A big part of launching a successful startup is building an authentic connection with users through the various communication touch points you have with them -- social media, email, blog posts, phone calls, etc.
These are all opportunities for setting the foundation for a long and happy relationship. You want this because it means a healthy Average Lifetime Value (ALV) for customers. In Founder V1.0 famed musician and author Amanda Palmer says that a lot of companies get their communication strategy wrong. (Yes, you can get it wrong!)
Many companies “think an authoritative voice is believable and miss the fact that a human voice is so much more desirable. There’s real gold in being authentically human. Over the last 10 years people have started to understand this, and are and saying ‘Hi, this is who we are.’ By doing this you endear yourself to people, because people like honesty.”
Well said, Amanda.
Today I want to show you how to communicate with consumers in a way that will allow an authentic voice to shine through so you can begin developing a strong connection with your consumers.
1. Set guidelines for your communication strategy.
The first thing you need to do is create a Voice and Tone Style Guide for your startup. The best way I can explain how to create one is to direct you to two stellar examples from MailChimp and Buffer.
According to MailChimp, a style guide helps all employees “write clear and consistent content across teams and channels. It goes beyond grammar rules, and actually breaks some, in the aim to empower, respect, educate and guide users in a way that is clear, useful, friendly and appropriate.
At MailChimp the voice and tone of the brand is: human, familiar, friendly and straightforward. Find an awesome summary of the guide here.
The Buffer team follows similar guidelines and uses communication that is:
- Friendly and yet unassuming
- Inviting and not bossy
- Grateful and not dismissive of customer’s time
- Personal and not formal
- Respectful and not degrading
- Open and not final
You can find a short but informative version of Buffer’s communication guidelines here.
I encourage you to read through both of the guides and then take some time to write your own. Don’t be afraid of simply adapting the MailChimp or Buffer guide for yourself - or even straight up duplicating it. These are brands that excel at corporate communication and are worthy of imitation in this area.
(BTW if you really want to dig deep into MailChimp’s voice and tone guide, check out this site with examples they share with their employees.)
Communicating with the right voice and tone will help you produce a connection with your consumers.
2. Use the right influencer to start the connection.
Launching a startup and building a brand takes time. When you first dive into marketing (especially social media marketing) it can feel really frustrating to speak with an audience of none. Or perhaps worse, a mix audience of your mom, your uncle and your college buddies.
While support from friends and family is nice, not all of them will fall into your target market. Actually I would be surprised if very many of them did. There are several ways you can start building your brand and reaching the right audience in an authentic way.
You can start spending hours upon hours seeking out and then engaging members of your audience on your own. Certainly this can work, but it can feel awkward and intrusive to people who have never heard of you before -- especially if you’re trying to do this at scale through mass messaging.
If you have some money to spend from an early round of financing or from your own savings you could start running an ad campaign. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks have really advanced targeting options that will ensure your ads are shown to the right people as long as you setup the targeting correctly.
While your ads will reach the right people, those people may not care to look at or engage with your ads at all. You could end up spending a lot of money on ad impressions with very little return.
Neither of those options is great when you’re being conscious of your time and money.
Instead of time consuming one-to-one outreach on social media or spending a lot of money on an ad campaign I suggest that you reach out to influencers. These are people who fit your target market profile and have a large following that also fits your target market profile.
Unlike an ad campaign where the viewer has no idea who you are or why they should care, an influencer can introduce your brand in a way that makes his or her audience really care. The influencer you select should project the same voice as your brand. Personable, authentic and knowledgeable. Really great influencers know their worth and they won’t work for free. They put in a lot of time and effort building their follower base and they’re running a business too. Be prepared to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to work with an influencer, but also be prepared to see immediate results.
Because influencers can be expensive, ask about their past results. They should be able to share case studies with you that discuss their impact on sales and a brand’s social media growth. Don’t work with influencers who want to charge high rates but do not have this information available.
On the flip side, do not let the cost of an influencer campaign cause you to turn away. This is a wise investment in your communication strategy when the time is right. That is to say when your startup is ready to launch and meet the masses!
3. Use all communication channels.
Once your influencer campaign has launched and awareness for your brand is growing, it’s important to stay committed to your brand voice. When Amelia Liana mentioned a new product from a small brand in one of her YouTube videos that product sold out within 24 hours. That’s why working with her will cost thousands of dollars, but there are other influencers you can work with that cost only hundreds of dollars. In some cases $500 or less may be an option.
Make sure all of your communication channels -- from social media to your website copy to your email marketing and product packaging -- communicate in a cohesive way.
In addition to your marketing communication channels, your PR strategy should also be informed by your brand voice, and most importantly your customer service language needs to take on the brand voice as well.
How are you feeling? I hope you’re feeling ready to create a strong connection with your consumers. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed though, that’s okay. In fact it is totally normal. Remember, you don’t need to write your communication style guide and launch your influencer campaign tonight. If you’re looking for a place to get started, I suggest reading through the MailChimp and Buffer guides linked above. You’ll find that they will help you immensely when it comes to writing a guide for your own startup. Don’t reinvent the wheel, improve upon it.