The effort to first define and develop the marketing message for your product usually takes place with a limited amount of research and input from customers, especially for new capabilities. For the many organizations that don’t have the luxury, either in terms of time or money, to spend all they want on market research to determine just which benefits resonate the most with which type of prospects, the marketing materials must be developed and printed nonetheless. This means that your product’s marketing message goes out to the world before you have really had enough time to discover some of its most compelling advantages. You mine what gold you can get your hands on, and sell it for all it’s worth.
But once your product is launched and customers begin to adopt and use it, certain benefits begin to clearly rise to the surface as the most important ones. And new positives appear that had simply never occurred to anyone on the team when the product was under development. These new benefits are like gold nuggets, and are incredibly valuable for solidifying, targeting, and extending the marketing message for your product. You need to mine this material as it appears.
Product Managers generally find themselves in discussions with a wide range of prospects and customers, and get knee-deep into the product and its benefits. This makes them an invaluable source of material for improving the marketing message.
Read on for ideas of where and how to mine these gold nuggets to create a more powerful message to the market about your product.
It Takes a While to Sink In
It’s the nature of things that when you use a new product, it takes a while before you fully grasp the significance of its benefits, and some of the biggest benefits don’t even occur to you until after you have used it for awhile. This is especially true with products using new technologies, where expectations and standards have not yet formed and hardened. Think of how new and different it was to use email, or cell phones, or instant messaging, and how it has taken years for us to learn the ins and outs and the dos and don’ts.
The same is true for your product, and all the more so the more complex or configurable it is.
As your customers learn your product, and then get up to speed on it, and blaze new trails in their companies, they come across their “aha moments.” These are moments where they suddenly grasp the full significance of a benefit or a capability.
Here’s an example: “I never realized that this software, which is automatically consolidating and scrubbing information from several order and customer service applications, can be used to go back and clean up those applications to make them consistent across our company. I can send the error logs back to the people responsible for each application so that they can go right to the source of the dirty data and eliminate it that way. We’ve tried for years to fix this problem and were never successful before now.”
Here’s another example: “I just now understand that because I can easily send out surveys to large groups of people, I don’t have to wait once a year to do one huge manual survey, printing and tracking it with lots of time and energy. I can send out little mini-surveys of three or four questions each month to gather information. And that means that I can keep this project fresh in the minds of everyone at my company, so that it becomes an ongoing program like it should be, rather than a sporadic effort. We have never been able to keep the momentum going to make it continuous yet non-disruptive to everyone’s workload.”
Demos and Presentations
So where can you, as a Product Manager, find these aha moments and elaborate on them for the benefit of Marketing? One important source is the demos and product presentations that you attend.
Pay close attention to how the different benefits resonate with the crowd. The more conversational a demo or presentation is, the more you will be able to find out such information. It pays to ask questions, as you touch upon each benefit, about whether and how your prospect sees it applying at their company.
Also, pay close attention to whether different segments of prospects and customers value the benefits differently. Sometimes the initial marketing message can only take a guess about which benefits will play to each segment. Over time, you may notice patterns about certain industries, job titles, or goals of your prospects, and learn how certain benefits appeal most to certain segments.
Such differentiation of the marketing message across different segments is truly a gold nugget, worth mining right away. Don’t wait to develop verticalized or segmented marketing materials. Create a brief, easy to use guide for sales reps on how to spot different segments, and how to best pitch the product to each of them.
Product training classes, if you can take the time to attend, potentially put you in front of a whole new segment: the doers rather than the decision makers. This can give you fresh perspective on the needs of a portion your customer base that is important to the adoption and continued use of your product.
Training classes may require more time than you have to spare, but you can try to regularly poll the trainers on the good ideas that surfaced during their recent classes, and get them to realize that by passing this on to you, the entire company can benefit from the knowledge.
There is one caveat: the end users of your product, when they don’t have the same perspective as the decision makers who bought the product, may not be a good source of information about which benefits to tout when you try to sell it. Your marketing message needs to target those people who will sign the checks to buy your product, and to keep paying for maintenance every year. It is in this last area that benefits discovered by the day-to-day end users may help you market to your existing customer base.
Implementation discussions can be a rich source of benefits, especially because they usually include debates that go into great detail about the problems and hard choices facing your customer today. When they discover a way to use your software to overcome those problems, you often have found, if not a new benefit, a clear and compelling description of the power of that benefit.
How Long Must I Wait?
Having sent out the current set of marketing materials, most eager marketers will want to know: “How long must I wait before I can put these newfound gems in our collateral? Do I have to wait for the next version?” While it’s true that you will update your collateral for new versions of the product, the purpose of that is to describe the new benefits that weren’t there before. It’s awfully painful to wait a year or more to add benefits that apply today but which you didn’t appreciate (or know about) when you last wrote your materials.
On the other hand, your budget may not allow for printing up new materials until the next version rolls around. If this is a reality that you have to accept, there are some ways to incorporate the gold nuggets into your overall collateral without redoing materials.
Success Stories and Testimonials
One place you can make rapid use of the gold nuggets as they fall into your hands is by developing a series of customer success stories or testimonials. These can be easily and cost effectively added to the existing collateral such as brochures and sell sheets. As a new benefit surfaces, or becomes more significant, mine that information by developing a short success story that focuses on it.
Success stories and testimonials can also easily be added to your web site, or even rotated on your home page, to make the most of them.
Yet another way to gather the gold nuggets, in smaller pieces, is to capture them as customer quotes, which you collect in a document and make available to the sales force. Short quotes are even easier to feature on your web site and in routine sales letters, rotating through them as necessary, or targeting specific segments with a message that will resonate particularly well.
From Gold Nugget to Money In the Bank
If you keep on the lookout for gold nuggets, and find ways that you can immediately put them to use, you’ll find your marketing message and sales pitches quickly become more effective and result in more sales. Appreciate the value of the gold nuggets you happen upon, and make the effort to turn them into hard cash in your company’s bank account.
— Jacques Murphy, Product Management Challenges