Product messaging means providing prospective customers with a contextual understanding of what is being offered for sale. Essentially marketing a product’s benefits, uses and differentiation, messaging answers fundamental questions such as:
- What is the product?
- What does it do? What are its capabilities and the problems addressed?
- Who would be interested in the product? Why?
- What makes the product different?
Why is it something product owners should care about?
The importance of product messaging thus becomes evident. Communicating the product in a way that nets potential buyers’ interest requires the messaging be easy for audiences to understand. Aside from the direct marketing work, defining the product features and an analysis of the target market and the competition are necessary. There are some best practices to follow when formulating an effective product message.
- Know your customer. It is imperative that one understand their motives and requirements. Audience interviews, casual conversations and tracking of opinions are popular tools to this end. It is even possible to delegate to a market research firm to access expertise which does not bias market findings.
- Documenting the information obtained helps to profile target audiences. A buyer persona assists in the refinement of a generic product message, thus improving the chances of a product launch being successful. The more detailed the persona, the better one’s understanding of the customer, with the ultimate option being one distinct profile for each participating audience. This allows for uniquely targeted product messaging.
- Quantify value for the buyers in real terms. Again, instead of generic claims (which are easy to ignore), making specific statements invites the audience to take the product seriously. This boosts credibility – something which is vital to marketing.
- Building credibility is not easy, particularly where the product creator does not have an existing reputation – the market is inclined to doubt new products as their performance is untested. This is why proof points must be communicated: they provide short, simple answers to product workings while enticing prospective buyers to discover more. Here, market intelligence is key in the messaging – the size of the problem as advertised by the vendors must match the size of the problem as perceived by the audience. Credibility will be strained if a product presents a problem as major while outside parties see the issue as minor; or vice versa.
- Poor writing, formatting or visual design impedes product communication. To transfer ideas effectively, one must omit long sentences, strings of common descriptors and details irrelevant from the audience’s point of view.
Here is a brief story of what can happen if product messaging is inconsistent with buyer expectations!
How product messaging improves the software development process
For the software industry, product messaging provides clear directives and themes around which to design product increments. It is central when deciding the appropriate user experience of an application and influences the graphics, layout and user interface (from main texts and automatic messages to labels). A system designed with convenience and efficiency in mind, for example, should not be graphics or feature-heavy. Development would be oriented towards essential functions.
A major benefit (assuming a Scrum approach) of incorporating product messages into the development process is that they can be tested very early. At each stage, the messaging along with the functionality of the product version can be observed; subsequent sprints enable holistic system refinements and fixing of issues, if needed. This approach means efficient time and effort expenditure as the product, built in its entirety, can more easily accommodate change at any stage.
In addition, taking advantage of the intense collaboration of Scrum, messaging reinforces this loop as it unifies the development process in the desired direction. Understanding among all teams, of what needs to be built, is facilitated.
From a commercial perspective, there are advantages of building software with messaging in mind.
- The core product message is a source of guidance on how to design and implement an application which attracts and retains customers.
- Having a core message improves time to market and rate of development, as the team can understand how the product is positioned and can relate better to the end user and development needs and priorities.
- Software without a user-friendly interface stands little chance of being commercially successful. Product messaging supports the development team into building the right user interface for the product and market. At the same time messaging which is easy to understand for the end users makes software more likely to hold and increase market share. Satisfied buyers translate to referrals and thus increased sales.
- Product communication generates customer confidence in what is being marketed. The messaging represents a chance to establish a business reputation.
As a product owner, or software company CEO, looking to deliver a new financial solutions to the market, software development is just as important as marketing. Before you start your next project, consider the essentials of product messaging and how will they impact your development cycle if they were already defined. I recommend two more resources besides the Hubspot one: Product Marketing, the Salesforce Way and Pardot’s How to Create Brand Messaging that Really Resonates.