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Product Marketing Rule #30: You Are Not Your Customer

Product Marketing Rule #30 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by By Alyssa Dver, CEO, Mint Green Marketing

If you can’t convey your product and its benefits to customers in two sentences or less, something is wrong.

“Customer” can mean the buyer (person who signs the check for the purchase), the user (person(s) who actually use the product), and the influencers (people who have a say in whether the company buys it or not). You can never be all those roles for whatever product or service that you sell.

Whether your product/service is business-to-business or consumer-to-business, there are almost always multiple customers in each sale and knowing them is paramount. ‘Knowing’ includes their demographics, their buying cycles, their budget requirements, their price sensitivity, their experience with similar offerings, etc. You can only know these things by asking. No amount of web research or analysts’ reports are going to help with that. You need to do primary research—even if on a small scale and done informally.

I often get asked to do primary research on behalf of clients who are too busy, too intimidated, or too fearful of what they may hear from prospective clients. The outsider (e.g. consultant) can ask the naive and politically incorrect questions while the respondent can feel a little less worried about honestly answering questions. That middle layer often exposes more truth than the vendor will get directly. To get the most insightful information, talk to the people who decided not to purchase your product/service. It’s best to do such research early and often.

Your Mother Actually Does Need to Understand What You Do

Don’t assume writers, analysts, or other “thought leaders,” let alone your target customers, understand your product. Even with industry experience, chances are we all have our own baggage and unique perspective that may or may not help us know what your product/service does.

To know if your positioning and sales message works, try it on mom or the neighbors and even your kids. If they can understand it well enough to paraphrase it back to you, you’ve succeeded. Don’t assume it’s too complex for them because if it is, most likely it’s not the product but your words that are complex.

You can’t put words in people’s mouths nor ignite word-of-mouth unless you control your own.

If you can’t convey your product and its benefits to customers in two sentences or less, something is wrong. I am not suggesting that you can explain your entire offering or competitive value in two sentences, but a good positioning that makes it clear who, what, and why separates the targets from the others quickly. Most of us are fearful that we may offend or reject potential friends. In marketing, filtering the market is actually good! If you can separate wheat from chaff, targets from uninterested, you don’t waste sales time and marketing resources. Ideally, if your positioning is clear and specific for those who care, those who don’t will politely say, “That’s not for me.” Good, then both of you can move on.

Once you have the target person intrigued, you do need to provide more information to convince them that your product is not only right for them, but the best one for them and something they absolutely must buy (ideally now!). Doing this should be done in incremental, meaningful steps. That is, providing a twenty-page datasheet may be too much for the buyer to invest at the early stage of the buying cycle. However, offering digestible amounts of information to the buyer is really important so they continue to seek more and are willing to invest their time knowing your offering seems to be a good solution for something they are needing. Slamming them with a folder full of datasheets, brohures, article reprints, case studies, and press releases probably is a bit overwhelming to most any customer in any business. The same applies to your website.

Marketing isn’t about convincing someone to buy something they don’t perceive they need but rather effectively educating about what you have to offer them and why it’s of clear value to them.

Product Marketing Rule #30 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing

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