Stories We Tell — Why Can Storytelling Be A Secret Weapon For Startups?
“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” [Dr. Howard Gardner, Prof. Harvard Univ.]
As a young entrepreneur, you might think that marketing is only something nice to do, that you don’t have enough money to launch complex promotional campaigns, and that there is not much to say as your company has just celebrated its 3rd birthday. All these reasons may become a great starting point to actually set up a story-driven marketing strategy and to make your business gain a competitive advantage. By crafting a compelling story, you can help your company get the attention it deserves.
Why invest time and money in stories?
Many fast-growing companies are so focused on developing their product that they sometimes fail to consider investing their energy into marketing actions. Their founders are often dedicated entrepreneurs, smart developers, and bright product visionaries, but they are obviously skilled in some other areas than advertising. They apparently do their homework by running the company website and being active on their Facebook page, but in order to truly connect with potential clients, there is still much work to do. Remember we are constantly being inundated with information and the products we receive as customers seem to be all the same. Consequently, it is crucial to put a spotlight not only on your product as such but also on the brand that has its distinct personality. This is where storytelling comes in handy. Another difficulty that startups seem to face is the lack of well-qualified employees in the early stages of the company’s development. It is always a challenge to attract the right talent when being a totally unknown firm. Here, again, storytelling is a perfect way to disseminate your vision, build authenticity, and reveal your true motivations as an entrepreneur. Creating a compelling narrative will help your employees believe in the company they work for.
How can I build a compelling story?
As storytelling is the ancient art of telling stories, there needs to be a protagonist and an adventure. There has to be a group of people aiming to achieve something, like in the “Knights of the Round Table.” Bring back your early childhood memories—what was the most compelling fairy tale that helped you grow, understand how the world works, and inspired you to take action? Well, your customers expect to get something similar from you. If you still don’t feel motivated, try to recall the statistical data from the article you recently read. And now a good anecdote someone has told you during a conversation. What comes to your mind quicker and easier? The human brain is predisposed to remember stories much better than statistics. #WEARESTORYTELLERS
As your brand has to be associated with a good story, think of who might be at the center of it. Maybe you can become the main character as the founder of the company? You certainly had a strong motivation to complete your mission, and despite the fact that the odds were against you and you experienced some ups and downs in your journey, you managed to get to the top. This is good; we need it for our story. Remember, people admire successful entrepreneurs, especially because most startups fail. As the sequence of events needs to be engaging, think on how to mess up a little by adding some twists and turns to your story, cliffhangers. Keep your audience waiting for the next piece of it!
One of the startups that is well conscious of the value of storytelling is HubSpot, a developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing and sales. Its founders happily shared the story of their humble beginnings and formulated their mission: to help people achieve their goals, rather than interrupt them by sending out constant advertising messages.
Your product can also become the focal point of the plot. How does it change people’s lives? What are the testimonials from your client? What problem does it solve? Who was the first key opinion leader that believed in your vision? Remember that a good story needs to appeal to emotions and engage imagination; it cannot be just a dull, technical description of your products or services. There needs to be a common ground between your company’s goals and the target audience’s life. You must know your customers: their desires, fears, problems, interests, and expectations. Make sure that you have active customer feedback channels. Airbnb is of those young brands that have already mastered storytelling. This online homestay network has been successful with their community stories coming from both the hosts providing lodgings and the guests who use them. One of their initiatives, Airbnb stories, offers insight into both experiences—all of the stories published there are unique and poignant, showing how the customer’s life can be better and happier thanks to the Airbnb experience. Unbelievable as it may seem, this 8-year-old company is now considered to be one of the world’s best storytellers.
There is a great power in good, well-written stories. If they are memorable and authentic, they reveal the brand’s core values and establish a strong emotional connection with both your customers and employees. All this with a minimal marketing budget. Each entrepreneur can create his or her own narrative and get closer to the target audience. Remember that there is a storyteller in each of us.