Storytelling is often seen as a skill reserved for fiction writers, but in the world of business, it holds tremendous power. Unfortunately, many startups and Entrepreneurs fail to harness the potential of storytelling to make a lasting impact on their audience while allowing humans to connect with each other and the problems they aim to solve. The truth is that story is just as magical in business communications as it is in movies, comics, and novels. In this article, we’ll explore 5 steps to help you uncover the story behind your startup and leverage it to create a profound connection with your audience.
1.) Lead With Conflict:
Start by addressing the “Elephant in the Room,” “The Dirt Under the Rug,” “The Skeletons in the Closet,” the challenges your target audience faces but most companies don’t/won’t talk about. Many startups focus solely on product features and benefits, neglecting the opportunity to make their offering relatable to their viewers. Take inspiration from companies like Subaru, which masterfully highlight the problems their customers encounter, “Car Crashes,” emphasizing their solutions with high levels of safety features in their vehicles. By sharing the problem and presenting their solution, they become relatable to their audience.
Remember, simplicity and relatability are key when communicating with your audience.
2.) Be an Onion
This approach is old school, and it works like a charm. Just like an onion, the startup story has many layers, yet most companies stop at the outer layer. I say, dig just one layer deeper! Go beyond the surface layer of your startup story. Share more than just credentials, revenue, and years of experience. Connect with your audience on a deeper level by delving into your personal motivation and passion.
[Example:] As a seasoned Real Estate Broker, you could go beyond sharing your credentials, revenue, and years on the job. Maybe share instead “why” you love your work so much, like your extreme passion for helping first time home buyers navigate the gauntlet that is making the biggest purchase they have probably made in their life up until that point. Now, I can relate to you because I like using my professional skillset to help other people as well.
Share your story as if you were having a conversation with someone at a bar, rather than delivering a formal presentation.
3.) Lose the Jargon:
Avoid using industry jargon and technical terms that confuse your audience. Many startups fill their landing pages, videos, and newsletters with language that leaves people scratching their heads, unsure of what exactly the solution is. Instead, explain the problem and your solution in clear, concise, and easily understandable language. Filling your landing page with Technical Terms, Acronyms, Synonyms, Superfluous, and Redundant words (see how I started losing you there?) is gratuitous and a great way to lose your audience.
Better yet, weave your explanation into a compelling story. Remember, your goal is to engage and captivate your audience, not confuse them.
Construct your story as if you were explaining it to a fifth-grader.
4.) Pattern Interrupt:
Pattern interrupt is one of the most powerful and often overlooked elements of great storytelling. Don’t fall into the same patterns as your competitors. Differentiate yourself by interrupting the familiar and predictable narratives in your industry. Many startups become so focused on market trends and competition that they fail to stand out. Embrace your uniqueness and disrupt the patterns your audience is accustomed to. By doing so, you’ll capture their attention and earn the recognition you deserve.
The human brain has nearly perfected the art of recognizing patterns. When you interrupt the patterns, you can redirect the focus onto your startup story.
Use Story Tools to Get Started:
Story development tools aren’t limited to fictional storytelling. They can be invaluable for creating non-fictional narratives too. Consider using tools like the Story Spine, a staple of Disney/Pixar, to structure real-life events in a way that resonates strongly with your audience. The Story Circle, inspired by Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, provides a framework to examine the journey your startup, product, or customer experiences.
Using a tool like “The Story Circle” allows you to take anything along the story journey, from yourself to your product. Anyone(thing) can be the Hero of your story including your customers!
Storytelling is not a passing trend or a gimmick to grab attention. It’s an ancient and powerful method of communication deeply ingrained in our humanity. From the moment we are born, stories shape our lives. As a startup, your ability to craft and share your story is your greatest opportunity to connect with your audience and achieve success. Sales, marketing, customer retention, and satisfaction all find their foundation in storytelling.
“Stories in and of themselves are not necessarily magical, but the effects they can have on your business can be.”