Product language is what we have traditionally used to describe our products to the market. It includes broad claims, comprehensive features and benefits and detailed product and technical specifications. In the marketing departments of larger corporations, this information is often organized into what’s termed a “marketing source document”. The language used is, more often than not, vendor-centric – not buyer-centric.
Unfortunately, too much corporate product language today is also often full of marketing “gobbledygook”, techno-speak and other undecipherable terminology that only the company creating it can make any sense of.
Most potential buyers are immediately confused and turned off when they see and hear product language, quickly figuring out that this must not be what they are looking for (incidentally, this is one of the common causes of friction and the walls of separation between sales and marketing teams in larger corporations).
Finally, product language is often selfish and egotistical. It extols the greatness of its creators. It brags. It exaggerates.
And when customers encounter this kind of marketing language, it instantly creates disbelief, mistrust and sales resistance – making it even harder to make a sale. If you’re selling online, this can quickly be the kiss of death, as customers who don’t believe you definitely will not buy from you.
Buyer language describes what a buyer wants and desires to get done in their business or personal life. It has to do with the outcome and results the buyer wants to achieve. It acknowledges the pain points, sticking points, negative outcomes, barriers and constraints the buyer faces in getting that job done to their satisfaction. It shows how these issues can be resolved – by use of the product in the buyer’s immediate, relevant context.
When using buyer language, we focus on just those product claims, features and benefits which are relevant to addressing this buyer’s problems and preferences. This language mirrors the problem the buyer already has and recognizes.
Buyer language “resonates”. It matches what the buyer wants and is easy to understand. And unlike product language, it doesn’t require the buyer to go through a series of complex mental gymnastics to figure out whether the product might be capable of performing the job at hand. Buyer language makes it obvious.
So rather than attempting to communicate in a broad, horizontal manner across every potential market segment using generic product language, try appealing directly to large groups of similar buyers using targeted buyer language – their language.
Launching and selling products in this way can be accomplished in a focused manner, per buyer segment (leaving the horizontal market for later or just continuing to penetrate the most important buyer segments in priority order).
Whether you’re a new company, entrepreneur or small business, this approach may be the only thing that works for you at all, since you must narrow your focus to become competitive and win.
If you are a larger company, I still recommend the buyer-centric strategy for introducing most new products – unless the new product is an exact fit for your existing customers and routes to market, or you’re planning to invest millions of dollars on a broad market assault (e.g., the Apple iPhone launch).
By the way, one of the biggest mistakes made by large enterprises is attempting to enter a new market or reach a new buyer using the existing sales force and channels. I could probably write an entire book on this topic, as it’s such a common pitfall and the cause for so many new product failures. Your existing sales people don’t know the new buyer or their language, which makes it tough to have a productive conversation (vs. what the customer hears from tuned in competitors).
I remember one company tried to use a mainframe software sales force to sell a new product line to database administrators. Mainframe terminology is completely different (and ancient sounding) than database terminology. It failed miserably. The company invested hundreds of millions into product development, but refused to invest in a dedicated, focused salesforce who could successfully speak the DBA’s specialized language.
The products were blamed by the mainframe sales people, since they didn’t sell well. The products were eventually put on the back burner and many of them discontinued. Don’t make this colossal blunder at your company. Make sure both marketing and sales (and development) understand the buyer’s language and use it appropriately.
For now, suffice it to say that launching and selling new products that appeal to a different buyer than you’re sales team currently knows and sells to usually requires a different sales strategy (e.g., an overlay sales force, sales specialists or investing in an entirely new sales team). Buyer language is one of the key reasons a focused sales team is required.
In larger corporate environments, we need to start smaller, ensure success in targeted segments and then allow organic growth, learning and expansion to take place more naturally (vs. trying to force the new product broadly across too many segments at once). This enables adapting to the new market segments, buyer language and new competitive environment.
Focusing on targeted buyer conversations is a much easier way to achieve early success than the usual, more watered down broad market assault that management believes will net the best results the fastest. Using buyer language makes it easier for people to quickly realize they want the product, reducing the effort and time required to sell the product.
And products that are easier to sell get sold, because resellers and sales needs to make more sales to eat and make ends meet, so they sell what’s easiest and most natural for them. So think carefully about buyer personas, the buyer’s language, your marketing messaging and positioning and sales strategy before jumping into new markets.
You must decide whether a buyer-focused, niche-based approach is best for you vs. a more horizontal, broad market assault and optimize your launch appropriately. Whatever way you decide to go, learn how to speak using your buyer’s language and you’ll make a lot more sales.