One size (message) doesn’t fit all

Recently, I had the marketing team at an organization I am mentoring ask me the following:

We’re introducing a new product that overlaps a bit with our current (and only) product line but we intend to market it to a different audience than the first. How do we approach a messaging strategy that doesn’t disenfranchise the first audience?

Understanding how to message to your different audiences all starts with understanding the audiences themselves and what matters most to them. Without that, you’re stuck. To help with that, I am a big believer in establishing personas for each audience and making knowledge of each persona uniformly known and understood throughout your organization, not just marketing.

Personas

If you’re not already familiar with the concept of personas, they represent an archetype of key targets — buyers, users, etc. Once you have done this, you start to have a baseline on what’s important to each persona, what motivates them and in this case, how to message to them. BTW: Your development team should really adopt these exact same personas too. User stories in your development backlog should almost always reference a particular persona. This greatly helps engineers understand if they should (in example) develop a command line interface for a “power user” persona, or something with two buttons to push in a friendly, approachable UI for someone less skilled.

I’d encourage you to build out archetypes for both “Product A” and “Product B” customers. What’s different? What’s the same? Consider each person that is involved in successfully selling your product — From channel partners, budget owner, daily users, influencers to final decision maker. What you want to do is establish a “map” of common attributes (title, their background, goals, general demographic/psychographic info).

These are the personas we use in my company. They represent the key archetypes we use to prepare messaging and capabilities in our products. Your mileage may vary.

Building out your persona map

I have built out “persona maps” in several companies. One key thing I have learned is that no one map is perfect and needs to be the benchmark for all organizations. I believe it works best to focus on key attributes that matter most to your company, but distill down to the smallest set possible. Too many attributes make this process tough — and worse — no one will understand intimately each persona once you’re done — and that is the true goal. In my last company, our initial personal map had about 12–14 personas in it. It was nuts. However, as we started to review it, we quickly discovered that many of the personas really overlapped when it came to messaging need. As a result, we distilled it down to 7 key personas. And of the seven we knew that one persona really covered close to half of our messaging need.

Once we knew who we were really needing to speak to (from a messaging standpoint) the what really became much easier. In our case, we knew that our primary persona was a technical sales engineer. Because of that, we knew our messaging needed to be more about how our products could technically solve the problems of the customer and with somewhat technical explanations of successful outcomes. It worked brilliantly for us.

The image above is the persona map we use at Illumineto. We sell to sales teams. “Sigma Software” is our archetype customer. They have five roles we need to message to — either as the final buyer or a user of our product. “Down the Aisle” represents a future market segment for us. Finally, “ACME Commercial” is an archetype company that our customer would be selling to. This is important for us because many elements of our product “touch” Lisa too and therefore a lot of our development backlog stories are for Lisa.

In our case, all of our current messaging targets Ben and Leslie. When you really distill down these two personas, they are really the same role, one is just more experienced than the other. Therefore, we sprinkle in “ease of use” type descriptors into our value props to help Leslie build the necessary confidence she needs that we can help her. Tom is their manager and holds budget. Our messaging to him is all about team efficiency, expedited cross training and transparency to their activities. Those messages are irrelevant to our primary Ben and Lisa personas so we only pull those out in specific messaging campaigns to the Tom role.

Every employee in my company (yeah five of us), has this printed out and posted in their work area. We talk about Ben and Lisa everyday… really!

Keep in mind, what you see in this summary chart is what we found was important for us. Your mileage will vary. But hopefully it gives you a foundation for consideration. If you would like a quick read on personas, I highly recommend The Inmates Are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper. I’ve made every product manager and product marketing manager in all of my teams for the last 10 years read this book. Cooper originally wrote Visual Basic and sold it to Microsoft. The book is intended for engineers to better understand demographics and psychographics when considering UX/UI and to learn to design for a target, not themselves. I still find it very helpful and relevant.

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