elevator going up sign
There's a reason there are so many classes offered on perfecting your elevator pitch. PHOTO: Scott Szarapka

Over the last few weeks my team and I have been trying to make sense of the customer data platform (CDP) category of marketing tools. The CDP value proposition is to create a unified, complete picture of every customer that can be used to improve the customer journey and deliver a personalized customer experience across all marketing channels.  Customer experience nirvana!

In trying to categorize all the CDPs (there are more than 40), the single biggest challenge has been to find two or three meaningful sentences that describe what each product does.

This exercise got me thinking — isn’t delivering a product description to a prospect the starting point of every customer experience? And if so, why do we so regularly fall into the trap of co-opting the latest buzzwords to create descriptions that deliver no meaningful information about what a product does and the value it provides?

You be the judge: do you know what “the first open integrated platform to cover a full digital marketing strategy” is or does?

I don’t want to pick on any single company. I think most marketers struggle with creating a concise description of their business and products. That’s why there are so many courses and articles devoted to creating the perfect elevator pitch.

Related Article: We Don't Care About Your Mission Statement

How Does Your Product Description Stack Up? 

If you think your product descriptions may need some help, start by taking a look at your homepage. Is it clear what your company does and the value that you provide? Before you give yourself a pat on the back, double-check by testing your messaging externally. Get a few friendly colleagues outside of your company to take a look and play back to you what they think you do.

Next, ask the head of every department in your company and your executive team to send you the product description they use in communicating with prospects and employees. If they don’t use a product description, have them send you the two sentences they use to describe the company and your products when sending emails to vendors or external colleagues.

I’ll be very surprised if you find consistency across the organization. My guess is you’ll find a wide variety of descriptions, some of which will be long out of date.  Embarrassingly, I have to admit that we weren't all on the same page at my company, CabinetM, even though we are a small team. When we did this exercise, we found we had all been using a slightly different variant of a company and product description and were emphasizing different things about our business. It’s the old Indian tale of the blind men and the elephant.

Related Article: Craft Your DAM Elevator Pitch With 9 'Whys'

Mad Libs for Product Descriptions

If you decide your product description needs work, I recommend getting started by filling in the blanks in this paragraph:

The [COMPANY] [PRODUCT NAME] is a [PRODUCT CATEGORY] that [ADD VERB e.g. enables].

[CUSTOMER DESCRIPTION] to [DO WHAT]. Using [PRODUCT NAME], customers can [LIST KEY THINGS CUSTOMERS CAN DO]. 

The benefits of using [PRODUCT NAME] include: [LIST BENEFITS].

If your product has received external, objective, third-party validation or recognition, you can add a bonus sentence:

[PRODUCT] has been recognized by [THIRD PARTY] as a [RECOGNITION (with a link)].

Now go back and look at what you wrote and:

  • If you made up a new product category, delete it. Choose the correct, standard category for your product. Nobody is searching for your funky new category in which you are the only vendor.
  • If you mentioned machine learning, AI or blockchain as one of your differentiators, cross that out. Nobody cares how you do something, they care about the results they will get from using your product. And by the way, AI is not a feature.
  • If you used the words: first, best, only, leading, innovative or any other self-aggrandizing terminology, delete that as well. It may make you feel good, but no one will believe it.
  • If you felt compelled to put the word "cloud" anywhere in your description or in the product name, I implore you to take it out. How you deliver your service can be addressed once you are actually talking to a prospect.
  • Now read your product description out loud, preferably to your mother but in a pinch your CFO. Do they understand what you’ve written? If not, go back and remove all the big words you never use in everyday speech. This is not Scrabble — you don’t get extra points for using X and Q.
  • Finally, polish your text so it doesn’t sound stilted and robotic.

Related Article: 15 Worst Marketing Buzzwords of 2018

Share Your Product Description Far and Wide

Once you have your product description ready to go:

  • If your description is particularly long, consider creating a number of derivatives for different applications. For example: customer presentations and proposals, the About Us on your website, a description for the top and bottom of your press releases.
  • Share your company/product descriptions across the organization and make it clear that these should be used in all relevant communications until further notice.
  • Update your website with your new, easy to understand description.
  • If you are an enterprise technology vendor you should update your profile on CabinetM, Capterra, G2 Crowd, GetApp, Trust Radius and any other platform that provides a directory of tools relevant to your industry. Often, these platforms are the first place prospects are exposed to your company.  I’m astounded that companies can’t be bothered to make sure their descriptions are correct in product and business directories (there aren’t that many) — this should absolutely be a quarterly exercise.

Since I started writing this column, I’ve revised the CabinetM product description twice and am still working on it. I know it will never be perfect and that it will continue to evolve, but with each pass it’s getting better and more succinct. Good luck in writing yours — I’m happy to review yours if you will review mine!