Are you talking to me?

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Posit Partners specializes in strategic positioning and messaging for cleantech enterprises. Our clients develop and sell products and services that are often highly technical or complex. The process is tough even when everyone can agree on who the target audience is. When they can’t, it can seem like an exercise in futility. This is because different people need to hear very different things.

Suppose you’re a software startup. You have to court at least three audiences simultaneously:

  • Investors—because you need funding;
  • Prospects—because you need paying customers; and
  • Prospective employees—because it takes talent to operate a company that people want to invest in and to create products that people want to buy.

Each of these audiences has one job to do.

  • Investors must ensure a decent return on capital. They’re looking for a great ROI.
  • Customers must find a solution to a problem. They’re looking for a great user experience.
  • Prospective employees must maximize the value of their skills. They’re looking for a great opportunity.

But you have three jobs to do: sell the ROI to the investor, sell the user experience to the customer, and sell the opportunity to the prospective employee. What’s needed, of course, are separate messages for each audience. But that takes research, analytical rigor and copywriting chops (i.e., time and money). So many companies lock themselves in a room, draft a brief multipurpose elevator pitch and call it a day. And that works out fine—until some phrase they threw in to appeal to an investor utterly confuses a customer.

Sound familiar? If you can invest the time and money to do messaging right, right away, you’ll benefit tremendously. But if you aren’t in a position to do so just yet, it makes sense to choose one audience to target first. Simultaneously sending multiple messages to multiple audiences only fills the communication lines with static. So take them one at a time, and start with the customer.

Investors want to know what is, and how it works. Customers want to know what it does, and why it matters.

If you spend your time telling prospective customers what it is and how it works, chances are slim that you’ll keep their interest. Instead, tell them what’s in it for them. That’s when they buy, and that’s when you book revenue, and that’s when an investor starts to pay attention.

Will you lose an investor’s interest by talking about what your product does, and why it matters? Not likely. In fact, those answers are critical to the success of your business. In a nutshell, having customers may help you attract investors, but having investors won’t help you attract customers. So start with a compelling value proposition for the end user. Start with the why. You can explain the how after you get that pitch meeting.

 

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