What the writer wants from a product messaging document

My last post highlighted the top 5 reasons to create a product messaging document. But I neglected to say what should go into that document.

The actual form and scope of a product message document can vary. I’ve seen 100+ page PowerPoint slide decks created by marketing consulting companies as part of a ‘positioning’ engagement. I’ve seen 10-page word documents in table formats completed by internal staff. And I’ve written simple 4-5-page Word documents for startups just starting to create their content.

This is not the place for a thorough discussion of product messaging, which properly belongs to the product marketing discipline. In a sense, the messaging document is a drill down into your product positioning statement. If you’ve done that work, the rest is easy.  If not, you have some work to do.

What the writer needs

Here are the points that I, as a freelance writer, like to see in a messaging document for a product I’m going to write about. This  information  will make me more successful creating content for the product:

  • Target markets/buyers and the key influencers for those buyers
  • Key business pains that your target market faces – what problems are people trying to solve when they turn to you?  What are they doing now to solve those problems?
  • Top benefits of your product for this audience addressing these pains (please note that features and benefits are different things!)
  • Competitive differentiators – what’s your unique value proposition? What do you do differently than your competitors?
  • List of key features – what are the most important features in your product? Any technical differentiators?

And I’m really happy if the list also includes the search-related keywords you want to target, so I can create SEO-rich copy that will help your organic search performance.

You can then dive as deeply as you want into each of these areas, highlighting the benefits or features most important to each target buyer.  You can develop detailed buyer personas for different buyers. How deep you go is up to you. But the time you spent on this up front effort will simplify and accelerate your content marketing efforts down the line.

And a few more things that would be nice

While we’re at it, here are a few other recommendations for your messaging document:

  • Make sure it’s easy to share and update internally.  That 100+ page Powerpoint file, thick with graphics, was a bear to mail back and forth, and everyone always seemed to be working off a different version.
  • Treat it as a confidential document. While it fuels external content creation, there’s no reason to give your competitors the roadmap to your positioning.  (Of course, freelance writers work under nondisclosure agreements.)
  • Don’t set it in stone – the positioning and messaging will no doubt change over time, and you should plan to revisit this document regularly.

Product positioning resources

Here are a couple resources for building positioning statements, in case you want some background:

The Positioning Statement as a Marketing Tool from the Dark Side Marketing blog

Building a well-constructed positioning statement from Mike Gospe’s blog

And an older article from Ford Kanzler on the MarketingProfs site:  The Positioning Statement: Why To Have One Before You Start Communicating

5 Comments on “What the writer wants from a product messaging document

  1. Wow. You said it, sister! My thoughts exactly! Lack of messaging is a marketing writer’s nightmare.

    • Thanks — it’s almost a ‘recurring nightmare’, because I’m surprised how often I run into it!

  2. Pingback: Minimum Viable Messaging for Startups | Content Marketing for Technology

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