Eleven Steps to Great Product Messaging
Know your product.
Great messaging starts with a thorough understanding of your product. Everything in your messaging should align with your product and feel derivative. Imagine your messaging embedded in your product or service. It should have the same tone, voice and personality. The words, graphics, and media elements should be virtual substitutes for the product. If it's a meaningful first taste, your messaging should replicate the product experience.
Talk with your team and ask questions—lots of them—to deepen your understanding of your product. What is the product essence? What are the primary features and benefits? What problems does the product solve? What’s not addressed? What makes it a great solution? How and why is the product competitively better, and where does it fit in the market? What’s different and notable? What is the product's origin, back-story and trajectory?
You don’t want to create messaging in isolation, but be wary of diluting words by committee. Own the pen, work together, and stay on a healthy path to create messaging that works for your product.
Align to your audience
How would customers describe your product in their own words? What do they value and care about the most? Your messaging may work for you, but it’s more important that it work for your target customer. Is your messaging interesting and compelling to your audience? Does your messaging support your market position?
Get clear and condensed
If you had one word to describe your product, what would it be? What’s the one sentence elevator pitch? Does everything in your messaging make sense, and work together? Have you distilled the message to the essence of what you want to say, and is it coherent? You should relay no more than three ideas in your messaging. Great messaging is efficient and economical. It achieves the maximum effect with the fewest, choice words.
Flag and eradicate buzzwords, weasels and fluff. Start by highlighting every word that is suspect, and then put it under the crosshairs of the microscope. Eliminate words or concepts that are meaningless to consumers, even if they're internally favored. Is every word working for you? What’s the strongest and weakest part of your messaging? Fix or get rid of flimsiness, and only settle for strength.
Make it scalable
Depending on your product and the channels you use to promote it, you may need everything from 10 to 250 word versions of your messaging. What’s the Twitter friendly post? Messaging should be adaptive. It should convey the same essence, in tone, voice, and brand regardless of length or channel. Your messaging should anticipate a supporting list of features and benefits.
Look at your competitor’s messaging, and at adjacent products in your target market. Tear that messaging apart and develop your opinions about what is working and what is not. How is your product or service different and better? How is your messaging competitive, and allied to the market? Keep track of messaging that you think is great, and use those other voices for inspiration.
If your product is part of a business line, how does your messaging support that foundation? Your messaging should relate to your corporate brand and other products in your portfolio. If your brand is clever, whimsical, informal and polished, then reflect those attributes. Does your messaging personality, voice, and tone match your brand?
Once you’ve settled on solid messaging avoid the temptation to change it. You and your colleagues may weary of seeing the same words month-after-month, but if they're working, they're still shiny and new to consumers. Change your messaging, and you are waylaying, or even restarting your brand building.
Messaging always has context. At minimum, it is tethered to the product. It has a setting within push notes, email, social media, a website, or an app store. Messaging is often paired with complementary graphics and rich media that amplify key points, similar to the way audio effects and music shape dialog in a movie. The words and the design must work together. An inappropriate logo, a bad color, an off-image, or an audio effect gone sideways can ruin the message. Ensure that all design elements work together in all conditions.
Make it a memorable journey
Provide the consumer a brief adventure. Take them out of their daily grind, and let them experience your product and what it will do for them. You want to open the consumer’s imagination. You can do that with few words. According to legend, Ernest Hemingway wagered a bet that he could write a short story with only six-words. If you only had six words to convey your product story, what would they be?
Is your messaging memorable, and if not, why not? Does it invite discoverability? Is it structured and prioritized with a beginning, middle and end? Is it moving the consumer from acquisition to engagement?
Hone and refine to approach perfection. Messaging can make all the difference in the development of a consumer relationship. Take the time to perfect your message. You only have a few seconds to make the right impression and convey the essence of your product. Make every word work for you.