Aliza Edelstein

Aliza EdelsteinShare

Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Brex
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Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

At a high level, for product messaging, you should have these things:

  • Elevator Pitch
  • Unique Value Proposition
  • Competitive Positioning
  • Supporting Proof Points


For persona messaging, add:

  • Buyer Personas/Ideal Customer Profiles
  • Top Use Cases


For Elevator Pitches, I like to structure them as follows (you can massage these so they don’t feel too rigid, but this is the gist of how you set up the story):

  • Challenge
  • Solution
  • Benefit


For the Unique Value Proposition*, I like to structure them as follows"

  • Who is our primary audience? (buyer or user)
  • What problem are we solving? (need statement)
  • What do we offer? (our product, solution, or service)
  • How are we solving it? (solution/benefit statement)
  • I like to structure this as “We help you…, so you can….”
  • What makes us unique? (core differentiators)

*A Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is a framework that clearly explains the challenges facing prospects and customers, how they’ll benefit from your products, how your products solve their problems, and what makes your offer different and better than the competition. The UVP is to be used as an internal reference by everyone in the company to ensure a common understanding and language of who you build for, what you build, and why. It’s the positioning that underlies the Elevator Pitch, which is how you (and your sales team, your friends, your neighbors, your parents) colloquially speak to these concepts.

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

I see three parts to driving alignment, both with execs and among all other stakeholders:

  1. First, bring them along for the journey. Messaging cannot be done in a silo, and it’s difficult to properly adopt if not everybody feels bought in. Interview your execs and stakeholders to learn their perspective, where they feel the company or product is differentiated, what customer pain it solves, what benefits it delivers. The answers will vary and will be meaningful inputs as you craft and test your messaging.
  2. Second, set regular check-ins and milestones with execs and key stakeholders so they know what to expect and when. Landing messaging correctly can take a while, but it has lots of incremental milestones. Make sure to communicate these expectations, along with what level of input you’d like from them at the various stages.
  3. Third, bring data! While messaging can be creative and subjective, its resonance with your target market and customers can be quantified. Being able to quantify its impact will drive alignment. Here are channels I recommend testing your messaging in to get data to indicate what is resonating:
  • Qualitative interviews. Conduct these with your existing customers or your target market (you may have to pay some incentives). Run these one-on-one, or via focus groups. Listen not only to what they say but also to what words they use (e.g., do they say they want to work “faster” or “more efficiently”). You will detect patterns which will inform your quantitative research. 
  • Quantitative market research (via surveys). I used to work at SurveyMonkey which offers an incredible DIY market research panel called Audience. It lets you reach millions of people based on the targeting attributes you set, and it gets you answers quickly (in days).
  • Test the messaging in real life across channels
    • Website: A/B test messaging on paid landing pages or your company’s website. Just make sure you have enough traffic or can run it for long enough to get statistical significance on the test. Directional changes are not significant and thus due to chance.
    • SEM: Test variations of messaging in your ads. You can measure CTR to know what’s most eye-catching, which will get you very quick results (roughly 2 weeks, depending on your budget). You can measure CPL or another top-of-funnel conversion rate metric (may take a little longer), and you can measure down funnel quality (will take longer, depending on your sales cycle) to understand quality in the middle and bottom of the funnel (AOV, LTV, etc.).
      Email: Test marketing emails to prospects measuring similar metrics outline above in SEM, or test cold sales outreach emails to prospects. What messaging and positioning prompts recipients to engage, reply, convert? You can test subject lines, content, CTAs, length, or anything else.
      In-product: If your company has a logged-in web or app experience, test messaging in there.
      Social: You can test sets of paid social ads, or you can post on your own social media channels for free. Measure which variations get the most engagement and conversion. (Note: the audiences are often quite different for paid and organic social—often your followers are existing customers, and the people you show paid ads to are prospects.)
    • Sales, Account Management, and Support calls: Identify a select few counterparts on these teams and provide them with call scripts or different talk tracks to handle objections or promote new products. Ask them to note how the conversations differ or what messaging resonates most on their calls.
Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

The key to keeping messaging initiatives on track is to ensure internal stakeholders are bought in and represented throughout the process. In addition to making sure they feel heard, your messaging, launches, and campaigns will be better with their input because they bring different perspectives to the table, and diversity of thought does two wonderful things:

  1. Helps you see things differently
  2. Surfaces blindspots in your thinking


In terms of specific questions, for a messaging initiative for example, I’d recommend 2 things:

  1. Start broad. Ask what challenges are they facing or problems they’re feeling getting their work done. Your email team might cite email fatigue or low open rates; your paid marketing team might cite that conversion rates are really low on any ads that don’t use language around “free;” your support team might cite a rise in customer confusion around a certain feature set. Gather these. 
  2. Synthesize and reconcile this feedback. Develop a few proposed solutions or a draft messaging framework and meet with them again to hear their reactions.

***
Below is a list of questions that my team will meet with stakeholders to ask (not all questions are applicable for all stakeholders). I’ve also found that it can be more productive for my team to fill out what they think are the best answers and then ask the stakeholders to react/respond/rip it apart in the meeting if it's a giant meeting or if time is short. Bringing a starting point helps expedite the conversation to the meatier topics.

Persona:

  1. [Challenge] What main challenges does this persona face?
    In the market?
    At their company?
    What is the cost to the customer of not overcoming this challenge?
    (lost revenue, time to market, competitive advantage, operating cost, unmitigated risk, opportunity cost, etc)
  2. [Solution] How does [our company] solve this problem for a customer?
    Complete this sentence: “We help you…”
    What are relevant features? Integrations?
    What are the top use cases?
  3. [Benefit] What overarching customer benefit would they want?
    Complete this sentence: “...so you can…”
  4. [Core differentiators] What are the top 3 things that make [our company] unique?
    What are the corresponding benefits?
    Complete this sentence: When choosing a [product like ours], it’s most important that it
  5. [Compelling Reason to Buy] What will convince prospects to shift from whatever they have to new product/solution?
    What is the single most Compelling Reason to Buy (CRTB)?
    What would prompt this persona to evaluate a new [product like ours]?
  6. What does a happy customer using [product bundle] look like today?
    Company age:
    Employee count:
    Software used:
    Common job titles
    etc.
  7. Who would be happy customers in the next 1-2 years, as we advance the product and what do they want?
  8. Who would be an unhappy customer for [product bundle] today? Why aren’t they good fits?

Product: 

  1. What challenge does the product address?
  2. How does the product solve the challenge?
  3. What is the benefit of using this product? (functional? emotional?)
  4. What are the market alternatives that exist today? (i.e., what could they use in lieu of the product to get the job done?)
  5. What are the product alternatives that exist today? (i.e., who are the product’s key competitors?)

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

There are many points in a company’s lifecycle when messaging and positioning should be reassessed—such as product launches, rebranding, or when you’re getting consistent feedback from customers or prospects (or other customer-facing teams like sales and support) that things are unclear. Repositioning is often linked to a rebranding moment or major product launch, but not always.

For repositioning a mature-market leading company, first be sure to identify the goal. Is it to develop a cohesive overarching narrative across multiple products so you’re better bundling the solution? Is it to differentiate?

I used to work at SurveyMonkey, which is a 20-year-old market leader, and we launched new messaging a few quarters after we rebranded. I approached that the same way I would have to develop positioning for anything else: 

  1. We outlined a number of goals, one of which was to tell a cohesive, overarching story across our portfolio of eight B2B products and one self-serve product. 
  2. We talked to customers
  3. We talked to prospects and researched the market
  4. We tested new messaging across channels
  5. We rolled it out, internally and externally

If you’re worried about showing inconsistent messaging while you’re in the testing phase, pick channels that you can control the audiences for and throttle volume and impressions for, such as paid/SEM ads or sales outreach emails.

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

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.

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

Oh, this is a fun question! The best successes, for me, have been when our metrics have improved as a direct result of the messaging (which you can determine through testing and isolating the variables to just the messaging. Two successes stand out to me:

  1. At SurveyMonkey, I had the privilege of working on corporate messaging that tied together our self-serve product and our eight B2B products in one cohesive, overarching narrative. When we tested the new messaging, we saw a statistical performance increase in SEM ad click-through rate, which translated to a significant decrease in customer acquisition cost.
  2. At Brex, I was lucky enough to work on corporate messaging and positioning as we grew from offering one product (corporate credit cards) to more than one product (cash management accounts). When testing the new messaging, we saw:
  • 143% increase in paid landing page conversion
  • 66% decrease in CPL on SEM
  • 88% increase in CTR on paid ads

It’s critical for PMMs to connect “softer” things like messaging to “hard” business metrics. Messaging works and can meaningfully move the needle for performance marketing and business goals.

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

I think about PMM messaging and positioning more as the internal reference by everyone in the company to ensure a common understanding and language of who we build for, what we build, and why. Brand converts that into how you say it out loud. PR and Comms further translate this for different audiences (press, media, analysts, etc.).

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

I view the competition as a distraction. Depending on your company’s space, new competitors will pop up every day, or existing ones will launch something new that surprises you. As a PMM, it’s your job to know about this—and if you have a lean team, I recommend you closely partner with Sales Enablement, or User Research, or Product, or some team that does have the bandwidth to always keep their ear to the ground and inform you.

My advice is to identify your top competitors and be sure to get agreement from leadership that these are the competitors you actually care about (i.e., secure agreement that you are going to keep competitors A, B, and C on your radar, and you are all comfortable ignoring D, E, and F). The rest just create noise and will distract you.

The competition should not guide your work in any way other than for you to do the following:

  • Understand your strengths relative to them
  • Understand your weaknesses relative to them
  • Know your overall summarized positioning
    • Know how to differentiate your messaging and positioning from them
    • Arm your sales team to explain why you’re different and better than competitor X if a prospect asks


Internally, you can and should provide competitive positioning, feature comparisons, and anything internal partners need to advocate for why you are different and better.

Externally, I recommend staying focused on how your company helps your customers. That is far more helpful and elevated than creating comparison charts on your website for why your company is better (prospects typically look for comparisons on review sites or affiliate sites anyway). Think of it this way: the market leader’s website typically markets itself, not its competition.

Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2

I recommend creating an internal glossary for your company so everyone shares the same understanding. Here's how I think about it:

  • Features - Specific functionality of a product.
  • Core differentiators - What are the 3-5 unique capabilities you have that separate you from the competition? What are you better at?
  • Solution - What problem do you help your target customer solve? A solution completes the sentence: “We help you…
  • Benefit - What overarching benefit do you deliver for your target customer solve? A benefit completes the sentence: “[We help you X,] so you can...
Aliza Edelstein
Aliza Edelstein
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, BrexDecember 2
  • Ensure you have leadership buy-in
  • Roadshow it across teams in the company, starting with those that will be using it on a regular basis
  • Get your leadership team to amplify it—everywhere (town halls, all hands, internal emails, etc.)
  • Ask customer-facing teams to include it in various public places, like their LinkedIn profile description
Credentials & Highlights
Sr. Director of Product Marketing at Brex
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In San Francisco, CA
Knows About Developer Product Marketing, SMB Product Marketing, Growth Product Marketing, Pricing...more
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Product Marketing Manager, Growth Strategy (Remote)
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