Why marketing, communications and community are critical for startups
Growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley during the tech boom, I was immersed in one of the most vibrant and exciting technology communities in the world. The future was being created by bold entrepreneurs who dared to challenge established players and perspectives and by VCs who backed their vision with capital and expertise.
When I was at secondary school in California, my IT teacher asked our class to use the beta version of a new search engine created by Stanford students who were friends with her nephew. She encouraged us to support this brave startup that was taking on the big search engines. That was my first encounter with Google.
I’ve had the privilege of exploring the breadth and depth of London’s tech, fintech and investment ecosystem over the years, working with founders and management teams, investors, corporates, advisers, government, regulators and universities and understanding the critical roles they play in fostering innovation and supporting entrepreneurs and companies as they scale. I finally took the leap and joined a fintech startup a year ago.
As a friend and startup founder said to me, working for a startup is like being on a rollercoaster with its dizzying highs, its sinking lows and fleeting success which can vanish in an instant. You have to have passion and perseverance to see it through.
One of the most exciting phases of growth is the early stage when a team has a mission to solve a problem but faces a multitude of challenges to bring their product or service to life and to the market, including validation, funding, runway, roadmap and survival.
Even at this early stage, marketing, communications and community are crucial for success.
Communicate simply, clearly and consistently
The most powerful brands and people communicate their mission and vision simply, clearly and consistently. This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many don’t do this.
This is especially true in the B2B space. The audience is seen as comprised of faceless companies driving complex corporate agendas. It’s easy to forget that the people within these organisations – the senior decision-makers and teams who influence procurement and partnership decisions – are individual consumers driven by subjective reason, emotion and experience.
In today’s hyper-connected world, they evaluate and benchmark products and services against everything they encounter professionally and personally. Global tech giants have transformed our expectations for seamless customer experience, real-time personalisation and on-demand services, and moved us toward integrated platforms, marketplaces and ecosystems, even in financial services.
Can you explain what your company does so simply that a child would understand? Remove technical language, jargon, acronyms, tiny text and complex diagrams. Simplify everything. Then test this relentlessly with your target audience and track, measure and analyse your feedback so you can derive insights and constantly improve.
When I joined Priviti, my first challenge was leading a rebrand. This was more than a new logo. It was a shift in how we communicate and how we are recognised and perceived.
I quickly learned that it’s difficult to explain a complex enterprise software solution simply and succinctly. Writing a punchy one-pager is much more challenging than creating a 20-slide deck!
The Lean Canvas is an effective tool. It forces you to focus and simplify so you can crystallise your value proposition and determine how you’re going to measure success.
Our mission – to help companies manage granular consent for data sharing and mitigate regulatory compliance and data privacy risk – had to connect with a powerful vision and impact. Our vision is to give consumers control over their data and empower businesses to collaborate with trust.
Know your mission, audience and vision
What problem are you solving and for whom and what’s your measurable impact? Everything else, including your culture, brand image and strategy, should flow from these core aspects.
Agree and share your core messages with your team. Everyone should speak with a united voice. Consistency is key to achieving cut-through, especially if you’re an early-stage company with an unknown brand.
Direct communication is essential. The best teams are transparent, honest and collaborative. They reflect the same mission, vision and values. A study by Google shows that trust (“psychological safety”) is the most important factor contributing to a team’s effectiveness.
Join a powerful community
You are part of a powerful and collaborative community that is transforming our world.
London is the second most well-connected place for tech in the world after Silicon Valley according to Tech Nation’s 2018 report. There is a plethora of resources and groups to help you unlock your potential and boost your company’s growth.
Business development isn’t just about sales. Nurture long-term relationships built upon trust and positive collaboration. Share your mission and vision consistently so others understand what you do and how they can work with you. Your future clients and partners are often one or two degrees away from you and your network.
Investors are a critical catalyst for growth and provide invaluable capital, expertise and networks. They helped today’s tech giants scale when they were early-stage startups. Reinvested financial and human capital from successful exits is fuelling the growth of our tech ecosystem and enabling future giants to grow.
Diversity strengthens our community. As Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey said, “The only way we’re going to build a business of relevance is to have diversity of perspective, diversity of background. If we want to serve the world, we have to be the world.”
Make the global tech ecosystem even more powerful by adding your unique perspective. Don’t just drift toward the future; help shape it.