Messaging to the User vs the Buyer: Is There A Difference? Betty Junod
Betty Junod is the Senior Director of Multi-Cloud Solutions at VMware, where she’s helping organizations along their journey to cloud. She has decades of experience in marketing leadership roles at companies including Docker and solo.io, and is a startup advisor and expert in helping organizations bring complex technology and industry insights together to reach and engage with customers.
Is understanding user vs buyer messaging as simple as understanding brand vs sales messaging?
In the early years, your product is your company and brand. I love protip 2.A in this post by Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski that says, “Effective branding isn’t overcomplicated: it’s a promise of a better life.” While the brand statement sits at a very high level — a few words that crystalize the feeling of a better life– the messaging should dive into the specifics on how you are promising a better life and for whom.
Now to understand your user and buyer, ask these questions of your product:
- What part of their life are you promising to change?
- How is their experience today?
- How do you propose to change it?
- What is the impact of that change?
If you take developer tools as an example, they’re positioned to the developer and focus on specific parts of their workflow that are problematic or difficult and the tool proposes to either improve it or offer a different workflow altogether. The impact of that change is very personal to that individual in the form of easing frustration and helping developers focus on software versus everything else around the process of building software.
If the buyer is the developer, then it is a clear trade of money for the value in improving their workflow. If the buyer is someone else like a team manager, you need to consider the collective impact of a group of developers to the organization — be that improved collaboration, faster time from commit to production, higher quality software for their business.
Is your framework doc the same for user messaging vs buyer messaging?
Yes. The messaging framework is designed around your product (aka company) and the value pillars should be ones that can apply to both the user and buyer even if they are different. When you take the time to connect the impact to the end user and why that matters to the buyer, what you will have is a common pillar in which you can write a statement for the user and a statement for the buyer.
For example, let’s imagine the pillar is “ease of use.” A developer benefit could be how quickly they can complete a workflow and share the output with a colleague while the buyer benefit could be how they can remove friction and facilitate collaboration on team projects. Here both the manager and developer care about the individual and team level features and benefits.
One approach is to build the personas into the 25, 50, 100 word descriptions like “for developers and teams to…” or “for developers and ops to,” to call out how your product improves the lives of these related audiences.
Are there different functions in your org that should own one or the other?
No. Messaging needs to be owned by one team and the person assigned to drive the messaging needs to incorporate feedback across your product and sales teams. The messaging must answer why someone should trade something of value (money or contact info) for access to your product. That must be integrated into how you describe your product works and the benefits it provides to the user and buyer.
When should you start caring about adding on buyer messaging? Which should you prioritize depending on the stage of your company or your GTM strategy?
In the early years, they will likely be the same person or very closely related. As your company and portfolio grows, this may evolve where you will have solutions for different users but they will fall within the same buying center. Regardless of stage of the company and GTM strategy, you need to be clear on who the product benefits and how it benefits them, to convince them of a fair trade in value.
How much is too much when it comes to segmenting personas?
Be careful of persona segmentation….it can become a slippery slope into analysis paralysis with many segments that yield both too much work and not enough return. This great blog post by Reify states that you really only need ONE buyer persona for now. A clear connection between the buyer and user and what’s important to them can help create messaging that addresses both.
How does selling to small teams or IC devs differ from selling to the enterprise?
As your business and portfolio grows, you may find yourself selling to larger customers. Selling to the enterprise is decidedly a different motion; one that requires direct messaging to the functional teams that will own and use the product, messages to convince other teams on which the product deployment may be dependent upon, and financial messages like ROI and TCO to the executives. This is especially true for infrastructure products as they often require integrations into systems that are owned by different teams.
What role does user messaging play post-sale, e.g. to upsell/cross-sell?
#1 priority in my opinion with messaging is to truly consider the user’s workflow. That is the slice of their life that you are promising to improve. That means considering their onboarding experience to ongoing use of your product…not just at point of sale.
This also applies to upsell and cross-sell — is there a use case they should start with first to get the immediate “wow moment” and then what should they try next? When you take a “workflow” approach, you can break it down by the different tasks in that person’s workflow or address one workflow at a time with your product.
How does messaging arm the end-user/champions to get buy-in from the budget holder? How do you avoid alienating one over the other?
Like mentioned before, you need to draw a clear connection between the user and the buyer if they are different people in the organization. With that connection comes reasons as to why the user is important to the buyer, the value the user brings, and the impact of the user’s workflow to the organization. When you frame it in that context, building a business case for your champion to take to the budget holders is clear.
Do you have any advice on picking keywords when you’re still in the early stages of building your product?
SEO and content strategy is a long term play and one that builds on itself. While your vision for your company is new and unique, you’ll need to build a base level of awareness to get your point across. Do an honest map of your space — list out the companies that are similar to what you are doing and put them into categories to address if you are
- Challenging their space
- Creating a new adjacent space
- Directly competing with them
This helps you structure the content strategy and keywords. Conduct an evaluation of how they position themselves and the category, search volumes of various keywords, and popularity of content topics in that space.
1. Challenging their space
This is a common realm for start ups that are challenging a known market space where it’s been 5+ years since the last wave of innovation. Your content strategy here can be focused on thought leadership pieces that provide insight into the larger market and industry changes that require a different approach to a problem that we seemingly had solved before.
2. Creating a new adjacent space
This happens a lot with new markets where the ecosystem is still actively growing and discrete functions can be innovated upon with tools. Here your content strategy can be to expand upon how the problem space requires more specific attention and specialized tools are needed to improve the outcome for the end user.
3. Direct competition
In this mode, you will see a lot of similarities between yourself and your competitors’ messages and to some extent, that’s ok. There will be category level terms and concepts that you will collectively be driving for greater visibility and relevance in the market. Using those terms is important to gain the boost from SEO and trending topics — but you need to think harder about your differentiation and why someone should pay your company over theirs.