Hi, I’m James. Thanks for checking out Building Momentum: a newsletter to help startup founders and marketers accelerate SaaS growth through product marketing.

Being the thing for someone is more important than being something for everyone.

Once you recognise this, you’ll see it everywhere. Successful businesses, products, value propositions, ads, sales pitches, and more all hinge on being able to convey that “This” is for “You”.

But making the decision to be the thing for someone is so difficult. You’ll spend hours deliberating if you should or shouldn’t, whether the opportunity is too small, how you should prioritize segments, and more.

Instead of thinking about this decision as a limiting function, think about it as a move of strength. You only have so many hours, so much brainpower: you can do so much more with so much less. Rather than diluting effort, you’ll concentrate energy.

To do this well, I think there are four key considerations.

How to define ‘someone’?

Having a tight understanding of your target customer is the most important, underpinning your business strategy.

Ultimately, you’re trying to identify a market group of customers: people linked by similar traits who have a similar problem that they’ll pay to solve.

This ‘market group’ should form your ideal customer profile – this linked post walks through an structured approach to help define yours.

How to know what ‘the thing’ is?

Your value proposition needs to be built on top of the customer you’ve defined. But value propositions aren’t created out of nothing – they need to be discovered through pattern-matching, both evidenced and intuition.

The inputs to your value proposition should be based on research (like my 19 customer development questions). From there, you’ll understand the customer’s:

  • Jobs: common responsibilities and activities your customer does as part of their day-to-day
  • Gains: their personal, professional, or business goals they want to achieve
  • Pains: marks of failure and frustrations the customer must avoid
  • Triggers: motivations that encourage them to solve their problem and switch away from their current solution

Ultimately, you’ll need to understand the value your customer desires: an element that they want to attain that:

  1. Is useful
  2. Is worth the effort (cost, time, energy)
  3. Is a priority for them

Say no, don’t prioritize

One of the reactions you’ll have to counter is other teams taking the safe route of prioritizing the direction you’ve began to set in addition to everything they were doing before.

Take it from me: this doesn’t work well. This doesn’t bring clarity: it dilutes energy and effort even more. It creates inertia.

To counteract this, you need to get buy-in. As product marketers we don’t do all the work, but we make sure the work happens. Aligning all of the teams we work with and ensuring they have the right context from the market and the business means they’re set up to have the most impact.

Meet your business goals

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. Your teams need to see results, recognition that change is paying off.

Implementing a strategy built on the steps above won’t happen overnight, but you’ll need to ensure every team is fully committed. Marketing and sales need to be targeting the customer, and selling the same thing. Product need to build the thing for the customer. Any dilution will muddy the waters.

You need to show momentum and communicate what you’ve learnt at every stage. That means being transparent. Didn’t meet goals? Say why. Changing strategy? Say why.

It’s a journey

Being the thing for someone is a journey. You’ll learn, adapt, and evolve often. Embrace it, and bring everyone along for the ride.

Hold strong on the principle, and help everyone understand why.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought – find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

P.S. If you’ve found value in Building Momentum, could you buy me a coffee? Here’s my tip jar – any support is gratefully appreciated! 

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7 Replies to “Be the thing for someone, not something for everyone”

  1. […] to get across in positioning workshops and generally in my work is that good product is about being the thing for someone, not something for […]

  2. […] believe it’s more important to be the thing for someone, than something for everyone. This means proactively making a decision to include or exclude […]

  3. […] can’t A/B your way to high performing positioning. Positioning, by default, should mean something to someone; it won’t appeal to everyone. Your go-to-market must […]

  4. […] can’t A/B your way to high performing positioning. Positioning, by default, should mean something to someone; it won’t appeal to everyone. Your go-to-market must […]

  5. […] goal, as a product marketer or sales rep, is to focus on why your solution is the best solution for the prospect you’re engaging with. The best way to do this is to influence the prospect’s requirements and buying journey by […]

  6. […] Often this isn’t accidental… it’s a sign of cautiousness, a lack of conviction. Unfortunately, this means your positioning becomes meaningless – it’s much better to be the thing for someone instead. […]

  7. […] trying to be something for everyone doesn’t work, and neither approach works, and the gap between the market requirements and the […]

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