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Andrea Saez on the Product VCP framework, effective product messaging, and the case for PMMs in every team
Product State Q&A
Andrea Saez is the Co-author of ‘The Product Momentum Gap.’ She’s a writer, speaker, and advisor to AirFocus, and RightToLeft. She formerly held roles at Mindstone, Trint, Product School, ProdPad, Zendesk, Brandwatch, Amilia Technologies, and Cakemail.
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EC: What is the Product Value Creation Plan?
AS: The Product Value Creation Plan (VCP) is a strategic framework designed to help product teams create and communicate value effectively. It serves as a guide to align your product's core value proposition with specific user behaviors you aim to influence.
While traditional product strategies focus on target audiences, problem-solving, and use cases, the VCP goes a step further. It incorporates these elements but also includes the specific behaviors we aim to cultivate in our users, as well as the perceived value tied to those behaviors.
Different product roles can leverage the VCP framework in unique ways:
Founders: At the initial stages of a startup, Founders can use the VCP to clearly articulate the product's value proposition and align it with user behaviors. It can guide investment pitches, help in setting a vision, and establish a strong foundational product strategy.
CPOs (Chief Product Officers): CPOs can use the VCP to ensure that all product lines and features are consistently aligned with the company's overall value proposition and behavioral goals. This facilitates better strategic planning and resource allocation.
PMs (Product Managers): Product Managers can use the framework to guide feature development, prioritize roadmaps, and make data-informed decisions that align with both user needs and business goals. The VCP helps in translating strategy into actionable execution.
PMMs (Product Marketing Managers): For PMMs, the VCP offers a goldmine of insights to craft compelling messages. It helps identify what behaviors are most valuable to users and therefore should be highlighted in marketing campaigns. It also provides a narrative structure that goes beyond listing features to communicate real value.
In essence, the VCP acts as a unifying thread that can weave through various stages and facets of product development and marketing, keeping everyone aligned in the pursuit of creating genuine value for the user.
If you want to learn more about how to use it, my co-author Dave Martin and I recently wrote ‘The Product Momentum Gap,’ where we outline how to use the VCP for organizational alignment.
EC: What are the key ingredients to effective product messaging?
AS: It really comes down to knowing your audience. It’s really that simple. There is no ‘magic sauce’ here other than truly knowing when and how to present value. The mistake a lot of companies make is not tying product to marketing more (or vice versa!). I actually love that companies like AirBnB have given their PMMs more product marketing focus —this will most certainly bring more product focus to the commercial side of things. And no, this does not mean that the product role is over, it just means that the scope is being slightly shifted to having a more commercial focus, which is a good thing. Product managers need to know how to speak about their products, and that’s exactly what the PMM role is about — alongside it being extremely strategic!
I recently worked with a company that actually had the opposite problem — they were all product, no marketing. All of their customer-facing material was very clinical, very square and technical, and lacked that human element that makes marketing, well, marketing. They were having huge conversion problems and didn’t understand why, and after a study I ran, I found out that the level of empathy perceived on their pages ranked at 2.8/5.
The Product Value Creation Plan can help with that, and provides a framework to understand and categorize user behaviors that are critical for your product’s success. Understanding these behaviors allows you to craft messages that appeal directly to what drives your users. Recognizing recurring user behaviors can give you the opportunity to personalize messaging - so if you know that behavior x will make a user more successful, you can create messaging that actively encourages that behavior (which at the end of the day, will result in value to the user).
This puts your marketing, sales, and success teams in a position where they can develop relationships across a customer’s lifecycle as they’re engaging with and developing new behaviors, and target the messaging more accordingly. Now we’re leaning more towards relationship-building rather than a one-time communication point.
I really like to use the Value Creation Pyramid as part of my messaging framework, as it allows me to see fully what it is that we’re trying to do and why.
The Pyramid focuses on the following:
Whose life are we improving?
What is the problem that we solve?
Why is this important?
What is the experience we want to provide?
What behaviours do we want to influence?
This takes all the key elements of the Product VCP in a way that is easy to digest. From here I can start creating messaging frameworks for different campaigns, lifecycle stages, etc.
EC: How would you describe the case for Product Marketers to be part of every product team?
AS: I’ve always believed that product marketing should sit within product. After all, in the absence of a PMM, it’s usually the PM that will take on those responsibilities. So why break them up once there’s someone in the position?
A lot of emphasis is usually placed on the marketing side of product marketing, but I believe it’s time we place a bit more emphasis in product. The alignment begins with product anyway.
A launch does not begin when the feature or product is done, rather when the decision was made to solve the problem. PMMs need to actively be part of ideation, research, and testing in order to appropriately communicate what is happening to the rest of the team. And of course, to customers!
I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I have a number for you in terms of having a healthy ratio. What I would say is that if you’re working in product trios, make it a foursome. Include your PMM, have them be part of conversations, allow them to ask questions, and view them as your strategic partner.
Also, as the scope of the PMM role increases, consider changes in your overall organization. For example, there may be a need to split product marketing and sales enablement — because truly one person can’t do it all!
“The VCP frameworks acts as a unifying thread that can weave through various stages and facets of product development and marketing — keeping everyone aligned in the pursuit of creating genuine value for the user.”
- Andrea Saez
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