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Your Public Messaging Strategy Starts With Your Inner Circle Entrepreneurs spend hours planning and developing key messaging strategies to broaden the reach of their business. Instead, start with an "inner circle" core of family, friends, colleagues, and most importantly an existing customer and vendor base.

By Adam Horlock

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Public messaging strategy for any startup or business must include a broad, audience-capturing strategy designed to build and keep a solid customer base. As entrepreneurs and startups, hours are spent planning strategies for public messaging and brand awareness. While time and money are well spent, in many cases, it assumes your family, friends, closest colleagues and collaborators, vendor partners, and other verticals understand what you do. Guess what: They probably do not. In many cases, clear messaging should start here.

Instead, many entrepreneurs immediately feel tasked with getting what they perceive as the "best messaging" to as many as possible. Mistakes, such as ad spending with no clear direction or strategy are made. We have all seen the little league sponsorship, billboard ads and ineffective social media ad buys. Before any spends are made, the strategy must come first.

For those lucky enough to start with referrals and a strong lead flow, build and own that before launching into costly campaigns, as it is almost always easier to build on an existing customer base than trying to spend time and money pursuing new audiences. While eventually necessary, maximize what you have before launching into new ad spends. For those who have to build from scratch or start with just a few core customers, it is vital that strategy comes first and consistency second. If what you do cannot be explained by your own family and closest friends and colleagues, how can the general public adequately explain or be compelled to purchase?

Start with your inner circle

First, you. Start over if you cannot explain the problem you solved in two to three sentences. Depending on how long it takes to explain, anything from key messaging to all-new brand strategy work may be needed. The fastest way to determine what is required is when working on the explanation or "elevator pitch," how quickly can you get to the core of the message that the ideal customer will care about and visually see themselves benefiting, rather than the capabilities or capacity your business offers that you care about.

Far too often, entrepreneurs and founders get stuck in their messaging, using an ongoing explanation of features, capacities and how great the company or customer service is rather than directly addressing the customer's need or problem. Every part of key messaging must be narrowly focused on solving customer problems, making better solutions for their needs and making the path to those solutions easy to utilize.

Second, speak with your inner circle. After multiple conversations, if your own family, friends and colleagues cannot adequately explain what you do and why you do it, how can a potential new investor or new customer?

This is a practical and undervalued way to start developing key messages and different sets of "elevator pitches" for different audiences, depending on the spread and diversity of your customer base. The best way to start is to choose those not involved in the same industry yet understand how vital getting key messaging right is to your business. While they may already understand some elements of your business beforehand, how you solve problems and provide solutions typically is not understood.

Consider this an inner circle focus group, and get them to ask questions and make suggestions. While not all will be helpful, you may be surprised by some of the responses, and if conducted properly, it will get you thinking about how much is being left on the table regarding sales with a lack of understanding from your customer base.

Third, customer base. Your customer base should be your most vital referral partners, with vendors a close second. Do they fully understand everything offered by your business to purchase more than what they currently are and to start referring others?

Too often, startups in growth mode want to push to gain more traction with a broader audience without first building on the existing audience currently purchasing. Start by asking this question: Has the purchasing power of the existing customer base been maximized, and is our public messaging strategy working to pursue this outcome? Does the existing customer base feel your brand's value and see increased spending on higher-cost goods and services as an investment and a better purchase?

How do key messaging, education of services and brand positioning employed by your business produce outcomes where existing customers would recommend not only purchasing from you but purchasing higher priced and better-valued goods and services repeatedly?

Build with public messaging strategy

Every successful marketing strategy must include a solid public messaging component that presents to the right audience the problems solved and the solutions offered. Without it, you may have the best solutions to save millions for other businesses or organizations. Yet, only some will understand how those solutions directly help or address their problems or needs.

Public messaging must capture a feeling of value, preferably by finding a space where your brand is seen as the only or the best place to purchase. From there, messaging must own that value, hold onto it and consistently tell that story repeatedly.

This is an area too essential to assume your brand has it right. Establish the core of the business, stay consistent and remember that you are not just selling products and services but a brand story. Tell it well and consistently.

Adam Horlock

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Operating Officer, Edit Media Consulting

Adam Horlock is the Chief Operating Officer for Edit Media Consulting. His agency offers PR, social media and business consulting services to brands nationally. He has made numerous media appearances and continues to be a resource for entrepreneurs nationwide.

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