…step away from the keyboard!

One thing I’ve seen happen too often is product marketing managers will begin creating marketing content – datasheets, presentations, web site copy – without first developing a messaging platform.

It’s easy to do, and at first glance your marketing collateral  will look pretty good. You’ll describe the important features of your product, perhaps include some graphics, and instruct the customer how to contact sales.

But look closer.

Are the product features that you describe important to your target audience?

Do you spell out how your product is relevant to them?

Is the information that you’re presenting — and the language you use to do so — consistent across all of your marketing deliverables?

Will others from your company (product managers, engineers, field marketing, sales people) who discuss your product (presenting at industry events, in conversations with press or analysts, talking with customers) tell a consistent story?

The underpinning of impactful product messaging is a lucid, thoughtful messaging platform. A messaging platform must drive the content of your internal and customer-facing collateral.

A good messaging platform does not have to be lengthy and complicated. You can customize it to meet your specific needs. I’m continually evolving the template that I use.

Below is a very simple template that I use currently.

A good messaging platform does need to contain certain essential information:

  • Features – What are the most important things that the product does? Most important to your customer, that is, not to you! It doesn’t matter how cool you or the engineers think a feature is, if it doesn’t provide value to your customer then it shouldn’t be highlighted.
    example: Provides ports on demand
  • Benefits – You might be surprised how many marketing people present features as benefits. Benefits are the advantages the customer will experience  from using your product, usually derived as a result of the product’s nifty features. Don’t make it the customer’s responsibility to figure out how the features you describe will help his business. That’s your job!
    example: Allows users and applications to remain productive without disruption
  • Messages – What are the most important differentiable statements you want to communicate? Your key messages will be your product’s mantras — the statements you repeat over and over until they are completely integrated with your product.
    example: Deploy cloud services faster
  • Proof Points – The evidence to support the key messages is absolutely crucial to establish credibility. Customers are suspicious of marketing, and with good reasons.  Too many marketers make wild, unsubstantiated claims, so any claim will be in doubt unless it’s backed up by quantifiable evidence.
    example: Operates at 20 gigabits per second, 2 times faster than competitive offerings 

What your messaging platform contains beyond this fundamental information depends on the types of marketing materials you need to create.

For example, your PR department or agency may benefit from your messaging platform stating where your product is first, best, or only. You may want to provide them with headlines or soundbites.

Or it may be useful to state competitive differentiators.

But once you get the messaging fundamentals down, the rest of this can follow.