How to Keep Your Messaging Consistent
Recently, GrokSpark Co-Founder and seasoned product marketer Tim Hinds sat down for an episode of Ross Webb’s podcast series, Product Marketing Coach, to discuss the future of product marketing and specifically PMMs’ difficulty maintaining consistent product messaging across the board.
Listen to the full podcast here or read on in this blog post to learn how you can:
- Keep product messaging consistent & up-to-date
- Utilize different tools/strategies when a simple Doc/Spreadsheet/Airtable database just won’t cut it
- Evolve in your role to meet the future of product marketing head-on
Keeping Your Product Messaging Consistent & Up-to-Date
In Agile environments (where Tim has spent most of his time), keeping product messaging consistent and up-to-date is always particularly tricky.
The fast-paced nature of the business makes it extremely challenging for Agile B2B product marketers to constantly maintain consistent messaging across all of their company’s content and assets. Yet, this act is absolutely essential. PMMs must be able to keep all collateral and messaging up-to-date with every minute evolution of their own company’s or competitors’ products.
The Product Marketer’s Problem
For many PMMs initially brought into a company, the utter complexity of managing and maintaining a consistent messaging framework isn’t top-of-mind. After figuring out where the company keeps its latest messaging and positioning statements, PMMs will typically grab a framework, fill it up with existing messaging, organize it all, then have it approved.
And that’s great…for that snapshot in time.
Time goes on and the company creates a new product or introduces feature updates, or maybe there’s a change in the market. Then it hits: updating all the messaging is going to be a huge pain in the ass. It’s common for PMMs to scrap the initial framework, grab a new one, and start from scratch. This is such a big waste of time, and with more and more products developed in Agile environments, it’s quickly becoming an archaic form of product marketing.
The Perfect Solution
A product marketer’s dream messaging framework would allow them to message to various audiences and then reuse those blocks of messaging across different formats. You’d want to be able to create specific messaging for certain benefits/products/audiences, include features relevant to each, and add descriptions for each feature listed then use all of this product messaging in multiple places. Bonus points if it could all be managed in one place.
With a solution like that, PMMs could avoid rewriting messaging over and over again in every single specific place/document/format the message appears. This would be a HUGE time-saver, allowing PMMs to become more strategic in the role and less “stuck in the trenches” of creating/updating/maintaining product messaging.
When a Simple Doc/Spreadsheet/Airtable Database isn’t Enough
For some, a solution like the one mentioned above doesn’t seem that necessary. What’s wrong with simply putting product messaging in some sort of spreadsheet or Doc? It’s true, this is where most PMMs start building out high-level messaging around the product (e.g. positioning statement, target audience, value proposition). Then they tend to move into a three pillar framework, or 3×3 matrix, with Value 1, Value 2, Value 3 accompanied by feature or benefit messaging to support the value claim.
The Consistency Problem
Again, that’s pretty good for a snapshot in time, but it becomes overwhelming when you begin to think about maintaining this type of messaging across multiple personas. Basically, you’d need to make a copy of that exact framework for all of the different target audiences. In most cases, you end up re-using messaging; duplication is simply inevitable as personas typically end up sharing certain benefits, features, and/or value pillars.
So what happens when features/products/competitors change? Product marketers are tasked with updating every piece of related messaging in every single place that message appears. When a messaging framework isn’t built for users to easily manage and maintain duplicate messages, even the best PMMs can get caught up in the monumental task of ensuring 100% consistency across the board.
The Filterability Problem
Many product marketers work with B2B products that involve compliance issues and must address how features are relevant to all these different segments. They start off small with a Google Doc, then end up with a massive Google Sheet that maps out all of the things that are relevant to each one of these target audiences.
Eventually, PMMs start to struggle with simplicity vs. complexity.
When product marketers build out complex spreadsheets that are able to map all the various features to the various segments that they’re important to or to the benefit messages that are relevant to those segments, it becomes incredibly difficult to filter down to JUST the messaging you need to do a single task. For example, building a web page, updating a slide deck, or creating a datasheet.
Regardless of who’s looking for what messaging or what they need it for, complex frameworks make it that much more difficult to filter down to the one thing they’ll need to accomplish their job moving forward. Tools come in handy here and the progression usually goes from a Doc to a spreadsheet to some sort of database tool like Airtable, even though this last option still poses limitations.
The Presentability Problem
While many product marketers utilize database tools like Airtable, this kind of framework becomes problematic when you want to perform multiple layers of filtering and have presentable information returned to users.
Airtable is your standard relational database, so the way it does grouping isn’t necessarily ideal. It would require a different type of query to the database in order to group the way you’d want as a product marketer.
For example, let’s say you wanted to see which benefits each persona gets from a product. You’d filter your benefits table by the product, then group by personas. But instead of seeing all the benefits each persona gets, the Airtable shows odd groupings for this purpose like:
- Personas A, B, and C get Benefits A and B
- Personas A and C get Benefit C
- Personas B and C get Benefit D
- Persona B gets Benefit E
Where what you actually want to see is something more like:
- Persona A gets Benefits A, B, and C
- Persona B gets Benefits A, B, D, and E
- Persona C gets Benefits A, B, C, and D
Another huge issue with an Airtable database is its presentation of data. As a PMM, you want to be able to create something that you can hand off to someone else. You don’t want to direct your sales reps to an Airtable to filter down to the level of messaging they need to address a certain prospect.
You’d want them to have access to some sort of Doc or report in which they’re able to quickly filter by a persona with a specific set of challenges to see the appropriate benefit messaging, the features that provide those benefits, and all the relevant content available to send out. This is way too complex for an Airtable database. As a result, it really isn’t possible to send sales reps or even other marketers into the framework to find for themselves all of the information needed for their particular needs.
A Messaging Framework’s Purpose and Failings
One of the major goals of a product messaging framework is also where most messaging frameworks fail: to instantly provide any and all users with consistent messaging in a usable format that they can apply to each unique scenario. There are just too many scenarios with nuances and complexities for most messaging frameworks to cover without looking like unreadable eye charts.
For example, you’d want your framework to enable content marketers with the messaging they need to write a blog post or create a web page; for demand gen, messaging they can use to craft email campaigns or webinars. Ultimately, you’d want to be able to use the same messaging blocks for all these different pieces and have any updates to the messaging immediately available to users.
Creating a One-Stop-Shop Product Messaging Hub
Without that kind of messaging framework solution, a PMM’s job can become an absolute nightmare. Tim knows this all too well. He decided to turn his frustration into innovation and teamed up with Co-Founder Jonathan Bracken to develop one single source of truth for all of a company’s product marketing messaging: GrokSpark.
The platform is designed to help B2B product marketers easily build out and maintain consistent and segmented messaging to increase conversion rates at every stage with more impactful content and communications. You can use it to accomplish all of the messaging framework goals mentioned previously: manage a single source of product messaging truth for your organization, respond to requests in seconds, and create and update content consistently.
The Future of Product Marketing
In Tim’s opinion, the future of product marketing aligns with the adoption of iterative product development. Product messaging should be developed the same way products are developed. However, this definitely depends on the size of a company; product marketing at larger companies is going to look very different than product marketing at smaller companies.
Tim’s predicts product marketing will move closer to the product side of things. Currently, a majority of companies group product marketing under the marketing umbrella‒PMMs report up through marketing. Somehow product marketing has been split away from product management, and now some companies have started pulling it back.
This allows for more strategic, encompassing product marketing and can be accomplished if:
- PMMs are completely in-sync with product developers
- PMMs have additional team members (e.g. content marketers, sales enablers) who can build things based on whatever messaging PMMs create and provide
- PMMs can own the voice of the customer
- While this may be a shared role between PMMs, product management, and even UX research to some extent, it’s essential for PMMs to know what the target audience is, to understand its problems explicitly, and to know exactly what within the product solves those problems.
If PMMs hone in on that last point, everything else becomes tactical (e.g. where the messaging gets disseminated out to, who’s going to be updating the website, who’s going to be creating content, who’s going to be enabling the sales team). It can ONLY be this tactical and efficient if product marketers are able to focus strategically on the target audience, what problems they have, and how the product solves those problems.
Ultimately, this is the core of product marketing and Tim believes as the role gains more visibility it will become more strategic overall. In order to embrace a more strategic product marketing role, you’ll need to free up time typically spent managing, maintaining, and creating consistent messaging.
All you need is the right tool for your messaging framework!