Telltale Signs of Product Messaging Problems

Yesterday a high tech VP told me, “I am painfully aware that sales are down this year versus last but I’d really like to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies. Something tells me my product-level messaging is off but I’m not sure if that’s one of the key inhibitors or not.” I told her that we can look for telltale symptoms of a product-level messaging problem. By that I mean, not corporate level branding but rather messaging that is specific to a particular product.


See my blog post, The Power of Excellent Messaging, for more on corporate level messaging. Here are some symptoms that point to product-level messaging issues. I use ”product” to mean any offering – product, solution, or service.

• Sales reps complain that the product is not differentiated, and that they’re struggling to compete.
• Sales reps are asking for a “hook” or way to speak to a higher level decision-maker to capture their interest in the product offering.
• PR firm is asking for evidence that the product is valuable, unique, and addresses a real problem so that they can get above the noise level of competitive claims.
• Channel partners are telling you that your product is too difficult to explain, not worth the selling effort.
• Lead generation efforts produce too few highly qualified prospects, a quantity versus quality problem.
• Marcom team is struggling to convey a strong, consistent message in all deliverables.
• Company employees cannot succinctly and consistently explain the solution when asked.

So what do you do if you’re encountering these challenges? We recommend sharpening your product-level messaging which would include being able to answer the following questions:

• What is the pain point your target customers are experiencing?
• What does your product do to address this pain?
• Why does that matter?
• Who will care the most about addressing these pain points?
• What makes your product better than other options that customer has?

I’ll be writing more on this topic so stay tuned for more thoughts and recommendations on product-level messaging. Here are just a few examples of product-level messaging that I consider very well done: VMware, Citrix, Informatica, Timebridge, and Arena Solutions.

Please let us know your thoughts on product messaging, and examples of great work you’ve seen.

One Response to Telltale Signs of Product Messaging Problems

  1. Mark Allen Roberts August 31, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Amen!
    It’s a shame really how much companies spend in research and development and marketing costs and fail to create messages that resonate like those you illustrated in your The Power of Excellent Messaging, post.

    I think you are right …it takes hard work.

    Are we so eager to launch or is it because we are so behind we take short cuts?

    I looked at the current Health Care reform from the stand point of messaging in my blog post: 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging .

    I wish I could pull companies aside, (administrations too) and share how spending the time upfront truly insures a successful launch and hitting ROI objectives.

    Great content!( I plan to share)

    Mark Allen Roberts