Promising Metrics

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A 10 point checklist for your company messaging

David Norris

ex-Partner @ Forward Partners

It's a strong advantage to be able to succinctly describe your company to customers, investors and team members.  The way they describe you will be a reflection on how you talk about yourself.  This "messaging" is critical to get right.

Key takeaways

  • Spend the time getting your message clear;
  • In the early days, be literal;
  • Give your customers and team the words to describe you with the 10 point checklist;
  • Consistency is key.


Finding your voice and identity as a company takes time.  A great exercise to bring clarity to your purpose and positioning is to get all of your key messaging down in one simple document.   You'll need to workshop this with your co-founders and team.  (It's not something that one person just writes up and then it's done).   Your team can then consistently use this messaging as a basis for communications in one to one conversations, in email, on social media profiles, on your website, etc. Spending the time to do this well will be worth it.

Be literal

In the early days of a product you need to describe what you do in a literal way.  The product attributes and it's benefits are the places to start.  If you start with aspirational or emotional statements you risk not explaining yourself. Recent Coke campaigns have looked like this...

coke 2010

"Open Happiness"? The language used in modern Coke ads is aspirational, it doesn't even attempt to describe the product.  That's because almost everyone on the planet knows what Coke is.  Coke don't need to describe what they do. But back in 1905, things were different.  Even Coke had to communicate what Coca-Cola is in a very literal way...

coke 1905  

Maybe that example is overly wordy for 2015, but you get my point.  New products need to describe themselves clearly so that customers know what it is they're meant to be buying.  This applies to tech startups too.

The 10 point checklist

To get to clarity, try filling out this checklist.  Work on it with your founding team.  Have your team review it.  Have your advisors review it.  Work it and re-work it until you are happy. Before you even get started, you need to have a clear idea of what you are doing, why you are doing it and what you stand for. Here's a suggestion of sections of that document....

1/ Strapline

A few words at most that describe the essence of what the company offers. Should be short and literal e.g. Xero, “Beautiful accounting software”

2/ In 10 words or less

How you would introduce the company in a short sentence when explaining what it does. Used verbally and in writing. e.g. Lexoo, "The smartest way to find a great lawyer"

3/ In 30 words or less

An extended version that you can use in emails and written communications.

4/ Vision

e.g. Disney “To make people happy” Not usually communicated directly to customers but the vision provides a True North for the company strategy

5/ Mission

Describes the outcomes that the company is seeking to achieve for it’s stakeholders. e.g. Amazon, “We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators”

6/ Proof points

Examples of how the brand lives up to its promise. Factual.

7/ Key facts

Customers, transactions, office location, founders, investors

8/ Target market and Personas

Primary target Secondary target Describe these as market segments as well as example buyer personas. It helps you to imagine who you are going to be communicating with.

9/ Competition

Who are the competition and why are you different?  It’s always better to talk about being different than being better.

10/ Tone of voice and style

What's your house style? Friendly, formal, cheeky, literal? Do you ever abbreviate your name or not?

Keep it consistent

Every time you describe what you're doing, on an email, in a pitch deck, use your messaging checklist.   Share the document with the whole team and encourage everyone to do the same.  Make a list of all the places that you communicate what you do and make sure they're consistent too (your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, AngelList etc.).  The more consistent you are, the more likely your message will hit home and be remembered. Your checklist can and will change over time as your company evolves.  Each time it does, you can use it to go back to all of your touch points and update them.  

Useful links


David Norris

ex-Partner @ Forward Partners

Scaleup operations expert, ex-COO of HouseTrip, Bookable and IOVOX, previously eCommerce and Website Operations Director at Expedia.

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