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Are you making this common founder mistake?

Thought Leadership published by Cofinitive, under Business Development, Innovation / Incubation, PR, Strategy

But we’ve seen too many founders leave thinking about their comms too late, which is a huge mistake!

Leaving it too late means a big backlog of work and huge costs to get launch-ready, and you may even find yourself re-doing things you’ve done before: rebranding to support your new product road-map or developing your third website in as many years because you hadn’t considered your customer.

Here are our top three reasons why founders should think comms earlier: 1. Good comms strategy is crucial to growth, 2. It takes time to build a brand, 3. Careful planning saves you money.

We often meet entrepreneurs and founders across the startup ecosystem and we’ve heard lots of things like:  

“I’ll worry about comms when the product is ready”

“We’re in R&D now, we don’t need to think about comms yet”

“I need to get my seed round, then I’ll think about comms”

“My tech is so ground-breaking, it’ll sell itself”

Now, we know as well as anyone that founders are pulled in a million directions from the beginning, and - in order to be successful in an early-stage startup - you have to be laser-focused on developing your technology. 

But we’ve seen too many founders leave thinking about their comms too late, which is a huge mistake!

Leaving it too late means a big backlog of work and huge costs to get launch-ready, and you may even find yourself re-doing things you’ve done before: rebranding to support your new product road-map or developing your third website in as many years because you hadn’t considered your customer.  

Here are our top three reasons why founders should think comms earlier:

  1. Good comms strategy is crucial to growth
  2. It takes time to build a brand
  3. Careful planning saves you money

Good comms strategy is crucial to growth

Your comms strategy is integral to your growth strategy, you really can’t have one without the other. If you’ve set out your growth plans, product roadmap and investment rounds, you really need a comms strategy to underpin all that.

And, building a comms strategy is so much more than setting up an Instagram page:

  • Who are your audiences, your stakeholders, what do they care about, how are you going to reach them? 
  • Planning to grow on three continents at once? Great, have you budgeted fully for the marketing activity you need to support that growth?  Who is going to do that work?
  • What about recruiting all those team members - what are they going to see that makes them want to work for you?

These are just some of the questions we ask when working with founders on their comms strategy, helping them to clarify their plans, as well as develop an integrated strategy to support them. Developing your strategy will also help to pull together communications, marketing, sales, product development and even recruitment under one cohesive vision. You’ll want to think through your business strategy in a structured way and ask yourself: what comms activities will we need to support this?

And, here is a tip we’ll add for free; your investors or potential investors will consider you to be more professional if you have a fully thought-through strategy, nothing says ‘newbie founder’ like poorly considered growth plans.  

It takes time to build a brand

Contrary to popular belief, things rarely ‘go-viral’ on their own, and even the best technology doesn’t sell itself.  What does sell technology is well planned and executed campaigns, combined with strategic business development, PR outreach and a strong brand underpinning it all.

In order to sustain growth, you’ll need to take time to build your overall brand: who you are, what you stand for, and what you do for people. This will help you to develop your company culture, give people an idea of why they might want to work for you instead of a competitor, and why an investor may be interested in your company. You’ll want to ensure you have time and a plan to develop content and campaigns, allow for organic growth, and potentially include paid activities to develop your brand.   

From there you’ll then be able to start looking at what your product marketing is going to look like. It’s really important to remember that your products are a part, not all of your corporate communications content.

Careful planning saves you money

Clarifying your comms plan, including goals, audiences, and aligning any activities to product road-maps, is essential to making sure your comms function supports the delivery of your business goals. And, planning your branding, comms and marketing activities early means you can do things in the right order, and get it right the first time, to support your long-term growth.

Time and time again, we see companies who don’t take time to develop an overall plan: maybe they put together a product site, with no corporate brand to sit under it; or most often, they end up with a hodgepodge of different executions of a brand, with slightly different versions in each pitch deck or new piece of collateral.  Not planning means companies have to spend money on new websites, logos or marketing collateral year after year because they haven’t thought through options or haven’t built the foundations of a brand which can cope with their growth plans or a need to pivot.

But, planning early doesn’t mean you have to do all the work in year one. Knowing what is coming helps you to budget, allocate work, add to your team when needed and reassure your board and investors that there aren’t any surprises ahead.

Taking time to look at your comms strategy early-on in your company’s timeline means you have the overview and foundations you need to plan fully for your planned growth. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, a little expert advice early on, and a small allocation of budget and time can save you lots of time and money during your growth phase. Your board and investors will be pleased to see a founder team who have a sensible approach to the realities of reaching a target market and really understand just how important a structured go-to-market plan is to growth.

If you’d like to talk about your comms with cofinitive, we run a monthly (free) comms clinic, get booked in here.

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