In this enlightening interview, a messaging guru unravels the art and future of creating compelling digital communication. He emphasizes the power of customer-centric messaging, shares his opinions on viewing AI as a replacement in content creation, and predicts trends in the SaaS market for 2024. Dive in to explore the secrets of standing out in the digital noise and discover what the future holds in this fast-evolving field.

Anthony’s Bio

Anthony Pierri, a partner at Fletch PMM, has a remarkable track record in the digital space, focusing on product positioning and website messaging for early-stage founders. Anthony's diverse experiences truly fuel his unique insights into digital messaging and trends.


Nat: Could you tell us about your personal journey and describe the mission behind Fletch PMM? Who are your primary clients?

Anthony Pierri: Together with my partner Robert, we've created Fletch PMM - a two-person consultancy that isn't confined to just giving advice. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our clients and help them implement the strategies we formulate. Mainly, we work with early-stage startups that face challenges in positioning and messaging, particularly in relation to their initial go-to-market efforts.

Our role is to help them refine their positioning, fine-tune their messaging, and, specifically, translate this into concrete results on their website pages. Whether it's rejuvenating the home page or crafting landing pages tailored for specific segments they're targeting, we're there to bring it to reality.

Nat: You work extensively with software startups and on your website, and you assert that many SaaS companies' homepages are poorly written. Could you delve into the reasons behind this claim and the common mistakes these companies make in their messaging?

Anthony Pierri: There are many factors contributing to this issue, but the prevalent one we observe is related to the current macroeconomic environment. With companies across the board tightening their belts, the purchasing rate for SaaS tools has seen a slump compared to a few years ago.

We see companies consistently encountering resistance from CFOs or finance departments during deal cycles, demanding justifications for ROI. In an attempt to meet these ROI-focused questions head-on, these companies tend to overhaul their website content, replacing product descriptions with potential outcomes and ROI benefits.

Suddenly, the focus shifts from what the product is to promising lofty outcomes - 'Boost your revenue,' 'Increase your deals,' 'Shorten your sales cycles.' But such a barrage of outcomes leaves the visitors wondering, 'What does this company actually do?' And, when they can't comprehend the product or how it functions, they are unlikely to believe the projected outcomes either.

The result? A homepage that offers little information about the product while failing to convince visitors about the ROI. This trend is alarmingly prevalent, and it seems that SaaS companies' websites have taken a turn for the worse in the past six months.

Nat: So, what are the main messaging elements that every tech company must incorporate on their website? Can you provide a brief structure of necessary messaging components for our readers?

Anthony Pierri: We tend to break it down into six key elements, each with its own subcategories. And those fall under two sides of the equation – the market side and the product side.

The first and foremost messaging element on the market side is identifying 'Who' your message is intended for. This could be a specific role such as marketing managers, a team like marketing teams, a type of company like small businesses, or an industry, say, data mining companies. Alternatively, you could target a specific use case that resonates with a diverse group.

The second element is 'The Problem' your potential customers face in the absence of your product. It is a pain point that opens the door for your product to enter the scene. For instance, Calendly targets anyone struggling with scheduling meetings over email.

The remaining four elements fall under the product side of the equation. These include the 'Product Category,' which helps customers understand where your product fits in the market and what they should compare it to.

Then we have 'Capabilities,' which are things the user can do with your product using its features. For example, in Slack, users can communicate with team members.

This leads us to 'Features' which enable those capabilities. Using the same example, the features would be direct messages and public channels.

Finally, we have 'Benefits,' which are the outcomes or ROI from using those capabilities. This might involve making processes faster or less frustrating.

A powerful web page should encompass all six of these elements - the target audience, the problem, product category, capabilities, features, and benefits.

Delve deeper into these elements by watching Anthony’s recent webinar – “Mastering product positioning and website messaging

Nat: In today's world, we are constantly bombarded with information. In such a scenario, how can content writers cut through the noise? Moreover, recent trends suggest avoiding certain 'forbidden words' in website messaging, such as 'cutting edge' or 'state-of-the-art'. What's your take on that? Are these terms truly taboo, or is there room for them when used appropriately?

Anthony Pierri: To make messaging as impactful as possible, we encourage the minimal use of fluff or words that a reader can easily gloss over. Phrases like 'all-in-one' or 'single source of truth' are so prevalent on SaaS websites that they tend to lose their impact.

However, the crux of good messaging isn't necessarily the individual word choice but how well it's anchored in the context of the end-user or visitor. Take the search engine DuckDuckGo as an example. When they entered an already mature product category, they had to clearly articulate why users should consider switching from Google or Bing. Their differentiation point was privacy - they made it clear that, unlike Google, they don't steal or track your data.

This principle can be applied to startups venturing into uncharted territories where there's no established competition to compare against. In such cases, you compare your product or service to the current way people are doing things. This is what we refer to as 'competitive differentiation' and 'contextual differentiation.'

It's less about strictly avoiding certain words or focusing on sentence length and more about meeting potential customers where they are. The key is creating customer-centric messaging that speaks the customer's language and resonates with them the moment they read it.

Nat: Let's delve into the role of AI in creating and personalizing messaging. Given that your work is closely tied to content creation, how do you perceive this development? Are you feeling threatened, or are you exploring new applications for it?

Anthony Pierri: Many people, particularly in B2B SaaS, immediately think of AI in terms of content creation at scale - generating a plethora of SEO web pages, landing pages, and so forth. But in our experience, the output is only as good as the prompt given to the AI.

When it comes to tasks like generating a landing page, the challenge lies in the fact that many people aren't certain what to highlight. There's a limit to how much information can be included - which features to focus on, which outcomes to tout, which customer types to address, and so on. If this is a struggle even without AI, having an AI create it - potentially a little less effectively - isn't really a desirable solution.

Instead, my partner and I view AI as an enhancer to our work. After we've decided on the structure of a homepage or a landing page, based on factors like market strategy, product category, market maturity, and company size, AI can help us fine-tune our messaging. For instance, if we're struggling to phrase a particular message, we can feed a sentence into a language model like chatGPT and ask for different variations. This way, AI serves as a useful tool in refining our content.

But it's important to note that current AI models draw from existing best practices, and our point of view is that many of these practices, especially in messaging, aren't very good. By relying heavily on these models, you're at risk of perpetuating ineffective habits since the AI simply averages what most people are doing.

So, while it's possible that AI might pose a threat five years or a decade from now, for now, we feel it would require a significant leap in technology for AI to become a genuine threat.

Nat: Can you share some trends you foresee for 2024, whether it's related to your field or observations from the market in general?

Anthony Pierri: Something we've noticed with SaaS companies is they tend to move in cycles, typically swinging between two strategies: bundling and unbundling.

The first approach is bundling, where a company takes various point solutions and combines them into a single platform. The value proposition here is usually about eliminating the inconvenience of having to jump between different tools by providing all that functionality in one place.

The second strategy is unbundling, where a company identifies a specific functionality that a larger platform is performing poorly and offers a dedicated solution that performs that function much better. Essentially, they're saying, "Add us to your platform, and we'll take care of this one thing ten times better."

Right now, we seem to be in a bundling cycle, as most startups we're in touch with are employing this strategy. However, I predict that by next year or the year after, we'll see a shift back to the unbundling strategy, as platforms resulting from bundling efforts typically perform poorly across all the functions they've combined.

However, I believe that the companies that will truly succeed are those that aren't just cycling between bundling and unbundling but are introducing truly innovative offerings that haven't been done before. We're talking about something similar to chatGPT here, where there's no real alternative - it's a brand new offering. Companies providing something genuinely new that didn't exist before are the ones that are going to reach the next level.

Rapid-fire round

Nat: "Less is more" or "Less is a bore"?

Anthony Pierri: From a product marketing perspective, less is definitely more. I would recommend leading with the most compelling aspects of your offering and eliminating the irrelevant details. The reality is that people's attention spans are shorter than ever.

Think of it like running a restaurant. If you have a best-selling item, that's what you want to highlight. You want people to come to your restaurant specifically to try this amazing dish. You wouldn't promote your restaurant by saying, "You have to come to our place - we have a million good dishes!" The focus should be on that one extraordinary offering that sets you apart.

Nat: What’s an example of particularly bad messaging?

Anthony Pierri: I think it would be enlightening for you to take a look at the ServiceNow page on their homepage or check out the ads they run on the Wall Street Journal podcast. It's remarkable, really.

I can't understand how someone can fill so much space without saying anything at all. So that would be a prime example to examine. I don't feel guilty poking a little fun at them, given that they are a multibillion-dollar, publicly traded company.

Nat: Is there an example of perfect messaging?

Anthony Pierri: Sure, this might be a bit of a niche example, but there's a guy who conducts 'landing page roasts'. Essentially, he creates videos in which he critiques the shortcomings of your landing page. His service is called "Roast My Landing Page," and the clarity of his website is simply remarkable.

It outlines exactly what you're getting, why you'd want it, and how the process works. When you read the page, you'll notice it hits every single one of the elements I mentioned earlier. It leaves you with no questions and is incredibly compelling. It's a great example of efficient and effective messaging.

Nat: If you met a 10-year-old Anthony, what would you tell him?

Anthony Pierri: I would probably tell him that many of the things he cares about now won't matter to him in 20 years.

But more specifically, I'd guide him toward exploring technology at a younger age. I discovered the tech field relatively late in my life and fell in love with it. So, if I could give my younger self a head start in this exciting world, I certainly would.

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