Clarity of Message: Why You Need A Great Message & How To Create It


By Matrix General Partner David Skok and guest author Mike Troiano.

This is a shortened version of an article originally published on You can find the full article here:

In the early stages of their business, founders often struggle to come up with really strong messaging to describe what they are selling, and this has a huge impact on their ability to raise money, find customers, and attract employees. This is not that surprising, as it can be really hard to arrive at great messaging that is simple and appealing.

Founders are often too close to their product to see it how customers see it, and thus they struggle to describe it in a way that will appeal to potential customers. Additionally, founders may not yet have met with enough buyers to know which segment of buyers are their best target, and what messages are resonating with that particular segment.

The Importance of Great Messaging

There are two reasons why you need to have a clear message about what you are offering:

  1. You need it to connect with customers, investors, potential employees, the press, etc. and if you don’t have a simple, compelling message, they won’t bother to learn more. More so, if you don’t steer how people think about your product, the market will make up its own version which may not match your vision.
  2. Every touch point a customer or potential customer has with your product or company will shape their view of you. It’s critical that each of those touch points send the same message. When you create a clear brand message it ensures your team is fully aligned, and gets everyone moving in the same direction, telling the same story and creating consistent touch points for your customers.

I want to thank Mike Troiano. This post is based on a talk given by Mike, a 25-yr marketing and advertising veteran, who was also a very successful founder (m-Qube). He’s now building the brand and marketing program as the CMO of Actifio.

Start with a Positioning Statement

A positioning statement is the basis for all other messaging and communications. It’s a declaration of who you are, and the value you offer to a specific set of people. When someone asks about your business, I’m sure you are able to passionately describe what it is you do. But, if you’re like most founders, your “pitch” is always a work in progress and you’re likely to modify it based on your audience, mood and the latest features being built. By developing a positioning statement, and writing it down, you will have solved a number of key business issues, and have the beginning of a succinct, consistent way to describe your value proposition every time you are in front of a potential customer, investor or employee. This isn’t to say it won’t evolve, but if done right, it will only change when significant aspects of your business change.

We have found this classic positioning statement to be a useful construct:

For [TARGET] who are [SEGMENT], [BRAND] provides the [CATEGORY] with [DISTINCTION] because of [PROOF]

For a more detailed description of each part of the positioning statement, examples of other companies’ statements, and guidance on how to create yours, you can find the full post here. This simple positioning statement is very useful to entrepreneurs. It enables you to declare the underlying hypothesis of your business.

One Simple Thing (OST) — Why You Need One

Note: The following section is most appropriate for companies that have reached clear product/market fit, and who are comfortable with their positioning statement.

A clear and concise positioning statement provides the scaffolding for a pithy and memorable articulation of your value proposition, often the first step toward a tagline or initial sound bite. More than a clever turn of phrase, such an idea can be an important tool in helping new people cross over from never having heard of you to wanting to learn more about what you do.

The best brands understand this and have invested in creating simple messages their target audience can immediately identify with. For startups, boil everything you’re doing down into a simple idea that expresses the emotional power your product brings to its users.

Do-It-Yourself OST

Creating an OST is a process; it’s not divine intervention or something that comes to you in the shower. Most startups won’t be able to bring in an agency to do this for them, so here is a DIY version of this process that you can utilize with your team.

Step One: Data Collection

Collect all the data you can about who you are as a company. Use these five dimensions to analyze your company and create a list of five to ten ideas for each:

  • Capabilities — what do we really do, our skills, strengths
  • Customers — who pays us and why, how will we sell to them
  • Context — how do we define our market, what is the state of the market
  • Culture — what do people celebrate; e.g., “to succeed here, you need to be _______”
  • Competition — who is it, why will we win/lose

Step Two: Identify Your Fundamental Drivers

Pick the three most important points for each of the five dimensions. Then, boil all of this information down into one emotional clause and one rational clause that answer these questions:

  • If you were to make someone associate your company with a single idea, what would the rational idea be?
  • If you were to make someone associate your company with a single idea, what would the emotional response be?

Step Three: Create a Word Space

Based on the answers to the two questions above, what words or phrases capture the essence of these fundamental drivers? Do this with your team and write down all the words that come to mind. Once you have a short list of words, rank them against these attributes:

  • Is it true? Is your OST true to the capabilities and culture of your organization? It may be somewhat aspirational, but it should be based in truth. Your OST must be realized in the form of your product.
  • Is it relevant? Is your OST relevant to the target audience you’ve defined? Do they care? It’s not enough for it to be important to you, it must be important to your customers.
  • Is it motivating? Does it change what your target thinks, feels or does? If internalizing your OST doesn’t change anything, it isn’t strong enough.
  • Is it distinct? Is it different from your competition?

Keep in mind, your OST may not be something you communicate to the outside world. Instead, you may need customers to experience your brand and ultimately draw this conclusion for themselves.

For tips on how to create your positioning statement and OST, video explanations, and more in-depth discussion, you can read the full post here: Clarity of Message: Why You Need A Great Message & How To Create It.

Follow us on Twitter: David Skok, @BostonVC and Matrix Partners, @Matrix Partners.