Nine Notorious Messaging Mistakes for Early Stage Products

Here’s a fact that anyone launching a new high-tech product must accept: People aren’t going to remember you.

Your customers won’t have a “Eureka” moment. You can’t convey everything about your product in a single impression. People aren’t going to stop what they were doing because they learned about a new solution.

There is no silver-bullet marketing message.

Let that sink in a little.

I often encounter entrepreneurs and product managers who have been agonizing over months about the perfect way to position their product in the market. They agonize about the task, finding fault with every combination of words that get gets proposed. Nothing feels right – nothing feels perfect.

If you are experiencing this, you have set the bar for your messaging too high. It is outright impossible to convey the completeness of what your product does to people who have never heard of it, to have that be create a memorable, lasting impression, all while your audience is being bombarded by 24×7 information.

You are expecting too much of your messaging.

What a Marketing Message Can Do For You

Have you ever heard the phrase, “The goal of the meeting is to get to the next meeting?” That’s how you should be thinking about your marketing messages. They may not be able to fully educate a customer, but they can intrigue them.

A good messaging strategy is the starting point to a longer engagement with a product, service, or brand. It clearly positions what your product does and why it is worth remembering. If it is successful, your target customer puts your product in a bucket in their head – so that the next time that bucket is recalled, they find your product there.

Put simply: “Think of our product when you experience this situation, because we are unique in some way.”

Top Messaging Fails

So, with that in mind, here are some ways that messaging fails with new products, and what you can do about it.

  1. You aren’t targeting a champion. This is probably the most common mistake marketers make, even though it is one of the most basic concepts in marketing. Focus your core messaging on the people who will be most passionate about your product. Your message doesn’t need to explain everything to everybody. First and foremost, figure out who the main purveyor of your message is going to be, and then speak directly to them.
  2. Your champion can’t spread your message. Your champion speaks to other people, and that is an opportunity for you to both reinforce your message and make your messenger look good. Think about the conversations they may be having, and give them some easy words to use in those situations.
  3. You try to define a new category. It’s comforting to think that your product is so revolutionary that it will change the playing field. But market landscapes don’t reset overnight. It takes time for people to warm up to a new way of doing things. Don’t try to create a category. Instead, find one that your target customers already understand, and then position your product relative to that.
  4. Your message is too diluted. Some products can be used in many different ways, or can provide lots of value. (Were you aware of all these wacky uses for Vaseline?) However, that doesn’t mean you need to capture them all in your message – or even allude to them. Jamming too much into a message dilutes it to the point where no one can understand it any more. A more focused, clear message will be much more powerful.
  5. You use too many words. Of course you are excited, but you don’t need to tell your whole story in one shot. Remember – the goal of your messaging is to motivate someone to take the next step, not to provide a complete product education. Simplify your message. Ask 10 people who are familiar with you, “What does our product do? How do you explain it to others?” See what they say – often their words will be more compelling than your own.
  6. You lack tangible differentiation. In the quest to internalize the value that a new product provides, it’s not uncommon to get to a point where you say “what we really do is help people cut costs” or “at the end of the day we increase your productivity.” This is a common outcome of a group approach to messaging. But doesn’t every product do these same things in one way or another? Customers are looking to understand the unique benefits you provide in a tangible way. Get specific, and be proud of it.
  7. You use a clever catchphrase. We all love a good catchphrase – we appreciate the nuance and the double-meanings. But a catchphrase for a new product can be too clever for its own good. If you use a catchphrase – make sure it still encapsulates what you want to communicate, but remember that it may not be meaningful unless people are already familiar with the product. In which case, it’s not going to help new customers get in the door.
  8. Your message is dull. Maybe you’ve gone through all these rules and finally come up with something that seems appropriate. You sleep on it, and the next morning take another look and realize – it’s dull as a doorknob. Not good. Perhaps it’s factually accurate, perhaps it communicates value, but your message must also be appealing. There are people who have passion about your product, or the problem it solves. Tap into that – remember, if it can be done for razor blades or soap, it can be done for virtually anything.
  9. You forget a call to action. The goal of the meeting is to get to the next meeting, right? Help your audience get there by telling them where to go. A good messaging structure points your target to the next step, where they can learn more, understand the message more deeply, and engage.

Looking for a good way to structure messaging for a new product or category? This Conversation Roadmap helps you isolate value statements, build a simple elevator pitch, position your product in the market, and speak to the audiences that matter in a compelling way.