Startups: Know Your Audience


This is the second part of our month long Startup Series. Check out the first post in the series, Branding, Identity and Why Startups Need Both, and stay tuned for next week's part in the series.

Whether you’ve just closed your second round of funding or had to use your credit card to register your $9.99 domain name, identifying your audience and compelling them to take action will be key to the success of your new venture.


We want customers to buy something. We want potential partners to pick up the phone because they need to work with us. We need the people with big checkbooks to write big checks. If we understand each of these user groups, what they want individually and what we want them to do, we will have a roadmap for an effective digital marketing strategy. Understanding the audience is the first step. 

Write down your various audience groups and what they want. Why are people going to care about your company and what problem do you solve for them? This is part of your brand story and is communicated through your identity. If you don’t understand how those two ideas work together, you should check out our creative director, Judd’s blog post. Once you understand what is compelling about your brand, look back at your audience stories and look for overlap, look for the themes that are compelling to your audience segments. Your customers might buy from you because you have a game-changing technology, your partners want to work with you because your technology makes theirs look better and the people with big checkbooks want to invest because excited customers and partners equals money.  So, in this case, show the technology, why it's so exciting and compelling and how each of your target audiences can participate. 

Every startup has a story that is a little bit different. Zappos is powered by service, Square is game-changing technology and Tesla is a combination of the two. Figure out what is compelling about your firm and tell that story. This is what you will repeat across the digital landscape, over and over and over.

Tell Your Story

“The Aha! experience is much more satisfying when it's preceded by the huh experience.”Chip Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

First, focus less on what you want to tell your audience but rather what questions you want them to ask. Then they start the conversation, and you have the answer. 

Marketing is storytelling. Whether you do your own marketing or not, as an entrepreneur you should learn to tell your story well.

Made to Stick is essential reading for any entrepreneur. It shows you, in an entertaining way, what makes some stories compelling and memorable. Chip Heath summarizes what makes an idea “sticky” this way:

  • Simple — find the core of any idea
  • Unexpected — grab people's attention by surprising them
  • Concrete — make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later 
  • Credible — give an idea believability
  • Emotional — help people see the importance of an idea
  • Stories — empower people to use an idea through narrative

Identify your audience and what you want them to do. Use your brand, create a sticky narrative, and compel them to take action.