Whether you have sixty seconds or sixty minutes, it’s important to tell stories when talking about your startup.

At the Funding Roadshow last week, nine startups did one-minute pitches. None of them told a story. Instead, they talked about their products. With so little time to explain what they did, the focus on the product made sense.

In speaking to a handful of the entrepreneurs, I suggested they take a different approach by starting with a story. Then, they could get into the product.

CartlyA good example was Cartly, an online grocery service that specializes in Southeast Asian food. The demo was focused on the service, which works with independent grocers.

Afterward, I told one of Cartly’s co-founders the story he should tell is that it is a discovery service for people who miss the foods they ate in Southeast Asia, but couldn’t find them or didn’t know they were available in Canada.

To me, this is far more interesting because it talks about how Cartly is solving a problem for consumers with specific needs, rather than coming across as just another e-commerce service. Everyone can relate to the food they enjoy and grocery shopping, so it makes sense to frame Cartly’s story within this context.

The focus on the product rather than stories is a path taken by many entrepreneurs because their focus is developing the product. As a result, entrepreneurs want to talk about how the product works, the bells and whistles, and sales.

Unfortunately, it means entrepreneurs don’t tell stories because stories they don’t believe they’re about the product.

But stories work because they’re about the experience and emotional connection (happiness, satisfaction, productivity, etc.) that a product delivers to consumers.

Stories put the spotlight on how their products offer different kinds of benefits.

Stories drive connections because consumers can see the value and how it would impact their professional or personal lives.

For Cartly, telling good stories should make consumers think about the experience of eating the foods they enjoy, and how they will now be able to purchase these foods in Canada. It triggers an emotional response that, hopefully, motivates consumers to see what Cartly offers.

The power of storytelling for startups and, for that matter, companies of all sizes has everything with do with engaging people on their terms. It’s about their interests, needs, experience, and problems; not your product.

The best way to make this happen is simple: tell good stories to get your foot in the door or capture someone’s attention.

There will be lots of time to get into how the product works and the technology that powers it. But first impressions need sizzle and sex appeal, which is what good stories deliver in spades.

To learn more about the power of storytelling, my new book, Storytelling for Startups is a guidebook for entrepreneurs looking for strategic and tactical insights on how to drive better engagement and connections. I also offer storytelling workshops. For more details, send me email (mark@markevans.ca)

Jump-start your marketing! 

My new book, Marketing Spark, delivers strategic and tactical guidance on how to embrace the power of story-driven marketing. Learn how to:
1. Create messaging that makes an impact
2. Develop a strategic roadmap for success.
3. Tactically leverage marketing channels.

Marketing Spark is an everyday resource featuring  fworksheets, templates, tools and case studies.
marketing spark