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As a new product marketer I am struggling with messaging. What is the best way to develop this skill?

6 Answers
Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Zendesk Senior Director, Technology Marketing and CommunicationsFebruary 4

You are definitely not alone! I think a lot of new and experienced PMMs struggle with messaging and I absolutely did and still think I have plenty of room to improve. Since I’m unfortunately running out of time in this AMA, I wanted to at least suggest this similar question and thread that has a ton of great responses from highly-respected PMMs sharing the resources that help them create strong messaging: https://sharebird.com/what-are-good-messaging-framework-resources-that-you-use. There are also some courses you could look into, as well as many more resources at some of the reputable marketing programs, like at the Pragmatic Institute (here’s a sample blog post from them with a lot of messaging suggestions https://www.pragmaticinstitute.com/resources/articles/the-art-of-product-messaging) or SiriusDecisions (here’s a sample resource they produced called SiriusDecisions Messaging Nautilus for their messaging framework https://intelligentgrowth.siriusdecisions.com/model-overviews/messaging-nautilus-buyers-journey). Across the resources, I think you’ll see the key things people usually say to strive for in creating great messaging are to keep it clear, concise and compelling.

3367 Views
Ajit Ghuman
Ajit Ghuman
Twilio Director of Product Management - Pricing & Packaging, CXPNovember 12

I used to suck at Messaging, and I don't claim to be a guru at it either even today. But let me elaborate:

At one point in my career, I would attempt to write a product one-pager (circa 2013-14) and my boss would redline the entire thing and hand it back to me. 

I improved a bit. I learned to write about features as benefits, not about features themselves. 


But I was still not stellar. 

My work only increased by a step function when I took a step back and changed my approach.

I empathized intimately with a) the buyer persona's key problem b) the stage in the sales process where an asset will be used c) knowing my product's key differentiators (vs competition) like the back of my hand. 

When I was sure about all the points above, messaging became easy. 

The problem is not that messaging is hard. 

The point is that good messaging is a consequence of knowing your product, its positioning, and your market cold. 

Too many PMMs focus on copywriting, they may even write features as benefits -- but that isn't the same as understanding the "forest from the trees" and "knowing the terrain".

1327 Views
Connie Woo
Connie Woo
OpenTable Director of Product MarketingJanuary 4

Messaging will really differ based on the target audience you are messaging for, so developing empathy for your target customer is key. When I joined OpenTable, I spent a lot of time with account execs and account managers, I shadowed local customer meetings, I subscribed to every industry trade, went to industry events and I even did a "stage shift" at a restaurant nearby. It's so important to understand what your audience's key pain points are, how they speak, what they actually care about (even if it's not related to the area your product delivers in). 

From a more professional development standpoint, I believe it's crucial for product marketers to know how to message in a way that is clear, memorable and succinct. One of the questions I often ask in an interview is to explain a product they've marketed to a 7th grader. Product marketers, particularly in tech, need to be able to translate technical, complex concepts into simple, easy-to-understand messages that resonate with their target audience. So when I'm listening to answers to this question, I look for whether they've stripped the internal jargon out, if they've demonstrated understanding/empathy for the 7th grader (e.g., maybe an example that'd resonate with the 7th grader), and if I could easily reexplain that product to a family member a day later. I really encourage you to practice, practice, practice. For every product you work on and every project you do (even if it's just internal), practice giving your one-liner exec-level, elevator pitch to your cross-functional stakeholders. Also practice cutting, cutting and more cutting down. Most poor messaging I've seen is overly verbose, and I oftentimes find that less is more. Practice breaking down the pitch to truly one line so you know what your main point is, then make sure that main point is undeniably clear. 

Once you build your comfort level and confidence with breaking down a product, project or offering into it's component parts, and then practice repackaging into clear, memorable and succinct messaging, you'll be in a much better place to message like a pro!

788 Views
Hally Pinaud
Hally Pinaud
Apollo.io VP, Product MarketingFebruary 1

With early career product marketers, I find that messaging struggles are often tied to one or more of the following things: 

  • Not knowing where to start
  • Issues editing / punching up the language 
  • Developing messaging in a vacuum 
  • Not the messaging itself, but getting stakeholder buy-in on it

The most important thing you can do to grow your skill is get some at-bats. But here are some actionable tips for improving your work if any of the challenges above feel like growth opportunities for you.

"I don't know where to start!" Find a good messaging template / framework. There are loads of them out there if you Google. Ask peers and mentors for their preferred template. Get a filled out example to see what they do. Messaging is sort of like jazz; you can freestyle on how you deliver once you're very good at working from the sheet music. 

"There's no 'so-what?' here." Some PMMs are really value-oriented, punchy copywriters naturally. Many aren't. There is zero shame in that. But here's a tip: end with your headlines. Seriously. Don't start with wordsmithing. I usually get all my support, proof, reasons to believe, and why now validation out in a doc. Way more than I need. Then I pass it to a colleague to edit or talk through what is superfluous. Your goal should be to edit. Finally, when the message justification is tight, you feel more confident putting a great headline, elevator pitch, or value prop header to exactly what you mean to say.

"I did it all by myself!" A lot of early career PMMs make the mistake of messaging from their gut. Yes, I'm sure you've met a lot of customers—but carefully consider the context around those conversations. Have you spoken to them with the intent to create messaging? Or has it been in sales conversations, customer case studies, etc? Until you do, treat your opinion like a hypothesis and get out there to test it. And, as much as possible, balance qualitative with quantitative (surveys, third-party data, etc.) to validate.

"No one uses my messaging." Sometimes this is simply a matter of socializing your work. But the more insideous problem is when stakeholders disregard messaging because it doesn't validate their own opinions and observations. Disagreement is healthy, but points to my point above—you shouldn't try to win in a war of opinions. Do the work to learn and document all of it. Share not only the messaging but the process (for example, data or key quotes.) Bring your revenue stakeholders in to help you research. Heck, have them help you edit and brainstorm the punchy headlines. All of these things help make your messaging better and also bring your stakeholders along to use it.

1031 Views
Ruth  Juni
Ruth Juni
Demandbase Director of Product MarketingMay 4

I find it's easiest to start with a messaging framework because that helps you organize your thoughts around the target, benefit promise and key reasons to believe. From there it's an iterative process to create, get feedback, and refine your messaging. It's also best to keep the customer in mind so that you write more about the benefits with features as the key support points. It's far too easy to write using the product features as the message and this is often the mistake of B2B companies. People care whether or not your product solves their problem so it's important to start with the benefit.

 

456 Views
Don Fuss
Don Fuss
ServiceNow Director of Product MarketingApril 20

There are plenty of resources to leverage to hone your messaging skills. LinkedIn Learning and Udemy have value proposition courses that provide overviews of how to build a messaging framework. Interview other product marketers who have shown great ability to message. Continue to test your messaging with various audiences and learn from their feedback. messaging is very much an art versus science.

653 Views
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