Malli Vangala

Malli VangalaShare

Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, Microsoft
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Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 6

Sure. While I cannot share internal documents necessarily, I can share a few elements that I think make up good messaging frameworks.

  1. Market and competitive context
  2. Product strategy/objective (i.e. why we are introducing this particular product/capability and how it fits in broader portfolio of products
  3. Clear articulation of target customer segment and their pain points we are trying to address
  4. Value prop (ideally backed up by research validation!) and finally
  5. Messaging (1-sentence articulation, 2-3 mins 'elevator pitch' you'd want sales team to make) 
Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 6

We try to validate our messaging and positioning prior to finalizing them. We try to obtain feedback from the sales team (ultimately they will use this messaging/positioning most internally), existing and potential customers, third-party analysts (e.g. from Gartner/IDC etc.), internal stakeholders. I have personally found it very helpful to validate with individuals who are not close to the product/solution. Individuals outside Marketing also can help with a quick sanity check to make sure 'markety' terms don't sneak in too much!

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 7

I am a believer that your messaging/positioning has to be consistent with how differentiated your product really is. Customers will quickly figure out what is marketing fluff vs. product truth anyway! So - even if your product is not the market leader but your research tells you that you have a killer product - i'd suggest being aggressive with the messaging and positioning and taking the fight to the competition! On the other hand - if you are entering a new segment with a 'v1' version of a product that you know is not very competitive yet, i'd lean a bit more towards reflecting the vision of the product/strategy vs. capabilities of the product itself in the messaging/positioning.

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 7

We collect and incorporate the voice of the customer in a few different ways: First - the sales team tends to be a great proxy as they are on the front lines and can provide great inputs on what they are hearing from customers, what seems to resonate and what does not. Second - our product marketing team actively engages directly with customers through executive briefings, partnering with the sales team in customer discussions, webinars, events etc. Third - we regularly engage with reputed analysts who can sometimes bring good customer perspectives to bear. Finally - we invite customers to educate us and provide feedback directly on our products/solutions/messaging periodically (e.g. via advisory boards, customer learning days etc.). All of these avenues provide inputs that we then consider while framing our positioning/messaging

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 5
  1. Inward focus vs. customer centricity
  2. Marketing jargon vs. simplicity
  3. silo-ed message vs. integrated messaging across our portfolio

Very often - it's easy to get caught up in our internal org dynamics and excitement about a product while creating the messaging around it. We have to periodically step back and make sure the messaging makes sense to someone who is not as familiar with the product or our broad portfolio of solutions

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 6

Great question and one that took me sometime to figure out as well when i was new to product marketing few years ago! We have used positioning to get clear on who the product/solution is for, what they are trying to address and what differentiates this solution. Messaging can be a simple one-sentence (or a few lines) description of what the product/solution does

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 6

Great question and not sure I have a very scientific answer here! I'd say we use a combination of things to validate effectiveness of messaging: feedback from customers (gathered via surveys, live conversations etc.), sales team (particularly on what is resonating/not resonating with customers), analysts of third-party firms (E.g. Gartner/IDC etc.) and independent research (either with our own market research team or a vendor). If the product's audience were a handful of large Enterprises, this process might be a easier in the sense that you can get direct feedback from the customers/account team on messaging effectiveness. Very often tho - customers likely won't focus as much on the messaging as they will on the product/solution itself and what it can/cannot do. One additional idea: consider a customer advisory board with those customers and involve them more in developing the product roadmap/design etc.

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 6

Great question! We faced a similar challenge a few years ago for one of our suite of solutions. It may boil down to how critical each of those three segments are to your business. Based on your question - sounds like all three are important (otherwise I'd recommend optimizing for the most critical segment). Assuming you have to address all three segments, you have a few choices: Craft your brand messaging to include (1) the lowest common denominator for all three segments (2) the most critical components for each of the segments. Clearly pros and cons to both approaches in terms of breadth vs. depth of potential appeal. If you have the luxury of time (!), good to perhaps test out both options above with your audiences and see which one resonates better. In our case - I'll say we went with option #2 above initially but as our suite expanded, we focused our messaging and products much more to a specific audience  

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 6

We try our best not to get too caught up or carried away with our great product features! Ultimately - it's about the value we deliver to customers and so we try to infuse the business value into the messaging as much as we can. The other thing we try to do (sometimes successfully!) is to avoid jargon/'fluff' in the context of messaging....in other words, keep the messaging plain and simple. If our messaging resonates with the least technical of our customers, that's a win! The sales team can then engage customers with the right technical depth discussions as a follow up!

Malli Vangala
Malli Vangala
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing, MicrosoftOctober 5

We typically prepare and validate a strong Messaging and Positioning Framework (MPF) document first. Our template typically includes things like the market context, objectives of our messaging (i.e. what we hope to drive/influence), quick single-sentence description of the product etc. Once we have this document, we circulate it among the exec team (typically months in advance of a launch to give everyone enough time to reflect and comment). We also typically have multiple live discussions on the topic (depending on the complexity of the product/launch) and use the MPF document to drive alignment. Competitive context and narratives have helped resolve strong differing exec opinions!

Credentials & Highlights
Sr. Director, Security Product Marketing at Microsoft
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In Redmond, WA
Knows About Category Creation, Developer Product Marketing, SMB Product Marketing, Competitive Po...more