I love taking new products for a spin to understand how they work and what they can offer me. One of the most interesting aspects of this exercise is experiencing the product’s messaging first hand. As a new user, I get to look at messages delivered via emails, SMS, push notification and any other communication channel used by the product.
While some of these products display fantastic product messaging strategy from the start, others fail to do so, and continued poor messaging across the product lifecycle has a very real impact on product adoption.
With stiff competition in the SaaS eco-system, a solid product messaging strategy can work as a magic wand to separate you from your competitors. SaaS wonder brands such as Buffer, Zapier, Slack and MailChimp stand out in the market because their messaging strategy and positioning is so apt that it not only persuades and motivates their users but also makes them actively and enthusiastically engage with the brand.
Of course messaging strategy needs planning and proper execution, and in this article, I’m going to share with you top tips on how to get it right. But first, let’s understand the basics of product messaging.
What is Product Messaging?
The first and foremost task for any product marketer is to have a clear understanding that ‘Product Messaging’ is different from ‘Marketing Messaging.’
Product Messaging is aimed at push notifications, SMS, transactional emails, etc. Marketing Messaging isn’t as relevant, personalized, or automated. Marketing messages aren’t related to product usage in any way: they are generic, are not dependent on any support/connection from the product team and, in most, scenarios delivered to the entire user base.
So, Where Do You Start?
Product Messaging begins with understanding the user and addressing their key questions about your product. The main idea is to make users interact with your product and boost customer engagement levels in the right way. The last thing you want is to make your messages look like spam, and that’s why you need to ask the right questions and build a valid hypothesis before you craft a message for your audience.
Here are a few tactics to get you started
Identify the Right Audience
Knowing your ideal audience is key to building a sound product messaging strategy. Most companies make the mistake of sending unsolicited messages to their users, which annoys them. If you aren’t sending your messages to the right audience you are essentially creating spam for them. A user may ignore a message like this once, but if this continues you are likely to lose their interest and compromise the way they interact with your product in future.
Here’s an example of an email that I received recently from Product Hunt. There’s nothing wrong with the email, except for the fact that I’ve been on the platform for years, making me treat this email as spam!
Filter your data to build a better messaging strategy. It will help you identify the exact audience with whom you wish to communicate, and thus tailor-make your messaging strategy to suit them. Marketers who compromise on basic checks will make the mistake of sending exclusive messages meant for paid members to freemium users or sending coupons to the entire database.
Your primary aim while developing a messaging strategy for your product should be making the experience engaging and attractive for users from the very start. This means that you need to look through their demographics, age, interests and behavioral traits before you begin drafting your messages.
Identify Customer Pain Points and Offer Solutions
One of the key areas where product marketers go wrong is understanding and incorporating the real challenges and pain points of their users into their messaging strategy. This often means that there’s no help available when the user needs assistance. For example, the welcome message isn’t helpful enough for the user to move forward.
Each user is different and therefore their expectations of how you would solve their pain points are different, too. Your messaging needs to vary for different sets of users.
Intercom puts a lot of emphasis on sending the right message to the right audience, which is possible only when you truly ‘know’ and ‘understand’ your users’ pain points.
Source: Intercom on User Engagement
The SaaS giant advises using data to customize product messaging. It helps build ‘realistic conversations’ and helps you talk to your customers based on their use of your product.
Sometimes the pain points are obvious and therefore the messaging is straightforward. However, product marketers can face ambiguity resulting in poor message delivery.
Constantly talking to your users, building and revisiting personas and observing your audience closely is a good way to improve messaging in such situations.
Identify the Significance of the Message
Have you ever wondered what makes the engagement rate of your message go down? Very often the root cause is the inability of businesses to clearly identify their ‘engaged’ and ‘non-engaged’ users, and so they end up sending ineffective messages. What they end up doing is sharing every new update, feature release or offer with the entire base, which is a recipe for disaster.
What’s important here is to identify the core business goal of the message, and to whom it should be sent.
Don’t take risks with your loyal audience by sending them messages that don’t help them. Engaged users are loyal, so send messages based on their activity via appropriate channels. Offer them avenues which make them more involved with your product and motivate them towards upgrades.
Dormant or inactive users need a separate messaging strategy altogether. Even before you pop and share new feature requests, break the ice with them. Explain what the product is all about and what’s unique about it, and improve their user experience by sending them targeted messages. The key thing to remember is to send them messages that make them come back to the product.
What’s the Expected End Result?
Clarity of thought is extremely critical when it comes to spinning product messages. And for that to happen, you need to be aware of the most important actions that a user needs to take to have a successful stint with your product. For example, for an individual using a productivity tool like Trello, the biggest goal is to keep moving and completing tasks and checking them off the list. The reminder messages that the user should receive are part of helping them achieve that goal.
Prioritizing the end result of every action that the user takes and the hurdles that he may face is critical and should have a significant impact on product messaging. Most product marketers devise the messaging strategy believing that their users will follow a pre-set flow of actions. For example, a grocery delivery SaaS may expect users to sign-up, fill in their personal details and start ordering; it’s a straight line of action. But is that the case every time?
No, not really.
Product Marketers need to understand that users may not take a pre-defined route to use their product, and therefore they need to be mindful of the kind of messages that they develop. Some users might not fill all the details at first and need to be sent reminder messages, others might fill their cart but not pay, a few may take more than a week to even get started. There are all sorts of scenarios and each will differ with the user’s behavior.
Identifying these trends and building and improvising the messaging strategy along the way can significantly help product marketers establish long-term success.
Identify Message Deliverability
When should your recipients receive a product message? What type of message makes sense? Is an email or an in-app message more appropriate? These are a few questions that define whether your users will engage with your product’s message or not.
As a Product Marketer it is your job to ensure that the message is delivered in a way that’s appropriate and has the maximum impact on the user.
Emails can be used to send important messages; they are reliable sources and have a guaranteed delivery. However, a lot of users also ignore emails due to an already overloaded inbox.
In-app messages and push notifications, on the other hand, can be sent after studying the data and they might have a better impact on users. They can be timed according to the user’s past usage, geography, and even behavior.
Messages sent via channels such as live chat need to be conversational, real-time and impactful. They should also be aimed at solving a user’s problem instantly.
Every messaging channel has its own positives and negatives, and it is best to use a mix of them to maximize their effectiveness.
Building a Product Messaging Strategy is Hard
A good product messaging strategy is key to growth, but building one is an extremely tough task.
As a product marketer, one needs to build not only the best possible messaging for their users, but also one that’s impactful, long-lasting and helpful.
What’s the strategy that you’ve been using with your users? What tips would you share with our readers?