creative area (sometimes we get too close)
  • Find the best messaging person you know!

When you assemble your team be very specific on what you want them to do, and set up a couple of sessions to deliver results. Do not try to do it all at once. Give messaging time to develop and mature. You may have an idea of where you want to end-up, but do not force that direction. See if the team can get there on their own.

Most of all, make it fun. Make sure everyone has a voice, a vote and is respected. Move through a brainstorm phase where everything is captured, before you start critiquing them.

Remember messaging is part art, part science and never done!

Iterate, test, iterate.

The view from the top (Part 4 of 4)

The memorable part of messaging it the simple statement at the top. You can think of it as your tag line or the one thing you want everyone to remember. I went to and there on the scrolling banners are their key top level messages. "Get a better return on relationships" … great top level message. Speaks to what it does, the value it delivers, and makes you want to know more.

Many people want to start at the top because it is the sexy part, the part most seen. But without understanding what you have, and what value it provides, you can spend a lot of time coming up with catchy phrases that you can not support.

In todays crowded marketplace, your top level message has to be designed not to just garner attention, but attention with the people who can buy your product. If you have started at the bottom, and driven through the middle, you should have a good idea of what you need to say to reflect the rest of your message platform.

If you are starting from the top, here are some suggestions on how to kickstart the process;
  • Look at your differentiation
  • Start with the pressing need or driver for your solution
  • Drive home the benefit or value you deliver

After you have identified 3-5 good candidates, then proceed to see if you can provide reasonable proof for your claim. If not, move to the next. Don't get too attached to any particular direction early in the process. Narrow it down to a couple and then test it on your target audience, or your trusted advisers who can stand in for them.

Messaging Series:
  • Meet you in the middle Part 3

Meet you in the middle (Part 3 of 4)

In part 1 and 2 of this series on messaging we investigated assembling the core capabilities of your product or service and started the work of grouping these into logical buckets. In the middle we want to start the hard work of messaging.. Creating the key points to a story that answer the "so what" question for the user/purchaser.

That’s right, we have to speak to value not just capability. So you have a 16mgz processor, what does that mean for me in my job? This is where we have to start targeting a specific role.. Or personna that we want this messaging to sell to. You have to know what is important to them to be able to message your great product, in a way that makes them want to buy.

And yes, it is appropriate, based on how you will be going-to-market, to modify your positioning for certain sub-segments.

The key goal of the middle is to identify three to five memorable points that speak to value, that when taken together represent your product or service. Think of each of these points as a hook on the coat-rack of your story that you will hold a group of related capabilities.

The reason for no more than five is that no one can remember or effectively communicate more than this from memory.

Start in the middle if you have an idea of the key points you need to make to be successful. But make sure you have capabilities to back it up. Otherwise you start to fall back on buzz-word-bingo to sound valuable… when you have nothing to back it up.

A really important point in messaging, is that your job is not to dress up a "pig" and try to pass it off as a "princess." Your job is to bring to light how great tasting bacon is!

This should be an iterative process that you tweak and experiment with. Advanced elements you can look for include,
  • Balance - are all the points at the same level
  • Completeness - when taken together do these points allow you to tell your story?
  • Differentiation - Could any of your competitors use your same messaging?

You can not create messaging in a vacuum. Get out and talk to your prospects and customers and find out what is important to them. Get with the product teams and find out what is unique to your offering.

Messaging Series:

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."

Messaging Series:
  • Meet you in the middle Part 3

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?"

Messaging Series:
  • Meet you in the middle Part 3

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)