As Ash Maurya, the creator of the Lean Canvas and author of Running Lean and Scaling Lean famously said, ‘Your Product is not the product, your business model is the product’. While doing so, Maurya refers to the fact that most start-ups in the early stages of their evolution almost exclusively focus on building their product or service rather than developing their business model.
Founders believe that if they get their ‘product’ right, the market (and therefore, investors) will line up, cheque-booksand/or orders in hand. Sadly, fairy tales seldom pan out in real life. In today’s crowded and competitive market space, your business model is what gets you traction in the market and drives investment in your venture.
Even if you do have both a great product idea as well as first-pass business model in place, how do you get the world to buy into it? In the 1800’s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American writer and philosopher, said that if you ‘build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door’. That might have worked two hundred years ago; today, you need to be able to get out there and make people aware that your start-up exists, that you have genuine solutions to their ‘pains’, to establish trust and credibility and to persuade investors and customers to support you.
In this article, I invite you to consider my extension of Ash Maurya’s concept, which state’s that, especially for early-stage start-ups, ‘your product (or service or idea) is not the product, your communication ofit is’. Here’s why.
Communication IS Your Business
Crafting a great business model and developing a most useful product still does not a successful start-up make. The secret sauce that most early-stage ventures tend to leave out is building a culture and model of communication. And what good is a great model or wonderful idea if people do not get to know about it? Or if you are not effective in building the trust and credibility needed to get people to work with you, to invest in your business or to risk buying your product or service? These outcomes are all functions of how effectively your start-up its founders and employees communicate and pitch. A reasonably good product backed by a great campaign is far more likely to bring you success than a great product and ineffective or poor communication.
For early-stage start-ups Communication is your business – because it connects and enables every facet and function of the start-up, both internal as well as external. Internally, it is the ‘glue’ that helps to build and keep your teams running at peak performance. Externally, it is a source of competitive advantage by differentiating your company and its offerings, by building trust and brand salience, by effectively providing customers, suppliers, partners and investors information about the great things your company is doing and by persuading them to support your start-up.
Here are some questions to ask yourself – reflect on these points ( and be brutally honest with yourself whilst you do so), and decide upon what you are going to do to make your start-up more effective in the near future.
- Which is more important –communication within the organization or external to it?
- What is the level and quality of your communication with your fellow founders or pioneer employees?
- Do you have a communication function or champion in the team? Who is your Chief Pitching Officer or CPO?
- How effective are your internal and external meetings?
- Are you devoting enough time to developing core messages and communication strategy and sharing and discussing these with your team?
- Have you ever presented your business model using the Business Model Canvas or the Value Proposition Canvas rather than PowerPoint or Prezi?