Startups, get your messaging right in early days for a smooth sailing
Before a startup becomes a full-fledged business, it is just an ‘idea’. Your success in the early years, the signals you send to potential partners, employees, customers and investors, will depend largely on your messaging.
The Indian startup ecosystem is proof that ten startups might come up with similar ideas - all equally powerful, but only one will go on to become a success story. A lot goes into ensuring that the “little things” don’t end up killing your startup even before it truly takes shape. The least discussed among them is your communication strategy, your words, your clarity and your ability to convince and get buy-ins from your stakeholders.
Your words - new founders - have never mattered more. Intimidating as the premise might be, it is not that hard to get your messaging right. All you need is to ask the right questions and answer them with the right, powerful, engaging statements. That your words need to be back by action goes without saying.
Here is a laundry list of pointed questions to help startup founders and marketers to find the right words to communicate something as intangible as an ‘idea’.
Who are we and what are we doing?
The first step of your startup message development is to find the right words to describe who you are and what you are doing. Startups, especially those in the early stages, need that one powerful elevator pitch to say what their work will achieve. And no, it can’t be “changing the world”. Hyperboles are a bad idea as far as startup messaging is concerned. It will earn distrust, perhaps undeserved but that is often how perceptions work.
What’s the context? Or why are we doing it?
Context is truly the king of communication. If your messaging is unable to outright point out the gap in the market that your idea will fill, you are not doing it right. Think in terms of your end users’ location, lifestyle or business needs, and environment. Your context will come from there. As an online furniture market place, your existence is to take away the heartburn of exorbitant pricing in high-end stores and the chaos and inconvenience of furniture markets. That is your context, not just pretty furniture at throwaway prices. Context, when done right, is the emotional connect between your startup idea and your audience.
Who are you going to be speaking to and how?
The tonality and personality of your startup is as crucial as your message itself. Knowing and understanding your customers will help you find the right words to connect with them instantly. All startups aim to sound “cool” – that is an industry-wide flawed predisposition that everyone seems to have got onboard with. But if you are a hyperlocal online grocery mart, Urban Dictionary lingo will not get you far. If you are a fintech or B2B services startup, gravity is a given. Choose the words, tonality, and style that your audience will connect with, not the ones that will make you “cool and with it”.
What’s our emotional hook?
This is especially crucial for B2C startup marketing. You need to have some amount of human element or slice of life in your messaging. For example, some recent travel startups have focused on the need to connect with likeminded individuals in our otherwise lonely, increasingly online lives. It connects and humanizes their brand instantly. They are no longer just another “travel agent” because they are fulfilling real needs of real people, forming an instant connection with them.
Once you have answered these questions, you already have an idea about what you want to say. The next step is to simplify it – no jargons, no dreamy lines, and no hyperboles. Say what you need to say as simply and concisely as possible. Nobody has the time to dig deep into your words to find hidden meanings and nuances. Leave the job of copywriting to copywriters and ditch the “PR spins”. Honest, forthright, human messaging is the only way for startups to get it right.