One of the first things that I think about when launching a new product or service is how do we get people to notice? How do we get people to come? Just because you offer something wonderful and that you are passionate about does not mean you will instantly attract customers. Building a marketing message foundation that includes your core purpose, mission and values will help position your product for success.
So, where do you start?
Before you spend endless amounts of time and money chasing the new, shiny marketing activity, identify the true benefits of your product or service, differentiate yourself from the competition in a very clear, defensible and monetarily productive way and give your product an identity that carries throughout your marketing efforts. You will find marketing your product or service much easier when you consistently execute a concrete marketing message across all communication channels.
Without a doubt, there are many elements that go into asserting your product’s presence and getting your customers to notice, such as a website, events and ads, but these 5 foundational elements will help you develop your fact-based product story.
1.Who is the right target market for your product?
Identifying your target market is an essential element of message development. However, it’s likely you will know a lot about your target audience before you even begin working on product messaging. Studying your target market is a critical piece of the entire product development lifecycle and understanding them ensures you are building the right product or service. Your target market is the primary group of people who need and utilize your product or service. These folks personally benefit from your product in some way and your job is to identify their demographics, such as age, education and income; psychographics, such as values, interests, habits, likes/dislikes and personality traits, as well as how and where they “shop.” Your target market may be one or more specific groups. Nevertheless, understanding everything you can about the folks you will target with your products/services is essential to getting them to engage and attracting them with your marketing message.
2. What pains are your customers experiencing?
Similarly to understanding the demographics and psychographics of your target market, understanding their pain points is something you’ll likely consider very early on in product development. Fortunately, you’ll then be prepared when it comes time to develop messaging. One of the best ways to get people to notice your product or service is to position it as a solution to their real or perceived problems. This might be a true problem, a need or a desire. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to address a need that exists in the current market than it is to convince people they have a need. But, if you can create a need for your product by demonstrating that it relieves whatever pain ails them, you instantly inspire them to purchase. Sometimes the pain points you address are obvious, but others are a bit ambiguous. Talking with your customers, learning about their lifestyle, work environment, motivations and goals will help you identify why your customers are better off with your product.
3. How do you solve their problems?
Now that you’ve identified your target market and the pain points they have, it’s time to solve their problems. Although your product or service is an important part of your business, it’s only a small part of your marketing message. This means leave out the vague feature and function lists. Oftentimes, marketing materials will recognize a problem, endlessly list features as the solution and then promise loads of benefits. What is missing is a simple, succinct introduction of what you offer that solves the problem of your target market.
4. What benefits do you offer your customers?
In order to drive interest in your product or service you must clearly articulate the benefits it brings to the table. Features are not benefits and they don’t tempt customers to purchase your product, so leave the features for something else. Benefits provide the customer with value. You can identify the benefits of your product or service by asking yourself (or even better, your customers) how value is derived from various features or the product overall. The goal is to drill down to the ultimate result that your product will have on your customer’s life, job, family or something else of importance. This may be time savings, more quality time with children, greater wealth or increased happiness. Utilizing a benefit driven marketing message will ensure you inspire your target customer to take action.
5. How is your product different (and better) than the competition?
Finally, what is it that makes you special and unique to your target market? It’s your job to explain to your prospective customers how you address their problems better than your competition. Understanding who your competitors are, what they offer, their prices and everything you possibly can about their business, product or service, will not only help you differentiate in your marketing message, but also arm you with the intelligence you will need during the sales cycle. Positively distinguishing your product or service from others in the same market will help you appear much more attractive to your ideal customer.
[box type=”note”]An Example Imagine you have developed a solution that allows restaurant customers to order their meals using an iPad that is mounted at each table within the restaurant. In order to attract the right customer, you have to understand the intricacies of the product and determine who your ideal buyer will be. In this case, the iPad contains the restaurant’s entire menu, allowing each customer to place their order as if they were making a purchase on Amazon. The order is communicated electronically to the kitchen staff and then a server delivers the meal to the customer’s table. Who is the likely buyer of this product? Well, we know it is for restaurants, but are their specific sized restaurants that will not only benefit most from a product such as this, but be able to afford and implement the solution? Maybe, larger corporation chain restaurants are your ideal customers. Now we need to know who in these large chain restaurants make the decisions. There is likely a business decision maker, such as the Director of Operations and a technical decision maker, such as IT Management.
Now that you’ve identified the ideal target market and buyer, it’s time to identify their pain points. Some pain points may be that customers have been complaining because service is too slow and too many mistakes are made with orders. With the iPad menu and ordering product you are able to solve these problems by removing humans from the ordering equation and eliminating mis-communications between servers taking orders and kitchen staff. With this solution comes a huge benefit of increased customer satisfaction.
Distinguishing yourself from the competition can be a bit tricky because you need to identify, research and analyze your competitors in order to successfully differentiate. The main differentiator for the iPad solution may be price point, or it may be that it seamlessly communicates with kitchen staff ,or perhaps customers can pay using their credit card directly on the iPad.[/box]
The key to building a strong foundation before launching your product or service is to take the time to think about your ideal customers, the problems they face, how you can solve those problems, the positive impact you have on their lives and how you are going to help them in a way that’s different from the competition. These steps are essential pieces to developing clear and valuable product messaging. Not only will your customers clearly understand what you offer, but your team will thank you when they are confidently delivering a consistent story when speaking with customers.
Although we’ve discussed essential elements of product messaging, each business is different and may follow a formalized process that mixes in additional elements. What other advice do you have for product marketers when they are developing product messaging?