My Tips For Effective Product Briefings

August 20 2013 12:00:00 PM Add/Read Comments [11]
I spend a lot of time in product briefings. Unfortunately, many of them are not nearly as effective as they could be. Below are my top 10 tips for how companies should prepare for and conduct a product briefing that does not waste everyone's time.

1. Do your homework. Before the meeting I am going to visit your company's website, read your about page, watch your product videos, see who your leadership team is and maybe do a little research into your funding on CrunchBase. I will probably send connect requests to all the meeting attendees on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Please have the courtesy to do the same for me. Visit my blog, my LinkedIn profile, my analyst BIO, and perhaps my SlideShare and Twitter accounts. Know who I am, my career history and what I write about.

2. Don't waste time telling me about the benefits of the industry. I assume you're briefing me because you believe I understand and influence the collaboration or social business market. So please don't waste time trying to convince me of the benefits of social netowork vs. email, or how sharing information helps employees be more productive. I know that already or I wouldn't be here.

3. Clearly define the problem your company/product is trying to solve. State up front why you're in business. Explain the challenge that your product is designed to help solve, and how it does so. Don't just say "We started because we know everything is moving to mobile" or "today businesses need to be social to reach new customers", provide details or I'll quickly lose interest.

4. Know your target audience and how you plan on reaching them. Once you've clearly defined what you're doing and why (#3), tell me what market your are going after and how you plan on reaching them. Are you hoping to sell to SMBs? Large enterprises? A specific industry like financial or medical? How about government or education? Once you've defined your target audience, tell me how you plan on marketing and selling to them.

5. Tell me a story. One of the most common mistakes companies make is they demo their product by showing a dozen features. Remember, you know your product really well but I probably don't, nor do your prospects. It's easy for us to get confused when you're randomly clicking around the screen and raving about how great your product is. Instead, you need to hook your audience in by telling a story we can relate to, and creating a product demo that walks through a scenario we can understand and remember. (which supports points 3 & 4 above)

Note: I offer workshops on this, helping both startups as well as the world's largest software companies get this right. It's not easy, so don't be worried about asking for help. Please contact me if you'd like to set up advisory sessions on crafting your marketing messages, your presentation decks, your product demos/videos, or your conference keynote speeches.

6. Accept that you're not a unique as you think. I don't mean to be negative, but trust me whatever you're building… a dozen other vendors are pitching me on something similar. The key to success is to know who your who your direct and indirect competitors are, and what areas you are better than them in. Your differentiators don't have to product features, they can include pricing, delivery model, experience, services, company funding, and more. Knowing your competition should tie back to points 3 and 4, and it helps me position you properly when in customer meetings, lectures, reports, speaking to reporters, etc.

7. Don't believe your hype. Nothing turns me off more than hearing phrases like "we're the first", "only", "or leading ______". Unless you can prove it without a shadow of a doubt, skip the BS. Even if you can prove it, it's probably not that important to me. I want to learn about what problem you're solving and how, and then I'll make up my own mind about you.

8. Success breeds success. I've heard other people say "Don't show me the obligatory customer logo slide" and I disagree. I do want to know who is using your product and in what ways. What you need to avoid is trying to prove yourself to me by rambling on and on about dozens of customers. Instead, choose 2 or 3 really strong customer stories and explain to me how they are using your product and what benefits they are getting from it.

9. Be prepared. (ties into #1) Ideally, send me your presentation before the meeting so I can review it and have an idea of what you're planning on covering. This will save time as I won't ask questions about things that I know you will be covering later. Having the deck saves me from having to take screenshots while you're talking, allowing me to pay more attention. Also, this provides a good backup in case we have web-conferening problems, which sadly still occur far too frequently.

10.What's next? One of the most important things about a briefing is ending it with a clear understanding of what the next steps are. Are there specific things you'd like to work with Constellation on, like an upcoming product launch, press releases or advisory session? Will you be hosting or attending a conference where we can meet in person? Do you have a roadshow or webinar coming up that you'd like us to know about? Defining the next steps allows us to end the briefing with an action plan instead of simply saying "Thank you for meeting, it was great to learn about what you're doing."

I hope these tips help, and I look forward to hearing a lot of great product pitches!