I often talk to founders that are still in the process of understanding their target buyers.
Most of them are confident in what their current ideal customer persona looks like.
This assumption often sets you up for failure.
That’s because we tend to have an ideal of what our target market looks like. But many other times it’s just because of a low budget or time constraints that halt your research process.
So if you’ve got a product that fixes all issues you’ve ever had, don’t assume others will feel the same way. Even when they have a seemingly similar profile to yours.
How about we looked again at your positioning and if you’re really resonating with the right buyers?
One product, different people
Looking at your own product, do you know:
- Who your target buyers are?
- Who’s in charge of making the final purchase decision?
- What responsibilities and influencing power the person attending your demos has?
- Who are the final users of your product?
- Which person in a team is best suited to promote your product?
- Is there a common buyer profile that’s more likely to use your product for longer?
There’s more thinking points than just these basic questions that you’ll need to adapt to your own company type and business model.
Let’s turn to how you can differentiate between the users of a single tool.
Due to my extensive experience in the project management industry, we’re taking this example.
Say your product is Asana.
There’s three types of users they have. Each responds to different resources, marketing messages, and benefits you’re highlighting:
- Managers: They’re in charge of overseeing everything so often need separate features that offer a complete look at the team’s work. Naturally, your content and messaging should focus on similar features and values first.
- Users: Most only care about the app’s usability, so you’ll want to make things as easy to use as you can. Positioning can also involve providing handy resources on how people can better manage their tasks, stay accountable, and make their work easier.
- The independent user (i.e. a freelancer/consultant): Need entirely distinct functionalities and messaging that speaks directly to them. They also spend time in different communities or want other types of features/benefits.
Most startups take years to figure out the final distribution of the people involved with their product.
When you don’t really understand the difference between these individuals, you’re making guesses when it comes to your positioning and messaging.
SaaS tools, by nature, attract a complexity of people. Here’s all the details you need to gradually get from every segment:
- Their pain points and what they’re looking to achieve
- Their jobs-to-be-done
- Their journey and touchpoints [yes, this includes where they spend most of their time online and offline]
- The triggers and message types they respond to [plus, those that make them leave]
Sticking to your industry’s peculiar traits
The best “hacks” for differentiating your product and really understanding what makes people buy ultimately still depend on your industry.
A lot of you have products for developers. The first instinct would be to jump into creating SEO content. And if you’re rushing it, you might want to do it pre-launch.
But with devs, content only works when you cover up-to-date topics and trends that don’t really match with any popular keywords you can find. That’s because devs mostly rely on what their network recommends. And their network is not Google.
But Hacker News or Lobsters can’t always save you.
The challenge is:
How do you transform your audience’s pains into messaging they can resonate with on all platforms?
Building a community is a safe bet for most of you in this space.
Be it GitHub, Twitter, Discord, YouTube, local meetups, or self-hosted platforms.
Product differentiation also affects our project management software example.
In this extensive category, your messaging is likely going to become a victim of sameness.
When I joined the project management space four years ago, Asana had all the money they needed to sponsor whatever event they wanted. Plus, we all remember the monday.com ads on YouTube.
So what did their competitors do in an attempt to stand out? They continuously changed their messaging.
They also copied each other a lot, if you ask me, but most of them we’re extra responsive to the demands in the tech space.
Monday.com’s messaging and positioning evolution, for instance:
They started as a classic tool to simplify how teams work.
They became a must-try solution for working remotely at the start of the pandemic.
Today, they’re “building a new category”, the Work OS.
While this approach could seem fragile as there’s no solid value they’re sticking to, they’re constantly reinventing their brand and the way they help teams.
This helps them avoid the sameness trap in an industry where other brands like Notion or Airtable are juggling millions of bucks on innovative features.
A better look at positioning via messaging
What if you could be on your way to product-market fit right now, but:
- You don’t yet have a full understanding of who your real users, decision makers, and advocates are + what they need from a solution like yours as opposed to market competitors. You can spot this problem if you often hesitate when it comes to trying out marketing campaigns for new or smaller audiences. Also, if you’re afraid that changing/testing your messaging will end up as a waste of time.
- You have a great product, better features than your competitors, but your positioning’s off. This is obvious if you’re regularly delivering much-requested features for your users and if you’re able to win your competitors’ clients, but month-over-month growth is still slow compared to industry benchmarks.
To change the way you do product positioning, try building a message map to help you better highlight your product’s values. Aim to achieve message-market fit well ahead of your efforts of measuring for product-market fit.
You can start as early as the beta stage to get your target market’s approval on your messaging. This way, you can improve your value proposition with every stage of your product as you’re eyeing product-market fit.
Any compromise needed?
Only dedicating 10-20% of your resources to the channels that can provide steady long-term growth. And, yes, I mean you should start considering who’s already buying [and using] your product but is not exactly your ideal target market.
Take Notion as inspiration. Their organic growth is largely thanks to the productivity community: not their main ideal customer profile, but highly valuable for spreading the word and turning Notion into a movement.
Similarly, your product’s probably already got a niche market that can set you up for product-market success. To get there, stay honest and open about who you really want to target and who is actually more responsive to your solution. Adapt your messaging as you go and reach message-market fit with those market segments well ahead of time.