Value is Not Benefits

August 20, 2015

I was recently reviewing some content that a product marketing manager had created and we were discussing it in light of an upcoming product launch. The discussion that ensued reminded me that for junior product marketing managers it sometimes can be too easy to fall into the product features trap and lose sight of what a product marketer brings to the table as it relates to messaging and positioning.

What I told that product marketer at the time, and something I still believe in, is that anyone can write. Creating a piece of product collateral is easy. Just take whatever the product team gives you, do some formatting, work on the grammar and style and you’re done. Look at most product data sheets, solution briefs and the like from the multitude of software vendors out there and you know what I’m talking about. A ton of feeds and speeds, how we are “leaders” in the market and why our “world class solution” is faster/better/nicer than everyone’s else.

Here’s where the product marketing comes in, to take all of the tech talk, all of the features, and translate them. Good marketers can translate features into benefits, but truly great marketers and excellent product marketers don’t stop at benefits, they go all the way to understand the value to the customer.

But wait, you say, aren’t both the same? Not so fast.

While a feature related to, let’s say, faster data synchronization might be translated into a benefit for the customer like “more accurate data”, the true value looks at what it means for the business and makes that connection obvious, like “up to the minute customer information when your support team most need it”.

Sounds easy, but in reality is anything but. It requires time, experience, and critical thinking. And the best way to get better at doing it is by getting brutally honest feedback that can point you in the right direction.

Here are a few guiding questions you can ask yourself as you are writing or reviewing copy related to product announcement, press release, data sheet or other piece of content:
– Can someone that has no knowledge of our company or product simply read this and understand why it is important or how it solves a key problem?
– Is it making a clear connection between a problem and a solution?
– Would someone having the problem or pain you are solving be truly interested after reading it?
– Are you using too many acronyms or industry-specific terms that only few people understand?
– Can you say it in a more direct, simpler way? Can you cut out adjectives and still make it sound interesting?
– Ask yourself “so what”.

Creating content with the value in mind is not easy and requires a lot of effort and discipline. Get others to review and criticize what you wrote, see how others are doing it, and put yourself in the end user or buyer’s shoes. With time you’ll get to do it without noticing it.

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Product Marketer as a Story Teller

March 12, 2013

Those in product marketing roles are used to being the product experts and the ones who people turn to when they need creation of sales support materials, thought leadership pieces, and other content needs. The demands on product marketers are great, as the content needs of enterprises only grow to encompass not only the traditional whitepapers and product spec sheets but videos, eBooks, infographics, and more.Once Upon a Time, by UNE Photos via Flickr

If you are a product marketer, your challenge is getting everything done while at the same time keeping the big picture in mind. That is, the story you are telling. Product marketers work on product messaging and positioning, which requires a great deal of story telling. What is the product, what problem does it solve, and the typical checklist-style questions you see everywhere are just scratching the surface. A good product marketer gets deep into the customer’s mind, understands the marketplace, and can tell a compelling story not about the product, but about the customer need.

That’s the key difference. When I look at work from different companies and different product marketing teams, I see which ones are simply following the “corporate policy” or “product marketing as we have always done it” and those who try to take a step back to ask the question of “why is this relevant?”.

It is more than saying “we are the leaders in [fill in the blank]”. It is about communicating to the customer that you not only understand their pain, their needs, but that you also care about solving them. In sum, it requires people that are willing to ask the right questions and to challenge everthing without the fear of doing something different.

So, if you are a product marketer, keep in mind that above all, you are the company’s Chief Story Teller.


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