When you’re building the next generation of disruptive start up, it’s tempting to fall into a communications echo chamber. You’re surrounded by other like minded individuals who can see a clear vision for a future that’s only improve by the technology you’re building. Most founders are aware of potential pitfalls and traps for their products, but it’s easy to only focus on the sunlit uplands ahead and cast off the doubts and criticism voiced by those outside of your bubble.
As your disruptive technology takes off, you know that to move beyond concepts and into commercialisation you need to start building a wider user base. That means handling the four biggest comms challenges that come when communicating disruptive technologies to the outside world. Here’s what they are, and how you can overcome them.
Technology needs trust to be successful. Whether you’re utilising AI, data analysis or IoT, at some point you’re going to need a user to purchase, download or share data in order to get your technology off the ground. However, it’s not just your own business model you’re building trust in, you need the public to trust the broader technology too. So if another company behaves unethically with their algorithms you’re going to come under the same scrutiny too, and trust in the wider concept driving your innovation will have been challenged too.
That’s why when you’re communicating around disruptive ideas you also need to be a champion for best practice in your industry and technology field. It’s challenging. You need to take ownership of the narrative and push your messaging to take on outside threats. If you’re not representing your industry, someone else will be. It also shows potential customers that you’re aware of the issues they might face, the challenges they’ll be faced with from internal stakeholders, and that you’re the right start up to help them navigate that – not just as a vendor, but as a partner.
Few markets are stable – there’s always something changing, whether that’s customer demands, regulatory requirements or technology driving new services. Especially on the very cutting edge of innovation, you’re often trying to out-disrupt disruption. New products and services are bought, implemented, and then made obsolete by something else. For founders are building businesses in these markets, finding a balance between disruption, customer delivery, and a sustainable business model can be tough.
That’s why your market positioning and strategy planning is so essential to success. It helps you keep track of what’s changing in the world, identifies opportunities to pivot where needed, and ensures you’re aligning successfully to the market. Netflix wouldn’t be the business it is today if it stopped after it implemented online viewing to adapt to customer demands – it looked for the opportunity to become the content maker too.
Gartner’s hype cycle looks at the development of technology’s from idea to mainstream adoption. Crucial to moving through each stages to reach mainstream adoption is the importance of understanding and demonstrating the applications and returns of a technology to the market. When you’re at the earliest stages of start up life, you need to be able to manage the expectations clients in either direction, communicate how the small wins turn into bigger industry opportunities, and deliver on promises to early adopters.
In marketing we often talk about customers as more than a line in a revenue sheet – they should be your cheerleaders, your ambassadors and your advocates. When we talk about sharing your business story more often than not that means sharing the stories of your end users and customers too – it’s about the successes your technology brought them, the joy they get from using your app or the better business they have because of you. You also need to be realistic about the challenges and blockades. But that’s the great thing about being a cutting edge start up – you’re nimble, visionary and smart enough to be able to meet those challenges head on.