Positioning & the Gravity Assist

“If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do.”

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Q: What do psychology and orbital mechanics have to do with product marketing?
A: Both have lessons for great positioning. 

Read Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s a great book for non-technical audiences about the human brain. Since product marketers work on the human brain, you should make time to study it.

Kahneman’s quote goes to the heart of communication: simple language. How concisely & clearly can you say what your product does? Can you describe it in <15 words?

Example: Primavera’s P6:

Primavera’s software tool calculates the time it will take to complete a complex project.

Cool. How did we get there? First, DON’T run right at the target. Start by writing as complete a description as possible, with all the features and differentiators.

Running right at the target gets weaker results by putting the brevity goal between you and the outcome. It will stifle your creativity. It will take LONGER! 

Instead, borrow a trick from orbital mechanics, the gravity assist. The gravity assist got Mariner 10 to Mercury in 4 months, with the least fuel, by NOT flying straight at Mercury, but by aiming for Venus, and using its gravity to accelerate by slingshotting around it.

PMM gravity assist: the long writeup 

Primavera’s P6 software tool takes input data from project planners about the planned duration of each task in a complex project, combines that with information about which tasks need to be completed before which other tasks can start, to calculate minimum (earliest) start and end dates of every task and of the project as a whole. 

During a project’s execution, planned task start & end dates can be updated in P6 to the actual start and end dates of each task as they happen, and then recalculate the minimum start and end dates of every subsequent task – and of the project. 

Because recalculating the full schedule for thousands of tasks and dependencies is computationally expensive and can take hours or even days, P6 analyzes for each task which dependency chains would require recalculation if that task changes, so when changes occur, the tool selectively recalculates only those dependency chains impacted by tasks which have changed, reducing the time to recalculate the whole schedule from hours down to minutes. 

This lets project managers get a recalculated project schedule every time there is a change, so that the final end date is kept accurate, and project managers can share this new completion date with clients, partners, and staff.

OK, now you know about Primavera. A fuller writeup would also compare the product versus existing and competitive tools, examples of real customer uses, and technical details about why Primavera is uniquely able to do this. Put more on the table before you start taking stuff off.

Simplify, Reduce, in Stages

After the long write-up, head toward your goal. With more words written up front, it’s easy to write a compelling paragraph. Write one sentence for each paragraph:

Project planners use the Primavera P6 software tool to enter a complex project’s task dates and dependencies, to generate a project schedule. Once the project gets going, actual progress on tasks recalculates the project’s overall schedule. In order to keep the project schedule up-to-date daily, Primavera selectively recalculates only those portions of the project affected by actuals, so the update runs in minutes – and stakeholders are kept up to date. 

OK, good, now get simpler. Shorter. A spoken language description & what makes the product better than the alternative.

Primavera’s P6 software calculates the time it will take to do a complex project. P6 is unique because it recalculates schedule updates in minutes, not hours or days – as the work gets done – so you can keep the whole team up to date.

Finally, write what your product does in simple language, no pitching:

Primavera’s software calculates the time it will take to complete a complex project.

Good writers often write 2,000-5,000 words a day and then at the end of the week, cut 10,000 words down to 2,000 words. Be a good writer.

Happy writing!

The Front Porch
Moss Beach, California

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