August 18, 2017
Helping a new company boil down what it does into a few sentences is a surprisingly challenging task. The last four years, I have been helping businesses, big and small, do just that.
Writing a company description is especially hard for a nascent organization that is still working out exactly how its products or services will be used, let alone described. But doing so is critical. This description serves as the backbone of external and internal communication.
Let’s take a closer look at why every business needs a documented company summary.
Laying the groundwork for consistent marketing communication
A company summary is a brief description of your business that can be used for your website, social media profiles, marketing material, investor decks, press releases, and in conversations with well-meaning family members who are trying to understand what it is you do, exactly.
Many businesses have a short, one to three sentence version, and a more in-depth iteration. The summary should make sense to your target customers, partners, investors and ideally, the aforementioned well-meaning family members.
Some company summaries are easier to write than others. Do you run a women’s boutique? That’s easier to describe than an emerging advertising technology solution. Regardless of your vertical, try to keep it simple and use recognizable terms and phrases rather than coining new descriptors.
One of the most overlooked use cases of a summary like this is internal communication. You want to make sure every member of your team is describing your business in the same way. I often work with business owners on company summaries as part of a larger company narrative project, in which we define their target audience, brand voice, mission statement and unique value proposition. The process can be quite enlightening for the entrepreneur. Often we involve their whole teams in a workshop. I love running these things. It is interesting to hear each person’s elevator pitch, and it almost always sparks some well-meaning debate about the company’s purpose. It is challenging to synthesize that input into verbiage that is both meaningful and persuasive, but it is also deeply satisfying to land on a new turn of phrase that excites the whole team.
While I strive to write summaries that will stay forever relevant, nothing is etched in stone. If you are a start-up, you should revisit your company description regularly and make tweaks as needed. It is good to be fluid, just don’t sacrifice organization. Document your sanctioned company description in a central location for your team, and keep them in the loop about changes.
For those of us in more complicated industries, like ad tech, writing simple summaries is weirdly hard, but it is worth the effort. You are taking control over how your company is described, internally and externally. When done right, this brief description is both deceptively simple and highly strategic.
By Jacqueline Lisk