Sometimes creating a great product or service is only half the battle. How will you get people interested in trying or buying what you've made? Communicating the value of your product or service is the critical next step in building a successful business.

Now before you jump into describing your products, features and benefits, take a step back and think about who this messaging is for. Who are you seeking to motivate to make a purchase with this marketing copy? Let's say you're selling a mid-grade winter sweater. Would you say your target market is every adult in the world who can fit into your sweater? Of course not. We need to narrow down your target audience before we can figure out what the winning marketing message will be.

Your target audience should be a subset of all the people capable of using your product. They should be the ideal buyers, the ones you want to attract, the repeat buyers who love your product and would tell their friends about it. Chances are you have a good idea who these people are already. Now is the time, whether you've sold one or one million products, to go speak to your customers (or prospects) and get a better understanding of what role your product plays in their lives.

Just as creating a great product relies upon feedback from your target market, great messaging also needs customer input. Interviewing your customers and getting to know their problems, alternatives, habits, likes and dislikes will give you much better insight into what kinds of messaging will be meaningful for them.

Here are some easy steps to conduct practical customer empathy interviews:

1. What does the customer want to achieve?

Meet customers or people in your target audience in a relaxed environment. Begin by asking some very basic, open-ended questions about what they do when they encounter a problem like the one you plan to solve. Listen to discover what they are trying to accomplish and what hurdles might prevent them from achieving their goal quickly and easily.

2. How does the customer experience the problem?

Ask the customer to describe the problem in their own words. Use the five W's as a guide: who, what, when, where and why. Work from simple explanatory answers toward deeper emotional responses. How do they recognize the problem? What does it feel like when they experience the problem? How do they feel when their problem is finally solved?

3. Get it in their words

Write down as much as you can in the customers' own words. Quotes can be a powerful tool for insights. Using your customers' words and phrases in your copy increases the relevance of the message. Be sure to make note of any emotional responses. Linking your messaging with strong customer emotions can be extremely powerful.

Now that you have a better understanding of your customers' experiences, you should be able to talk about your product or service from the customer's perspective. Creating sales and marketing messaging from the customer's perspective is essential in order to be relevant to your target audience.

Your Product Messaging Platform

A messaging platform is a guide to help your team and any external marketing or communications vendors talk about your product offering consistently across the company and in your sales and marketing materials. This guide will enable you to maintain consistent, effective messages that are relevant to the customer. A messaging platform should include your value proposition, a short and long elevator pitch and the individual messaging components. Since these components ladder up to a complete view of the offering, we will start with them first.

Here are six questions you should be prepared to answer to build your messaging platform:

1. Problem Identification

What problem are you solving and for whom? (What are the goals the customer wants to achieve?)

2. Pain Points

What pain points does the customer experience? (How does the customer experience the problem? What does it cost in financial and emotional terms?)

3. Benefits

What primary benefits does your product provide to the customer? (Ask for a description of the functional and emotional benefits.)

4. Delivery

How does the product deliver these benefits? (Ask for a description of the service and key features.)

5. Proof Points

What proof points support your claims? (Can you share reasons to believe, such as results, data and testimonials?)

6. Differentiation

What makes your product different from the available alternatives? (What benefits does your product deliver that the competition cannot?)

Your Value Proposition

Your value proposition is primarily used internally as a guidepost to identify what it is you're selling, to whom and how you will differentiate. Consider it your product marketing mission statement. Use it to help your team stay on the same page as they develop messaging around your product. To quickly and easily determine your value proposition, just fill in the blanks below using insights you gained from your customer interviews:

For [ your_target_segment ]

[ your_product_or_service ] provides [ key_benefits ]

and [ points_of_difference ].

Did you do it? Great! Now tweet out your value proposition with the hashtag #MyValueProp and I'll be happy to give you some feedback.

Your Elevator Pitch

We're almost there. The elevator pitch is the story of your product or service, and it should include the capabilities and differentiation of the company and product together. You will want to have at least two versions: a short version to include in press releases, product briefs, social media profiles and anywhere else a short statement about what your product is and how it brings value to others would make sense, and a long version for product pages, brochures, sales materials and booklets.

Your basic elevator pitch tells your ideal customers why you are qualified to solve their problem, how your product or service helps them achieve certain benefits that relate to their desired outcome, and which are the product's primary differentiating qualities. The pitch should be one paragraph and no more than three sentences. Here's a fictional example for a BMW:

"We are a company of engineers who, like you, have a passion for the open road. Our new 950i will let you leave the status quo behind and experience the exhilaration of the autobahn while enjoying the comfort of our luxurious 9 series cabin. The one-of-a-kind hydrogen engine sets it apart as the ultimate driving machine."

The longer elevator pitch can be several paragraphs and should include the same elements from the short elevator pitch, although the exact wording can be different. The longer pitch could also include some or all of the components from your messaging platform along with proof points, testimonials or other reasons to believe that your product is the solution to the customer's problem.

Bringing It All Together

Once you've documented your messaging ideas into a messaging platform document, make sure the content is accessible to everyone who might need it. This should include your marketing team, PR consultants, outside digital agency and advertising staff, website developer and anyone else internally or externally who is creating marketing, advertising, sales or PR messages for your organization.

Your messaging platform can help you anywhere you communicate about this offering, including but not limited to email blasts, fact sheets, PowerPoint presentations, brochures, letters, trade show materials and websites. It will help you maintain consistent, aligned messaging that is relevant to your customers and sets you apart from the competition.

Tags: Small Business. Big Influence