How to Craft a Communications Strategy to Take Your Idea from Concept to Market

Good ideas are resilient. They grow with every person they come in contact with. They can sustain scrutiny and questioning. However, even the best ideas can fail if communicated poorly. Think of all the text-packed PowerPoints or long, overly technical explanations you’ve seen in your life. And call to mind the lengthy, wandering white papers that are positioned as business cases or marketing materials but that most often fail to engage beyond the executive summary.

Engineers, CEOs, sales teams, influencers, and consumers often see the same idea from very different perspectives. It’s up to you to show your idea to them using the lens that offers them the greatest clarity possible. Doing this well may mean the difference between an idea stuck on a whiteboard and an innovation that changes the world.

Start by Defining Your Innovator’s Intent

Before we begin our journey across the Funnel, it’s important to note that your goal should be to develop a core narrative that remains constant while allowing you to tweak your message and presentation for your individual audiences so that it will appeal to each one in the most impactful way. This is a balancing act that can be difficult to manage, especially within larger organizations with a number of internal and external disciplines and professionals contributing to the launch of a product, service, or platform.

To give your message the solid foundation you want and need, it’s important to develop your Innovator’s Intent. In a nutshell, your Intent is a short, straightforward articulation of the desired outcome for your innovation. Unlike your value proposition, which is a simple statement that summarizes why a customer would choose your product or service and communicates the clearest benefit that customers receive by giving you their business, your Innovator’s Intent is an internal statement of purpose. It is designed to get and keep team members aligned and focused on the same end goal for your idea. It should act as a sort of north star for your narrative. If you find that you can’t see your Intent from where you’re talking, you’re likely disconnected from the message you should be conveying.

The Communication Funnel: Your Path to Clarity

The Communication Funnel is a variation on a simple Innovation Funnel. It provides a visual reference that extends the Innovation Funnel beyond the developmental stagegates an idea goes through on its way to commercialization to include the entire journey from concept to commercialization through to market engagement. Each point on the Communication Funnel represents a moment when critical and often distinctly different audiences require a clear understanding of your concept. This clarity is essential to not only keep your concept moving down the path to market but also, more importantly, to ensure that your vision and the full potential of your idea are maintained and nurtured along the way.

Below is a brief description of each point along the Funnel and what you should be thinking about for each.

  1. The Big Bang (Ideation + Experimentation): This is where your idea is defined and a clearly articulated communication strategy is born. From evaluating concepts to defining core values, the ability to provide clarity around an idea in the earliest stages of development helps determine its strategic relevance and accelerates its path from the fuzzy front end toward acceptance. At this point, your audiences include peers, early-stage investors, technical media and research-and-development partners. You’re working with your audiences here to develop both your product and your platform, striking a balance between crowdsourcing and driving the narrative.
  2. The Prototype (Design + Validation): This is a defining moment. The Prototype stage is when you’ve been able to check all the boxes on stragetic fit and feasibility and when the hard work leading from the moment of ideation to a working proof-of-concept pays off. You’re presenting your now-tangible idea to management teams, development partners, and procurement among others. They still skew toward being technically minded, but they are more focused on the business, social, and commercial value and viability, rather than the science alone. There’s often only one chance to make a first impression with several of these audiences, so it’s imperative that your idea is communicated through the most compelling and clearly articulated experiences possible.
  3. The Valley of Death (Commercialization): This is the most critical moment in the journey of any idea—bridging development and design with the business teams that will ultimately bring it to market across what NASA affectionately calls The Valley of Death. This integration is the make-or-break moment. Without absolute clarity around how your idea functions and fits into your organization’s larger business opportunities and goals, many products, services, and platforms fall flat or, even worse, die. Your audiences here include technical media, sales and marketing teams, and industry analysts. So, in addition to carrying forward your compelling and clearly articulated experiences from The Prototype stage, be certain that your message here clearly illustrates the potential impact on customers, partners, and your industry.
  1. Blast Off (Launch): The more clearly defined and articulated an idea is, the greater the influence over the development of go-to-market, sales, and marketing strategies it has. At this critical moment, when an idea is first introduced to broader consumer-facing audiences, there is a unique opportunity to establish its full value and position in the marketplace or to risk planting the seeds of confusion. Here’s another explosive moment that can be magnificent or devastating, so it’s important to clearly and simply show (not tell) the ways in which your innovation will positively change the lives of its end users.
  1. The Stairway to Heaven (Market Engagement): Even the most complex or disruptive ideas have the potential to reach a broad user base and maintain a strategic advantage. If thought leadership, go-to-market strategies, campaigns, licensing agreements, influencer engagement, and sales initiatives are built on a solid value-based foundation, there is an opportunity to establish a position that connects with users, keeps your adversaries reacting, and ensures that your idea reaches its full potential. To establish this position, lean into the end user impact and push it further by demonstrating how widespread adoption and usage might change a market (and, if you’re so bold, a society) for the better.

Every Big Idea Takes a Village

Innovation is a team effort. Whether it’s through internal or external channels, every idea needs oversight, support, and funding. By presenting a concept in easy-to-understand terms and through channels that encourage key stakeholders to connect across the entire funnel, getting strategic support and contributing to the growth of the idea can become a more frictionless experience. By understanding and speaking directly to these discrete audiences, you increase your idea’s chances for success exponentially. From high-level executive summaries to detailed technical downloads, your carefully tailored messages are absolutely critical to your innovation’s success and cannot be overlooked or shortchanged.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Your Brand

The foundation for every great innovation is a well-defined brand. It’s the focal point that should inform every business decision and ensures that your ideas are on strategy. Whether you’re an entrepreneur launching a startup or working within a product development or research and development team in a global enterprise, it’s critically important that whatever the story and message behind your idea is, it’s supported by a clearly articulated brand.

Getting Your Message Right is the Surest Path to Success

When inspiration struck, it’s likely that articulating the perfect accompanying message for your idea wasn’t at the top of your to-do list. But as you develop your idea, it’s imperative that you cultivate a way of thinking and talking about it in terms that define a strategic end, anticipate needs, and resonate with both engineers and salesforce workers, both the assembly line and the C-suite. Your idea will become stronger as you analyze it from myriad viewpoints, and your message will become sharper as you stress-test it for diverse audiences. And as you travel through the funnel, you’ll end up building bridges across your organization, as you are able to demonstrate for these disparate stakeholders the depth of opportunity that your innovation presents.

Because in today’s innovation-filled marketplace, a carefully crafted and clearly communicated narrative can mean the difference between going to market and going back to the drawing board.