Who is the biggest critique of your messaging (customer success, sales, product) and how do you ensure you bowl them over and get them on side?
Sales is definitely the biggest critic of messaging at Okta. Getting them involved early and often and treating them as a true partner in the process is fundamental. There are 3 things that I always do when it comes to messaging:
- Partner with the best sellers of your product area. They are experts in reaching your target audience and executing your pitch. If you know they are happy with the message and actively using it, then you've gone a long way in ensuring the message resonates with the right audience.
- Partner with the technical specialists in your product area. These folks have a very finely tuned bullshit meter and are oftentimes in the room when the AE is delivering your message. Make sure you get their specific feedback on that your hard-hitting points are landing and not coming across as fluffy. They will also provide great feedback on where AEs need enablement.
- Check with sales leaders. Is the message landing at different points in the sales cycle? Where do their reps need more help? How should the message be tailored for different segments, geographies, industries? I usually choose ~3-5 leaders each quarter to sit down with and have a detailed conversation about my product area.
The best feedback we can get as PMMs is critical feedback. I firmly believe that our messaging should constantly be refined based on changing market conditions, competitor releases, or customer needs. If we're getting feedback that our messaging isn't landing, then it's a great opportunity to dig into the "why" it isn't working – but that certainly doesn't mean you have to agree or make changes.
There will always be times when leaders push changes from the top, and we need to respond, but an essential part of our job as PMMs is to mediate that criticism, validate it (from more than just one source), and, if necessary, make changes. Having data, customer or analyst quotes, or market insights to back up why we're saying what we're saying is always helpful to have when doing broader messaging reviews, or pushing back on critiques that don't resonate with our research and understanding of customer needs.
The best way to reduce feedback after launch is to ensure that key stakeholders are involved in the discovery process, see early versions of messaging, and are brought along throughout the entire process. Simply, messaging shouldn't come from an ivory tower, when possible.
Believe it or not, I think that marketing is the biggest critic of messaging. :) That's why I am so adamant about positioning and messaging being considered hollistically. Often times, in positioning review meetings, we'll jump ahead to a place where we are splitting hairs on something as if it were the headline of a campaign. It's important to remember that positioning should be really strong, defensible, and not left open for interpretation. As such, positioning should really not be used verbatim on your website. Messaging comes later, and is where creativity and brand are infused into the process to transform the positioning into something that could be a headline of a campaign. It's really important to remind folks to think of these as two separate steps in the process, and carve out that extra (separate) time to get funky and turn on the creativity to ideate about potential campaign headlines, taglines, and ad copy.
Non-Marketers often look to us as the team with most insight on customers. The more grounded our messaging is in customer research, the more likely we are to get buy in and alignment. Some tips to practically get alignment
- Show them data and research on consumer behavior and the effectiveness of the messaging in question.
- Share success stories from other companies who have used similar messaging and saw positive results.
- Collaborate and gather feedback early from product managers and engineers to ensure the messaging aligns with the product and its goals. I've run short messaging workshops to great effect fro bringing alignment.
- Communicate the potential risks of not using the suggested messaging, such as missing out on potential customers or not accurately representing the product.