We were thrilled to host our first event recently with our strategic partner Notion Capital, which included a panel discussion about developing messaging to build reputation and secure investment, with Scott Allison, CEO of Allison+Partners, Stephan Millard, Chief Platform Officer at Notion Capital and Rich Wilson, CMO of Relative Insight.
For early-stage companies, it’s very easy to become engulfed in product development and neglect a communications strategy. Message development and most importantly crafting an engaging story, is as critical as the development of the product, particularly if you wish to reach varied audiences in varied locations. When it comes to acquiring customers and securing funding, a company and its management’s ‘story’ is critical in establishing credibility. Scott Allison kicked off the session:
Messaging is dead! With too many startups, so much clutter and so fewer journalists – you can’t just have a great product, you need a great story too. – Scott Allison.
“It has to be articulate,” Stephen added. “When you get in front of an investor or potential customer, you need to personalise the message so that they can relate to it. Boil it down to 20-30 seconds so that someone can replay it easily – you might spin the story but there has to be a universal truth that cuts through.” He noted the easiest way to do this is to get past explaining how the product works, but rather focus on the problem it solves. For example, if your product helps banks make better investment decisions, that’s all you need to focus on. How the technology works is not what engages people.
As the CMO of a successful startup and with several others under his belt, Rich Wilson had some advice for his fellow startup founders in the audience:
Always try things out on your clients and customers. They’re the ones who are sold on you so ask for their feedback, you might be surprised as to what you hear. Don’t be afraid to ‘test’ your messages. – Rich Wilson.
Conversation then veered towards articulating different messages for different audiences. All three panelists agreed this was a hot topic. Each message needs a common theme but it needs modifying in order for it to resonate – proof points for current and prospective employees, clients, investors etc.
Additional tips included tearing up the PowerPoint deck, from Scott, and Stephen’s number one rule:
Write the way you speak. – Scott Allison.
Kill the clichés and the acronyms and use normal language – nobody wants to speak to the ‘technology advisor consultant executive’ and nobody wants to hear that you provide a ‘technology solution’. Try to boil your presentation down to a handful of slides featuring one commanding image or word, and then tell the story yourself, bringing your own passion and personality to the conversation.
Our panelists also took questions from the audience, which included one about the importance of B2B companies spending money on a public relations program.
Scott emphasised to the audience that we are living in a time where the line between B2B and B2C is blurred. “Everyone is a consumer so there is no reason why the boundaries can’t merge. One of the greatest challenges is finding the human element in a B2B story, which ultimately makes it relatable.”
Rich added that a typical customer will always Google the company, and a strong first page of search results gives a company authenticity and history, “PR helps your company be seen as respectable.”
The group finished by discussing the importance of case studies. Even though – especially in the B2B world – they may be hard to find. Proof of past successes and evangelists of your brand who will speak on your behalf are critical to establishing credibility. Scott ended on a final piece of wisdom:
The who is equally important to the why. People love a story they can tell. – Scott Allison.
Post produced in partnership with Allison+Partners.