People approach product creation differently. Some people wait for the aha moment to strike them, some think of a solution to their own specific need, and others still do extensive research and development before landing on the next product to take to market. But one thing all products need is a thorough product messaging strategy.
Yet, developing your product messaging is only part of the process. What makes a good messaging strategy great is how you reinforce it among your customers and your internal team.
Before we dive into how to reinforce your product messaging, let’s take a look at what it is and how to develop your own framework
What is product messaging?
Let’s start with the basics. Product messaging is how you define your product (or service) and communicate it to your customers. But it’s not just what you say. It’s the design of the product, what others say about it, and how your customers perceive it.
Product messaging (hopefully) helps your customers intuitively understand the answers to these questions:
- What are you?
- What will you do for me?
- Why you (and not someone else)?
- Why should I trust you?
- Why now?
By looking at your webpage, your product packaging, or talking to anyone on your team, customers should receive the same information and be able to answer those questions.
Yet, product messaging doesn’t have one format. Since it encompasses the words and visuals surrounding your product, a lot more goes into it than the copy on your product page. Here are some product messaging examples:
- Sales page
- Product description
- Social media posts
- Chat bots
- Product design
- Push notifications
- Social media ads
- Product videos
All of these things (and more) go into how customers perceive your product—and it all matters.
Why is product messaging important?
Okay, we know what you’re thinking. It’s been said by countless people across hundreds of industries: Why do we need to create a product messaging framework? Can’t our teams just look at the product page?
While product pages are very helpful for creating new assets and having sales conversations, it’s not enough. Here are some reasons why you should create a product messaging map:
Disseminate the information to the rest of your team.
Your product team knows all the details. They know why you created the product, what makes customers want to buy it, and all the special features. So how are you getting that information to your marketing team? To your sales team? What about PR?
Creating a product messaging map is a great way to get the information your product team just knows to the rest of your organization.
Ensures messaging consistency.
Do you walk by a sales team member and cringe at what they’re saying? Does your CEO describe the product differently every time they talk about it? While this frustrates you, it’s probably really confusing for your customer.
The message only sinks in when everyone on your team is writing and saying the same thing about your product.
It makes it easier for your other team.
This writer may be a bit biased, but having a product messaging guide makes creating new assets infinitely easier. Your marketing, PR, and sales teams are constantly creating things to bring attention to your product. Without a guide to help them, it feels like they’re reinventing the wheel.
Pre-made messaging can speed things up tremendously. Not only is it pre-approved (and therefore will go through approval channels much faster), but it’s already researched and proven effective.
Your product is more recognizable.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell someone something once and it would stick? It takes a lot of repetition (and in different forms) for customers to digest information—especially when messaging is coming at them all day, every day.
And when you don’t have a clear differentiation from your competitors, consumers may confuse your products—which leads us to the next reason.
It prevents price shopping.
This is what makes the difference between generic products and premium ones. There are no singular products that don’t have competitors—but what makes them different is their messaging.
The most obvious example of this? The iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy. Both are phones. Both have top-of-the-line features like advanced cameras, processing power, and speed. Yet the iPhone outsells the Galaxy (although Samsung currently outsells Apple overall). Even though there’s a clear difference in price, the iPhone has more recognizable messaging and more powerful marketing.
How to build your product messaging strategy.
So, where do you start? Building a product messaging strategy preferably begins at the product development stage. What’s easier: Creating a product and then looking for customer benefits and competitor differentiators or creating a product with those built-in? The research stage should be part of the product development lifecycle—but don’t let that hold you back. Whether you’re starting at the beginning, reinventing your current product messaging, or wanting to build a framework on your already existing product, it all starts in the same place.
Whether you do this during product development or at a later stage, there are a few critical questions you need to answer about your product before moving forward.
Who is your target market? Well, anyone can use it isn’t the best answer. There’s an old Seth Godin quote that has driven the marketing landscape for years: “When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” Deciding who your ideal customer is for your product will make it a million times easier to reach them.
Consider everything from demographics, like age, education, and income, to psychographics, like their values, interests, and habits.
What pain points is your product solving? For example, sponges are either not strong enough or so strong that they scratch your dishes. Enter Scrub Daddy, the popular Shark Tank product that has sold over 25 million units (by 2019).
Identify what problems your target market faces and how your product solves them. This becomes the beginning of your core messaging.
How does your product benefit your target market? Talk about benefits to the customer, not your features. For example, a raincoat feature is that it’s made with waterproof material. The benefit is that you can stay dry while still looking good.
Product features are not benefits, but you can certainly start with your features and explain the benefits of each. For example, a feature of Billie razors is that they have 5 blades. The benefit is a closer shave.
How is your product different (re: better) than the competition? What makes your product special and unique? There are tons of meal delivery services out there, but only Daily Harvest is made with vegan, organic, and sustainably sourced produce.
As we mentioned earlier, showing how your product is different helps customers identify you in the market. When all the products in a market are too similar, consumers see this as a commodity. Instead of focusing on what’s better, they focus on what’s cheaper.
Road-test your product.
You’re probably already testing your product with users (or if your product is already on the market, you’re doing this in real-time). This is the perfect time to listen in and see how your customers talk about your product. Taking their words and using them in your product marketing is a great way to speak your customer’s language.
Beyond listening in, you can even ask probing questions to mine them for information. Start with these:
- What prompted you to seek out this product? What’s happening in your life/work that made you need this solution? Here, you’re looking for their pain points. While you probably already have a good idea of what they are, hearing it directly from your customers—using their language—will make it resonate more.
- How would you describe this product to a friend? Customers can typically describe your product much simpler than you and your product team will.
Who in your life do you think needs/would benefit from this product? More than a referral tool, this will help you see who the target audience is from your customer’s perspective.
- How did you benefit from this product? What were you able to do because of it? Or what did it prevent you from doing? Here, you’re asking for the customers to share benefits in their own words. You may even get learn about benefits your team hadn’t thought of.
Craft a core value.
What is your product’s core value? At this point, you should have enough information to make this decision. It’s essentially your one-liner or elevator pitch.
Take the information you’ve gathered and put together a simple, succinct sentence that explains the problem and how you solve it.
Now that you have a core value proposition, pull the benefits and features together to create your product messaging map. Add key phrases, and include examples of how you talk about the product in different settings and to different audiences.
For example, messaging on Instagram may look different than in a case study. Explain the differences and include as much context as possible.
Demonstrate your product value.
Now that you have an internal idea of your messaging, gather external data that helps support it. Start by pulling testimonials from your product research and customer reviews. Add the quotes that lead you to your current messaging so other team members can see how your customers feel about the product in their own words.
Also, depending on how far along in product development you are, consider creating some case studies or even product demos and adding them to the messaging map.
Pull all this information into a single, easy-to-use document. You can create a messaging map, battle cards, or even pull together a Google doc. Just ensure everyone has access to the information, and you point them to it frequently.
5 ways to reinforce product messaging.
We’d love to say your job is done when you’ve packaged the messaging and sent your product out into the world. Unfortunately, you can never tell someone something important just once.
Now, you need to find ways to reinforce your messaging (with your customers and your team).
Once your product is out there in the world, and you’ve nailed the messaging to the best of your ability, you need to find key ways to reinforce it.
Check out these 5 ways to reinforce your product messaging.
1. Distribute your messaging. Yes, again.
Hopefully, your team already has access to your product messaging framework (and knows where to find it). But that doesn’t mean they remember—or heard you the first few times you said it.
When marketing is creating assets or your PR team needs information, don’t just send them to your product page on the website. A product page is a great starting point, but they’re missing often missing insights your product team has, and the customer has likely already seen it, so it’s not as helpful as you think. Make sure you point your teams to your product messaging again and again so no one feels like they’re starting from scratch.
2. Equip customer service agents with product messaging, too.
Hopefully, your customer service agents are intimately familiar with your product. However, just giving them the product specs without sharing your messaging doc can confuse customers. Everyone on your team, from the CEO to the CSAs to salespeople should all talk about your product in the same way. Consistency is the name of the game.
You don’t have to write out entire scripts, but arming CSAs with product messaging examples can go a long way in ensuring consistency.
3. Program chatbots with the right product messaging.
Chatbots often fall under the purview of customer service, which is great for overall brand identity and messaging. But when it comes to product messaging, they’re often lacking.
Be sure to infuse chatbots with product messaging language so that any time a customer reaches out to your company, they hear about the products in the same way, with the same vocabulary.
4. Incorporate messaging into marketing channels.
It’s likely your product messaging strategy was developed with marketing in mind. Yet, oftentimes messaging gets lost once it’s filtered down to writers and designers creating smaller marketing pieces.
Channels like SMS marketing, email marketing, push notifications, and social media marketing should all talk about your product in the same way. Ensure everyone on your team is referencing the guide to reinforce your product messaging.
5. Spin pain points into content.
Here’s a more creative way to tap into the research you did. Take your customer pain points and turn them into pieces of content. From blog posts to podcasts to webinars, you can create content that appeals to your customer and lead them directly to your product.
Embrace your product messaging.
Product messaging isn’t a quick exercise at the end of your product development cycle. It’s an ongoing process that takes buy-in from your entire organization and should involve everyone who touches your product. Only then will your product truly stand out.