Written by: Meghan M. Boots, Senior Consultant, bluesalve partners
Start by doing the Foundational Work
Every client wants to create the greatest profits possible, but few take the proper steps to get there. You can set your product or service apart from the pack and yield better outcomes by taking time up front to do thorough due diligence. There’s no sugar-coating the issue; this process can be painful and scary. There’s also no way around it and skimping will always come back to bite you. If you really want to be competitive, you have to do the work for effective due diligence.
Who are you selling to, what are their pain points, and how are you solving them better than anything out there in the market? Be sure that the product really is tailored to your market. It’s important to get out there and validate assumptions by testing it with your target market, even if you’re just floating the idea or the concept at first. Be prepared for feedback that’s difficult to hear.
Once you have a good idea of who you’re targeting and what your product or service will solve for them, go through the exercise of developing a messaging framework. Usually this is only about two pages, but that doesn’t mean it will be quick or easy. If you’re doing it well, you’ll need to struggle with it. You’re basically defining the essentials: what is it (product offering), who is it for (target audience), how is it unlike other options (competitive landscape results), and this is why you have the best option (unique selling proposition). Then go more deeply into your USP and give strong supporting cases.This might sound easy but it shouldn’t be. For example, many make the mistake of boiling the ocean by trying to serve too broad of a market. Get specific about your target audience. What are their genders, age range and other demographic and geographic information? Take these data points and do research to find the TAM and SAM. If you find that the size of the market isn’t big enough or if it’s too broad, then adjust accordingly. This process has to be modeled out as you’re going. Remember, it’s not about filling out the doc; the exercise and the struggle are what will get you there.
As is true of messaging, this step can’t be skipped. Think about the other options that your customers have. Study those options and learn them well. Understand where their offering is more focused or more broad, and learn their pricing models. Really, know this. One way to visualize this is via Perceptual Mapping or a Magic Quadrant. I like to plot competitors on an X and Y axis into four quadrants, then place my product in there with them. This will help you speak more intelligently and crisply about your product to investors, partners, and customers. After completing the exercise you might find that your offering is more “me too” than you might have thought. If that’s the case, go back and see what variables you can change. This is shifting your positioning to win.
After you complete your positioning you’ll want to go back and revisit your messaging again. The process is a bit circular. When you’re finally done, you’ll have a crisp messaging document that will be evergreen to an extent. You may need adjustments over time because market landscapes are dynamic. Mergers happen, pandemics happen . . conditions are always in flux. You’ll need to revisit both of these docs periodically to be sure that you’re staying competitive and evolving wisely.
The messaging doc gets handed off to your creatives so they can use it to inform projects like copywriting for the web, social channels, pitch decks, data sheets and the like. It becomes the basis for all your outward-facing marketing and communications. When all your messaging is coming from one source it’s going to be consistent, which will positively impact your brand.
Doing these exercises will build a solid foundation. You can go back and address this foundation whether you’ve been in business for six months or 30+ years. You’ll still need to build the house on top of that foundation, but you’ll have a much better chance of winning if you do this work upfront. Some people will tell you that this part can be skipped and you will most likely see weakness in their messaging, their pricing model, or in other fundamental areas as a result. Just do the work and you’ll reap the rewards.
At bluesalve partners, we have an active product development process we can share with clients to accelerate and improve their batting average. Better outcomes are good for everyone, the firms, the industry, and their customers. Let’s all get better together.
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