How do you simplify complex technology, so anyone can understand it?
You may think it’s about dumbing down your technology so a 4th grader could grasp it. Or finding the perfect 3 words that sum up everything.
You can spend hours iterating on that stuff, and it still won’t simplify your message.
Here’s the secret to simpler product messaging: You must see your product through your customer’s eyes, not yours.
That means shifting your perspective away from your product features and towards your customers’ pains and motivations.
This exercise doesn’t feel natural to most startup founders. Your product looks different when you frame it from your customer’s point of view. It may seem too normal and not innovative enough.
But this is the key to simpler, more effective messaging. And it’s a lot easier than trying to find a magic word that will help you stand out in a crowded market.
Here are some ways to get started.
Explore analogies for your product
Analogies are a great way to help people understand complex ideas. They spark new connections between disparate ideas, which can be a powerful way to simplify complicated technology.
Brainstorming analogies for how your product fits into your customer’s life is a great way to simplify the value from a different point of view.
Set 30 minutes aside to fill in the blanks: “Our product is like a _______________.” Challenge yourself to come up with as many analogies as you can.
Go beyond comparison with another tech product, like: “we’re the Uber of dry-cleaning.” Instead, try comparing your product to something entirely unrelated, like:
- Other tools (eg, the Swiss Army Knife for customer care)
- Objects (eg, the magic wand of meal planning)
- People (eg, sherpas of email list growth)
Drift does it nicely here:
Instead of highlighting the automation, Drift simply frames its bots as a personal assistant for your website. This not only clarifies what a bot is , it elevates the value of having one on your site.
Introduce your customer’s problem, not your solution
Founders often ask me how to introduce their product in a simple, digestible way. How on earth do you cram all that technology and potential into one or two sentences?
You can’t. And it’s a waste of time anyway.
There are a zillion-and-one products confidently announcing their existence to the world like this:
“Introducing the first predictive pricing solution of its kind.”
“Transform engagement with our powerful all-in-one platform”
“Real-time web analytics, reimagined”
They may seem like helpful, high-level intros, but they leave the reader none the wiser. Worse, they don’t give you a compelling reason to keep reading.
The simplest way to introduce your solution is to not try to introduce your solution. Instead, introduce the #1 problem it solves for your customer.
Talk about your customer, not your platform.
Simple, my favorite online bank, calls out a very unique problem it solves:
The fear of checking your account balance is real. I’ve had it. When I read that headline, I feel as if it’s speaking to me. I’m intrigued and want to know more.
Products are built to solve problems. But it’s easy to lose sight of those problems as your product develops. Especially with so many cool features and new possibilities getting thrown into the mix.
Clarify what problem you solve. Make it as unique and specific as you can. Then try introducing your product that way, without ever mentioning the technology.
Say it like your customers would
Check your current product messaging and ask yourself — honestly — if those words would likely come out of your customer’s mouth.
Do they know what “predictive” really means?
Do they get annoyed by “friction” in their daily routine?
Do they even know what big data is?
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of tech lingo and the latest buzzword. They may seem necessary in your space, but I promise you, they’re not.
You’re speaking one language while your customer is speaking an entirely different one. Tech talk distances you from the people you’re trying to reach.
If you want to simplify a feature, describe it in a way that makes sense to the uninitiated.
See how Wealthfront—a robo-investment company—talks about its analytics:
Instead of delving into predictive analytics, Wealthfront talks about what it means to their customers: the ability to know if your finances are on track. To know when you can retire or buy that dream home.
That is what people are deciding to buy from Wealthfront. Not their algorithms or platform.
Simplicity means stepping outside of your product
If you’re serious about simplifying your product messaging, it’s time to talk to your customers. (If you don’t have customers yet, talk to someone who best represents your ideal customer.)
Ask them why they sought out a solution like yours in the first place. What do they find most valuable? How did your product change things for them?
They’ll tell you the simple reasons they chose your technology, without ever mentioning the technology.
Take their lead!