Finding the Right Words to Describe Your Product

Sometimes creating a great product or service is only half the battle. How will you get people interested in trying or buying what you’ve made? Communicating the value of your product or service is the critical next step in building a successful business.

This is often a topic in my newsletter which you can subscribe to here.

Now before you jump into describing your products, features, and benefits, take a step back and think about who this messaging is for. Who are you seeking to motivate to make a purchase with this marketing copy? Let’s say you’re selling a mid-grade winter sweater. Would you say your target market is every adult in the world who can fit into your sweater? Of course not. We need to narrow down your target audience before we can figure out what the winning marketing message will be.

Your target audience should be a subset of all the people capable of using your product. They should be the ideal buyers, the ones you want to attract, the repeat buyers who love your product and would tell their friends about it. Chances are you have a good idea who these people are already. Now is the time, whether you’ve sold one or one million products, to go speak to your customers (or prospects) and get a better understanding of what role your product plays in their lives.

Just as creating a great product relies upon feedback from your target market, great messaging also needs customer input. Interviewing your customers and getting to know their problems, alternatives, habits, likes, and dislikes will give you much better insight into what kinds of messages will be meaningful for them.

Here are some easy steps to conduct practical customer empathy interviews:

1. What does the customer want to achieve?

Meet customers or people in your target audience in a relaxed environment. Begin by asking some very basic, open-ended questions about what they do when they encounter a problem like the one you plan to solve. Listen to discover what they are trying to accomplish and what hurdles might prevent them from achieving their goal quickly and easily.

2. How does the customer experience the problem?

Ask the customer to describe the problem in their own words. Use the five W’s as a guide: who, what, when, where and why. Work from simple explanatory answers toward deeper emotional responses. How do they recognize the problem? What does it feel like when they experience the problem? How do they feel when their problem is finally solved?

3. Get it in their words

Write down as much as you can in the customers’ own words. Quotes can be a powerful tool for insights. Using your customers’ words and phrases in your copy increases the relevance of the message. Be sure to make note of any emotional responses. Linking your messaging with strong customer emotions can be extremely powerful.

Now that you have a better understanding of your customers’ experiences, you should be able to talk about your product or service from the customer’s perspective. Creating sales and marketing messaging from the customer’s perspective is essential in order to be relevant to your target audience.

Your Product Messaging Platform

A messaging platform is a guide to help your team and any external marketing or communications vendors talk about your product offering consistently across the company and in your sales and marketing materials. This guide will enable you to maintain consistent, effective messages that are relevant to the customer. A messaging platform should include your value proposition, a short and long elevator pitch and the individual messaging components. Since these components ladder up to a complete view of the offering, we will start with them first.

Here are six questions you should be prepared to answer to build your messaging platform:

1. Problem Identification

What problem are you solving and for whom? (What are the goals the customer wants to achieve?)

2. Pain Points

What pain points does the customer experience? (How does the customer experience the problem? What does it cost in financial and emotional terms?)

3. Benefits

What primary benefits does your product provide to the customer? (Ask for a description of the functional and emotional benefits.)

4. Delivery

How does the product deliver these benefits? (Ask for a description of the service and key features.)

5. Proof Points

What proof points support your claims? (Can you share reasons to believe such as results, data, and testimonials?)

6. Differentiation

What makes your product different from the available alternatives? (What benefits does your product deliver that the competition cannot?)

Your Value Proposition

Your value proposition is primarily used internally as a guidepost to identify what it is you’re selling, to whom and how you will differentiate. Consider it your product marketing mission statement. Use it to help your team stay on the same page as they develop messaging around your product. To quickly and easily determine your value proposition, just fill in the blanks below using insights you gained from your customer interviews:

For [ your_target_segment ]

[ your_product_or_service ] provides [ key_benefits ]

and [ points_of_difference ].

Did you do it? Great! Now tweet out your value proposition with the hashtag #MyValueProp and I’ll be happy to give you some feedback.

Your Elevator Pitch

We’re almost there. The elevator pitch is the story of your product or service, and it should include the capabilities and differentiation of the company and product together. You will want to have at least two versions: a short version to include in press releases, product briefs, social media profiles and anywhere else a short statement about what your product is and how it brings value to others would make sense, and a long version for product pages, brochures, sales materials and booklets.

Your basic elevator pitch tells your ideal customers why you are qualified to solve their problem, how your product or service helps them achieve certain benefits that relate to their desired outcome, and which are the product’s primary differentiating qualities. The pitch should be one paragraph and no more than three sentences. Here’s a fictional example for a BMW:

“We are a company of engineers who, like you, have a passion for the open road. Our new 950i will let you leave the status quo behind and experience the exhilaration of the Autobahn while enjoying the comfort of our luxurious 9 series cabin. The one-of-a-kind hydrogen engine sets it apart as the ultimate driving machine.”

The longer elevator pitch can be several paragraphs and should include the same elements from the short elevator pitch, although the exact wording can be different. The longer pitch could also include some or all of the components from your messaging platform along with proof points, testimonials or other reasons to believe that your product is the solution to the customer’s problem.

Bringing It All Together

Once you’ve documented your messaging ideas into a messaging platform document, make sure the content is accessible to everyone who might need it. This should include your marketing team, PR consultants, outside digital agency and advertising staff, website developer and anyone else internally or externally who is creating marketing, advertising, sales or PR messages for your organization.

Your messaging platform can help you anywhere you communicate about this offering, including but not limited to email blasts, fact sheets, PowerPoint presentations, brochures, letters, trade show materials and websites. It will help you maintain consistently aligned messaging that is relevant to your customers and sets you apart from the competition.

Those are my thoughts, but what do you think? I’d like to hear your feedback, ideas, and suggestions as this is an issue that so many businesses struggle with. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

7 Critical Business Tools for Building Awareness

Building awareness around your business, brand or products and services is key to demand generation and ultimately increasing sales. The internet has democratized the playing field for businesses of all sizes to expand their reach and awareness globally at a reasonable cost. The following seven tools can help nearly any business reach new customers at little cost, or in some cases, no cost at all.

Buffer – Buffer.com

Building awareness on social media requires consistency. Posting every day on multiple channels, or even multiple times a day can quickly become unmanageable. Buffer lets you schedule content to go out on your social networks on a regular schedule that you define.

WordPress – WordPress.com

The number one thought leadership tool in content marketing is a blog. An active blog gives your website visitors a reason to come back and provides regular content updates for your social media channels, as well. WordPress is not only the number one software used for websites, but it’s also the top blogging platform.

Live Video – Facebook.com/livePeriscope.tv

Facebook live mapWhether you use Facebook Live, Periscope, Snapchat or Instagram Stories, live and near-live video content can boost your visibility in a big way. Live video is especially engaging, and its authentic nature allows you to build a close connection with your audience. Live video also receives a boost from the Facebook feed algorithm, which gives you more visibility than you would normally receive with a traditional post. Visitors can also subscribe to your broadcasts on Facebook and Periscope, which notifies them every time you go live again in the future. Live video platforms provide a great opportunity for marketers who are looking to build their audience.

Google Business Listing – Google.com/business

If you have a physical place of business where customers come to you, then Google local search should be an important part of your marketing program. Creating a Google business listing for your company allows you to provide frequently requested information to your customers, such as your address, phone number, website and hours of operation. Most importantly, however, it allows you to be found easily! More and more searches are moving to mobile devices, especially local search. Having a Google business listing increases your chances of being discovered, and provides a placeholder on Google maps when customers are searching for a business nearby.

HARO – Helpareporter.com

Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is the best resource available for doing your own public relations work for your business. With an account on HARO, you can register to receive updates from reporters when they are writing a story about your industry. Journalists go to HARO to find sources to interview for their news stories, providing you with a great opportunity to get valuable mentions in the press for free.

Google Adwords – Google.com/adwords

If you want to drive traffic to your website and build awareness quickly, Google Adwords delivers. These pay-per-click ads are not the cheapest way to build awareness for your product, but they could be the fastest. By targeting people who are actively searching for the terms that depict the problem your product solves, you can quickly gain targeted impressions to a relevant audience. The only limits on your potential impressions are the size of the segment and the size of your budget.

Facebook Ads – Facebook.com/business

Like Google Adwords, Facebook Ads allow you to target a specific audience for your message. The difference is that you will reach this audience in a less relevant context than a Google search. Your limits here are the same: budget and segment size. However, your ads will show up in or beside a persons’ Facebook feed, which is a much different context than that of a search result. It’s likely that you will need multiple social ad impressions to impact awareness for each viewer.

Bonus: Canva – Canva.com

While you are creating awareness material for these content channels, you should be sure to include high-quality images, as well. Canva is a great tool for creating shareable graphics quickly, without the knowledge and training of a graphic designer. This makes it a powerful tool for the marketing manager who doesn’t have in-house design support.

What about you? How many of these tools do you currently use? What are your favorites that I am missing? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to get your input!

Content Marketing Strategy for Small Business

Do you have an audience?

Before the onset of digital media (websites, blogs, and social media), traditional media channels such as television, radio and newspapers were the primary places to reach large audiences with your message. These media outlets owned the platform, and as an advertiser, you paid to rent space there for your ads. Today, digital media channels for publishing content abound, and many of these channels are available for you to publish your content at relatively little or no cost. In fact, you can now own the platforms yourself by creating your own websites, microsites, and blogs about your company, industry or customers.

Establish a Content Marketing Program

Content marketing takes advantage of this shift of power in media. As a result, firms can now become publishers, owning their own channels and lowering the cost of reaching new prospects. This changes the game for marketers, and impacts marketing outcomes in a number of areas:

• Lowering marketing costs
• Building a captive audience
• Connecting marketing and sales
• Communicating with customers and prospects

Buying ads works, at least in the short run. A content marketing program, however, can lead to sustainable demand generation at half the cost of advertising when measured on a longer time frame. Developing strong evergreen content for your website, blog, podcast or other platform helps you get found more frequently in search and leads to more organic (free) search discovery. Quite often SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click, also known as paid search) can be the largest portion of a company’s digital marketing budget. Reducing the need for paid results in search can really make a positive impact on the bottom line.

Build Your Audience

Great content attracts an audience. By using storytelling and creating useful content for your industry, you can begin to build your own captive audience of followers. Marketing to this group can be as simple as making a blog post or sharing a tweet. You can grow this audience by creating useful, customer-focused content and encouraging your followers to share it with someone who might have a similar problem that your product can solve. This type of word-of-mouth marketing is exactly how social media can help amplify your content marketing campaigns.

As your audience grows, you can use some of your better content as an incentive for people to join your permissions-based prospect list. Typically, marketers are forced to buy a type of lead list. Your own personal email list, however, provides you with an audience of customers who have already opted in to receive your content. This creates a messaging channel for you with active prospects to whom you can send offers again and again. Email automation software that connects to your CRM system can update your sales team when new leads are found, helping to close the gap between sales and marketing teams.

Enjoy the Compounding Returns

One of my favorite outcomes of a winning content marketing strategy is the ability for a firm to stay connected with its customers and prospects. Customer advocacy programs, like those that encourage sharing user-generated content from satisfied clients, are a fantastic way to generate new testimonials, recommendations and positive experiences for prospects to see. If for some reason the time is not right for customers to purchase today, having content to share over time is perfect for nurturing relationships with prospects until they reach a buying decision.

With all these benefits, it seems crazy that some firms have yet to embrace a content strategy of their own. This is usually due to the fact that content marketing takes time to deliver on these opportunities. Smart firms can mitigate this by continuing their ad budgets until their content efforts begin to take hold. Most firms will continue to incorporate advertising into their content strategy as a way to amplify their content, rather than a primary channel for brand messaging.

Do you have questions? Would you like me to expand on this topic? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!