Recently, Pam, a Dude, It's Marketing reader, sent me an email asking if I had a template or suggestions for a product brief format to help developers draft a detailed document that will help her marketing team create better sales collateral. I realized in answering this email that it would also make a good blog post as I'm sure many have faced this same issue.
When launching a product, marketing tends to get brought in later in the process. While that's not ideal, it is a reality and quite often you will need to take a list of features that have been developed and figure out how to position the product to be successful in the market.
Working with developers to create a compelling value proposition and turn features into benefits is not always an easy task. Creating a product brief with them can give you the information you need to build better sales collateral if you gather the right information.
Pam had created a great outline for her product brief with many key areas covered including a section on defining your audience and an emphasis on benefits and value to the audience. Here is an outline I've used in the past to build a product brief:
- Elevator Pitch - Overview of the product in 50 words or less.
- Target Customers - Who are you selling this product to?
- Value Proposition - What problem are you solving for your customer?
- Key Features and Benefits - Develop a chart as explained below.
- Other Functionality - Any other key facts including benchmarks, speeds and feeds, for example.
- What's New - More important for new releases of an existing product. Highlight what's changed.
- Roadmap - Any features coming up that are committed but didn't make this release.
- Key Competitors and Your Advantages - Who else solves this problem and how are you better?
- Successes - Any customers already using this product, how, and can you reference them.
While some of these sections may be filled in by marketing afterwards, when working with the technical team, the key section to get them to complete with you is the key features and benefits. In the past, I've done this by building a chart that has the key features of the product or release in one column that the developers list for you. Then you have a column that explains what that feature does in simple terms and then a column that outlines the benefit of that feature. It is this last column that is the toughest to complete but critical. You need to translate all the features to benefits so your customers and prospects understand how you are helping them solve their problems and not making them figure it out.
One other key section is competition and your advantages over both indirect and direct competitors. Again, you can work on this section with the technical team as it helps you come up with key messages that are different than what your competitors are claiming. If your list of features and benefits is similar to the competition, then your audience can't differentiate you from them. If you look at their messages and figure out how you can position the product differently, that will make your messages much stronger.
All good sales collateral needs to define the problem and then explain how your product solves that problem. Working with your developers to create a product brief helps you get the info you need to communicate the value of your product. It also forces your technical team to figure out the importance of any given feature rather than the fact it's cool or makes things better.
Working with the developer to build a product brief is invaluable in creating your collateral. It can also be used as a tool to training your sales team as it lists important information that they need to know as well. Try creating a product brief with your developers before the next product launch.