You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve been on a six month hiatus – from blogging and doing much of anything, except working in a start-up company (it takes a lot of energy, focus and time to make start-ups work)… Anyway, I was looking over some material I wrote a while back and it really resonated (of course it resonates with me, since I wrote it!) The point is, I think it’s worth breaking out and repeating here – as I find it is very tempting to use “product language” in lieu of “buyer language” in our sales and marketing…
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 full of marketing “gobbledygook”, techno-babble and other virtually undecipherable terminology that only the company creating it can make any sense of without a glossary. Most sales people and potential buyers are immediately confused and turned off when they encounter this, quickly figuring out that this product must not be what they are looking for (incidentally, this is one of the causes of friction and the walls of separation between sales and marketing teams in larger corporations – sales perceives marketing as being out of touch with marketplace realities).
Finally, product language is sometimes selfish and egotistical – it extols the greatness of its creators. It brags. It exaggerates. And when customers encounter this kind of language, it instantly creates disbelief, mistrust and sales resistance – making it harder than ever to make a sale. If you’re selling online or to anyone who you don’t already know well, this can quickly be the kiss of death, as prospects 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/or constraints the buyer faces in getting that job done to their satisfaction with existing alternatives. It shows how these issues can be better resolved – by use of the product in the buyer’s immediate 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. Buyer language mirrors the problem the buyer already has and recognizes.
Buyer language “resonates”. And unlike generic product language, it doesn’t require the buyer to go through complex mental gymnastics to figure out whether the product might be a good fit, capable of performing the job at hand. Buyer language makes it obvious.
Marketing and selling to buyer segments can be accomplished in a serialized manner, one campaign or launch per segment (leaving the horizontal market for later or just continuing to penetrate the most important buyer segments in a sequence over time). The key is to get those “seeds” of initial adoption planted successfully, so they can grow and expand with time and customer experience with the product. And it’s ten times easier to sell using buyer language that’s tuned for a specific market or set of common market problems.
Whether you’re a new company, entrepreneur or small business, I highly recommend this strategy vs. the broad horizontal (aka “shotgun”) approach.
If you are a larger company, I still recommend a buyer-centric launch strategy for introducing most new products – unless the new product is an exact fit for your existing customers and routes to market (like a major new version of an existing product), or you’re planning to risk investing millions of dollars on a broad market assault (e.g., the Apple iPhone launch).
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. For now, suffice it to say that launching new products that appeal to a different buyer than your sales team currently knows and sells to require a different sales strategy (e.g., an overlay sales force, sales specialists or investing in an entirely new sales team, who will have to learn some new buyer language – something that’s not all that easy for sales folks to do).
Once enough individual buyer segments are penetrated, if the product truly has broad market appeal, broad adoption or standardization may occur naturally as the word spreads organically about the product’s many uses beyond its original niches. In larger corporate environments, this is why we need to start smaller, ensure success in targeted buyer segments and then allow organic growth and expansion to take place more naturally (vs. trying to force fit new products broadly across many segments at once).
Focusing on targeted buyer segments using buyer language is a much easier way to achieve rapid early success than a more diluted, broad market assault that relies on generic product language. 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 increasing perceived value – a critical success factor when you have to prove a new product fast to reach profitability (or die as a start-up or new business unit).