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


The ‘secret’ to killer brand positioning? Get to know your customers

In my latest Vouch video, I explain why brand positioning must always begin with getting to know your customer. Who they are, what they want and who they struggle with.

Vouch is the easiest way to collect customer research. Simply add your questions, share the link, and start capturing feedback and insights at scale.

Try Vouch for free today

I speak to a lot of product marketers at all different levels, and one common strand is that everyone is being asked to cut corners. To provide critical input quickly. Without proper due diligence. Without thoughtful consideration. Without understanding the context, the requirements, the situation.

And unfortunately, that’s only over going to lead to poor results. Even the most capable, on-the-pulse product marketer is not going to craft a GTM strategy, messaging doc, or sales overview doc without full context.

Here are some common shortcuts I see product marketers trying to take – often at the behest of others – and how to counter them.

Working with assumptions (without validating or iterating)

Firstly, working based on assumptions at the start of a project is absolutely fine. We all need to start somewhere. Your team probably has enough domain experience to have a comfortable level of intuition (that is, internalised pattern-matching).

The shortcut PMMs try to take (usually on the direction of their seniors) is treating those assumptions as fact… and integrating those assumptions into the business-as-usual shared understanding. This is pretty dangerous – your entire strategy and execution can be based on unproven, biased assumptions.

How to get back on track

Just do the validation anyway. Frame it as an opportunity to measure the impact, prove you’re on the right path.

Check in with internal and external sources – sales reps, CSMs, friendly customers, or random folks in the market. Ask them broad, top-level related questions and keep asking ‘why’ to prove or disprove the assumptions you have, without asking leading questions.

When you present the learnings back, offer a plan on what needs to happen next. Show what you’ve learnt with a summary of the impact and suggestions on the way forward, to save time and build your reputation.

They say jump, you say ‘how high?’

Particularly when it comes to sales collateral, custom slide or deck requests, or even a new idea for content, it’s sooo eassyyyy to just be a yes-person.

While it may be easy, it’s also a surefire way to be unsatisfied with your job. You have less input and control, and instead react to the whims of various stakeholders (who probably don’t know what they want anyway!).

How to get back on track

You have two options.

Firstly, graciously accept new requests for collateral as ideas and opportunities, not as hard-and-fast requirements. Use this as an opportunity to redirect the conversation to focus on the reason for the request, not the actual request itself. Maybe they have some unique insight, a hot opportunity to test something, or feel underserved by what you have today. Rather than jumping to create new collateral, it could just be reframing something you have already, or solving by other means.

Secondly, you can make the time to build the foundational artefacts that help you hold your ground and frame requests against your current, documented understanding. This means your:

  • ICP – your aligned target segment for cross-functional focus
  • Personas – a representation of core buying group stakeholders
  • Buyer journey – the process a buying group follows from initial awareness to purchase decision and expansion
  • Messaging guide – the framework for communicating our unique value proposition
  • JTBD map – understanding what ‘jobs’ customers achieve with the product and the steps they take to get there

This means that for new requests, you can refer back to the documentation, ask for information, and counter with alternatives as required to make sure everyone leaves happy.

“Let’s set it live and we’ll measure performance later”

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. If you’ve spent enough time and effort doing something – a big product launch, a huge content campaign – and don’t set your goals upfront, you’re always going to be a step behind. You’ll also be left unsatisfied with whatever results you do get, feeling anxious that you could’ve achieved more – and no idea what’s working best, what to double-down on, and where to improve.

How to get back on track

During the planning phase of a project, define the leading and lagging metrics that you’ll track, and set a primary goal, even just for your own satisfaction.

Set your goal and create a burn-up chart to predict your progress over time. You’ll be able to measure progress against this every week, allowing you to react to changes in performance and iterate on your way to results.

Being this diligent will set you apart from other product marketers, and act as a forcing function for delivering on your goals.

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

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