Why Messaging Matters: How to Ensure That You are Properly Telling Your Startup’s Story

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is figuring out how to properly tell their story. Oftentimes, a company will launch with a messaging platform that is confusing, fails to properly position products and services, and doesn’t speak in a way that resonates with the intended target audience. Another challenge that these same entrepreneurs face is not understanding the audience they are trying to reach and the voice that is necessary to grab their attention.

Whether a founder has developed a unique way to use AI and machine learning for manufacturing, or an early stage entrepreneur is just starting to work on funding for her fintech startup messaging is what really matters, no matter the type of startup. If you cannot tell your story and articulate what makes your idea different, defensible and disruptive, while saying all of this in the most direct way possible, your words won’t capture the attention of potential investors, partners and customers.

It all comes down to what we refer to as The 4 Ds, and your ability to answer the following questions:

  • What makes my idea different?
  • How is this idea defensible within my own vertical market and beyond?
  • Why is this idea disruptive and how will it change the industry I am targeting?
  • Are you being direct?

In this piece, we set out to help you understand how to develop a messaging platform that will clearly and directly sing to your target audiences and get them clamoring for what you have to offer.

Know thyself and the competition

It goes without saying that really understanding your product or service is of the utmost importance. Reading that sentence likely makes you laugh out loud, and I can hear you thinking, “Of course I know all about my business. I am living and breathing it day in and day out.”

I’m here to tell you that while many founders and entrepreneurs know what they are selling, they have no idea how their messaging stacks up against the competition.

Take a moment to write down your core differentiators or the features and benefits that make you stand out from the companies you are looking to displace. If you have a co-founder or employees, ask them to do the same exercise and don’t share your thoughts.

Now, look at how your key competitors are telling their story and identify how they define what makes their products different from and better than others in the marketplace. Once you compare your thoughts with what your co-founder(s) and/or employees are thinking, you’ll often find that not everyone is on the same page. Take this one step further and compare everyone’s ideas with that of the competition and you’ll likely see similarities in your messaging.

If you end up realizing that much of what you say is similar to your competition, go back to the drawing board. Take a closer look at your products and services and really dig into differentiators that set you apart from the other options out there. Once you’ve determined what makes you different, be sure that each and every person that is talking about your offering is on the same page. While messaging differentiation is important, consistency is also critical when telling your story.

Defend your differences

You’ve built up your messaging strategy and are ready to go public. When the other team comes racing your way in an effort to thwart your idea and squash your claims, what comes next? This is when you focus on building out a defensive messaging strategy.

Maybe you are first to market with an idea and have garnered a number of customers that are already showcasing success with your innovation. Get them to talk, develop case studies and really dig into why they have been able to successful. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and the best way to make and nurture that pudding is to let others support your claims.

What about patents? Are they issued or pending? If you have them in the works or have already received word from the USPTO that your application has been approved, then use this as a way to defend your ideas and stave off nagging competitors focused on bringing you down.

Having your defensive messaging strategy at the ready will go a long way when your competitors try to knock you down.

Define your disruption

Not every company is disruptive, but look very closely under your own hood as you delve into messaging development. As said above, maybe your disruption lives within a patent, maybe you are changing the way consumers are behaving or you’ve completely altered something in a customer’s daily life in a unique way.

As you strategize this important element of messaging, think about how to best identify and communicate what and how your technology or idea is disrupting an industry. Focusing on this component of messaging helps to define the leaders in an industry, as well as those who lag behind. Disruption will set you apart from the competition and elevate your status as a leading innovator.

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Say it easy, elegantly and intelligently

All too often, marketers throw out industry jargon that means next to nothing and do little to define your differentiators, defensibility and disruption. Keeping it simple when describing your business, product or service will go a long way and more easily resonate with the audience you are trying to reach.

Stay away from vapid words and phrases such as: “robust technology platform,” “innovative and strategic solution,” and “groundbreaking technology,” because these all sound like mere verbiage in a world filled with billions of marketing messages. Words and statements that cannot be qualified or quantified mean nothing to investors, customers and partners. Use verbiage that is easy to understand and relates to the challenges your audiences face on a day-to-day basis. If you cannot find a way to clearly articulate how your offering will improve the lives of the customers you are pursuing — or pay back investors and partners in spades — then you need to go back to the drawing board and rework your messaging. Once you’ve come up with what you think are the right words, test them out on potential customers, listen to their feedback and then rework again if necessary.

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