Product Marketing Rule #38: Honest, Open Messaging Leads to Success
Product Marketing Rule #38 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by Paul Gray, Director of Community Engagement, independent games startup Bubble Gum Interactive
Increasingly, product marketers are recognizing that developing a valuable and beneficial relationship with customers requires a more open and somewhat humble approach.
Product marketers are responsible to make potential customers aware of products, encourage them to consider and use these products, and establish a loyal commitment to, or relationship with, the brand.
Despite this direction, our industry is littered with terms that suggest a somewhat combative nature. “Targeted marketing,” “Clusters,” “Campaigns,” and “Cut-Through” all have practical meanings but do not help a profession that is sometimes viewed as underhanded or sneaky.
Increasingly product marketers are recognizing that developing a real relationship with customers requires a more open and somewhat humble approach. Just as your mother told you when as a child you may have broken the rules, it’s always good to be honest.
Lying Can Be Powerful
We all know that marketing messages can have incredible effects. There is no shortage of studies showing how certain product marketing initiatives can increase awareness, stimulate interest, and create strong demand for products.
Yet numerous studies show significant and rapid declines in consumer trust of brands. Shifting customer attitudes, perceptions about corporate greed, and dissatisfaction with products or services in an increasingly competitive environment undermine some traditional means that product marketers have to persuade customers.
Today, consumers have even more power than ever. Social media has transferred ownership of brands from purely the domain of the brand itself to those that interact with it, including customers and critics. A product that does not live up to its promises may very quickly be attacked by customers who feel cheated or who are just simply tired of hearing “marketing spin.”
Honesty Ultimately Wins
Product managers design, develop, and deliver the products and services that we as product marketers must take to our audience. Our colleagues create products our customers actually need or want and we must understand the underlying drivers, what problems or challenges the product solves, and how this fits into a competitive context.
Product marketers must accept any product limitations. It is no longer possible to get away with product features that aren’t there or confusing them with complex positioning.
This type of deceptive marketing is common; consider a telecommunications carrier that provides multi-tiered calling rates at different times to different networks with $49 buying $300 worth of calls; a deal-of-the-day website that promotes discounted rates based off inflated prices that the partner vendor would never charge and so on.
The concept of money-back-guarantee is an example of this dodgy marketing. The definition of guarantee is that it is just that—guaranteed! That means whatever you promise will happen. To consider that it may not and be willing to offer money back is fine, but then it’s not really much of a guarantee, is it?
Great products are built on trust. Product marketers must be honest and upfront in selling their product. This can sometimes involve explicitly acknowledging what a product is not.
The game that my company has created for children is purely an entertainment product, however we’re often asked if it is educational. When we explain this is not how the product was designed, some people suggest we try to market it this way. There are very subtle educational components such as developing social skills, teamwork, problem solving, and financial literacy. This might indeed open up new opportunities for us, but we feel very strongly that this is unethical and misleading. We have built an entertainment experience and we will market it as such.
Establishing a reputation for honesty enhances product positioning and customer perceptions about the product and the wider brand.
This only serves to improve the success of marketing and sales efforts. Sales teams know what attributes to focus on, customer service agents know how to manage expectations, and customers learn to trust and respect the brand.
Product Marketing Rule #38 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing