Tell Your Story to Generate Interest, Connection and Buy-in
Of course, you need to be able to concisely articulate the problem your business solves, its unique market niche and how you outperform the competition. But, especially early on, in many ways you are your business and people need to know why they should invest in you, work with you and buy from you.
As nearly every episode of Shark Tank demonstrates, investors often base their decisions more on who is pitching rather than exactly what they are pitching. You are the author of the official story of your professional or entrepreneurial journey and have the opportunity to create a narrative others can easily understand, relate to and support — through career advancement, buying from you or signing on to join your team.
Leading characters save the day
In every story, we root for the protagonist and hope she can overcome the obstacles fate puts in her way and save the day. The same is true in real life. In an open-source Entrepreneurship textbook from Rice University, the authors suggest the universal format of the fairy tale for sharing your story.
Although your tale won’t include an evil witch or magic wizard, it may feature a challenging situation that others have tried to solve but that required the unique skills of a special hero to step up and crack the code. That’s you! Your product or service has been forged through extensive effort and unique understanding and know-how and now you are ready to share it with others.
As your company grows, the story will expand to include many other players, but the founder will be at the heart of it. The garage where Bill Hewlett and David Packer created the company’s first electrical switches has been preserved both physically and in Hewlett-Packard lore. The very first Pizza Hut location, founded by brothers Frank and Dan Carney, resides on the campus of Wichita State University as a museum. Origin stories are powerful because they tie people to your vision and enable them to connect to what you bring to the marketplace.
Why stories work
Through the ages, stories have helped humans make sense of the world around them and pass important information from one person to another. In business, effective stories help to:
Bring abstract concepts and facts to life.
Stats about your product or service can be overwhelming and confusing, but stories illustrate in relatable, simple ways how you improve people’s lives.
Provide information in a way that is easier to remember.
It’s hard to memorize five simple items on a shopping list, but far easier to recall a complex book or movie plot. That’s because stories weave disparate elements together with each component prompting the next. Telling a story with the familiar pattern of a beginning, middle and end helps you remember key elements to convey and enables customers to retain the gist (or moral of the story) even if small details are forgotten.
Involve and connect people to you and your brand.
The narrative form engages our emotions in ways that facts and figures often don’t. We are intrigued by challenges, like to root for heroes, want to know what happens next and become invested in a good outcome. A good story engages multiple senses and creates a more captivating experience.
Engage diverse audiences in inclusive ways.
Data points are important and can sometimes stand on their own, but embedding them into a story enables listeners to see themselves in the action and focus on aspects that are most important to them.
Is your potential client intrigued by the challenge you confronted because they have wrestled with the same problem? Do they need a lot of detail about the hero (you) so they can trust what you say? Do they want to jump to the happy ending where the good guy (them) gets what they’ve always wanted? Stories serve as mirrors where the listener or reader can see themselves.
A great, relatable story will help customers clearly see the problem they need to solve and how you can help them do it. Even better, a compelling story is often shared, increasing the connection to your brand while spreading the word. When you envision and craft what you and your business bring to customers, investors and other stakeholders as a compelling story, you are more likely to find them wanting to know more.