Here’s the situation – you sell products or services, but we’ll just call them “products” for simplicity here. Most of the Sales and Marketing team are on the same page about what your product does – some of the values and benefits it provides, how it’s a bit different and generally how to talk about it. But, you know that consistency is key to driving understanding with your buyer and that only consistency brings the repeatability that drives word of mouth and smooths out the purchasing cycle.
And you’re frustrated when you hear the CEO give 3 different short versions of the product message (the “elevator pitch” of your product), and you’re frustrated that every single piece of collateral seems to reinvent the wheel, as you message your product. So, you searched for “product messaging template” or “product positioning guide” and here you are.
A product messaging template is used to develop all of your messaging for a product or suite of products organized in one place, so you can enable others to effectively communicate to the market about your solution. A complete product messaging document drives consistency and repeatability – lowering the effort to build additional sales and marketing content.
Good product positioning clearly communicates to your buying audience what your product is, who it’s for, what problems it addresses, how it’s differentiated from the competition, and how you uniquely deliver the solution to the buyer’s problem. It’s important that your positioning document enables other teams within Sales and Marketing to accurately generate new content and assets.
Our guide takes a different approach than most other templates that are either too lightweight or incomplete and uses the work that we started in a previous post – How to Create a Consistent Marketing Message – to focus on personas. By starting with – and focusing on – personas, you’ll develop your product messaging and positioning that’s more aligned with the buyer’s need and helps them move down funnel more quickly. Also, we really like product messaging frameworks that are repeatable across the whole team, so that every piece of collateral that you develop drives home a consistent message.
Here’s a breakdown of the sections and how to fill them in. The final template is meant to be handed off, so we’re actually going to go through this out of order:
And here’s some quick links to jump into the different sections:
The Context section of the template provides the background on the buyer’s journey for your audience. A full template for building your ideal customer profiles can be found in our Marketing Messaging Guide post, but here we’ll either refer to those personas by name or offer a simplified overview of who we’re serving this content to.
For more background, describe what “jobs” your customers “hire” your product to do. These are the documented use-cases. Some products serve multiple use cases, and if they are sufficiently different, you might consider doing one template per major use-case.
For example, Trello is used as a workflow board (a kanban board), but it can also be used as categorized lists (no workflow). That’s two pretty different use cases.
Limit your use-cases here – your customers aren’t hiring your product for 20 things – try to keep it to 3 or less.
Next, capture some high-level keywords and phrases that the prospect would be searching for as they seek to evaluate products like yours. This isn’t an exhaustive SEO analysis, but rather a way to communicate to the team the state of mind and common terms a buyer would be looking for.
Finally, are there any specific, frequent, and niche areas where prospective customers might be hanging out? If there are active online communities for your buyer, then document those here – these are key resources for your team as they translate this core messaging doc into other assets like eBooks, whitepapers, decks, and web pages.
Similar to the persona messaging template where you documented the frustrations, wants, fears, and aspirations of your audience, we document the Before State, Negative Consequences, After State, and Positive Business Outcomes in this template.
This is a critical area to spend time on. It drives the urgency behind the sale and will help focus content that’s designed to move the prospect down your funnel.
Before State – the critical problem or problems your prospective buyer is facing. Hopefully this taps into frustrations they have at a personal level and that they are seeking to resolve. Naturally, it’s something that your product is effective at addressing.
Negative Consequences – what if your audience did nothing about their problems? What’s the impact? To them? To the business? The more specific and quantified you can be, the better.
After State – If your audience completes their journey and implements your product, then what does that look like? Describe, in detail, what success looks like in their terms.
Positive Business Outcomes – Document the value delivered from achieving the After State. This is the quantified benefits from avoiding the Negative Consequences and succeeding in the After State.
It’s important to split this out. It’s not enough to write down the problems, and it’s not enough to drop in some benefits. Refining the picture of the Before State of your buyer and the gap to achieving the Positive Business Outcomes is the core of what drives urgency for your deals. Without a wide gap, the friction of doing nothing is often too great to overcome.
We’ll get ready in the rest of the template to position your product as the key to achieving the quantified, tangible outcomes we’ve written down in this section.
You know your product inside and out. Everyone in your organization knows your product inside and out, but I bet this section will give you pause and take some time to distill down to 3 or fewer Value Drivers. A Value Driver describes what drives the transition between the Before State to the After State. Your Value Drivers form the messaging pillars for your product. The hardest part is reducing down what drives the value for the buyer to just 3 (or less!) values and have something everyone can agree on.
A good Value Driver is a high level statement of the qualities of the product that directly relate to the challenges of the Before State.
All the positioning and messaging will refer back to these Value Drivers and should reinforce them, providing proof and truth that makes them real.
As you position your product, it’s helpful to use your audience’s existing frame of reference to compare and contrast your solution. Your key differentiators have to be really important to your existing customers and set you apart from competitors and do-nothing alternatives. The differentiators here can be something much larger than your features – it could be the services you bundle with your product (or the product that you bundle with your services), the experience of your employees, or who your existing customers are. Again, pick the most important ones to focus on and repeat instead of a never-ending list.
You already know customer testimonials and case studies work to demonstrate your product is successful. So, for Proof Points, amplify your top examples to demonstrate the transition from the Before State to the After State and hopefully be able to tell that story in a compelling way with Gain, Loss Avoidance, and Logical Argument messaging.
The proof points will be referred to across the teams – in marketing assets that you create for your products and by the Sales team and sellers on the front lines everyday. Capture as many here as you can, but make sure they are compelling and help support your Value Drivers.
You want to have persona-driven product messaging that’s the most relevant to our audience as possible, so understanding the sales cycle – the buyer’s journey – and their path to purchasing your solution influences how you position and message your products.
Understanding the sale means accurately capturing:
Compelling events that trigger evaluating solutions to solve the prospect’s problems and the pain of the Before State
How you and your teams create urgency to buy – what are the plays and ways you shine a light on the (hopefully) large gap between the Before State and the After State which a really big potential for the audience to miss out on those Positive Business Outcomes
Who’s involved in the purchase decision? This is very often underestimated to only be 1 - 3 people, but can be as many as 12-20 people involved in a deal.
And you’ll also document the Required Capabilities that your audience is evaluating a solution based on. This is their checklist. What are the must-have features? Sometimes you might have a product gap where you’re missing a Required Capability (hopefully not!), and bonus points if you can add a Required Capability to the list that your competitors don’t have (but your audience cares about).
Given the Required Capabilities, how do you deliver on them with your features and solution? Can you describe how you excel at delivering on what’s required – maybe even better than anyone? You can refer back to Proof Points here to repeat and underscore your Value Drivers.
You’ll probably have a lot of content and assets that support the buyer in their journey, but it’s helpful to highlight some key assets here – by funnel stage – to give the rest of the Marketing and Sales teams visibility into supporting materials that put to work the messaging in this template. If this is a new product launch, maybe you are still building these out, but fill them in as they become available.
We’ve heard a lot of teams are really frustrated by trying to keep track of all of their Marketing and Sales assets – especially when it comes to tracking what’s actually being used. That’s why we created Content Camel to make organizing all the content that enables sales teams easy. Easy to find, share (including with our Chrome Extension), and track the results. Let us know what you think.
How to Message Product Features and Benefits
Yes! Now that you’ve worked through Value Drivers, the pain of the Before State and the success of the After State with all the associated benefits and metrics, now that you’ve documented Proof Points and what makes your product unique, it’s time to fill out the description of each feature.
I think it’s easier to approach positioning features before tackling the overall product messaging, because, hey, a product is really just a collection of features (and the benefits those deliver).
In the feature area of the template we have:
Short description - Imagine using this description on a web page or snapshot of the feature in a sales deck. Ideally this showcases a value driver and hits on the how it enables the benefits in the transition away from the Before State
One liner - Distill the short description down to the essence, but still in terms of loss avoidance, gain, or backed up with numbers and figures. What would you have the CEO say about this feature of the product in just one line?
Benefit - This feature likely delivers on a required capability, and, given that, what Positive Business Outcome does this contribute to?
If it’s easier – or you need it – add in a longer description and start from there. Then, whittle that down to the short description and ultimately the one liner.
Repeat for all the key features that make up the product. This should be easier and repeatable now that you have the Value Drivers in hand along with all the other well-thought-out background.
Competitors. Everyone has them and absolutely don’t forget that there’s always a do-nothing alternative. Try to capture all the main competitors here and as much of the pricing as you can. The most important task is to position how you compete and win.
How does your product deliver better than the given competitor on the required capabilities? What proof points – customer quotes, testimonials, analyst notes, or market validation – support how you do it better?
You may not use this material directly in your marketing efforts, but you know that the majority of your buyers are going to do online research independently as part of their evaluation, so positioning relative to your competitors is important whether or not you call them out by name. For the Sales Team, bringing together a quick snapshot of how your product wins is a great start to building out more extensive assets like Battlecards.
Ok, now we’re back up to the top of this core messaging template to wrap up with the top-level product messaging and positioning. The idea is this should be easier, because we’ve spent time thinking about the buyer’s motivations – their challenges and the impact of those challenges; their success state if they implement a solution, and the benefits of that success state.
More than just a jumble of words and quick snippets, we have a system in place now that we can refer back to and that we’re confident that the other teams in the org can use to build on top of. This product messaging is part of that foundation. It will still be effort to wordsmith it, but it will be a lot easier now that we have all the supporting info.
You’ll want to summarize how the product is positioned with the Internal Positioning Statement. This wraps up everything we’ve covered here on the transition between before and after states and the values that drive the outcomes and metrics achieved in that journey. It’s a shorthand note to the teams and isn’t something you’d publish on a site.
The Product Description, though, is the public version of your product messaging, and I think it’s easier to start with the longest version of that and narrow it down shorter and shorter. You pull from the rest of the template to tell the story of your product and how it delivers on the Required Capabilities that are necessary to fulfill the use-cases the buyer would hire your product for. Try to hit on all your value drivers and throw in some differentiation.
Finally, the One Liner version of your message that would be the response when someone asks the CEO what your product is. Leave out jargon and make sure to really address what the audience cares about.
Metrics that support product success can be easy to state, hard to measure, and even harder to follow up on, but if you’ve got them, capture that here. It’s easier for some products versus others, but if you can nail down the metrics of success, you can revisit those in your customer marketing to drive further retention and expansion.
It’s some effort to document all of this, but it will seriously save you a lot of time and frustration as you go to market with your products. Done well, you’ll escape the cycle of runway messaging and hearing the CEO (and others, of course) talk about your products a different way every single time they explain what you do and what you’re selling. You’ll be ready to drop this doc on outside agencies, so they can help you expand your content efforts, and you’ll increase the impact that your content has in the buyer’s evaluation and journey.
My favorite part about documenting our product messaging this way is that it builds a system – a system that can be used in repeated and consistent assets from emails to web pages to ebook and more.
As you share it out to enable your team, make sure it’s accessible somewhere in your Google Drive, Dropbox, or better yet, Content Camel - marked internal-only and sitting right next to your sales decks, one-pagers, and winning blog post links.
Get the Product Messaging Spreadsheet Template here →
Discover and improve your messaging with this completely editable template
Content Camel is a sales enablement tool used for sales content management. High-growth sales teams use our system to quickly find and share the right content for each specific sales situation and measure content use and effectiveness.