How to build a story around your start-up

Written by Anna King

#marketing

Why do people choose one brand over another? You might think it comes down to product features, hard evidence, or facts and figures behind how it works. When in reality, research indicates that emotion plays a far bigger role in our decisions, with one study showing it's as much as three times as important for influencing consumers than facts and evidence.

And what better way to appeal to your customers' feelings and emotions than by telling them a story? Researchers in Spain found that reading descriptive words and narratives sparks the same areas of our brain as if we were having the experience in real life. It explains why people become so engrossed in novels, and identify so closely with the characters. Wouldn't it be nice if they felt the same way about you and your business?

Here's some tips on how to build a story around your start-up:

Communicate the 'why'

There's a brilliant Ted Talk by the marketing guru, Simon Sinek called Start with 'why'. In it he explains that the secret to the most inspirational and successful businesses is that they have a clear purpose behind their product or service – known as the 'why'. Understanding and communicating why you do what you do and why people should care is the foundation to telling your story. So, if you don't already know what it is, think carefully about your raison d'etre, and build a compelling narrative around it. Where did the inspiration come from? When was your 'aha' moment? What problem are you trying to solve for customers?

Show don't tell

Telling your story is a great start, but words alone aren't enough. Your story has to permeate every area of what you do, from your branding and tone of voice, to your culture and how you operate on a day to day basis. If you say you're fun, customer focused or innovative, you have to demonstrate that, with policies and initiatives that put that front and centre.

Keep it simple

You're passionate about your business, which means it can be easy to go overboard when telling your story. But remember, less is more. Your customers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day, so will probably only remember a few details about what you've told them. Help them remember the right things by keeping your message targeted and simple.

Share the ups and the downs

One of the benefits of being a start-up is that you can get away with taking risks and making mistakes – you can even turn these around to your advantage. Rather than trying to be totally polished from the word 'go', make an effort to capture both the highs and lows of start-up life. After all, that's what makes a great story. Your audience will appreciate and respect your honesty when things go wrong, plus it's an opportunity to explain what you've learnt and how you'll do better in the future.

Involve your customers

Some brands fail at storytelling because they focus too much on themselves and their product or service, when they should be focused on the benefits they bring to the customer. You can do this really effectively through user-generated content; giving your customers a platform on which to capture and share their experiences. Go Pro does this successfully through featuring users' images on its homepage. Another idea is to involve your customers through crowdsourcing ideas for your product or service. It not only engages your existing community, but also provides an opportunity to reach a wider audience with your story.

The start-up world is getting more competitive all the time, which means differentiating what you do is harder than ever. There might be a hundred other companies offering a similar product or service to you, so having an engaging narrative behind what you offer is essential. Only with a unique, authentic and interesting story will you create that all-important emotional connection, ensuring your customers choose you over your competitors.

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