What if your messaging was your strongest business tool? How you deliver your brand to your audience plays a key role in the success of your business. Your code may be as clean as a whistle, but if you can’t convey what it does in a meaningful way, you’ll never have any customers using it.
As an angel investor, startup advisor and executive director of multiple accelerator programs, I hear a lot of pitches. And as an eight-time startup founder myself, I’ve been on the other side of the table as well – so I understand the challenges of developing a strong messaging platform.
My experience has taught me that rather than developing a single block of messaging to deliver to all audiences, it’s more useful to create a framework of messaging building blocks that can be pieced together as needed based on the target audience. To make this process easier, I developed the (C)lean Messaging framework – the same system that we use to help our portfolio startups develop their messaging.
What is (C)lean Messaging?
The (C)lean Messaging framework helps startup founders perfect their sales, marketing and investment messaging to achieve amazing results. (C)lean Messaging combines the listener’s needs with the business’s goals, creating a connection between the two – and then adds in a selection of anecdotes and compelling numbers to back it all up. This is how it works:
The human story
If you’ve ever sat in the audience at a pitch night, you’ve probably seen founders get on stage and kick off their allotted 7 minutes with a story about how the company was founded or about one of their customers. There’s a reason for this: using a human story allows the audience to understand the impact of your product. Think back to the moment when you came up with your idea: what human, realistic problems were you facing? This story – and customer success stories – put your solution in a human context, a valuable setting for proving your idea’s worth.
Example: Larry is from a small lobster farm in Maine. His father was a lobster farmer, his father’s father was a lobster farmer. One day, Larry decided that he wanted to grow his small family lobster business beyond Maine’s borders. Larry struggled to pull together the finances – at one point, he was sure he would fail – but he pulled through and raised enough money to bring the delicious, buttery flavor of Maine lobster to everyone in the US. Now, you’re eating Larry’s World-Famous Lobster, at the lowest prices in your family kitchen.
Something about the listener
What does your listener need? What problems do they have that you can solve? Conveying your fit is all about empathizing with your customer’s problems – and this is your chance to convey that. Think about these questions:
- What problem do they face that I can solve?
- How can I serve this group of listeners (customers)?
Continuing example: Larry started this company to make lobster accessible to all lobster lovers – regardless of their location and budget.
Something about you
It’s time to tell the listener more about yourself: why did you start this business? What’s your driving passion? This is your chance to tell your audience:
- Why did I make this product?
- How have I approached the process?
Continuing example: We created our company to bring the flavor of New England into the homes of all Americans.
Numbers themselves aren’t very memorable – but the way they make you feel sticks. Your statistics should be illustrative enough to convey emotion and an image, even if your audience doesn’t exactly remember what the stats are.
Continuing example: Unbound by geography, the lobster industry has the potential to surpass the national dairy industry within 15 years.
You’re fighting for every minute of your audience’s attention – so give them something short, sweet, and catchy to hang on to. Sound bites are just the trick and give your listener something clever to take away that they can easily repeat to their network. This could be your products tagline, a quick anecdote, or any other short phrase related to your product that you want immediately associated with your brand.
Continuing example: New England’s best in your family’s kitchen.
The (C)lean Message
The (C)lean Message is the final step in your process. This is a result of all the questions you asked yourself during the process to create a sentence that is Simple, Audience focused, Bite-sized, Ear worthy and Repeatable – a SABER sentence. This addresses your customers’ needs and your value adds at the same time.
Continuing example: At Larry’s World-Famous Lobster, you get world-class lobster at family prices.
Now that you’ve asked yourself all of the tough questions and crafted your (C)lean Message, it’s time to get out there and it a try. How will you know when to use your message? The answer is anytime, anywhere. The idea is that you’ve created your building blocks – now you just need to determine how to pull them together for different audiences.
You might be thinking that this is a lot of work just to communicate a simple message, but trust me that this exercise has a high ROI. You put a ton of time into building your company – so don’t let your messaging be the thing that stands between you and your audience.
Scott Brown, bestselling author of (C)lean Messaging, has been a long-time technologist, entrepreneur, and investor with a strong history of building companies from inception to profitability. As the founder of eight companies over the past 25 years, from topical analgesics to bounced email, Scott currently serves as the Executive Director of UpRamp leading ventures and startup engagement for the global connectivity industry in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. He boasts the dubious honor of spending $2.5m on the 21st worst Super Bowl ad in history.