Why Your Messaging is Holding You Back

Written by Eddie Lee

As a budding hardware entrepreneur, you have a lot on your plate. Fundraising, prototyping, team-building—believe me, I get it. Marketing and branding can seem like an ill-afforded luxury with your time.

Of course, it all starts with a good product. But all too often, a creator’s mindset ends there when it comes to selling. You’ve poured so much of your heart and soul your product’s superior features that this is how you pitch it to others. The problem and harsh reality is, nobody cares about your product.

Really. Nobody cares.

Before you rage-close this tab, hear me out. My experience comes from the four Kickstarter campaigns my company launched, raising six-figures each time to the sum of $2.5 million. What I learned is that when you ask people who’ve never tried your product for money, your messaging is all you have.

To clarify, nobody cares about that cool thing you made. They care about how it’s going to affect them. Here are some tips to ensure your messaging is on point:

Sell the Hole, Not the Shovel

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It all boils down to your product’s Value Proposition, which is defined thusly:

Perceived Value = Perceived Benefits  —  Perceived Costs

If someone sees greater benefit than cost (monetary and otherwise), then they’re buying what you’re selling. It’s that simple. Your job is to create a positive value proposition by beefing up the “Benefits” in that equation (or reducing costs). That’s all marketing is.

Let’s say you created a new shovel. Someone asks, “why should I buy your shovel?” so you quickly list the following:

  • Strongest, lightest handle on the market
  • Custom-molded, anti-fatigue grip
  • Indestructible adamantium shovel head

Sounds really cool right? Turns out the person already has a “good-enough” shovel, has no idea how adamantium helps gardening, and walks away.

The problem that many creators have is focusing on the features rather than the benefits. You need to help the customer literally imagine a better life in their head because of your product.

Let’s look at that shovel again. There’s no denying that those features are incredibly compelling. Great job, seriously. But is an adamantium shovel head ultimately what gives your user satisfaction at the end of the day?

Or could it be the hole it let him dig in his yard, so he and his daughter could plant their first tree together? Or getting his car out of a snowed-in driveway fast enough to avoid getting chewed out for being late? Or just getting the chore over with so he could resume watching the game?


(All about the product)


(All about the user)

Strongest, lightest handle on the market.


Finish digging faster and with less effort than with other shovels.

Custom-molded, anti-fatigue grip.


Save your fingers and hands from painful blisters and reduce the risk of arthritis.

Indestructible adamantium shovel head.


Never worry about maintenance or replacing it in the future.

Exercise Time

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At this point, I hope the gears are already turning in your head as to how you can improve your product’s messaging. Here are some quick exercises you can do to get your thoughts onto paper.

1. Make a list

Pretty simple. List every feature of your product that makes it better than a competitor’s. Then, put them into a table like the one above and think about the human benefit this feature provides. Find the core benefits, the ones that no competitor either offers or matches with their products, and make them the center of your marketing message.

Some benefits are obviously more powerful than others. If your product can hit any of the following, then you’ll be in pretty good shape:

  1. Survival and enjoyment of life
  2. Freedom from fear and pain
  3. Comfortable living
  4. Protection of loved ones
  5. Social connection
  6. Sex
  7. Enjoying food and drink
  8. Approval and winning

2. Define your value proposition

After doing the above, complete the following sentence:

For X, who Y, I am making Z.

X = Your target user

Y = Their specific pain point or desire

Z = Your product and it’s core benefit

3. Make a one-liner

A major goal after all of this is to have a simple, one-line sentence that justifies why your product exists in this world. This sentence will guide your mission statement, taglines, advertising, pitching, etc. It’s your first impression done right.

Here’s how to tell if it’s any good:

  1. Can a random stranger immediately understand the benefits and what your product is?
  2. Can a venture capitalist who’s 3 beers in accurately recount it to a colleague at the bar?

I’ll now name this second one the “3-drink VC test”. It should be simple, yet compelling enough for anyone to recall in casual conversation. Basically, your messaging teaches people how to talk about you, by being clear about your value to them. And if you can get people talking, that’s when good things happen.

Good luck.

Learn more tips like this at HardwareCon 2018, the Bay Area’s Premier Hardware Innovation Conference on April 19th-20th.  Experience two full days of keynotes, panels and workshops focused on the most important topics around building a successful hardware company. Get" class="redactor-linkify-object">http://www.hardwarecon.com/">G... your tickets here now if you want to meet the hottest startups, investors and industry leaders across the global hardware ecosystem.

About The Author

Eddie Lee

Eddie Lee

President & Co-Founder of Podo Labs

Eddie Lee is the President and cofounder of Podo Labs, a hardware startup with multiple product lines ranging from Bluetooth speakers to stick-anywhere cameras. He is particularly experienced at crowdfunding marketing, raising $2.5M leading Podo Labs campaigns, and advising other companies that have raised a combined $8M more.

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