Finding language that resonates
Founder, CEO, Managing Partner & Resident Growth Hacker
Figure out how to talk about what you are doing, or the press will do it for you.
Language market fit: describing your product in a way that resonates with your market.
Language market fit is just as important as product market fit.
Lesson: Consumer Growth with Jim Scheinman
Step #7 Language Fit: Finding language that resonates
One of the pieces of growth hacking that is not really talked about enough is something that we talk about as language market fit or messaging fit. Messaging fit is as important as product market fit. When you look at product market fit the definition again is you have consumers that you've identified that love your product and are engaged with it and they're now using it. What the language market fit or the messaging fit is, is having the right language to describe what you're doing that resonates with the consumer market. And frankly a lot of engineering co-founders and even non-engineering co-founders don't understand that and don't think about it.
We spend a lot of time at Maven Ventures on the language market fit and messaging. It's critical for consumer companies to get that right. By the way, it's very difficult. And it starts with the name of company which I spend a lot of time on and I'm proud of. I've come up with many names of the companies but it could take months, sometimes years. One of my early investments was a company called PageOnce. It took about two a half or three years to change the name to a much better name which is now Check.
I came up with the name Tango. The original name of the company was called Skiggle and we changed that to Tango which had a much more friendly consumer ring to it and it just fit. Sometimes you just know when you have the right name of a company. One of the companies I helped name, one of my investments is called Zoom which is competitive to Skype and Google video calling. It's more of an enterprise play now, it's doing phenomenal. But Zoom is such a great, fun name for a video call product. It's somewhat descriptive, short and engaging.
When you talk about consumer products you need to think really deeply about the name that you're calling it. Two syllables or less is great. It should be fun and somewhat descriptive but it doesn't necessarily have to be descriptive. There's Apple computers, we can go down the list. That's a piece of language market fit or the messaging.
The other piece which is just as difficult or maybe more challenging is how do you talk about this product. What are you saying in your vision? How do you speak about it? What's the one sentence that you say when someone's like, "Oh, what does this company do?" "It's this." And part of it is a tag line, organizing the world's information and connecting the world. Part of it though is using the right kind of language that triggers what your potential product market fit is going to be, so they work hand in hand.
A lot of people flounder around for months or years trying to figure out product market fit without really understanding that a language market fit almost comes first because you could potentially direct what customer base you're going after by using the right language. If you don't control your own destiny, and especially around the language market fit then the press will do it for you. This was a big problem for Friendster. We never wanted to be known as a dating site. It was actually the worst thing for Friendster and for Facebook or any of these social networks.
The reality is most people were on the social networks early for dating. But it was a safe place for women because it wasn't about dating. Well the press decided that Friendster was a dating network and it was terrible we didn't actually get in front of that before. That's where I really learned this lesson. We really wanted to not be a dating network but we didn't know exactly what to call it so we didn't call it anything and the press called it a dating network. Facebook came out immediately and this was about replacing your college yearbook or your college Facebook and it was about just connecting people.
Even though 95% of the activity early on at Facebook was also about dating, that was the dirty secret, right? But because it wasn't about dating it was a much safer place for women in particular and men and women. And the same thing for you, you need to control your destiny; you need to tell the world what it is that you're doing so that you don't have anyone else, like the press, saying it before and for you.