When successful brands record their core values, those values transcend the paper they’re written on: They move beyond mere mission statements and marketing strategies.They engage people in a living, breathing story of what those brands stand for.
In order for you to get your own startup to this point, you have to excel at one important thing: storytelling.
The power of a good story
All entrepreneurs have, or should have, an elevator pitch or quick five-minute speech about their company or idea; that pitch is ready to go should they find themselves in front of a potential investor or business partner.
These pitches are well-rehearsed, honed and delivered hundreds of times in different social settings and formal meetings.
And these speeches and pitches are vital because founders and startup entrepreneurs understand the importance of connecting with and appealing to people through emotions, details, and powerful sensory elements. While it’s one thing to explain the framework of a business, it’s another to add flesh to the bones and make the business relatable.
But something funny happens after a startup gets funded and begins to grow. Suddenly, the elevator pitch is irrelevant; gradually the team has begun to pour all of its focus and energy into the internal processes. The irony at this stage of the game, however, is that storytelling is more important than ever. The audience has changed — it’s now customers the startup is trying to engage — and storytelling is more valuable than ever.
Point to a successful business and chances are high that its marketing team recognizes the power of storytelling. Take Diamondere, a leader in the designer jewelry industry, as an example. The business has been around for over a century and, while it has changed over the decades, the brand has always focused on storytelling.
Its creators understand the importance of building a backdrop that people can connect with, especially in a crowded industry. Through their storytelling, they’ve been able to humanize the Diamondere brand and engage a larger number of customers.
Blue Apron, the popular fresh meal subscription delivery service, is another relevant example of a company that uses storytelling to create a more powerful and relatable brand. All you have to do is check out the brand’s vision (“We’re building a better food system”), which makes clear that customers should see the brand as more than just a food delivery service.
Blue Apron wants to be seen as a company that believes in sustainable food, treats supply chain partners with dignity, reduces food waste and provides fresh ingredients that allow people to cook delicious and healthy meals.
Do you see any difference in their approaches? Even though they aren’t raising seed money from investors, the entrepreneurs behind these brands are still fully committed to storytelling — and they’re clearly reaping the rewards.
Four tips for better startup storytelling
In order to humanize your own startup through storytelling, there are a few things to think about in terms of top tips and best practices.
1. Uncover your why.
When entrepreneur Joanna Lord mentors startups, she’s said, she likes to ask them what made them take the jump. “Startups are rarely the safe choice,” she told Entrepreneur.com. “Often they are crazy leaps of faith, based on something you can’t shake. You jump into it because you love something about the idea and [it] is aligned closely with everything you hold true. This is your why, and it should be at the heart of your startup story.”
Before you can become a successful storyteller, you have to uncover your why. What is it that inspires your business?
2. Get raw and honest.
If you’re a marketer at heart, you’re accustomed to polishing everything up before it’s delivered to your audience. You proofread, revise and edit. But you should resist the temptation to use this mentality with your storytelling.
Rarely does a company enjoy a smooth road to the top. It’s typically littered with potholes, accidents and roadblocks. Instead of trying to hide these aspects of your story, highlight them. Reveal your brand’s struggles and acknowledge past mistakes and shortcomings.
People connect with difficult circumstances and want to know where you’ve been and how it’s affected you. They’re much more apt to remain loyal to your brand if they know you’re being honest and transparent with them.
3. Prominently display your story.
Far too many brands come up with a powerful story and then tuck it away on some obscure page on their website. “Amazing stories deserve to be front and center,” Lord says. Don’t be shy about pushing your story to the masses. It’s the only way to justify all of the energy that goes into uncovering and crafting your story.”
4. Captivate your audience.
Revenue may come from the products and services you sell to customers, but it’s often hard to build a successful business without having a powerful story behind the brand. You must learn how to captivate your audience’s attention and humanize the name and logo found on your product packaging or website header.