Why every startup needs to tell its story
What is your startup story?
No one starts a business to focus on operations. Entrepreneurs and leaders seek out problems, conceive innovative solutions, envision a better world, and feed the spark of curiosity to go on a brand new journey that includes a product or service. Those are all elements and reasons worthy of a good startup story.
And, when your story is compelling and engaging, knowing it and sharing it can connect with your team and customers and build familiarity and trust. And when that same story solves a known problem that your audience understands, they’ll lean in right away.
The early story of Microsoft was more than just a few guys in a garage. It was the promise of the American dream. That anyone can come from anywhere and succeed by appealing to human needs. What their audience wanted was a PC in their home that they could use and understand.
The story continues even now, and you can see it as the company moved from its first mission statement (“A computer on every desk and in every home”) to its current one (“to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”).
When we boil it down as fundamental and straightforward as we can get, all businesses are left with one truth: your startup story holds the heart of your passion and how you demonstrate what drove you to find a new solution to a known problem and start a business.
Define your origin
Marketing is an intensely human activity that builds brands. People connect with marketing when it tells us a human story, which covers how we began and where we’re headed. It naturally is a storytelling activity.
We’ll talk about brands more specifically in a later blog, but remember that at its heart is always a story. That’s one big reason you’re more inclined to drink a Coke than any of the cheaper knockoffs on the shelf.
It’s like explaining your favorite superhero to a friend. Think of the story of this hero that you’ll tell them and how it begins. It starts with their origin story, whether it’s Superman landing in Kansas, the tragic family loss for Spider-Man and Batman, or anyone else. Those are defining pieces of who they are and their story.
If you want to go a different route, think about all the famous tech companies whose origins we hear about. How many have started in basements and garages or with two friends getting a beer and coding after their day jobs? Those moments call up the struggles of late nights, no money, and much more, all of which makes us cheer for these companies.
The birth — and that feeling that it could be us or we could’ve been there too — is the first part of the story and it is your first hook to getting your audience engaged. It’s the start of the thread that ties everything together.
A startup play in 3 acts
Your story is a journey that you take the audience on alongside you. To be engaging and exciting, it needs a structure that is explicitly designed to bring people in and feel both unique and familiar. So, we’re going to take a page from most of your favorite movies and build out three acts or arcs for your startup story
- Life before you noticed the problem
- Discovering the problem and its impact on your life
- Solving the problem with your revolutionary product or service
If you’ve tried your hand at successful sales letters, landing pages, and long-form sales copy, then you’re familiar with these three elements. Your brand’s story should follow them too.
1. Life before you noticed the problem
Give us the moment that things weren’t right and you weren’t sure why. You might’ve been successful in a career but felt unfulfilled, or you were angry and frustrated with life in general and didn’t know why. Because you’re in the future, you know the problem behind this and how you solved it.
Think about how the problem makes your audience feel and frame your anger, frustration, etc. in the same way. This means that even without naming the problem immediately, you’re tapping into how they feel about the issue and your solution will address how they’re already primed to think and feel.
2. Discovering the problem and its impact on your life
Tell us about when you discovered what the problem is and knew that something had to be done. This is the first “ah ha!” or “eureka!” moment where you discuss the underlying truth about your company. It’s the true origin moment in the startup story. For us, that’s the fact that marketing is a people-focused endeavor and it’s where people generate the change that businesses need for success, so you’ve got to be where people are to make a difference.
You’re not solving the problem here. You’re demonstrating to the audience that you had to discover the problem and now you need to start addressing it or how about this instead “your vision will never be fulfilled.”
3. Solving the problem with your revolutionary product or service
Describe how you solve the problem and what makes your solution unique and special. Give us the big picture and hit us with solid numbers. Touch on your innovation and the biggest thing it accomplishes. This discovery likely made it easier for you to sleep at night, and you can easily frame it in a way that’ll help the audience feel better too.
Up to 90% of startups fail, most because they scale too early without a plan. Our story is realizing this and giving them a smart 5-year marketing outlook to make it easy to time scale and demand right. We Shift your thinking and help you get on the right Growth curve.
Startup stories invite the audience in
A big piece of your company’s story is the audience that hears it and reads it. They’re fundamental to this being a story of success because they want to share your vision and believe in you, whether that’s through funding and capital or by becoming customers (or even team members).
Help your audience take this leap with you by giving them a smooth action to take to learn how they can join you. Think about the buttons you see on quality B2B landing pages. They ask questions like “Want to be able to do this yourself?” or “If that sounds familiar, ready to change it?” or even more directly with “Ready to have this innovation work for you?”
These questions give the audience something to say “Yes” to, and when you’ve got them saying yes to the premise of your startup story, you’ve got them saying yes to your business.
It turns out that you’ll be telling your story a lot. Conferences, business meetings, elevator pitches, meeting someone in a coffee shop, or even the neighborhood barbeque, it’ll come up. You’ll be sharing the innovative work you and how it’s changing lives. And it’s never really about you. Each one of those conversations is about the person listening and your shot at getting them to say “yes.”
Start right now
If you haven’t told your story yet, don’t let this momentum escape you. Take some time to think of these elements and sketch out some guiding thoughts to help you along your way. You want to be ready when someone asks you just about the three most important words in business:
What’s your story?