Every story, from the fairytales we read as young children to the origin story of our favorite brand, contains powerful elements that build trust and empathy between the storyteller and the reader. So while you may be tempted to focus solely on data and stats to sell an idea, start with the story behind the numbers. The backbone of every effective marketing strategy is storytelling. In this post, we’re exploring the power of storytelling and how startups can use it to improve their marketing.
Anatomy of a Story
Stories that hold people’s attention have a beginning, a middle, and an end, with an arc of action that includes suspense. What you do with that structure and the emotion the content conveys is the magic that makes your story effective.
The beginning of a story introduces a hero, or protagonist, shares their challenge, and shows what the hero wants to achieve. In marketing, the hero is your customer or prospect. Your target audience should be able to relate to the hero in your story and the pain points or challenges you describe. They should connect on an emotional level and identify with the pain.
In Act II, the hero faces a conflict that they must overcome. There is an issue, or a series of obstacles, that the hero must face to accomplish their goals. Here is where you can begin to connect the dots for your target audience. Define what your customer needs or wants, what’s holding them back, and how your product can help them overcome their challenges and reach their goals.
The last act brings about the happy ending of the story. In the fairy tales of our youth, the hero conquered the villain and lived happily ever after. In your story, your customer solves their problem using your product, and their life is better because of it.
Share your vision for a better future in your story. You want your target users to identify themselves in the story and to be able to see how your product will solve their problems.
Elements that Make a Story More Powerful for Business
Whether you’re reading a fairytale, watching a blockbuster movie, or relating a customer story, the components of a story are the same.
- Theme — Your theme is your business purpose or philosophy. Your theme reflects your core values and how you define success.
- Hero — The hero of your story is the representation of your target audience. By understanding your user personas, you gain insight into their desires and struggles so you can help them overcome challenges and reach their goals.
- Mission — The goals of your hero tie directly to the jobs-to-be-done that your product helps users achieve.
- Obstacle — Every good story has an obstacle the hero must overcome. Demonstrate that your product can help your users overcome their challenges — you have a formula for success.
- Plot — While there are avant garde stories that lack plot, most stories follow a sequence of events. Plot helps keep your readers engaged, knowing where they are in the flow of events. If your story starts to ramble and go off-road, your audience will have trouble following you.
Three Types of Startup Stories to Tell
Three types of stories are especially powerful for startups. These stories will form the foundation of your marketing.
Your Origin Story
Who doesn’t love a story that tells how a mere mortal was capable of achieving great things? When we think of great origin stories, we think of companies like Toms, with a founder who started making shoes in his living room, or Apple, where a garage-based beginning led to decades of innovative product development.
Have your founder share their story for a compelling and personal feel. When conveyed with authenticity and emotion, sharing your original story can build connection quickly. Consider the following in your origin story:
- The source of your passion
- Why you launched this venture and the story of how it came about
- The people who have partnered with you (team members or mentors)
- The challenges you have overcome
A story is a good way to show that you truly understand your prospects’ pain points and what they want to achieve — and that you have a solution that will help them. Some things to include in this story:
- Show understanding of your user’s problems or goals, the impact of the status quo, and the journey to fix the problem or reach the goal
- Demonstrate your knowledge of alternate solutions and why they won’t work
- Share your solution, how it addresses the problem, and why it’s better than existing solutions
Focus on building a connection with users in their language. Don’t use overly technical terms or jargon that won’t resonate with your prospective users, but connect with them in their words.
Future Vision Story
Provide an aspirational vision that your prospects and customers can get excited about. Think big, pushing past just the benefits of your product but how your company’s vision can actually create a better future. How do you want to change your industry? What do you want to bring to life? Consider:
- The impact your product will have on people’s well-being
- Your views of success and failure
- Why the world is better with your company in it
Share your future vision and inspire your target audience to buy in.
The Power of Storytelling is Differentiation and Persuasion
Storytelling provides startups with a way to differentiate their brands and stand out. And stories persuade more effectively than any other type of communication by appealing to the emotion behind the purchase decision. The power of storytelling in your marketing plan is that it provides a sure way to drive growth for your business and to create a tribe of fans who will help spread the word about you.
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