Incorporating a few internal and external communication best practices will provide a solid foundation for future growth.
- Recognize the value of Public Relations – Word of mouth and tweeting generate interest and are a critical part of evangelizing today’s tech buyers. But a traditional PR program has access to analysts and editors who have a ready and loyal audience of readers. When an editor tweets or writes an article on your company, there may be thousands to tens of thousands that will view it. Industry analysts and editors also have the reputation of being objective experts. Having a third-party validation of your solution carries more weight than a self-endorsement. Engage a press counsel that has experience in your product sector. Leverage their experience and get introduced to the experts who cover products similar to yours. Influence these influencers with updates on market traction, technology innovation and messaging related to industry trends. Strive to build long-term relationships with the press and gain an understanding of what they need in order to produce publication content.
- Test your corporate message against external perspectives and research – Don’t drink the koolaid and blindly accept your management’s view of the world. Accepting internal rhetoric that promises your product to be “the first, unique, best, and customers are lined up to buy” likely won’t match reality and should be tested. Although a healthy dose of optimism is what marketing’s all about, don’t ignore what else is happening in the marketplace. Be honest. If you aren’t the first and the best – don’t build that into your golden pitch. (Also a word of caution: Be careful not to use too many acronyms and buzzwords.) Limit the superlatives – internally and externally. Bulletproof your messaging with industry analysts and experts familiar with your competition and the market you play in. Each product or service has a competitor of some type– a company cannot be a leader in a category of one. Challenge management to produce facts, surveys and projections to support the viability of a product roadmap. The common goal is for the company to be successful.
- Encourage communications between the technical and business groups in your organization – Resources in a startup are stretched but avoid the temptation to isolate your product development team from the people (typically sales and marketing) who are talking to your future customers. Technical developers sometimes get into developing “cool” technology without confirming that the latest gizmo is something that someone would want to pay for. Technologists who develop products in a vacuum without a focus on market requirements and opportunities will most likely produce a product that will not launch the company as expected. Encourage feedback from sales and marketing to the development team and monitor industry trends to align the product roadmap with future requirements.
- Equip employees with the proper tools needed to effectively communicate in the electronic age – Effective communication requires more than a mobile phone and an email account. Companies must set policies and standards for electronic meetings, instant messaging and conference lines. Equipping employees with software and hardware required for seamless communication keeps employees aligned and productive. The use of an electronic meeting software package (complete with login information) needs to be available to all who schedule meetings. Conference lines and their associated passwords must be known and contain local lines to the countries that are regularly included. Last but not least there needs to be a digital repository where employees can post internal communication such as corporate directories that include third party communication means and cell numbers. Set standards and guidelines for internal and external communications. Require phone calls to be returned and emails to be responded to as part of a responsible policy.
Adding these communication best practices to your technology startup will help to ensure success as your team grows and faces the challenges of moving new ideas and products into the market.