Why Startups Need to be Great Storytellers

storiesAmid all the buzz about the benefits of content marketing, I think there’s a key element missing from many of the conversations: storytelling.

It’s relatively easy to create content, which is why there a huge number of brands will be jumping hard on the content bandwagon this year. But content is just a commodity without storytelling to give it a rock-solid foundation. Without storytelling, content is nondescript, uninspiring and, frankly, a waste of time and energy.

For startups, storytelling is important because they struggle to attract the spotlight without the benefit of big marketing budgets. To be honest, it’s always surprising – and troubling – to come across a startup doing a bad job of storytelling, particularly when their products is interesting.

The startups that have good stories have a huge competitive edge because it is easier to attract an audience – whether they’re customers, advertisers, employees, partners or investors. A good story attracts interest, questions and business opportunities.

So how do startups become good storytellers?

It begins with having a real grasp about what they do, why what they’re doing matters, and whose needs they’re meeting. It sounds like a simple proposition but nailing it can take a lot of time and energy. But once that story comes to life, it is so much easier for storytelling to happen in a variety of mediums.

Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about storytelling, and working with startups to create well-articulated, easy to grasp stories. While it is the most challenging work, it is also the most rewarding when it comes together.

For startups, a key litmus test is when your story resonates with different people. It’s not only easy to understand but gets people interested in getting more details. When your story is really working, people will happily go through many “chapters” without even realizing it.

Last week at MaRS, I did a presentation about startups and the importance of storytelling. It starts with the history of storytelling and why startups aren’t good at it, before moving into how to start creating stories, and where to deliver them.

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  • Jeremy Campbell

    Excellent presentation Mark, storytelling is something I really need to work on, but I’m getting better at over time.

    As my company’s product evolves and changes I find myself looking for new angles on the original story I began with. So I found it interesting that you mentioned the first story never usually sticks forever as the market, product, customers, and company culture adapts and matures.

    • Mark Evans

      Thanks for watching the video. At best, you draw a line in the sand with a story, and then keep redrawing the line as the market, your company and customers change.

      • Jeremy Campbell

        Well said Mark! And the story can also completely change as long as it’s authentic correct?

        • Mark Evans

          Yes, a story can and will change. That’s fine as long as it reflects reality.