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What is the best way you've found to coach a new product marketer on creating messaging?

8 Answers
Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
Panorama Education Head of Product MarketingDecember 11

The best way I've found is to start small, and grow over-time. To explain that further, when a brand-new product marketer starts I will typically walk through step-by-step the messaging process with them at a granular feature level just to get them some repetition practicing. After doing that a number of times, I'll let them take on some of those (very) small releases on their own and will read messaging (i.e. blog content, in-app messaging, etc) ahead of time to make sure they're on the right track. 

Once a new product marketer feels comfortable handling the smallest scale feature-releases and messaging, I'll ask them to take on a component of a larger launch (i.e. customer marketing). This gives them a defined chunk of work for a larger launch, without being overwhelming and is still contained. Much like I mentioned above, I'll still read through their copy ahead of time to ensure it's hitting the right tone. 

After time of essentially repeating this process throughout multiple aspects of a launch or campaign, then a PMM should be ready to try this on their own. As a manager, it's important to be available for help - but it's also critical to let your team push themselves and rise to a challenge. 

Lastly, while the process above has worked very well for me at HubSpot it's always supplemented with core book recommendations like Positioning, and then follow-up discussions around the book and key concepts. I've found that these things combined can be a really effective way to bring someone who may not have any formal product marketing experience onto the team and coach them on how to write great messaging. Good luck!

2212 Views
Vivek Asija
Vivek Asija
Heap Sr. Director, Product MarketingJune 9

I try to teach new product marketers how to think critically about positioning and messaging. It's very tempting to rest on more obvious product and feature descriptions that give the audience lots of detail about how things work. But what's more challenging to answer is, "what are we building and why?". What business opportunity do we see in the marketplace that we are trying to exploit?

I encourage my product marketing teams to think about developing their expertise in four towers: product, market, customer, and competition. In order to develop differentiated messaging, product marketers need a command of the detailed in's and out's of the product. It all starts there. Knowing the product well is the starting point. But equally as important is to be grounded in market trends, empathy for the customer (voice of customer), and to know the product and messaging of your top 2-3 competitors. It takes time to develop expertise, but as new product marketers join and grow, we bring them through assignments that develop their power in each of the four towers, and the structured messaging framework we build pulls a cogent POV together on how we position and compete in the marketplace. We do competitor reviews, trands analysis, SWOT, and focus in on the key messages that align with our brand and product identity as part of a product launch content pack. Then we share those content packs with the broader GTM org and ask our partners in growth marketing to help us amplify those messages.

1940 Views
Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Route VP of Product MarketingDecember 3

I see three prongs to creating good messaging: understanding the customer, understanding the market, and understanding the product. I’d recommend the following to coach a new product marketer:

  1. Listen to customers. Join sales calls, set up new calls, listen to recordings, or read transcripts. Learn their pain points and listen to how they speak.
  2. Know the market. Understand what competitors offer and how they’re positioning it. Read their websites, search for them on Google to see their SEM ad copy, read review sites. See how they position themselves so you can discern how to differentiate yourself.
  3. Use your product. This may sound obvious, but use your product. Try it out for different use cases and think through how to bundle its myriad features into solutions and benefits. Appeal not only to functional benefits but emotional benefits.

I’m also really big on using templates for developing messaging frameworks—specifically for Unique Value Propositions and for Elevator Pitches; not only do templates make the exercise feel less abstract but also they create consistency across all of your company’s messaging (corporate-level messaging, persona-level messaging, product-level messaging, etc.). 

Connect with me on LinkedIn if you want me to share a template.

1222 Views
Indy Sen
Indy Sen
Canva Ecosystem Marketing LeaderFebruary 4

Give them the right frameworks, brand/voice guidelines and templates, and get out of their way :)

A good product marketing hire will be a strong communicator and naturally curious. That's actually an asset when it comes to developing messaging as it prompts them to ask the right questions and even apply a beginner's mind to your messaging.

796 Views
Frances Liu
Frances Liu
Instawork Head of MarketingSeptember 2

It depends on the person's prior experience, but the core skills are around: research/insights, building personas, building the messaging framework.

And a general coaching rule is: tell, show (via examples from other companies or here), and do (often). 

We're at a growth stage where there's so much work to be done, so new marketing team members have to learn as they do. But to set them up properly, we'll create a more structured plan and build in more time.

404 Views
Steph Kong
Steph Kong
ZoomInfo Senior Product Marketing ManagerDecember 31

I tend to think newer product marketers might messaging on function, rather than benefit. Meaning: they'll write what you can do using the product or feature— which is often less compelling. 

In order to message to benefits (how the product/feature or workflow makes the user's life better), I rely on a framework that a former manager taught me: that product benefit should help the customers make money, save money, or save time. If the marketer cannot connect a product/feature to a major benefit, then that means the messaging is only halfway there. 

992 Views
Leonardo Vergani
Leonardo Vergani
McKinsey & Company Engagement ManagerJanuary 17

I had to coach a few people on messaging on my past role, which pushed me to develop a structured approach to coach inexperienced product marketer on writing compelling messaging.

What follows are my go-to three steps to ensure a new employee can differentiate good from bad messaging, learn how to frame their messaging in a way that resonates with our personas and validate this message with users before launching.


1. Distinguishing good vs. bad messaging

Obviously, this is a skill that comes with experience, as @Jeffrey Vocell mentioned. However, I came up with a few exercises and rules that can help accelerate the learning process.

The first step is to read the messaging from other products. Or even older versions of your copy.

It is ideal that you pre-select copy that you think has a problem and use it to push your mentee to learn the key concepts. The examples could highlight issues such as:

- Generic copy (or words)
- Feature-driven copy (or too complex/technical)
- Copy targetting too many personas
- Copy targetting no persona

After they go through one of the examples, you both should discuss a few questions:
- What is the messaging trying to convey?
- Who are they targeting?
- What problem does the persona (buyer or user) probably face? What are their goals?
- What do see when you read this copy? What do you feel? (By “see” I mean what images/scenes come to your mind)

From my experience, this is enough to show your mentee what bad messaging means.

This discussion is very likely to show your mentee that there are commonly used words that add no content to the copy (or, those words could mean different things to different people). If this happens, I would suggest creating a list of prohibited words.

The words that usually come up are:

- Simple
- Easy
- Powerful
- Complete

Although “simple”, for example, could be useful to describe the benefits of your product, I find that customers do not understand what that really means to them and how that is going to change their life - the “how” is not clear and it causes confusion.

Go over as many examples you need, but give them time to fully comprehend the concepts between each learning session.


2. Reframing the narrative

As @Steph Kong mentioned, most junior PMMs struggle with framing a narrative starting with benefits (or use cases). Usually, they frame it using the features.

However, this frame is not ideal for your users, as they are now responsible for connecting the dots and understanding how your new feature (or product) can solve a problem for them and improve a business metric that they care about.

To prevent that from happening, I created a very simple framework that is used before writing any launch content:

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For each feature, you have to describe the use cases and business benefits. Also, you have to break it down by persona.

This approach works because starting with the features feels natural to most junior PMMs (and that is how PMs communicate the updates to your team). In addition, after you fill all the boxes, you will have a complete list of the use cases enabled by those new features and the business benefits by persona (or user/buyer)

Now, instead of launching each feature, you can bundle them by business benefit or use case. As a result, your launch post would be framed in a way that makes sense from the point of view of the customer.

Also, writing down all the use cases and benefits creates an opportunity for you to discuss which use cases you want to highlight for each persona and how that should drive other launch decisions.

3. Researching and collecting feedback (pre- and post- writing the messaging)

The last step would be to guide the junior Product Marketing Manager in doing research and collecting feedback from customers and prospects.

Research should be done prior to writing the message. The goal here is to better understand your users and buyers and enable your team to answer:

- What is the current situation of your personas?
- What are the use cases they are describing?
- Which words do they use to describe the problem, their feelings, and the solution?

This should guide the entire messaging. From my point of view, most of the claims that you make in a message and the use cases/benefits that you highlight should be backed by this research. Otherwise, you are just guessing.

Finally, after the first version of the copy is written, you should gather feedback from a few users. The goal here is to understand:

- How do users react? What excites them? What bores them?
- Is your copy easy to follow and understand?
- Do they believe in your promise? Or is it too good to be true?

From my point of view, if you follow this step by step with a junior PMM, they will quickly learn the key moving parts of great messaging.
Comment below if you would like me to expand on something. Or if you had a different experience!

1412 Views
MELANIE KARUNARATNE
MELANIE KARUNARATNE
IVANTI (former employer) VP Marketing - Product MarketingFebruary 16
  • Provide the frameworks, processes, and introductions to the right people. 
  • Be very clear to explain or confirm their understanding of various elements; feature, use case, business outcome, etc.
  • Ensure they have a clear understanding of the target audience.
  • Before they go near a messaging document, have them speak to sales, and explain how to ask questions. Have them sit in silently on customer/prospect calls and read your customer forums or external reviews.
  • Have them work on a small project and buddy them up with a more senior PMM or yourself if you are a small team. 
  • Most importantly, do regular check-ins to keep them on the right track, make sure they aren’t overwhelmed, and listen to how they are doing – you might learn something!
374 Views
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