12/10/2013 06:46 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2014

If You're Not Making Their Problem Your Problem, You're Doing It Wrong

As the founder of a start-up, one of the things you are taught early on is to develop a set of key messages that you want customers to know about your product or service, and utilize those message points any time you talk publicly about your product.

It's a valid point, especially when you are working to grow awareness of your company and gain customers, but there is more than just "the message" to consider in both written and verbal communication. This is something companies (start-ups and otherwise) forget, and it can prove detrimental down the line.

When prepping for any kind of communication, whether it's via email, newsletter, or onstage, think about your audience first and foremost. Who are they and what is their area of focus? What are they looking to get out of your interaction with them? What are their pain points and how can your product or service address those?

This last question is the most crucial. So often, companies feel compelled to outline the same key benefits of their product or service at every opportunity regardless of whom they are talking to - that is not always effective. As a company executive, you believe strongly in every aspect of your company, and want your potential customers to feel the same. One day they might, but this does not mean they need to be bombarded with all details of your product or service in a single sitting.

Remember this, and carefully edit yourself every time you speak to your audience.

Whether this is a customer's first interaction with your product, or 100th, they want to feel comfortable in the fact that you are easing their specific frustrations rather than simply selling something. Focus on one or two key product benefits that address their concerns, then use personal stories, specific examples, and custom demos (especially if you are onstage) to relate to your audience. This will let them know that their problem is your problem.

Maintaining a focus on your audience and their problem is important during an onstage presentation, but it becomes even more crucial in written communications. On stage, tone, intonation, and body language can help convey your message, and your audience's reaction to that message, but these communication assets are not available in emails, newsletters and contributed content.

So when those key indicators disappear, how do you know that your written communication is hitting the mark, and accurately pinpointing your audience's concerns?

There are tools available that can help you peek behind the curtain to see whether your communication is resonating with your audience - did they read your email; are they clicking on links within it; has the email been shared with others? If you're not seeing the kind of engagement you were expecting, it likely means that you have not effectively addressed your audience's problem spots. Evaluate and try again.

Whether by mouth or by computer screen, the key to effective communication is maintaining a continual focus on your audience and their problem. By regularly asking yourself, "Have I made their problem my own problem?" and referencing that in every customer interaction you can help ensure that your company is providing value to your customers, and that they will continue to do business with you time and time again.