Messaging & positioning insights & exercises for your startup

  • Quick Tips: Is the heart of your story buried?
    Every founder I work with tells me it takes waaay too long to explain their business to people. How do you turn something so big into a concise story that gets people interested? Journalists face this challenge with every article they write: how to hook readers from the first sentence […]
  • Quick Tips: The Beginner’s Mind
    Always approach new messaging with a beginner’s mind. Why? Because when you know a lot about your customer, it’s easy to go on auto-pilot and make assumptions about what matters to them. It’s internal bias. As a consultant, I work with clients across different industries, verticals and buyers. And I’m […]
  • Quick Tips: A branding lesson from the Fab 5
    I’m a big fan of Queer Eye on Netflix. (I love the deeply emotional angle on makeovers. I love the transformations. I love Jonathan and Tan and…anyway…) There was an episode with a young doctor who was about to start her first job. She was smart, she was a mom […]
  • Quick Tips: Are your prospects befuddled?
    A CEO of a growing SaaS company told me that he still gets blank stares from people during sales pitches. He said: “I can tell they’re thinking: what the hell is this guy talking about?!” This bothered him. But what REALLY kept him up at night was the thought of […]
  • Quick Tips: Ask the million dollar question
    If you had the magical power to convince prospects of one thing about your product, what would it be? This is one of my favorite questions to ask during team workshops and stakeholder interviews. Especially if their product is multi-faceted with different use cases and customer segments. I’m usually met […]
  • Quick Tips: On sitting with the pain
    My 5 year-old daughter’s fish died yesterday. It was her first experience with death (something I’d been dreading). As she sobbed, I felt the parental urge to make her pain disappear. I wanted to offer an instant solution – a new, better fish! But I know that it’s important to […]
  • Quick Tips: Would your customer seriously ever say that?
    Want a lighthearted sense check for your messaging? Give it the “Would-My-Customer-Seriously-Ever-Say-That?” Test. Think of one of your customers. Now read your copy, line by line, and imagine those words coming out of their mouth. Ask yourself: “Would they seriously ever say that?” If the answer is yes, give yourself […]
  • Quick Tips: Redefining what?
    When it comes to messaging, please don’t say you’re “redefining” anything…even if you are. I know, it sounds SO good. Especially when your product is *actually* going to shake up the market. It feels like innovation personified. But here’s the thing: the word doesn’t mean much to people. Firstly, it’s […]
  • Quick Tips: “Why you?”
    Why you? Why the person sitting in front of me and not some other guy? It’s something I ask founders when we’re working on their company’s origin story. But when a friend pushed me on the same question a while back, I wasn’t clear. “Were you just born wanting to […]
  • Quick Tips: Go wide on your competition
    Do you know who your real competitors are? [Spoiler alert] It’s not just that other company selling the same thing as you. It may also be a spreadsheet. Or a manual process. Or just good old fashioned inertia. And if you don’t get clear on who AND what your prospects […]
  • Quick Tips: Messaging a new-to-world product
    Are you creating or launching a new product? Is it really new…like, never really been seen before? One of the toughest challenges when positioning and messaging a new product can be that your prospects don’t even know that a solution to their problem exists. Not even as a concept. I […]
  • Quick Tips: Stop swirling with your messaging
    Many startup founders that I speak to describe “swirling” with their messaging. You know that feeling, when you’re going around in circles and not sure where to land. You’re in a holding pattern and it’s frustrating. But what I’ve learned is that the swirling is a symptom of a deeper […]
  • Quick Tips: Messaging for different audiences
    “Our product means so many different things to different audiences. How are we gonna find the right message that works for everyone?” This is something I hear a lot from founders and marketers. And it can be daunting. It can seem like a really complex and annoying problem to solve. […]
  • Striking the right tone in extraordinary times
    How to approach your company’s messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic Over the last few weeks, companies have reached out to me to help them urgently address their messaging. COVID-19 has rocked every aspect of life and has left marketing professionals uncertain on how best to move forward. The number one […]
  • Quick Tips: “Drunk at the Party” Exercise
    What if you could say it like it is? What would you say? What would you say to your competitors, your customers and your prospects? The “Drunk at the Party” exercise that I share in the video below gives you permission to be controversial and polarizing with your messaging. And […]
  • Quick Tips: The “Mom Pitch” Exercise
    Does your product messaging feel rambling or too complicated? Try the Mom Pitch. Pitching your mom is an effective shortcut to simpler messaging. And it’s not about dumbing down your technology – it’s about empathizing with your audience. Read the full video transcript here: I work with a lot of […]
  • Quick Tips: “Smack in the Face Challenges” Exercise
    Barfing technical features with your product messaging? You need to get out of your head and into the mind of your customer. You won’t find features or functionality there. You’ll find benefit statements and value will help you to create simpler messaging that actually resonates with your audience. This “Smack […]
  • Why your company needs Meaningful Messaging
    “How do we differentiate our messaging when everyone in our space says the same thing?” It’s a question that every product marketer has asked at some point. And with good reason. There’s so much competition. So much noise. It seems like every tech company is shouting the same stuff: Seamless! […]
  • The secret to great B2B messaging? Customer interviews!
    I recently helped a startup in the HR tech space with their messaging. In our strategy session, the team told me that “ease” was the core value of their product. They had built the platform to be easier to implement and use than legacy solutions. They even had a comparison […]
  • How to write B2B messaging that connects with customers
    There are only two types of messaging: the kind that gets read and the kind that gets ignored. There’s really no in-between. That’s why it’s critical to create a messaging strategy that resonates with your target customer. Think of your messaging as a lighthouse in a sea of noise, guiding […]
  • How to simplify your B2B product messaging
    How do you simplify complex technology, so anyone can understand it? You may think it’s about dumbing down your technology so a 4th grader could grasp it. Or finding the perfect 3 words that sum up everything. You can spend hours iterating on that stuff, and it still won’t simplify […]
  • Does simplifying your tech feel scary?
    I work with tech founders launching brilliant products into the world. They all struggle with one thing: simplifying their technology. We all know simple is better. Apple effectively taught that to the entire world through their products, packaging and marketing. And yet, as a founder of a complex technical product, […]
  • Forget about explaining the tech…it can wait
    I met a founder who told me prospects didn’t understand how his product could help their business until the 3rd meeting, at best. Needless to say, he didn’t get to the 3rd meeting very often. Most founders tell me it’s hard for people to get their product until they “see […]
  • Good intentions holding back your startup story
    “Storytelling” may sound fluffy, but it’s a cunning tool for startups. We humans have been telling them since our knuckles dragged along the cave floor. Our brains are hardwired for them. Stories help us understand abstract concepts and apply them to our own lives. They make us care. If you can tell […]
  • Please don’t be “the Uber of” anything
    When you’re creating something new that didn’t exist before, it’s tough finding the right words to explain it. If you’re a founder of an innovative product or business, you’ve probably explained it to people 10, 50, 100 different ways…and still haven’t found the one that feels right. In a perfect […]
  • Scrap the pitch deck template
    I recently met a founder who was tearing his hair out after a string of unsuccessful meetings with investors. For privacy, I’ll call him Jim. “They’re not getting it,” he told me. “The opportunity is so [bleep]-ing obvious and I can’t make them see it.” Jim was trying to raise seed investment […]
  • Even robo-investing can be human with a good story
    I’ll admit it: every now and then, I come across messaging on a website that makes me jealous I didn’t write it myself.  Like this about page from Wealthfront, a leader in robo-investing and financial planning. Despite how inhuman (and a little scary to me) “robo-investing” sounds, the copy on that […]
  • Want to write a mission statement worth shouting about? Try this
    When was the last time you got excited by a company mission statement? Maybe never, when so many look like this: We deliver innovative technology and services that make businesses better through a powerful combination of customer knowledge, inspired thinking and attentive associates. and this: We provide our customers with […]
  • A fast & simple product positioning exercise
    Simplicity is the key to effective messaging. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to achieve. Especially when your product has so many direct competitors breathing down your neck. The natural impulse is to quickly talk about as many features as you can without taking a breath. “Fully-integrated-highly-scalable-reliable-flexible-solution-GASP!” This makes it […]
  • 5 ways to differentiate your SaaS product messaging
    Messaging in the B2B tech space reminds me of being a teenager at a summer concert in the 90s, standing at the edge of an intimidating mosh pit. All these dudes with no shirts on, crashing up, down and into each other. Their wild, individual efforts morphing into one giant […]
  • 6 fun brand workshop exercises that deliver the goods
    A crucial element to any brand workshop is fun. (Twizzlers are a close second.) The goal of a brand workshop is to get under the hood of your company’s beliefs, purpose, vision, values and personality. And that’s hard to do when you’re bored to death. Creative exercises inject a little […]
  • A messaging cheatsheet to make your brand more consistent
    The secret to effective messaging is simple: consistency. That’s hard to pull off with so many channels and marketing initiatives out there. When business is growing fast, you’re just trying to get stuff out and on time. So you say one thing on your site and another thing on that […]
  • 5 common naming mistakes (& how to avoid them)
    Coming up with your next great company or product name can be hard. Especially when you embark on the journey with a group of colleagues who care deeply about it. That’s because the naming process is only partly about naming—it’s also about conflicting opinions, gut reactions and plenty of doubt. […]
  • 3 essential ingredients of a punchy brand message
    There’s nothing deadlier to your marketing than a weak brand message. Product features all over the place, no clear customer benefit, buzz words a-go-go…this is the recipe for disappearing in a crowded market. Yet so many brands do it. A punchy brand message follows the less is more rule. It […]