27 Jan 2016

How to target the right people: Aligning communications and operational goals

By Ben

Last week here at BGV we ran a workshop with our teams on strategic approaches to communications. Startups are often time and resource poor, and so it’s really important to think about how to approach communications in the most efficient and effective way. Below we offer our top tips on how to best approach your communications as a startup.

1. Align communications objectives with your business goals.
The first and most important step in developing a communications strategy is to set some communications goals and think about how these relate to your operational objectives. For example, you might have an operational goal to secure two major paying contracts over the next six months. Your communications objectives then would revolve around a) who needs to learn about your business for this to happen and b) what change needs to happen in their mind to persuade them to go with your service. Make these SMART objectives, so that they’re realistic and you can test and measure your activities against them over time.

2. Map out your target audiences
Your target audience can be split into two categories, primary and secondary. The easiest way to think about this is your primary audience are those that will directly be engaged in your service. Your secondary audience are those that are able to influence your primary audience to take the action you desire.

So for example if you are an education startup that is targeting schools, your primary audience might be head teachers, and your secondary audience could be parents that have the ability to influence the outcome of the school’s decision. How you approach these two different audiences may be completely different.

3. Clarify your key messages
Having set your primary and secondary audiences, now you need to figure out what these stakeholders need to know. It’s really important that for each audience you sketch out the key messages that you would like to get across.

So for that education startup, it might be that your product will save a school £X thousand per year, or that your product has been shown to improve educational outcomes by X%.

4. Use your networks to brainstorm how to reach your audience!
Get creative when you’re thinking about the right tools and activities to reach your audience. When we ran the workshop last week the teams got together and used an OpenIDEO framework to brainstorm ways they could reach their primary and secondary audiences. The teams were amazed at the number of helpful ideas coming out of the discussion. A fresh perspective can really open up ideas that you’ve never even thought of!

So throw your ideas out to friends, family, colleagues, or really anybody who might be able to give you some fresh insights. Think creatively – are there existing events and activities that you can piggy-back off? Are there respected organisations or networks you can partner with, or influential people that can endorse your product or service for you? Could you do some nifty research that will get you some media coverage and position your organisation as experts? It’s all about finding the right tool for the right audience with the right message.

5. Timeline and resources
Create a clear timeline for communications activity – ideally this should be incorporated into your existing project management tools. Make sure you’ve thought through the resources and budget required to get things done.

6. Test and measure!
It’s really important that you test and measure how your communications efforts have gone. There are loads of different tools available that you can use, and they don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for example now all offer basic analytics so you can see what kind of reach your posts are having. If you haven’t set up Google analytics, you really should. This can show you what kind of traffic you are getting to your site and the journey that your users are going through.

Use this information to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working. Revisit your communications strategy with these lessons in mind. It should be an ongoing process of testing, measuring, learning and adapting. This is the essence of a strategic – or lean – approach to communications.