The West Coast isn’t the only place to find an exciting technology startup ecosystem — tech is also growing hotter in the Heartland. Every major Midwestern city has clusters of startup incubators, and local entrepreneurs and investors are eager to invest in Midwestern startups (and we’re talking a lot of money–up to tens of millions of dollars).
So how can you get their attention?
Now is the time for non-Silicon Valley areas, like Indiana, to use geography to separate from the crowd. The key for Midwestern tech companies lies in how and what you communicate about your business. Here are five ways to position Indiana technology companies to stand out:
Be vocal about how location contributes to your success.
Does the lower cost of living help you attract talent? Do you have access to world-class educational institutions? Are you in close proximity to your customer base? Talk about why Indiana is a part of your company’s DNA. There are plenty of folks out there who will listen. For example, VentureBeat’s Heartland Tech is devoted to discussing ecosystems of tech outside Silicon Valley. There are also efforts out there such as Steve Case’s RISE OF THE REST, which aims to support and celebrate emerging startup ecosystems and their ability to grow and scale anywhere in the U.S. (not in just select cities).
Prioritize internal culture-building, and then teach everyone how to tell a powerful company story externally.
If every person in your company understands and gets behind the importance of what you are doing, your PR department just grew exponentially. And we’re not just talking about ping pong tables and snack drawers. Employees are inspired by the big picture: Is your technology changing the way brands and consumers communicate? Helping lower unemployment by finding and matching talent? Protecting consumers against cybercriminals? Whatever it is, make sure everyone understands they are playing a role in making technology that is changing the way we work and live. Then practice common ways for everyone to describe it, over and over — so that your entire workforce is empowered to carry that message.
Create more power in numbers.
Band together with companies in your area to showcase how tech is booming. Do you have partnerships that are jointly creating technology to solve big business challenges? How many people will your company hire this year, and how many will your neighbors hire? Are you part of broader regional initiatives to bring top talent to Indiana? You can make your company ‘bigger’ by aligning with other companies (in addition to differentiating your own).
Say it like it is, and say it with personality.
While your business’ day-to-day is filled with tech jargon, you can differentiate yourself from the rest by ditching the buzzwords and telling it like it is. Brevity is better, so next time you’re announcing a new product or change within your company, talk about it like you’re speaking to someone on the street — or better yet, explaining it to your grandmother (in other words, make sure everyone can understand and relate). And on that note, don’t talk and walk like other companies. Do you have humble leaders with incredible vision? Or are you a hilarious bunch who loves taking risks? Get that personality into your content — we are all looking for content that connects, not just for features and benefits.
Use PR ‘moments’ to tell stories about success.
If your company has funding news, is hiring in record numbers, or is about to announce a significant product upgrade, go beyond “reporting the news” and include messages on why those things are happening. Customers love you and want more? The industry needs a new solution to tackle age-old challenges? Reporters are always looking for the story that surrounds the news, so give them what they want — and take advantage of every inch of copy to convey the value of your company, vision, and product.
About the Author
Margaret Hoerster is Senior Partner at Finn Partners. Born and raised in Chicago, Margaret has 15+ years of experience working with multiple Midwest tech brands on their communication strategies, many of them based here in Indianapolis (ExactTarget, Aprimo, MOBI, Return Path, and Octiv, among others).