So you’ve spent time understanding your customer’s user personas and jobs to be done, you’ve built a great product that solves your customers problems and you’ve honed a compelling story about your company and your idea. Now it’s time to think about how articulate your product and value proposition – and tell a great product story.
We often meet highly technical founders who build innovative products but struggle to explain them to their customers and investors, and sometimes, to their own team. Being able to articulate how your product helps customers achieve their goals is the cornerstone of a robust product roadmap.
Start by answering a few simple questions, like:
• What are your product’s features?
• What is your product’s architecture and how is it built up?
• Why are these features ideal for your target audience to get their job done?
• What specifically makes your product unique?
• Why should your customers trust and invest time/effort/money in your product?
The aim of your answers is to create clarity, for both your customers and your team. Clarity in what you offer, for whom, and why.
Define your product architecture
To achieve this clarity, it helps to create a visual structure or guide that breaks down your product or platform in a logical and granular way. This makes it easier for customers to see the product as a whole, as well as the sum of its parts. For example, B2B and SaaS companies can often be depicted as a stack with multiple layers. At the top, you’d have the overall product description or category name.
As your business grows, your product architecture will evolve. From 2019 to 2021, Freshworks described itself as a “Customer-for-Life Software Suite”. But a category name like this would be meaningless if the company couldn’t back this up with a suite of products that manage a customer in all their stages and facets. Hence, the next layer of the Freshworks stack shows the main product categories it offers; in this case Marketing, Sales, Success, and Support.
A third layer shows the features or more detailed products. A comprehensive platform like Freshworks has more granular products, e.g. Freshservice, Freshchat, Freshsales, etc. Mature platforms like this could potentially add multiple extra layers, as each of these products will have many different features. The goal of a clear product articulation is to balance detail and simplicity – so not all features might be shown upfront.
Lastly, the stack will show the foundational layer. This is often not a product that is sold separately; rather it’s the technology layer that enables the company to offer its products and features. Explaining this in a clear and transparent way helps a company create credibility by showing they have something unique and can really deliver the products they talk about. Freshworks, for example, has a dedicated section on its site that explains its platform and underlying technology.
Every SaaS founder should spend time thinking about how to structure their product in clear groups or building blocks. Getting this right at the start is crucial and makes the job of crafting your messaging and roadmap much easier. This problem is less apparent for B2C companies or two-sided platforms. A marketplace like Tokopedia, a super-app like Gojek or a two-sided model like Airbnb has a clear structure for thinking about its product: supply and demand, and the core platform that connects these two.
The visual below highlights the problems a platform or marketplace has to solve for the supply side of their platform. Which features do they offer for their merchants, hosts or drivers? Companies like Zilingo offer a comprehensive merchant platform with inventory solutions, pricing data, demand forecasting, financing solutions, and much more. These are all features to attract, serve, retain and delight suppliers on the platform.
Then there are capabilities in the core platform, those that connect buyers and sellers, and allow them to engage and transact. For example, reviews of buyers and sellers on Carousell; escrow and payments on Tokopedia; or credit scoring in the case of Funding Societies. Lastly, there will be the key features for the customer, or buyer or passenger on the demand-side of the platform.
The key takeaway is to strive for a strong product architecture, with clarity on key capabilities, products, features, and how they get the job done – all laid out in a structured, cohesive manner.
Define your value proposition
Now that you have explained your product and features, the next question to ask yourself is: so
• Why should your customers care about your product?
• What will your customers get out of your product that they cannot get
from a competitor’s products?
• How does this product help them deal with a challenge, or leverage an
• What value does your product ultimately deliver? How do you relieve
pain or create gain?
These questions are answered in your value proposition, which is a carefully-crafted explanation of the problems you solve for your ideal customer, how you do this, and what benefits your product delivers. Think of it as a short pitch that outlines the advantages of the product to a customer and lays out what makes your company or solution unique and superior to alternatives. It could be as simple as a line that says: “We help X do Y by offering Z”. Here is another approach:
When you write your value proposition, it is best to use action words to excite your customers and ensure the tone of the statement is well aligned with your brand. The key thing here is not to focus on the statement itself, or on playing with words. What matters is your ability to articulate how your customer will get value from your product. The statement of benefit should be crystal clear. Why? Because customers evaluate a product’s perceived value against the asking price.
To summarise, you should be able to articulate your product with absolute clarity and in a logical, structured way. But when talking about features, always link it strongly to benefits. Maintaining a laser-sharp focus on the value your user will get from using your product will help you communicate more clearly with your consumers, and shine a light on your product roadmap as your startup grows, scales and evolves.
- Define your value proposition with a simple statement, such as “We help X do Y by offering Z”, that illustrates why your customers care about your product, what they get out of it, and how your product delivers value.
- Strive for a strong product architecture, with clarity on key capabilities, products features, and how they get the job done – all laid out in a structured, cohesive manner.
- Link your product’s features strongly to benefits. Maintain a sharp focus on the value your user will get from using your product.
This post is part of the Surge Founder Starter Pack: Company Building Essentials for Early Stage Startups. To download the rest of the pack, click here.