One of the hardest things about putting together a startup is actually putting down what makes you great, different, fascinating and compelling and tying it altogether into language that makes sense. It feels like it should be easy, but very few startups actually set out with a clear and crisp statement of what it is they do, why it’s different, and why it matters.
Most think they’ve checked this box and move on, but over time the business of actually getting that great idea moving takes over, the original idea changes, and the emphases change. The revenue model kicks in and the idealism of those first days gives way to pragmatism. Competition changes you, the website gets tweaked. And suddenly it’s not so clear anymore. You think you know what you mean, but somehow it doesn’t seem to get across so easily as it first seemed.
It’s time to get back to basics and refresh what it is you think you’re selling – and that’s where a little help from communications consultants could come in handy (at Spot On PR, we have recently defined a set of start-up-friendly services to help startups find affordable assistance). Challenging your assumptions, filtering your positioning through a hard dose of real-world fact, competitive pressure and some clear-cut guidelines for effective communication means your proposition comes out the other end honed – smart, sweet and clear-cut.
Five common startup positioning errors:
1. Confusing what you care about with what I care about
The things that drive you to create a great business may not be the same things that drive me in being attracted to the services or products you offer. Perhaps the most common start-up positioning and messaging errors are hiding the clear benefits to end users behind a wall of stuff they don’t actually want to hear about, let alone know. The positioning needs to be clearly communicated, well targeted and benefit-led.
2. Showing your insecurities
“With over 150 years of combined experience…” So when was the last time you heard IBM talk about its combined experience? Let’s take the expertise as read – or find another way to communicate it than a statement that screams ‘We’re concerned about our inexperience.’ It’s not just experience – all too frequently companies say what they don’t want to say in the way they don’t say it!
3. Too much information
There’s actually a skill to using fewer words to communicate a meaning – and it’s never more important than when you’re getting across what your startup represents: what it offers, how it works, why it matters to me. Beating around the bush, prevaricating and including information that’s not necessary in those first few important seconds wastes valuable attention span. A lack of prioritization waters down your message and can confuse people right when you need them to understand you the most. So say what’s critical first, and the other stuff can come down the line.
4. A question of tone
You might well be impelled by a sense of wide-eyed optimism and a mission to save humanity, but is that what you truly want to project? Brands have personality – ideally qualities that are truly reflected throughout the organisation and its work. What are your values - what’s your brand personality? How does that personality map to your positioning? Will it resonate with your target audiences – your customers? And is it clearly different to your competitors?
5. Consistency is everything
Once you’ve defined your brand’s values and personality and
carved out your clearly differentiated positioning, it’s time to
implement that across your whole company proposition, from the
images you use to the language you choose. It’s all about
consistency – if your key asset is speed, for instance, then speed
should be what you’re all about. Once you’re clear about your
goals, your communications should be just as clear in helping you
reach those goals. That means being discoverable, shareable and
engaging to your customers, and communicating consistently