Monday, October 13, 2014

Does your market know what you do?

What does your company do? Easy question, right? But we see so many About Us website pages that don't answer it. Turns out we're not alone. John Ason, a New Jersey-based venture capitalist, finds the same problem from start-ups seeking investment capital. From a September 17 interview with U.S. 1, a weekly newspaper: 

Is this a program that enables
great composers to write music?
Probably not, since it lacks an eraser.
“One of the most important things is to explicitly state what you do," Ason says. "About 40 percent of the summaries I receive do not have that. They have a list of features or benefits or what it enables customers to do.” For example, he says, he recently received a proposal from a company that was making “a program that enables great composers to write music.” For Ason, that was much too vague of a description. “It could be a consultancy, a music notation program, a music generating program, or it could be a pencil.”

You might argue that start-ups don't yet know exactly what they do. Don't argue it to Ason, however, who funds five or six proposals a year from a field of 3,000. And don't spend too much time crafting a business plan. He calls them "long and full of irrelevant information," rejecting them in favor of a one-page executive summary. Just think! If you write a good exec summary, it can double as your website's About Us page. Ason's own website looks as if it hasn't been updated since 2011--at least the blog is that old--but I imagine fund-seekers are beating a path to his door nonetheless.

Bottom line: You've got to be able to do some effective corporate storytelling even before Chapter 1, so to speak, or you won't have a corporate history later on.