5 Easy(ish) Steps to Stellar Product Messaging and Positioning

Rock Mountain Product Camp was this Friday and I barely made it there. I have out-of-town teams visiting and it was hard to make the trip from Boulder to Denver in the middle of the day. I'm glad I made it, because there were a ton of great presenters.

One session I learned a lot from was given by Sara Kingsley, who's a senior product marketing manager at LogRhythm. We all know I love love love my PMM peeps since Leah (PMM at SpotX) sang me a Spanish Song in Episode 27 of the Product Popcorn pod. 

Sara talked about how to create product messaging, which is something I can always use help with. I'm going to share her glorious 5-step process with you, although it's not quite as cool as it when Sara talked about it, since she related each step to Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was particularly fun. 

If you're a product manager struggling with messaging and positioning, follow these 5 simple steps to get started drafting an awesome positioning statement.

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Note: The following is taken from Sara's handout from the session, and I'm using it with her permission.

Step 1: Gather Your Data

First things first: You need to gather some qualitative and/or quantitative data on how customers are using your product. Sara recommends asking the following questions when starting this process: 

  • How do your customers describe the experience of your solution? This may involve some customer interviewing, and gathering responses in a qualitative or quantitative way to find patterns.
  • How do your competitors' customers describe their solution experience? Finding out what your competitors' customers think is a little tricky! I like to search for reviews of my competitors' products online, watch YouTube demos and skip to the end to listen to questions from participants, and I also regularly look at competitors' FAQ. Remember: FAQ are frequently asked questions, which means their customers have been asking them... frequently!
  • Limit competitive analysis to a few. My product has lots of competitors. Our PM team typically focuses on the Top 5. 

Step 2: Compare Your Themes Against your Competitors' Themes

Check out marketing materials and online demos of your competitors and try to pick up on any patterns in language/ messaging that they're boasting.

  • Compare and contrast your strengths and weaknesses against your competitors. This is great advice for competitive research in general!
  • What are your product's differentiators? Pinpoint what makes your customer experience different.
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Step 3: Draft and Edit Your Positioning Statement

Get in there. Start drafting. I know it sounds intimidating, but just start writing down ideas. Use your research from the previous two steps to leverage your product's differentiators to draft out some positioning statements.

  • Check out Silicon Valley Product Group for templates. This is a free and very useful resource!
  • Bounce your statements off trusted internal buddies (PMMs and PMs and engineers... ) and get feedback. If you're throwing out a few different ideas, try to limit it down to one or two by the end of this exercise.

Step 4: Gain External Feedback on Your Positioning Statement

OK, now it's time to take your 1-2 finalists to customers. I know, sounds daunting, doesn't it? Pick a few customers (or other external stakeholders) who you have a good relationships with and who you trust. 

  • Test your message with external stakeholders that know your brand. I have a few trusted customers that I'd feel comfortable asking to take a look, and also a few partners whose feedback I trust.
  • If you have PR, check your positioning statement with them. Do not underestimate the power of good PR. If you have access to an internal PR person, or an external firm, ask for 5 minutes of their time.

Step 5: Final Positioning and Create Marketing Messages

The hard part is over (kind of). Once you finalize your positioning statement based on internal and external feedback, start to create other marketing messages around it.

Important Note: 

Many PMs work in small companies or teams and don't have access to product marketing folks. Other PMs may work for larger companies that have amazing PMM teams that are available to help with positioning and messaging. 

Whether your situation is the former or the latter, as a product manager, you should have at least a basic understanding of product messaging and positioning, and how it comes across to customers.

Once you have awesome, unique product messaging and positioning, you'll be as happy as this red panda. 

(I had to find a way to work a red panda photo into this post.)

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