It’s always great to see new and emerging businesses launch into the market each year. According to Forbes.com, there are around 28 million small businesses in the U.S. The unfortunate side is this: out of these 28 million businesses, only half of them will stick around longer than 5 years.
Starting a business means making big time sacrifices and pulling all-nighters, night after night. So when a business closes after only a few years, it can be a tremendous disappointment for business owners.
There are a variety of factors that cause emerging businesses to fail, but the one thing I’m sure of is a high percentage of failed businesses didn’t have a clear messaging strategy.
It used to consist of a few well-crafted sentences describing your business that you could repeat and repeat, over and over again. Now, it’s essential to keep a consistent message across all channels (emails, your site’s copy, social media, press releases, trade shows— the list goes on…). And since it’s a noisy world out there, a slight confusion due to a poor execution of messaging can seriously harm a business.
A strong messaging strategy should include the “What, Why and Who” that describes your business. It’s what you say at cocktail parties or to a new potential client. “Describe your brand in under 30 seconds” sort of messaging.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when developing a messaging strategy. Put these at the top of your branding “to do” list.
“What, Why, and How” is more important than ever
“What are you?”
“Why are you doing it?”
“How are you doing it?”
That’s what people want to know about your business. Sometimes, businesses tend to focus primarily on sounding fun, clever, and witty, but that’s only half the battle. When it comes to explaining a service or a product—when it comes down to it—it’s all about clarity.
A well-constructed messaging strategy strikes a strong balance between clever and clear.
Last Fall during an event in Chicago, I had the pleasure of hearing Keith Ecker speak. He went back to the basics of storytelling by laying out the ground rules of how to use stories in business. The group of marketing directors, business owners, and content writers were in all awe. We had forgotten how simple it really is to scale back and remember the basics of storytelling to develop a strong brand through words. And what I remember most from his keynote was when he stated, “why is the engine that drives the story.” Because it was so simple, yet so important.
I find that when businesses focus on polishing their core message, it helps them stay consistent when communicating their businesses’ objectives.
Here are some examples of companies whose business objectives are insanely focused when it comes to structuring their core message. Each one includes the “what, why, and how”:
Dropbox: A free service that allows you to bring all your files including documents, photos, and videos anywhere and share them easily.
Uber: A transportation company that uses mobile apps to connect users with a driver in minutes.
MailChimp: An email marketing service that allows businesses to send emails faster and easier.
Google these brands and you will not be confused of who they are and why they exist.
These companies’ ways of talking about their brand are made clear through how they communicate ‘who’ and ‘why’ they are. In fact, MailChimp has a site called Voice & Tone dedicated to how the company’s shifts its tone of voice depending on the type of reader. Clever, huh? But while they adjust their tone, they don’t ever change their voice—that always remains the same.
The founder’s voice is a valuable tool
There’s no doubt companies are becoming more personal. Think about a press release. A press release is more like an agenda: an act of communicating updates of products and services. When a founder of a company goes straight to the press, it becomes a personal announcement. And while press releases still have value, especially for search engines, that extra personal touch can truly strengthen brand awareness.
As more businesses go virtual, companies that get their employees and leaders to share a single voice online will have the most success in delighting their clients virtually.
Image Above: Leo Widrich is one of the founders of Buffer, a fast-growing startup that makes social sharing easy. Instead of someone behind the scenes responding to my Tweet, he responded from his personal account.
And when that cool client flies in from—I don’t know—Fiji, you’re more likely to get together for coffee because you have delighted them from afar.
Business culture augments the company’s message
Most customers don’t want to just hear it, they want to see it. Look around. Does the business culture you have developed (or started to develop) align with how you’re communicating your company’s mission to the public? I’m not talking about the clichés of having a marquee light of a company name glowing above the front desk, or a pet mascot with its own bio under the “Our People” section on the company’s site.
No, no, no.
I’m talking about the type of people you hire, what they do every day for your customers, and how you treat them (are you a boss or a leader?) When a customer is trying to decide whether or not to trust your company, they don’t just want to hear about your culture— they want to see it in action.
Focusing on a clear and compelling message can help avoid a crash landing when your business is barely even in the air. Businesses hire people to not only do their brand design, but to structure customer personas, mission statements, and their overall messaging strategy. And in a world overwhelmed with content, it becomes noisy.
Be different—be the business that rocks at telling the world who you are.
P.S. Did you know Cubicle Ninjas offers services for all your branding needs? Request a quote today.
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