A good elevator pitch can be the difference between millions of dollars in funding and nothing. Investors need to hear a consistent, compelling and credible story in order to invest.
The same goes for the media. Telling the story right is more than just a list of products and solutions. Treating messaging as an afterthought has needlessly handicapped some of the most promising ventures.
I have helped guide many early stage companies to market. Here are three common pitfalls.
Overly technical language
You’re an expert in a specific area of the sprawling financial system such as derivatives clearing, international payments, or corporate bond trading and have created a solution that solves a common bugbear. Intent on demonstrating your wealth of experience - you naturally articulate your message in highly technical language to a niche audience, inaccessible to the wider market.
This is bad because you are only talking to experienced end-users of your product. Important stakeholders like investors, trade bodies, regulators may tune out before you get to the point.
Widely unrealistic promises
In blockchain, everything is going to “change the world.” While it’s important to have a vision, articulating wild ambitions without a clear plan is setting yourself up for a fall. Avoid commonly used buzzwords such as ‘innovative’ or ‘disruptive’, unless you can prove how your product is entirely new and unique, and who exactly it will disrupt and why.
Not getting to the point fast enough
Attention spans are short. You have a short window to grab someone’s attention. Wordy and verbose language website copy, press releases and even sales decks is a good way to lose someone. Failure to get to the point fast enough will mean your message doesn’t cut through the noise.
And now here are my six golden rules to start up messaging:
1. The Fundamentals
What does your customer want? As a FinTech founder with industry experience this should be straightforward. Write a few paragraphs profiling different types of customer. This will ensure your message is relevant for your end-user.
Map stakeholders. List out the different groups who should hear your message, what information they need and ultimately, what you’re trying to get them to do. Put this in a grid to help measure effectiveness.
2. Market positioning
With a growing volume of capital flowing into early stage financial technology businesses from venture capital and increasingly, private equity houses – it’s becoming more difficult to stand out. Communicating a unique service offering without giving away trade secrets requires focusing on customer benefits. Customer case studies can be hard to secure - but extremely valuable.
3. Quantify the problem
Third-party facts and figures are your best friend. Source digestible, compelling facts from credible sources that best summarise the problem your business is trying to solve.
These should be relevant, recent and woven into your messaging. Journalists rely on this to stand up a story in front of their editors. Doing hard yards here can pay off, especially at a time when newsdesks are stretched and the number of reporters are in decline.
4. Show where you’re going
What’s your current product development, investment, client numbers, team size? What does the six or 12-month strategic roadmap look like? And finally what’s the ultimate goal? This will help tell your story now and where you’re going without sacrificing credibility.
5. Show opinion – don’t sit on the fence
Startups have greater room to say something controversial. This can be an effective technique to achieving media coverage as bigger firms with far more to lose refrain from taking a side. Still, it is important to have enough foresight to ensure you aren’t criticising future prospective clients!
Opinion doesn’t have to be confrontational. Journalists want to interview informed experts that offer insight and opinion on a range of topics. Offering views clearly and concisely will help generate media coverage when you don’t have news to announce, while also growing your profile.
6. Think seriously about imagery
Your company messaging can paint your firm as bleeding edge but if your imagery and corporate photography is strictly circa 1985, it won’t stick. Financial media crave compelling imagery and even video content. Match your brand identity to the message you’re trying to convey. It’s worth the investment.
This is a prerequisite for those elusive profile opportunities in high quality media publications. No reporter wants to publish a big profile piece with a grainy and outdated corporate headshot.
If you follow at least some of these rules you are well on your way to developing consistent, compelling and credible company messaging that will prove an asset to your business.
The reality of how quickly the market and business can evolve in the early years of the start-up game means you should regularly review your messaging to ensure it’s aligned with current and future goals.