I love talking about tactical marketing, but the best marketing tactics won’t help you if your market fit is wrong or you’re using the wrong message in your advertising. Marketing starts with product and great products start with research and testing. But, let’s assume you have already built and amazing product and for some reason people just aren’t buying. These are three questions to ask yourself while examining your market placement and messaging.

Is your marketing only highlighting features and not value drivers?

Value DriversThe concept of features vs value drivers is simple; the value driver is the core function (what people are paying for) and the features act to differentiate products with the same core function. If you’re looking at buying a new car you’ll immediately understand this concept.

Say you’re looking at two cars of the same make and model. They have the same safety, same engine, do the same job, but one is packed with features that make it 25% more expensive. How much are those leather seats and built-in wifi worth to you? For some they are worth the extra money, but average people can only pay so much for features that don’t impact performance. If you said the car ran better, was safer or got better gas mileage many more people would justify the 25% price increase.

Sometimes features are able to change the products core value. Tablet computers could accurately be called oversized phones that can’t make calls, but the form factor changes the value proposition. People use tablet’s differently than they use their phones, because the key feature of size is substantial enough to offer value. You wouldn’t market a Tablet as an “oversized phone that cannot make calls”, because your not framing the value.

No matter how many features are added to something you have to frame it’s core value in your advertising. You can’t just lay out Scrabble tiles and expect customers to spell out your value proposition.

Are you calling your product something confusing?

3352197963_572779c70b_mAll companies want to differentiate themselves. It’s easy to get carried away with crazy titles and terms that make you seem unique. But you have to call a spade a spade…. or a shovel, or a trowel, or anything that describes the objects in a way people understand.

You have some leeway with completely new products, but if you have an offering that already exists calling it by another name won’t do you any favors. Heck, even for new products, call it something the average person in your target market will understand without an explanation. Keep in mind the car was a horseless carriage at first.

If you call your product by a name no one understands, uses or even worse – you call it by a name that means something other than what you have to offer – you’ve stacked the deck against yourself. If you run an office space that caters to small businesses, startups and freelancers by offering month to month or short-term leases, that’s known as coworking. So, call your product a “coworking space” not an “equity free business incubator”.

It’s a whale of an uphill battle to change the words people use and what they mean. I watched a multi-billion dollar brand resist the word “manscaping” in favor of the phrase “male personal grooming”. Guess what? The big brand with millions of dollars to spend on advertising lost a lot of market share online to smaller players before finally deciding to embrace manscaping as a word meaning male personal grooming. Talking to prospective customers is a lot easier and more effective than talking at them until they change to your mold.

Use the words everyone uses. No matter how much money you have to spend (the company I’m talking about had a darn near unlimited budget) you can’t choose your words based on what you feel is “on brand”. You have to engage in conversations, that means using natural language that is already familiar to your key customers. By using clear and natural language you can frame your value driver quickly to prospective customers. With the time you have left over from not beating people over the head with words and phrases they don’t already use, show the features that differentiate you from everyone else in the market.

Are you marketing to people who don’t want your product?

Earlier I mentioned tablet computers; they are the result of features offered on a phone, becoming a unique value driver. Sometimes, one man’s (or woman’s) Talk to the handfeature is another’s value driver. You should know who your key demographics are from user testing and market research, but people ignore data some times. I’ve seen companies that wanted to be consumer products when their price point and value prop puts them in the enterprise play pin. It’s rare that you can successfully market to people solely because they are who you want as your customers.

As a producer I used $981.00 light bulbs. Unless you’re a photographer, work in video or stage production; You probably didn’t know lightbulbs existed at that price point. That’s because nearly everyone outside of the industries I named will never need a light that bright (and random folks don’t own a HMI to use that light bulb anyway). This means that no one who is without a need for the product will buy it for the novelty.

On the other hand, sometimes a product has features cool enough and comes in at an inexpensive enough price point that those outside of your key demographics will buy. That doesn’t mean you should stop marketing to your core demographics. People will only pay so much for a novelty that doesn’t offer a substantial value to them.

Getting your message right takes a lot of work and a lot of research. Being short-sighted or stubborn is the fastest way to destroy any chance you have of successfully bringing your product to market. Standing out from the clutter is and always will be a challenge, but if you focus on showing your core audience how your product will provide value to them you’re well on your way to success.

[Photo credit: Got Credit, kdlengacher, Maryam Abdulghaffar]