Just like the conditions necessary for life on our planet depend on its placement in the solar system—which is neither too close nor too far from the sun. A brand’s style of communication as well as the message that it communicates, have to be perfectly tailored to a specific audience in order to be heard and understood.
If you look at all the successful startup unicorns that exist today, you can see a pattern. Pretty much all of them have gone through a major shift after realising something important. That realization was that true differentiation is not achieved with a radical product or service, but through a unique identity that can’t be replicated by competitors.
Building that unique identity is not as easy as it might sound though. So here are three important tips that will help you find your Goldilocks zone.
1. Speaking Directly To An Audience
Messaging is what allows a startup to have an appropriate tone of voice, one that helps its audience relate and connect with a brand vision on a deep and human level. To get to that though, you have to understand that you can’t please everyone. Inexperienced founders are scared of that idea and tend to use broad messaging because they don’t want to alienate anyone. So by trying to appeal to “Everyone”, the result they get is a generic and surface level—often very descriptive—style of communication.
When it comes to messaging and tone of voice, a good way to gauge if you’re on the right track is through customer profiles, or as we like to call them “Personas”. These are very detailed descriptions of two or three ideal customers, which you use to put yourself in their shoes whenever you’re making a decision. It might be difficult to do but this is where professional help is needed, because a branding expert will help you tune out your subjectivity. Once you have actual customers, it’s then easier to remodel your Personas and tweak them to better fit your audience.
2. Being The Best At Something Sells
The broader your audience is, the more overlap you will have with competitors. In contrast, being specific about what you do—and why you do it—narrows your audience down to a size that might seem too small, especially to a founder who wants to sell as many products to as many people. But on the other hand it gives you a higher chance at dominating that audience entirely or at least a big portion of it.
But aiming to be the best at something can be a double edged sword sometimes, here’s an example. Solarin was a $14k phone made by the company Sirin. In 2017 (only one year after it was launched) their CEO was forced to kill the project and pivot to a different model. The cause was simply that they went too granular, targeting a non-existing market with a brand that was then only focused on technology and no story.
“So much for super-private, high-end phones for the super-rich? Sirin [...] is laying off one-third, or 30, of its staff after seeing just $10 million in sales since launch. The startup is now weighing up a pivot of the business” TechCrunch.
3. Build A Solid Foundation Before Expanding
The first objection we get when we tell a founder that his or her startup’s audience is too broad, is that they don’t want to pigeonhole themselves. What they don’t realize is that as long as you keep your brand vision consistent as you grow, there shouldn't be a problem expanding your reach in the future. Look at it this way, once you have established your name in the market as the best at something, it is much easier to start offering more solutions to more people because you already have their trust. And as Steve Jobs famously said “A brand is simply trust”.
In contrast, there are many ways expanding your startup’s audience can go wrong. Some of which we touched on last week when talked about The Black Sheep Effect.
2020 will certainly be remembered as a rough start to this new decade, marked by events that might completely reshape the way people interact with each other. The times are changing, and if you want your startup’s ideas and voice to be heard, you need to pay close attention to how those ideas are communicated.