I’ve spent the last week in meetings. The good kind of meetings. The “coffee fueled, big brained, lots of ideas, and so many questions” type of meetings. I’ve been running through a SWOT analysis, marketing positioning exercise and whole product analysis with my new team and its reminded me of something really important - your values are more than just a cultural compass. They are more than the code on your wall, or the acronym you send around to new hires — your values are at the heart of your message, your product, and your promise.
The values your team exudes are the exact words that you should want to share with the world. They should be laced in your headers, your bylines, and your positioning pyramid. I think too often startups think of their “values” as internal beacons, and then they go spend months trying to come up with a “sellable” story. Yuck. Not only is that poor marketing, thats just a waste of time.
Wondering how you should sell your product? Look around at your teams and ask them what they love about your product. Why do they work there? What are they willing to stand behind…no matter how f*cked up it is at times. I guarantee their answers are the ones that should fall in your “stength” column, they are your UVPs, and all that other marketing jazz.
Who you are and what you offer should not be fabricated. It shouldn’t be composed by marketing gurus, and pulled together like some mad scientist experiment. It shouldn’t be “just outside of reach,” or “sort-of-kind-of” the truth.
You are your values. Return to them and there is your messaging. That’s what you lead with.
I read a great post by Dan Martell about what to do at a startup when things weren’t working out. He stressed returning to the Why (a personal favorite tip of mine) and he talked through the power in “doing less.” I believe the same applies here.
If you are in a startup messaging spiral things can get really rough. Your mind becomes full of adjectives, promises, competitive language and industry verbiage. It can get so bad that you start spitting out all the words…at once. (p.s. that never works).
Instead – return to exactly what this is all about — your company’s values. Why did your founders get this party started? Why do your employees show up in the morning with a spring in their step? What are they so damn proud of that their families now know every one of your features, technical liabilities and your latest Amazon bill total. It’s pretty simple really…sell what your team can’t stop talking about.
Of course it’s easier said than done. And let’s be honest you have to do all the other stuff to validate your message (I hope to get up some blog posts on these exercises specifically – let me know in the comments if you’d dig it), and get the team on board, but when it comes to the startup messaging spiral my best tip is - return to your values.
They are yours, and they are so strong. At the very least…they sure as hell will get you going in the right direction.