19 thought leaders
Before you start external communication of your new startup company, STOP!
Take a deep breath. Grab a Moleskine notepad, sit down and ponder a few things first.
You’re starting with a clean slate in terms of your marketing communications. Whatever you do will set the tone, and before you know it, if you’re not a little bit planned you might start throwing mixed messages out into the marketplace.
This is not ideal — it’s a noisy world out there. Cutting through with clarity is hard at the best of times, but more so if your story is a muddled one.
I recommend spending a little time planning what I like to call your ‘Spheres of Conversation’ before mapping out and communicating via your ‘Spheres of Influence’. (These are the channels you will be using — we will look at these in a future article.)
Remember: There’s no need to overcook things and draw up some dense-looking strategic document that you’ll probably never end up looking at again. The idea is to bring about some clarity in how you will communicate your brand, and this can be achieved with just a few sheets of paper. (Personally I like using an A3 sketchpad to plot and plan such things).
Ask yourself: What conversations do you want to start, or be part of? What hot topics do you want to ignite debate around? What discussions do you want to lead?
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the importance of determining the ‘spheres of conversation’ for your startup company.
First, you need to answer these questions:
Once you’ve got an idea of the substance — your story and the basis for your content —I’m going to cover the channels you need to communicate to your audience in this article.
I like simplifying things. It’s important to spread your thinking across the multiple mediums available. You may refine your strategy later, leaning towards one media versus the others. But in the first instance, let’s look at the following:
As you can see, there are a lot of mediums through which to communicate with an aggregated audience. The question is which ones to use and in which order?
The trend of business owners using social media and content marketing strategies for their brand continued to grow in 2012, and will do so in 2013.
However, there is a sub-theme to this that has dominated my thoughts of late, and that is around being interesting as a brand.
More specifically, it’s about businesses doing interesting things that they can create content around.
As we know, interesting content—whether text, audio, video or image-based—stands a better chance of cutting through and being noticed by existing and potential customers. It is also more likely to be shared by online influencers, the media and people, thus potentially increasing the reach of your brand.
So what do you reckon?
Is your brand interesting? Are you doing things that are worthy of attention?
I’m not necessarily talking about the products you sell or the services you offer. Yes, you can certainly be creative in how you package these things: check out how Ashley Ambirge, from The Middle Finger Project, packages her copywriting services.
However, having an interesting approach to how you market your product or service range should be a given—something that gets you on to the starting blocks. But what could you be doing over and above that? What interesting things could your business be getting involved in that ensures you not only get off the blocks but bolt away from your competition?
We live in a world where people—your customers—are at once intensely connected to one another, while at the same time putting up virtual shutters to ignore ads and sales messages.
This makes it difficult for cashed-up brands to cut through to be seen and heard by the crowd, let alone businesses that haven’t exactly got excess budget to throw around on marketing gimmicks.
This means you need to be smarter today if you are to slice through all the white noise. It means you need to become good at telling stories that resonate with people on a human level.
People love stories. It’s always been that way, going back years and years when we would sit around a campfire and listen to someone spin a yarn or two. And the tradition continues today. But instead of huddling around a campfire, we are hunching over our smartphone.
Telling Power Stories
Sydney-based journalist, author and startup entrepreneur, Valerie Khoo, conveys this brilliantly in her new book ‘Power Stories’. Valerie writes that power stories are the ones you tell to influence, inspire and persuade — which business wouldn’t want to do that?
She says everyone has the storytelling gene; it’s just that with some people it’s been suppressed and, like an unused muscle, needs to be exercised if it is to become stronger and more powerful.
Valerie’s book outlines the ‘eight stories you must tell to build an epic business’, and importantly, explains in plain English techniques you can use to turn yourself into a master storyteller.
Small businesses have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to reaching out and communicating with consumers on a broad scale.
Unless you had a mountain of cash to splash (waste?) on advertising in mainstream media—or you had a story the tabloid press was clamoring after—reaching your audience en masse, on a sustained basis, has been notoriously difficult.
By the way, it still is difficult, but it’s eminently more do-able these days to expand your reach at little cost, within reason, compared to five or so years ago thanks to the power of social technologies.
Traditionally, ‘reach’ has been about targeting as many people as possible and hitting them with a one-way sales message to generate a quick transactional response. Strike, hit, run—give us your money, thanks for playing. No relationship, just a lot of effort invested in a ‘one night stand’.
This strategy used to work reasonably well too—during a time when people were starved of media choices, and the marketplace wasn’t so cluttered. Not today though.
We’re at war with noise. All we want is clarity. We want to deal with companies that are on our wavelength—that show us respect by not interrupting us and encroaching on our precious time. We want to do business with people whom we know, we like and we trust—businesses that add value to our lives in meaningful ways.
We live in a noisy, information-overloaded world. Research suggests we are exposed to something like 3,500 advertising messages every day, much of which washes over us and is ignored (actually, the figure is 99 per cent according to The Guardian in the UK which conducted the experiment back in 2005).
Add to the fact our already-busy lives have been made even busier through hyper-connectivity. We listen as much to our friends and peers as we do traditional sources of media. We take in information from such a dizzying array of channels that if you stopped and thought about it for a moment, your head would spin.
And your goal is to get your message through this insane vortex of noise, for it to be heard and understood by your target audience. Do you like a challenge?
SEO. Search engine optimisation. Utter those three words to many small business people and their eyes will quickly glaze over. I know mine did for a long time.
Yes, we’ve heard the term. Yes, we know it’s important if you want your business to be found on the web (or more specifically, to rank high in organic search, particularly on Google). But what does SEO mean when it comes to delivering content?
Understand the basics
According to Wikipedia, SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or web page in search engines’ natural, or unpaid (‘organic’), search results.
However, given we’re on the cusp of a content marketing revolution, and more and more companies are starting to use original online content as a means to attract potential customers to their blogs and websites, it’s absolutely vital that businesses get a handle on the basics of SEO—and in particular, the use of keywords and key phrases.