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What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?

startupsEveryone likes stories. Our love of stories starts when we’re children, and keeps on going. For startups, telling a good story is as important as creating a product or service that solves a problem, makes life easier or simply entertains.

So it is always surprising (and disappointing) when a startup does a bad job of story telling, particularly if they have a good product or service. Without a good story, many people may never discover the service because the initial impression is it is not compelling, interesting or useful.

The thing about good stories is they’re told in multiple places such as a Website, video, social media, elevator pitch, product demo and sales/marketing presentations. The story is the same across the board, although it’s told in a slightly different way depending on the platform or medium.

Why are stories so important? In a world in which people are time-strapped, multi-tasking and not willing to invest much time in anything, the ability to quickly capture someone’s attention is more important than ever. At the same time, there is so much competition that it’s impossible to rise above the crowd without a good story.

So, how are good stories created?

Perhaps the biggest consideration is the need to look from the outside in. Many startups suffer from a lack of perspective because they’re so close to their product or service. As a result, it is difficult to create a story that resonates with target audiences.

To develop good stories, a startup needs to talk to potential and existing customers, it has to look at how rivals tell their stories, and it may have to bring in outside help to get a different view of what they do and why anyone would be interested.

Another important exercise is boiling down a story to something basic and easy to understand. It’s like gutting the inside of a house, which creates a clean slate. For a startup, the creating a simple story starts with “We make X so [customers] can Y (e.g. save time, reduce costs, etc.).

Once this simple statement is created, the story can then be bolstered by talking about what the company does is unique or different, and the benefits it delivers to users.

It seems like a straightforward process but it can take time to create good stories, and it can be a two steps forward, one step back exercise. One of the big hurdles is it can be uncomfortable for startups to embrace a story that’s different from what the one they’ve been telling for a while.

At the end of the day, however, it’s worth the time and effort because a good story helps to provide a startup with a clear mandate and mission. By having everyone “singing off the same page in the hymn book”, it becomes a lot easier to tell the world what a startup does and what anyone would care.

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