2014 wasn’t a great year for company communication. We saw high-profile executives get themselves in hot water, company cultures disrupted, and huge product recalls, all because of one form of bad communication or another.
But, bad communication doesn’t just happen in the public like many of the PR nightmares we witnessed in 2014. It sneaks into organizations and becomes toxic to every area of business, often times without you even knowing it (until it’s too late).
And, the bigger your company gets, the more you are at-risk…
“As a company grows, communication becomes its biggest challenge. ”
– Ben Horowitz of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz
Bad Communication is a Vicious Cycle
It all starts with your company’s internal communication.
If founders and managers do not have open communication with the rest of the team on the vision for your product, or on company performance then:
- Teams will start to have competing opinions for what the direction of the company should be.
- Because of competing beliefs on what should be worked on (and what is a waste of time), trust gets broken down, and team engagement and collaboration suffers.
- Silo’d teams result in silo’d information. Information that could be pivotal to building a product that people actually want.
These factors affect your company’s external communication.
Again, if everyone is not in-sync, your teams will take it upon themselves to communicate on what they believe works best based off their experience and their metrics.
Your marketing team showcases what they believe is the biggest value of your product. This may drive more leads or self-serve signups.
Sales sells on the value they believe in (or what their prospects want most). This may close more deals.
You may get more customers this way on the front end, but acquiring customers in this way today, can hurt your product and growth in the long run:
1. You acquire different kinds of customers, with varying expectations on the value they should receive from your product, both now and in the future.
2. Conflicting feedback gets to your engineering team to add this feature, and that feature, to save X client, acquire Y prospect, or attract market segment
3. Customers start to churn, because you never get to exactly what they want. You’re too busy trying to please everyone, that you end up pleasing no one.
The result? You get a disorienting product that solves few problems well, for multiple kinds of customers. Rather than a clear product that solves a major problem very well, for an ideal customer.
“The enemy of building a great product is bad communication. ”
– Ben Horowitz.
Let’s audit how your company communicates…
Like I said before, bad communication can be sneaky. It’s not always easy to see these communication issues in real-time. They can be growing within your organization already.
Here’s a test to see if your company is at-risk:
Ask your teammates…
- What do you think are the next 3 things we should build?
- Where do you believe the product should be in one year?
- What are the top 3 complaints that customers have about the product?
Does everyone have similar answers? Your company needs to get on the same page.
Ask your customers…
- How would you describe our product to someone else?
- What value to you hope to obtain from our product in the future?
Are there competing values and expectations? You need to focus on an ideal customer.
Now, fix bad communication before it’s too late…
- Figure out who your ideal customer is… together. Which customer segments is most excited about what you are building? Which is most profitable? Which is most engaged?
- Decide the core value that your product delivers to them… together. How do these customers describe your product value? What are the pain points that your product solves for these customers? How can you solve their pains better in the future?
- Collectively communicate this message better. Do all of your marketing assets communicate this message clearly? How about your sales and customer support communications? Do you showcase your product’s core value quick enough to new customers during onboarding?
- Stay in-sync with better communication tools, processes, and policies. Are you using tools that promote internal collaboration or hurt it? Do they enable your teams to move faster, or do they slow people down? Is communication transparent enough across your company?
What matters most is building product that people actually want. Is your company’s communication, both inside and out, helping you do that?
“Perhaps the CEO’s most important operational responsibility is designing and implementing the communication architecture for her company. ” – Ben Horowitz.
Take the time to evaluate how your teams communicate, have open discussion about it, and find ways you can improve. If we all do this, we are sure to see much few company communication failures than we did in 2014.
To further this cause, we wrote a 5-day course that teaches more specific ways you can improve company communication in 2015 and beyond. Check it out…
Got any other ideas or thoughts on company communication? Let’s discuss! Comment below…