One tough communication challenge businesses face when launching new products is the need to balance technical information for the people who want it. All the while, offering simple top-level messages for everyone else.
The So What? Test
A simple rule of thumb is to take the ‘So What?’ test.
Apple follows the test brilliantly. Although their launch presentations can get highly technical, speakers are taught to answer the question, So What?
For example, Apple also made some chip news recently with the launch of MacBook Pro notebooks with Apple’s custom-made silicon called M1 Pro. The chip’s technical specs are mind-numbing: 33.7 billion transistors, 8 high-performance cores, and much more.
“Simply put, it’s the world’s most powerful chip for a pro notebook,” according to an Apple vice president who spoke at the launch event. “Everything is incredibly fast and responsive. Apps wake instantly. It offers incredible performance and incredible battery life, so you can compile more code or edit more video on a single charge.”
In this case, the So What? test was intended for a specific audience: high-end content creators like editors, filmmakers, and musicians.
Effective communicators spend a lot of time getting to know the product’s target customer. Their message needs to answer these 3 key questions.
Key questions your comm needs to answer
- What is the customer’s pain?
- What does the customer find frustrating with current products?
- What will surprise and delight this customer?
The better you know your customer, the more effective you’ll be at crafting messages that resonate with them.
Don’t Bury the Lead
In journalism school, we were taught that a poorly-written article “buries the lead.” The same rule applies to a presentation, email, website, or marketing material for a new product. The technical details are important, but they’re just that–details.
The “lead” answers the question, So What?
I learned the powerful effect of the So What? test when I met with a team of executives preparing to launch a revolutionary medical device.
“Tell me about the product,” I asked the group.
“It’s the first dynamic volume CT-scan with 320 ultra high-resolution rows,” one executive excitedly responded.
“Well, that means it can image an entire organ in a single gantry rotation.”
“So What?” I asked again.
“Put this way, if you suffer a stroke or heart attack, it will make the difference between life and death.”
“Now I get it!” I exclaimed.
The presentation we created generated far more sales than the company had originally forecast. But as you can see, I had to repeat the question until we identified the essence of the story. Clear, compelling messages often take time to craft. First drafts are rarely the best ones.
Keep asking, “So What?” The exercise will pay off when your customers get excited about your new product or service.