by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
Imagine yourself surrounded by the mesmerized, captive audience that you identified in Part 1 of this article series. What exactly will you offer them?
To recap, in Part 1, we covered the first three steps of a seven-step sequence for developing successful products, services, Web sites, or custom solutions:
1 – Identify one or more potential audiences consisting of the constituents you already serve, or might want to serve. These audiences might comprise clients, customers, subscribers, project collaborators, students, affiliates, or a combination in a particular industry. You can further segment these groups into sub-audiences who can benefit from specialized variations of your offerings.
2 – Interview your audience by polling your existing constituents for “burning questions” or problems related to your topic. Or, identify and describe in detail one or more fictitious characters who represent target audience members, known as personas. Each persona embodies distinct needs, desires, challenges, and problems.
3 – Write a mission statement for your offering that explains why your product, service, or solution should exist, as well as the specific purpose it will serve.
In Part 2 (this article), we’ll explore the remaining steps in the sequence to continue determining what to offer your audiences:
4 – List the features and benefits of your offering
5 – Write hypothetical “testimonials” for your offering
6 – Use all of the above to develop the actual offering
7 – Invent a compelling title for your offering
Step 4: List the Features and Benefits of Your Offering
Regarding the “burning questions” or problems your audience has, the offering you create will translate directly into features and benefits that address those concerns.
Checklist on clipboardFeatures are the characteristics of what your product, service, or solution does.
Benefits focus on the “So what?” angles. For instance, will your offering save time, reduce costs, avoid headaches, increase health, build wealth, or boost teamwork? How should the features make your audience feel? Examples:
Feature #1: My techniques are explained in a jargon-free style.
Benefit #1: [So what?] You and your colleagues don’t have to be experts in any particular technology or vocabulary to use my tool set. Everything is easy to learn, understand, and apply.
Feature #2: The techniques are designed for anyone to use.
Benefit #2: [So what?] You don’t need to be a CEO, boss, manager, or anyone in authority to propose valuable improvements. You can experience the satisfaction and rewards of positively influencing your colleagues and the results of the enterprise.
Feature #3: The techniques can be used a few at a time, or all together.
Benefit #3: [So what?] You can apply as few or as many tools as you like. You’re in complete control of the scope and timing. You don’t have to swallow a big, unwieldy pill to get the results you want.
Step 5: Write Hypothetical “Testimonials” for Your Offering
Before doing any serious work on a product, service, or custom solution, I often find it helpful to write short stories about how my imagined audience members are using what I am about to create. What unique advantages does my offering provide? Are my imaginary customers experiencing the benefits I’ve identified? I use the insights that emerge from hypothetical testimonials to fine-tune the requirements (although they won’t become substitutes for real-life accolades!).
For example, this story suggested benefits as well as an area for improvement:
“I’ve not yet seen any program cover so many critical topics in such a clear format. As a result of using it across our department, we’ve greatly improved our meeting participation, gotten rid of several aggravating work impediments, and started piloting a new training program (after a year of ‘analysis paralysis’). The best part is that we were able to choose the techniques that applied to our situation. Because of the improvements we’ve made, we avoided having to hire another claims adjuster this year, which will really help keep our costs down. That alone allowed the whole department to receive a long-overdue bonus! It would be great if you can also create an audio version that I can listen to during my daily commute. Even without that, your program has really helped us!”
— Barbara Smith, Lead Claims Adjuster, Acme Indemnity Co.
Step 6: Use All of the Above to Develop Your Actual Offering
So, how do you put all of this together? Depending on what you’re creating, the guidelines below can offer insight into the development process:
- Consider the form, look, and feel your offering will have, such as physical or information products, services, instruction, software systems, Web sites, or a combination. The needs of any personas you created can influence the interface design and usage requirements
- Choose a voice or perspective, particularly for information products (subject matter expert, interviewer/researcher, or repurposer/repackager of other material)
- Choose a framework, particularly for information products (e.g., chronological, problem/solution, modular, numerical, or compare/contrast frames of reference)
- Develop an outline, proposal, or specification, and fine-tune as needed
- Prepare the first draft of the content, proof, or prototype. For information products, if you can imagine having an informal conversation across a kitchen table with one of your personas, you can explain even complex ideas in a clear and engaging way. Then ask a group of trusted colleagues to review or beta test your material.Woman thinking with pad and paper
- Incorporate comments from the first review pass and save any testimonials
- Prepare second and subsequent drafts, distribute for review, incorporate comments, and save any testimonials
Step 7: Invent a Compelling Title for Your Offering
After pouring energy into your offering, spend quality time brainstorming an unforgettable name for your creation. This process may require several iterations. It’s ideal to enlist your review team — and even your constituents — to help select the snappiest, most memorable title.
By the end, you’ve identified, described, and interviewed potential audience members. You’ve developed a mission statement for your offering, listed the features and benefits, and envisioned customer successes. If you’ve used this information to shape and name your offering, you’ll have a carefully crafted and inspiring result.
Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of the award-winning “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” success program. She helps people “discover and recover” the profits their businesses may be losing every day through overlooked performance potential. To sign up for more free tips, visit her site at http://LearnShareProsper.com.