Given product marketing’s remit to understand the market, competitors, buyer, user and product, it’s the role best placed to help a prospect or customer understand why they would choose one product or solution over a competitive alternative.

It’s no surprise that messaging and positioning is a key responsibility for product marketers worldwide. In the 2020 State of Product Marketing report, 93% of respondents indicated messaging as their core responsibility.

I liked this quote from Sarah Din, Director of Product Marketing at SurveyMonkey in the report:

“I think one of the key things you need to nail right away is messaging and positioning, they’re core to any Product Marketing role. If you’re not good at messaging, you really can’t do a Product Marketing role. So, be good about figuring out how to message to the right people at the right time.”

There is a whole  host of excellent resources and frameworks available to help product marketers research, validate and refine messaging that helps a prospect or customers understand a brand’s value proposition and differentiators.

But how do you know when it’s time to update your messaging? The answer may come from inside, or outside the business.

In this article, I’ll be sharing six ways you can tell it’s time to update your product messaging:

Your strategy has changed

In terms of chicken and egg, strategy has to come ahead of defining positioning, honing in on value proposition, crafting compelling messaging and adapting per persona.

While strategy shouldn’t constantly be in flux, it will evolve in line with changes in the wider market. Every day businesses deal with acquisitions and mergers, evolving buyer needs and changing market conditions so if the business strategy has changed, it may also be time for an update to messaging.

Keeping track of changes in the market is already part and parcel of product marketing’s remit. Regularly analysing sales cycles, monitoring competitor activity through win/loss analysis and research and being in close contact with customers and prospects will help to keep a finger on the pulse of shifts in the market that may indicate it’s time to validate that your messaging is still resonating.

Market feedback says it’s time to switch up

You know you have great messaging when prospects understand and value your differentiators, and post sale, customers are satisfied they are getting what they signed up for.

On the flip side, where these indicators of success start to slip, you may need to investigate what’s not working in your messaging. By researching your buyers, analysing opportunity data, speaking to customers and customer-facing teams, and looking at touch points across the entire customer journey you can build up a better picture of the accuracy and efficiency of messaging.

Having a quarterly cadence to review key data points on sales cycles, buyer persona feedback and customer feedback will help identify opportunities to course correct messaging and positioning.

Sales adoption is low

A sign your messaging is resonating with buyers is that your sales reps are using on-brand messaging consistently, adopting key assets without making significant updates, and that sales cycles progress at a reasonable pace.

Where you might have an issue is when you find sales teams creating alternative talk tracks, developing custom content for their sales cycles and veering off message when presenting to customers and prospects in order to advance them through deal cycles.

The first step is to diagnose the problem, whether it’s a sales confidence issue, which will require a different approach to instil best practice and reinforce enablement, or a messaging issue.

Gathering sales feedback on the lightbulb moments in pitches and demos, shadowing opportunities live or watching back recordings and analysing sales data will help gauge how messaging is being received in the market.

It’s important for product marketers to deep dive into active sales cycles on a regular basis, whether it’s researching a particular segment, region or buyer persona. Either way, finding the blockers where customers don’t understand value, where there are repeat sticking points and where further customer education is needed will help inform messaging and content requirements.

Your product has changed

Product evolution also has an impact on messaging and positioning. Will a new feature allow you to reach new users and use cases? Will enhancements to your product or services mean you can differentiate against new competitors?

As you go through the go-to-market process, it’s worth factoring in how this changes your competitive positioning and how this translates across all customer-facing touch points from marketing outreach to public messaging to sales enablement resources.

Constantly querying how your roadmap impacts downstream positioning and messaging will help avoid gaps in how your product and solution is perceived in the market.

As part of go-to-market plans, make sure to add steps to review externally facing assets from the website to sales presentations and refresh messaging as and when needed.

You’re learning more about your buyer

Every business has an ideal fit customer who is targeted by sales and marketing but as you expand internationally, begin to serve new industries or encounter new personas, that picture will evolve.

Continuously reviewing the voice of the customer, shadowing calls with client facing teams and looking for trends in buyer requirements is fundamental for a product marketer.

While there isn’t a hard and fast rule to customer research, one piece of feedback gives a hypothesis, and five makes a trend worthy of further qualitative research to validate findings and measure pervasiveness.

When you start to notice these shifts, it may be time to create a new version of your messaging and value proposition for a particular buyer, user or industry segment.

You're learning more about your competitors

Good messaging stands up to scrutiny in sales cycles. Depending on the region, competitor and market segment, you may need to hone your messaging to ensure a prospect is making a fair assessment between you and your closest category competitors.

Win-loss analysis will help identify the trends in why a customer would choose your solution over a competitor or find scenarios where they are potentially a better fit and can cause you business pain.

Using this qualitative data as a starting point for quantitative win-loss interviews will uncover insights on the buying cycle and selection criteria that can be applied directly to your messaging research.

Insights about specific competitors, industries, buyer requirements and use cases can then be translated into targeted messaging that goes a layer deeper and helps set your sales teams up to position as accurately as possible versus each of your competitors.

Refined messaging

Strategy, value propositions, positioning and messaging isn’t about being reactionary and constantly updating how you present to internal and external audiences. That said, it can benefit from ongoing analysis and refinement depending on the scenario where messaging is used.

Product marketers are constantly dealing with fresh inputs and data points which may be useful to refine messaging, but best practice is to take a measured view on what can be tweaked or refined as you apply fresh insights.

The goal is evolution not revolution, but regularly asking the right questions will help stay relevant so the next time you learn something new about the market, it’s worth thinking how this will help make your messaging even stronger.