Communication plan for startups
They are the biggest supporters of yours ...until you petray their trust.
What consumers expect is not what bulk or retail buyers expect.
It's rapid or stable growth of their personality and income.
Having a Communication Plan and executing it is the most underestimated responsibility of the CEO in startups and at any times of whatever crisis happening, is it a startup or well-established and operating old company.
So lets make some things clear and give you some ideas to think of!
Prior any execution you must understand that due to your audience’s different backrounds – people do not understand you always in the same way! What is mandatory for some target groups is prohibited to communicate to others for a reason.
It’s not that communication with one target group is more important than with other. Priorities change, so does the content you communicate together with reasonings. Just make sure people are updated when they need to be about topics relevant to them at the time they need to make choices. Withholding information is regulated for some enterprises and cannot be avoided. Yet you could behave better starting immediately, if you haven’t already.
Why is this topic so important for me
I’ll tell you a story why I am so obsessed with this. I’ve always known that communication is the key to any success. I’ve spent nearly 20 years of my life helping other to communicate with their clients better. My learnings begun in my 20-ies when I had to make people behave the way I wanted them to. There are more ways to presuade them than just words, you know. But words with pictures and videos and music alltogether can make a huge difference.
But my story is about one startup which was running out of cash when their R&D was in the middle, the business model was not set, there were no paying clients + some other minor issues. They were well funded before, they just ran out of time again. Which was not so unexpected, considering. The problem for me was that at the time we offered them to help with funding, the CEO was on a vacation with kids, didn’t respond to our calls, emails, nothing. We all knew they had no time left. And then he responded, after few weeks, saying he was very busy finding new investors… Don’t get me wrong, I like this guy, he is very smart, the business is very smart and when ready it produces a huge amount of value. But they just did not communicate about it to parties most interested at all.
I asked why? The response was kind of unexpected, frank and honest though. I respect that CEO highly, but it still annoys me very much. Accidentally I know personally one of their investors – he is friend of mine for many decades. My friend expected this startup is not surviving as they hadn’t communicated him anything during last 1,5 years after he made his investment. And answer to my question was: “we spoke only to our major investors, your friend invested only few hundreds of thousands of €”. :O
I think this startup missed a lot cheaper ways to overcome this funding issue, based on all these successes they have had on the way. Instead they chose the hard way – to find new investors. Maybe it was the right decision, who knows, they got funded.
But what I’d suggest to concider is the power of community and power of existent investors. leaving them into dark made this struggle just much harder, unnecessarily in my mind. Therefore I share my thoughts you can read and argue with.
You are welcome to share your opinions on the bottom of this page by clicking “Explain better”. Thank you!
Communication with Investors
Investor’s expectation is that her/his investment is secured and it makes money in time without their active interfierence. In general investors expect their portfolio to grow its value or they expect dividends. Some expect both.
They have given you their money, usually it was because of trust or compelling evidence that it was a reasonably good deal or it served investor’s own agendas in some ways which is none of your business, yet very good to know.
What is essential for VC’s is sometimes not for Angel or Crowdfunding investors. Suggest you lay out your plan and identify KPI’s your investors are after. Presenting Annual or Quarterly Accounts might not be enough for some target groups. News about setbacks and required help are as valuable as success stories about new conquerred market or deal won. Investors are very interested to keep their money safe and if they could help you with relations they have, if they’d only knew.
Communication is not only for TOP3 or TOP10 investors, as I’ve noticed during my rather short period of being as startup advisor. Some startups have just forgotten their other investors – insulting them by leaving investors out of communication. Why? Because startupd simply did not organize a communication with investors as a strategic tool of their own well-being. Surprising? Yes. Are you any better?
Communication with clients
Start defining whos is your client. Is it a customer, consumer, client, retailer, bulk purchaser, intermediator… What it is that they buy, what is the value for then in your deal? In what business are you actually? What would be their KPI’s?
Are there more than 1 type of clients? Who are they? Can you define their Personas and/or is there Ideal Client Profile?
- After trial
- Paid service
These days it’s rather a standard that companies serve people from multiple markets simultaneously. So it is even more complicated. Therefore outlining exact Personas and designing communication policies for them is even more crucial. Having that clear picture of Personas and Customer Journeys you are able to mark touchpoints and define what kind of inrmation would be essential for these clients and what is rather spamming them.
BTW! The most common problem in email-marketing for example is spam – marketers have done poor work in defining WHO are these people they are communicating stuff they think it matters, but actually not. So ask yourself – does it make any good to spam wrong messages to right people? Or right messages to wrong people? Yeah, thought so.
Another matter in intecity. In email-marketing it is common to send at least 1x per month something. It creats expectation and habbit. 3weeks is even better. And in case of emergency NOW is the best timing. About email-marketing I have myself written a number of speaches and some videos of these are found here.
Don't wait too long - build a community
I cannot promote anyhthing as there’s no product yet, right? Wrong!
You gotta start building community and attracting people with problem you solve beofre you are there yet. There are numerosu reasons for that and I try to list out few of them for you.
1. You need lots of early adopters to give you valuable feedback you have missed yourself.
2. You need big number of people willing to pay for your service once it is ready. Attracting takes time. So give them sometjhing to wait for and keep them hanging. They’ve lived so many months, perhaps even years without your solution, they can live few more months.
3. You need to have buzz word to start spreading.
4. You need contributors, many of these might end up being your clients or employees or perhaps investors.
5. Community can have fights for you, you just need to hang around and participate if necessary to get the value out of conversations.
6. Community needs a manager who acts and orchestrates what is happening towards greater good.
For sure there are downsides, like telling others what you do. Laws of nature work here as well – be strong to attract talent before competition or join competition!
Communication with employees
Employees come to work for you for different reasons. By generalizing – you can tell there are multiple layers of them. Starting from founders, management board, mid-level, down to simple workers.
Some messages are for all of them, some not. Define the structure and order how your communication has to work and argument it why – make it an official policy and share it with your collegues.
So who are they exactly? How and what you need to tell them?
- Hiring/firing an employee.
- Restructuring – why, when, what, who, how, expected outcome.
- Sales is up/down/stable, what it means, who can/must change what, when, how.
- Market and/or econmocal situation is pro/against.
- Products/services updates, renewal, replacements.
- Change in ownership, new investors, new structure.
As you notice not all these topics are for all groups. Yet some are for all.
To keep up the motivation and good culture you gottta do something. Is it a communication via email, chat, zoom, or other verbal or physical form such as outdoor events with employees, teambuilding events or something alike, it’s up to context.
Having though these policies is a risk management question to run your business in long term. As if you can’t keep your employees happy, how can you keep your clients happy – to make any money…?
Lets wrap it up
Communication is today’s the most effective tool.
Have policies how to use that tool wisely, when, how, by whom.
Not using it means you are a sole soldier on a battlefield naked fighting with someone you don’t see.
Most likely you get killed by someone who even didn’t care who you were. Perhaps it was your investor or client, or employee.
Who knows? Nobody – unless you take control and tell them in an organized way, consistantly.
- Define at least given 3 categories of interested parties in your organization or startup.
- Describe their nature of interest and possvible KPI’s they react to and want to know about if any changes are to happen.
- Make a policies for all of these and confirm these with target groups’ representatives.
- Pick the right tools to deliver messages and set these tools to be used by your communication team.
- Implement these policies from day 1 of you being in charge.
- Write me a note what did it change in your organization.