As Your Startup Grows You Have More Explaining to Do
One of the most exciting points in any entrepreneurial endeavor is the moment when you have secured outside funding. It’s the ultimate validation: someone else believes your idea will work. To get to that point, you’ve already fine-tuned your business plan. You know what your brand represents and what makes it special. Now comes the hard part: you’ve got to communicate that to everyone else.
Granted, you have spent a lot of time honing your presentation skills. But now that you are beyond the initial startup phase, your audiences have just expanded almost exponentially. As a one or two person operation, your audiences were pretty narrow. As you grow into your new role, you have a whole new set of publics to concern yourself with.
Twenty years ago, the process was simpler than it is today. You had a reasonable assurance that messaging wouldn’t cross channels unless you wanted it to. Today, things are different. Every time you hit “send” on a digital document, you should be prepared for that message to be viewed by any of your current or potential publics.
For all of your audiences, the number one rule is to be open and honest. Never publish anything about your company that you can’t back up with facts. With every public you are dealing with, be as responsive as possible. You can expect to be held to a lighting-fast standard in every facet of your business. For the rest, here’s a breakdown of audiences you should be communicating with and advice for how to do it.
To have a viable business, you need to have sales. So your first priority should always be your clients. Good customer relations start and end with good research. Broad categories with age, education and income aren’t enough. Who is your customer? What are their interests? Are they visual or text-based learners? Do they shop on mobile, online, or in a physical store? These details are invaluable. Careful research will help you reach the people who are likely to be interested in your message. Good research also helps you visualize your customers and communicate to them in a personal way.
Your second most important public are your investors and they should always be in the loop. Keeping them happy is about profits, yes, but communication is also essential to building a good relationship. Good investor relations are about filtering. What information do they need or want to hear? Inundating them with too many messages can be just as detrimental as not sending enough data. Carefully evaluate each communication you send and determine its value to your investors before deciding whether to include them.
As you expand your business, you will no doubt find yourself in league with a variety of collaborators. This includes everyone from business partners to suppliers to joint ventures with other companies. This audience is extremely important to consider, especially in public communications about your company. Sponsors and collaborators will carefully evaluate your brand’s image before deciding to join forces. You should do the same when considering such relationships.
I don’t know of many companies in this day and age that aren’t using outside contractors in some capacity. This makes communications to your staff more imperative than ever before. Without daily face-to-face interactions, expectations, constructive criticism and even praise can all be misconstrued if you aren’t very clear and honest. Believe me when I say that one disgruntled employee can be the downfall of an otherwise sound business. Many businesses use Skype or private e-magazines to avoid outside information leaks.
Almost all businesses deal with some form of bureaucracy. For heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and construction, the government is one of your most important stakeholders, and should not be neglected. You may find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit as a result of sloppy communication in this area.
Now that you’re moving on to the next phase of your startup plan, don’t push communications to the background. It’s never been more important for you to control your message on every channel.