For the first year and a half of our startup journey here at Empiraa, we always referred to ourselves as a strategy platform. We said we helped businesses execute their business strategy and we were the platform to help take your business to the next level.
None of that is incorrect. We do still offer that as our core solution. However, we now say it in a slightly different way.
You may have noticed over the last few months we have switched the way we talk about ourselves. This was not a decision we took lightly. It changed the product we were offering. But it wasn’t the product that had to change. It was our understanding of the product we had created and learning how our users were interacting with it.
We were six months into having a live product and close to two years into the startup journey. The first six months after launch for a startup is integral. We used that time to understand how other people saw and defined what our product was and the problem we were solving. It was our first chance to have exposure to an audience of paying customers, that were unbiased by our story. It was the first chance to sell our product to people who didn’t know anything about us at all.
In those six months, the team at Empiraa and the advisors around us got lots of feedback on the platform. We were in phase one of an infinite journey and knew we didn’t have a perfect and complete product. But this was the point all startups work tirelessly to get to. To have something to get out there. Not a perfectly finished product, but one full of kinks and bugs and a long list of improvements to come. We knew this. What we wanted was real customer feedback. And that feedback ultimately helped us to define what we were.
It seems silly to some that you would let other people define what you had worked years to create. But at the end of the day those people were our users. The ones paying for the product we had created. They had a completely different lens to look at the platform with. A lens that was invaluable to us.
A question we received regularly in those early days from users was, “Can you write my business strategy for me?”. That seems like an unthinkable question to ask. But we received it time and time again. It made us ask ourselves, “why are people assuming that our platform gives them a strategy?”. Our user behaviour analysis very quickly determined that people loved to take the easy way out. They wanted to click a button and for us to spit out a custom business strategy so they could tick that box off and move on to the next task.
But that was not what our platform was, so something was getting lost in translation.
We had defined our key audience as small to medium-sized businesses and have since added startups to that list. A common thing amongst this group of business owners and leaders was that they were time-poor. We were trying to sell the solution of ‘strategy’, but the word ‘strategy’ is polarising. It seems too high level and way too hard. And that is fair enough. When you think of strategy you think of a large company based on the 100th floor of a building, high-up executives in suits all sitting around a board room discussing ‘strategy’. It was not an approachable or inclusive word for the people we wanted to use our product.
One thing to consider is that at Empiraa, we have fostered an approachable and easy-to-understand brand voice. We want everything to be simple, no jargon, no big confusing words. It was a tone that separated us from our competitors and allowed us to sit in that “strategy for dummies” area. But the word strategy didn’t fit that context. And ultimately we struggled to sell a product people believed to be too hard.
What is strategy?
The Harvard Business School defines business strategy as the “strategic initiatives a company pursues to create value for the organisation and its stakeholder and gain competitive advantage in the market”. The site stresses the importance of business strategy which is “foundational to a company’s success” and that it “helps leaders set organisational goals and gives companies a competitive edge.
This is everything we set out to achieve however we needed to approach it in a new way.
The true understanding of what our product was to our users, came from our Founder, Ash Brown. We were a business planning and execution platform using simple strategic framework. We gave businesses the tools they needed to execute their business plan and feel empowered about where they were going.
Business planning was a more relatable term. After all, every business owner had written a business plan. And that business plan talked about the long-term goals of the business. We still use the strategic framework and metrics to help people monitor where they were and where they were going, that was never going to change. Ash likes the saying “we are the school sandpit offering you the tools to create greatness”.
Given that the phrase “business planning and execution platform using simple strategic framework” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, we adapted our wording further into “business game planning” with the purpose to help businesses game plan for the future. Simple.
As a team, we all had connections to sport in one way or another. Sport was something that connected people, especially within the Australian landscape. We wanted to gamify the platform and add that competitive edge. To take it into a more enjoyable landscape away from the stiff strategic speak.
And so game planning is the new fully realised language we now use at Empiraa. It has resonated deeply with our audience already. We now feel approachable for small to medium-sized businesses and embody our ‘simple’ mantra.
By no means has this exercise drastically changed the direction Empiraa is going from the intial concept by our Founder, Ash Brown. We have merely shifted slightly so that we can now be fully aligned with our core target audience.
Strategy still underpins the structure and way we measure the success of a business’s game plan, but for now, that language can be kept by our competitors. Because we are on our way to blazing our own trail.