Ask Yourself These 4 Questions to Win Your Messaging

Tailor Your Impact Startup Story to Drive Success with Different Audiences Including Investors

Who is your audience, and are they really listening?

We’re talked at, marketed to, served ads, cold called, counted as a view or tallied as an impression dozens of times an hour… but one metric that has yet to evolve is the measure of whether we’re actually listening.  Educator and author Randy Pausch once said “The size of your audience doesn’t matter. What’s important is that your audience is listening.” Is your audience listening?

As a startup founder, you have many different audiences to connect or influence. The audiences will change over time and sometimes, in the case of an investor presentation, the audience might be an audience of one. The difference between a check in hand and a “no thanks, we’ll pass” depends so much on how well you tailor your messaging to that person across the table or in your Zoom room.

In the early days of a startup, customer-facing messaging isn’t even likely on your radar. For pre-seed companies, the audience you need to sell to is likely your friends, family and anyone in your close orbit who will entertain the notion of an investment. And at this early point in your startup’s journey, what you are likely selling is your vision for driving impact and how you intend to bring your product to market. This “Friends and Family” round is about selling an idea and a person or founding team.

But as you begin to grow and, with some success, your circle of potential stakeholders grows larger and more diverse. Suddenly the story you sold during your friends and family round no longer resonates or connects with the new audiences with whom you need to build meaningful connections (or get checks from).  How can you ensure that your startup’s brand messages drive valuable outcomes? Start with making sure you are clear on who your most important audiences are, and what they need to hear from you.

Here are some questions to answer that will help ensure your messaging resonates and inspires action with the audiences for which it is intended. 

Question #1: Who are our primary and secondary target audiences?

Be as specific here as possible. Don’t run into the common issue of thinking you can be everything to everyone or you will fail to connect with anyone.  Who are your 2-3 primary audiences? These will change over time (today it might be Angel Investors and Potential Research Partners, for example, and then next year, it might be VCs and Potential Employees).

Question #2: What are their unique needs, characteristics?

Put yourself into the heads and hearts of your audiences. Do your research. What will be their concerns/hopes/fears? Once you’ve identified them, answer for them directly and early in your communications. Don’t make people wait to hear what they need to hear. The more you can empathize with the audiences you’re trying to reach, the more likely your message connects.

Question 3: What perception issues might we be facing with each of our target audiences?

Getting ahead of this question will help ensure you are proactive in addressing potential misconceptions or doubts. For example, potential investors might doubt your team has the right mix and caliber of talent to commercialize your technology or protect your IP. Or they might not think the market is ready for your innovation. By identifying potential perception issues up front, you can proactively develop messaging to address the issues and affirm your position as subject matter experts.

Question 4: What does each audience need to hear from us in order to take action?

WIth each communication, be sure to craft your messaging with a specific goal in mind. What do you want the audience to do after receiving the communication? Are you hoping they will entertain a second meeting? Enter into a partnership agreement? Sign up to receive your newsletter?  Make sure each communication, whether it be a web page, email, pitch presentation or company newsletter, is intentionally developed to achieve that action-oriented end goal.  With that top-of-mind, audit your messaging to ensure you are providing the focus, clarity, relevance and clear path to the desired action.

These questions are a great starting point as you consider how to craft your startup’s story to drive your desired outcomes across diverse audiences. The more you know your audience, the more equipped you will be to deliver effective, compelling messaging that drives results. 

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The Pitch

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