Updated: Sep 20, 2018
The sales team needs a new product to open doors now. The development team answers with a product that includes some sexy features, but is largely a "me-too." The product solves a real problem that a user in a company actually has.
And yet, I find myself staring at a blank sheet of paper, the frustration mounting, as I realize that the new features alone are not enough to create demand for and differentiate the product with new prospects.
As a marketing executive, I am not alone. In fact, marketers face this problem every day because we know a secret: Features don’t sell complex products. That’s why Subaru commercials talk about love. Perfume commercials sell mystery and romance. And light beer commercials show people working out.
But, if features don’t sell products, what does? The answer is simple: Vision. Voice. Value.
Why create an inspirational vision? Show the features of a product too soon, and you will be showing the prospect how the product does everything they already do today. Or worse, everything they just saw your competitor’s product do. Paint an inspirational vision of what your prospect can do with your product, and you stand with that prospect as a partner in shaping their future.
I know what you’re thinking. In fact, I’ve thought it: I can’t do that with my product; it’s unique. My prospects want to know about the features and benefits. And you’re right. They do….just not yet. Before you open the features kimono, you need to make that prospect want your product. To do that, you need to show them your vision. And you need to relate your vision to their vision of the future. That vision could be as simple as helping everyone work a 40-hour week in half the time. The vision could be much bigger, like creating a healthcare system that helps you stay healthy, helping every child find and use their "gift," eliminating communication boundaries or ... (fill in the blank for your product).
If an inspirational vision is the starting point, how do you create it?
Step 1: Research. Your vision should incorporate the answer to the most basic question of WHY you're in business. For Apple's iTunes, that vision was disrupting the music business (for more information on WHY, see Simon Sinek's Start with Why). Your vision should then demonstrate how your WHY solves your target market’s needs: Its pain points, the short- and long-term goals and the problem they need to solve AFTER they solve this one. You have to know what’s at stake in solving the problems, and the role you want to play in helping them solve it. You should know how the market is trying to solve the problems now. And you need to understand where your product shines, and where (ahem) it doesn’t.
Step 2: Connection. Research becomes insights; insights become connection points between your target market and your company. You start to paint your company and its products in a different light. Rather than solving a short-term product issue, you connect your vision to your customer's long-term strategy (again...this is the answer to WHY you are in business). Your company no longer has a set of individual products, with features, but a vision and a framework that customers want to (even need to) leverage.
Step 3: Context. A vision framework gives you the ability to paint a picture of the future that matches your target market’s inspirational goals. And it is a future in which your product, unique or not, becomes a foundational piece. Instead of a new healthcare app, you position a product as the foundation for the next generation of healthcare. Instead of promoting a new educational system, you position the ability to let a gifted child be gifted. Instead of promoting an integrated communication network, you evangelize the ability to communicate without wires and networks (think StarTrek).
Vision creation is not vaporware. It is not a list of features and functions that your product may have some day. It is rather a view into the future that your customers can achieve with your help. It is a future that makes your company the one partner to work with regardless of the features you have.
Next, we’ll talk about Voice.