Precision in the Language of Messaging

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When awash with data and metrics, it’s easy for a product marketer to overlook precision in using the language of messaging. Div Manickam, director of portfolio messaging for Dell subsidiary Boomi, discussed subtle but significant differences in product marketing lexicon during an AMA on the evolution of product and solutions marketing to portfolio messaging. It originally appeared on Sharebird— the place to see how people at top companies do product marketing. 

Manickam’s team at Boomi, which specializes in cloud-based integration, API management and master data management, starts all messaging and positioning with the same framework. (See below.) 

“We have combined messaging and positioning into one document, and have it built out for each product, solution and industry,” she said. “We engage with product management to start and confirm the value proposition, key personas and their pain points based on current learnings from customers. Then we validate our messaging with sales and presales to gain insights into prospect conversations. This has become the guide for the content/editorial team and the other teams in marketing to help articulate business value.” 

Remember the audience—the customer—while building that messaging framework. “Often times, we say our platform has unlimited possibilities, it's the art of the possible—because it truly is,” Manickam said. “But it doesn’t help the customer understand our unique differentiator vs. any other option in the market.” 

Start with themes to help formulate the messaging hierarchy. “We need to simplify the message, so it’s memorable. If we cannot do that, no matter how great the messaging sounds, it will be forgotten the next second,” she said. “We developed a messaging and positioning framework to help articulate customer needs and our value proposition across four main themes: connect, modernize, transform and innovate. It is simple to remember and has helped anchor our portfolio messaging and positioning to those pillars.” 

And keep in mind the differences in two types of messaging—product and portfolio 

“When we are developing product messaging, we focus on the product and the features and capabilities that simplify the life for the user,” Manickam said. “Our messaging/positioning leads to assets like product briefs, technical white papers and e-books, and demos that focus on product awesomeness. 

“When we are developing portfolio messaging (product, solutions, and industry), we are looking through the buyer persona lens. A buyer exists in a specific industry and their pain points may be unique to that industry. When we conducted our buyer persona research, our interview responses were loud and clear—everyone wanted to see use cases and scenarios that are relevant to their industry, not just a horizontal solution. This helped us to look at our top five buyer personas and we are developing messaging and positioning that is relevant for a specific target segment.” 

Address one market segment at a time when developing the message. Once you understand the buyer’s needs and value proposition, build the message for the other segments, Manickam recommended. “If the message is not unique for each segment, then it will be hard to position one overarching message. It will be challenging at first, but once you have the value proposition for each segment, you will naturally see the synergies and patterns.” 

Manickam’s AMA included many product marketing terms that are often used interchangeably. So, she defined some of those subtle but significant differences. 

For example, the terms portfolio, platform, ecosystem and suite are used interchangeably, depending on the use case or scenario. “Every technology company wants to be a platform today that encompasses multiple products/services/offerings,” said Manickam, giving these definitions

  • Portfolio is a collection of products, industries, solutions and services that focus on the buyer persona needs within a target segment.
  • Platform is a group of products/services that builds the foundation or acts as the technology backbone and have synergies for customers to leverage capabilities across the platform.
  • Ecosystem is much broader and includes the business and every other entity that has a role in the customers’ industry landscape.

Likewise, it's easy to use the words product, feature and solution as different options. “As product marketers, it's important for us to understand the subtle differences,” she said, providing these definitions: 

  • A feature is the smallest element or component that solves a specific job.
  • A product includes a set of core features and functionality that solves for unique needs.
  • A solution solves a business need and is typically tied to a target segment by market size and/or industry.

While the language of the messaging is important, product marketing is built on data and research. “As part of the product organization, we look at data analysis and north star metrics to help in our decision-making process,” Manickam said. “Customer research and market analysis help to identify the unique pain points to develop the differentiated value proposition. 

“CRM data analysis, buyer persona research and competitive intelligence (with sales, customers and partners) help articulate the right value at the right time for the right segment.” 

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