11. July 2023 - Team OSP

Build a Product Adoption Strategy Based on Technical Truth

Creating a groundbreaking technology or feature is only the beginning. Product owners, founders, and builders often overlook the equal challenge of developing a clear communication strategy to convey its value.

You’ve built something fantastic — but how do you make potential adopters understand its importance? How can you step back, see the forest for the trees, and tell them what’s in it for them? If your communication is riddled with trendy buzzwords, the actual value of your technology might get lost in translation, alienating your pragmatic, tech-savvy audience. And if they are instead lists of features with no concept of their business value, budget-owners won’t see why they should spend money on it.

At Open Strategy Partners (OSP), we specialize in navigating this complexity and are experts in technical communications and product marketing strategy. Our mission is to help you break down silos, gathering insights from diverse stakeholders — engineers, marketers, designers, and end-users — to build a comprehensive, fact-based understanding of your product. We’ve devised a methodology called the Value Map to this end: a single source of truth then informs your product positioning and messaging, prioritizing the features and business value that truly matter.

In this article, we’ll dive into the various aspects of product adoption, from its goals and challenges to product positioning best practices. We’ll then showcase the OSP Value Map and OSP Product Communications Framework, powerful tools designed to streamline and optimize your product communications. Finally, we’ll explore the importance of value-based communications and the profound impact that fact-based messaging can have.

OSP is ready to help you tackle these challenges head-on as a partner in product communication and marketing. Contact us and let’s ensure your product isn’t just built, but understood, adopted, and appreciated for its true value.

What is product adoption?

Product adoption is a crucial concept in the realm of product development and marketing. It’s defined by Heap as “the process by which people learn about your product or app and start using it to accomplish their goals. Product adoption is usually distinguished from acquisition — while acquisition is about bringing people to your site, adoption is all about turning those visitors into users.”

Product adoption occurs in stages, each having its own objectives and challenges.

  • Awareness: This is the initial stage, where potential customers learn about your product and the problems it solves. The primary task here is educating your audience about your product and its benefits.
  • Interest: Once aware, it’s time to pique their interest. The aim is to transition prospective users from having a general understanding of the product to recognizing its value as a potential solution to their problems.
  • Evaluation: Following their interest, prospective users evaluate your product against competitors. Clear, accessible marketing material that emphasizes your product’s strengths is vital in this stage.
  • Trial: After evaluation, users typically enter the trial stage. Offering temporary reduced costs, money-back guarantees, or free trials can aid in this process, allowing potential customers to experience the product firsthand.
  • Adoption/Rejection: Lastly, if the trial is successful, users will fully adopt or purchase the product. This stage heavily relies on customer success, marketing, and sales teams to facilitate the transition from prospects to paying customers.

Effectively addressing each stage of product adoption is key to ensuring your product doesn’t just reach its audience, but resonates with them. However, that’s easier said than done.

Stages of Product Adoption

There is no product adoption without communication

The feet, trunk, tusk, ear, and eye of an elephant, without the body

There’s a common, misguided belief that if you just build a product, users will naturally flock to it — because it’s so obviously great… to you :-) Remember the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams? Well, product adoption isn’t like that! This “if we build it, they will come” mindset can lull us into underestimating the importance of effective communication.

One of the main challenges is making sure your potential adopters understand your product’s value. They need to know the answers to questions like “Why is this important?” and “What’s in it for me?” The value of your technology might be clear to you, but can you communicate it effectively to your audience?

Complete image of an elephant

However, understanding and then communicating this value can be as difficult as building the technology itself. The situation is a bit like the parable of the blind men and the elephant: each man feels a different part of the creature, but only one, like a tusk or the trunk. They then compare notes and cannot agree about what it is. The same can occur with your product. Different stakeholders might have entirely different views of it, leading to varied and potentially inaccurate narratives. Everyone might be using the same product, but their individual needs and experiences could lead to different understandings.

This highlights why a clear and compelling communications strategy is essential for product adoption. It’s necessary to establish a strong, clear, consensus-based technical foundation, giving everyone a shared understanding of your product. This consensus forms the bedrock of your product messaging, ensuring that your product’s value is communicated consistently and effectively.

How not to do product positioning :-)

There are several pitfalls that even major companies fall into when it comes to product positioning. A top-down, or outside-in approach — throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks — will more likely than not yield subpar results. Two main problematic approaches often emerge from this method: ‘Buzzword Bingo’ and ‘Feature Frenzy’.

First, let’s talk about Buzzword Bingo. If your marketing team doesn’t have a clear, factual, consensus-based technical foundation, product positioning often descends into a sea of buzzwords. Words like ‘paradigm’, ‘leverage’, ‘innovate’, ‘growth hacking’, ‘real-time’, ‘data-driven’, and so forth might sound impressive, but in reality, they don’t communicate the true value of your technology. Worse still, they can repel your tech-savvy audience, who often see through the smoke and mirrors and are in search of concrete, pragmatic value.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Feature Frenzy. This is when product positioning emphasizes an extensive list of features, without making clear the value these features bring. This approach is often seen in developer-driven offerings, where the value of these features is assumed to be self-evident. However, to an outsider or a potential user, the benefits might not be as obvious.

Good product positioning resonates 

When product positioning is executed properly, the outcome is unified, fact-based positioning that is rooted in substance and technical truth. This kind of positioning doesn’t merely speak to your audience — it resonates with them.

To achieve this, it’s essential to start with a strong, clear, and consensus-based technical foundation. In other words, everyone involved needs to see — and feel — the whole “elephant,” not just their own part of it. But getting to this point is easier said than done. It requires a solid process and a proven framework.

This is where Open Strategy Partners (OSP) comes in. We’ve devised a clear, reproducible methodology to capture and communicate the value of your product: The OSP Value Map and Communications Framework. This framework guides you through a structured process, ensuring that all perspectives are considered, harmonized, and transformed into a unified, clear message about your product’s value.

How it’s done: The OSP Value Map

The essence of the Value Map is to create a “living library” of accurate, agreed-upon product features, the challenges they solve, and the benefits they bring to your audience. This library then serves as the foundation of all product communications.

Here are the steps involved in creating a Value Map, and what it looks like (click on the images to expand them).

OSP Value Map Features

1) Product Analysis

We collect structured data about your product’s features in minute detail. Stakeholder interviews play a crucial part here, gathering input from developers, designers, investors, and users to ensure a well-rounded understanding of the product’s capabilities. A feature is an atomic unit of functionality in your product or offering. It can be technical (e.g. UTF-8 character support) or a service (e.g. partner listing in your portal).

OSP Value Map Feature Are and Value Case

2) Feature Areas

Next, we condense the collected information into logical-functional groups, that we call “feature areas.” Consider a content management system, for example. It might have a set of features supporting “Multisite Functionality” or “Multilingual Functionality”. Each of these is a feature area, addressing specific, general challenges like scaling or translation. Think of feature areas as groupings of related, granular features that all come together to serve the same purpose. For example, support for different character sets, integration with external APIs, and change tracking are all individual features that could contribute to the “Multilingual” feature area. We assign each feature area a name and a tagline, and map out the main value case it addresses.

OSP Value Map Feature Category

3) Feature Categories

We go one step further, grouping these feature areas into broader “feature categories.” A feature category presents a higher-level view of related challenges and solutions. For instance, both “Multisite” and “Multilingual” feature areas could fall under a “Scaling” category. Each category is also equipped with its own benefits, challenges, and solution framework, along with taglines. This approach helps offer an audience a better birds-eye view of your product and dive into the areas they care about most.

OSP Value Map

4) Product Positioning

With the feature areas and categories in place, we engage with stakeholders to prioritize and agree on the top features, giving us insight into the product marketing stategy. Based on these rankings, we can determine the top features and craft an overarching product tagline, positioning statement, and other key solution statements.

A single source of truth for your product communications

Once you’ve built the Value Map, it becomes the single source of truth for your communications. Combine it with your target personas and business goals to plan campaigns and editorial calendars. 

With your priorities in hand, we’ve developed a framework to get the most out of the Value Map: the OSP Product Communications Framework.

How it’s done: The OSP Product Communications Framework

Have you ever had a set of Lego bricks that you played around with to create a plane, house, or skyscraper? We think about Product Communication similarly. We choose from a set of communication components about your product to develop and shape the different product communications content you need: blogs, sales enablement assets, landing pages, and more.

These parts are themselves based on a factual, technical, and strategic foundation — the information in your Value Map.

Product Communications comprise several core components, many of which are already embedded within the Value Map:

  • Taglines: These are catchy summaries that capture your brand character, designed to attract the reader’s attention. They can also serve as devices at the Feature Category and Area Level.
  • Positioning Statements: These define what a product does and the value it delivers to a specific audience. The formula for a Product Positioning Statement is: “[Your brand], in [product category], helps [your audience] achieve [benefit/value you deliver] who [need/challenge] by [how you deliver value].”
  • Value Cases: These are comprehensive narratives that combine the Challenges, Solutions, and Benefits addressed by the product, articulating a compelling argument for why a product meets client needs:
    • Benefit: The transformation your product or service brings to your reader’s day, life, or business — essentially answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”
    • Challenge: The problems or needs that the reader identifies with, showcasing your empathy and understanding of their situation.
    • Solution: A detailed explanation of how your offering will solve the reader’s challenges and deliver the promised benefits.
  • Call-to-Action (CTA): A concise phrase (typically 2–8 words) directing the reader to do a specific thing, like “Sign up” or “Book a demo today.”
  • Call-to-Value: These are statements summarizing the benefits or painting an aspirational vision that will result from taking a given action. They can be used standalone or to provide context for a CTA. Examples include “Grow your audience” or “Extend the life and value delivery of your website.”

The way we combine these elements depends on what you want to create. Much like building with Lego bricks, product communications are functional. Every piece of the writing has a purpose.

When creating an asset, it’s crucial to be aware of its components and their functions. For example:

  • A product page needs to clearly convey the benefits of your offering, the challenges it addresses, and how it solves those challenges. It also requires clear CTAs or calls-to-value, snappy headers and taglines, perhaps pricing information or options, and so on.
  • A blog post about some aspect of your product or service might contain different elements such as anecdotes, stories, or explanations of the context that led to your solution. Although these may not be explicitly contained in your Value Map, you can use its Feature Areas to determine the blog post’s focus and narrative.

Each type of asset has a purpose. And the framework components also carry out specific tasks. Stay focused on the purpose of your asset and eliminate the irrelevant for effective communication

Value-based communications

An effective communication strategy goes beyond just listing product features and their instrumental value (i.e., what the product does for the user). It should be rooted in essential values such as empathy, clarity, and trust if it is to truly resonate with readers:

  • Empathy: Place yourself in your audience’s shoes to understand their unique challenges, needs, and contexts. Tailor your language to resonate with your audience — use business jargon for business readers and technical terminology for developers. However, ensure your writing is inclusive, accommodating for those new to your topic by providing explanations for industry-specific terms and jargon.
  • Clarity: Your goal should be to distill complicated and abstract technology concepts into clear, compelling product communication. Clear structuring in your writing and assets aids in consumption and understanding. For guidelines on formatting, headers, lists, and avoiding dense blocks of text, refer to OSP’s Writing and Editing Guide.
  • Trust: Building trust requires a combination of empathy, clarity, and accuracy.
    • By showcasing your understanding of the reader’s challenges, you instill trust, encouraging them to engage with your content further.
    • Being clear and honest about your product’s limitations also promotes trust — avoid selling “vaporware” or overhyping your product.
    • Accurate use and explanation of technical terminology also builds trust, demonstrating your expertise and transparency.
Frances Fei

Trust is the foundation for everything we do, and that if we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress.

– Frances Fei, Harvard Business School

The impact of messaging built on technical truth

OSP’s methodology is a great approach for all public-facing and internal communication materials: it enhances marketing and messaging across all journey stages and sales funnel tiers, ensures sales materials are factual and devoid of hyperbole, and supports other technical communications.

Fact-based positioning and messaging mean that your sales and marketing teams communicate accurate and genuine information, eliminating the risk of false claims. Your marketing maintains its authenticity, gaining greater appeal as potential customers progress through the product adoption journey.

This commitment to clear communication at each stage of the adoption journey allows potential adopters to quickly understand whether the problems they have will be solved with the solutions you’re offering. It also facilitates better expectation management by helping them recognize the benefits of the features they are trialing or intending to test.

The Value Map serves as a single source of truth, equipping you with agreed-upon terms, language, and concepts. These can be readily utilized for product pages on your website, brochures, sales resources, and more. Moreover, this approach ensures that the un-siloed technical truths are accessible to everyone, leading to accurate descriptions of features and the value they deliver

OSP: Your partner for technical communication

We at OSP are committed to helping you unlock the true potential of your product through an effective product marketing strategy. The OSP Value Map lets you cut through the complexity, align your stakeholders, and communicate effectively by establishing a strong technical foundation and holistic view of your product’s value. It supports a strategic content approach that lets you build your assets from logical, fact-based components, all while embodying empathy, clarity, and trust to make them resonate with your audience.

If you’re ready to transform your product’s narrative together through persuasive messaging rooted in technical truth, get in touch with us today!

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