messaging is a team sport

also: asking questions, differentiation, and supercharging competitions


This week, I’ve run a messaging workshop for a B2B SaaS for a niche I never knew existed — quotation and work preparation software for metalworking companies.

I’ll spare you the details, but all the work we did so far—from compiling the discovery questionnaire to running the messaging workshop—reminded me of a few truths:

  • there’s a lot of money in “boring” businesses

  • most “boring” industries are severely underserved

  • messaging is a team sport

Let’s leave the first two to the Twitter indie developers and focus on the last one.

Messaging is a team sport.

Having worked a lot with martech companies, I used to think you could devise compelling messaging alone — what kind of marketer are you if you can’t?

For years, I kinda-sorta kept managing to piece passable messaging together, with my domain knowledge carrying me through. But the moment I stepped out of a familiar domain, I lacked subject matter expertise, and let my impostor syndrome usher me into the safe space of familiarity.

What’s obvious to those of you with content marketing background took me literal years to realize.

You’re not supposed to have all the answers. There are subject matter experts for that. And when developing messaging, your—my—job is to translate someone’s subject matter expertise into a compelling set of ideas, not to make up shit that “sounds good.”

Take it from Gab Bujold, who helps B2B SaaS founders upgrade their messaging:

The one thing I wish founders and founding PMMs knew about good messaging is that it's a team sport, but the team should be representing the customer.

A team sport because you can't go by yourself and craft the perfect messaging before calling it a day—you need strategic perspectives, customer research, and the opportunity to share what's inside your head.

Move aside gut feelings and test how well your messaging resonates—while documenting customer data.

Gab Bujold, a literal gold bullion of a human being

And the messaging workshop for that metalworking software client would’ve been a disaster without a client-side subject matter expert to answer a barrage of questions from me.

What we ended up with after 135 minutes of talking about the market, the product, and how much boring and uninspired work goes into manufacturing the things we look at without a second thought was one of the best messaging canvases I’ve seen to date:

I had to expand the canvas size ~1.5X because of how much good, relevant info the subject matter expert provided.

A year or two ago, I’d be mortified to drag a client through a 2hr+ call about their business — am I not the professional who’s supposed to know this stuff?

Now, I know that me taking the time to learn as much about their business is what makes them confident in the choice of the consultant. And the time they spend to help me do that is an investment, not overhead waste.

A casual line at the 2:11:43 mark

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with a messaging project, or wonder why your website punches way below its weight, try bringing in not just copywriting chops, but subject matter expertise as well.

Things I found for you

Meme of the week

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