“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou Brand strategy consultant Deirdre Davi, who has worked with clients like Facebook, Google, Adobe and other tech giants, believes these words from Maya Angelou capture the essence of storytelling for businesses — the goal of which should be connecting with your audience’s emotions. For startups looking to stand out in the eyes of prospective investors and customers, a meaningful and memorable story will beat a chart-packed PowerPoint any day. A strong story starts with having a point of view. Too many businesses, Davi says, are unwilling to put a stake in the ground out of a desire to be all things to all people. That instantly creates a differentiator for those who have a strong point of view and aren’t afraid to express it. Davi advises businesses trying to craft compelling stories to “get to the why,” because it is always more engaging than the “what” or the “how.”
What is the passion that is driving you? Why did you decide to devote all your resources and energies to this venture? That’s what your audience will remember and talk about afterwards. When you’re telling your story, it’s OK in Davi’s view to show a little bit of the sausage making. Let the audience in on the process and even some of the struggles you went through to arrive at the solution you’re ready to share with them. It’s a way to make them feel involved and empathetic. When you’re preparing your in-person pitch, practice, but don’t let it show. In front of your audience, project enthusiasm about something other than your product or startup – tell the audience what gets you excited. Share some personality. Leaven your story with a few seemingly spontaneous anecdotes and sidebars, which of course you have actually rehearsed in advance.
When harnessing the power of storytelling, finally, articulate what you stand for, what you want to be known for, what you want to be. In marketing parlance, this is your positioning. A singular positioning is what distinguishes successful companies from those who aren’t clear about what they want to be. You can “do” many things, but you can only “be” one thing. And avoid writing wordy positioning statements that try to capture too many ideas, to the point that no single idea stands out. Instead, articulate a strong, single point of difference at the core.
Moreover, be sure your positioning is reflected in the company’s internal behavior, not just in its outward expression. Branding is a term that has been devalued through overuse and misuse, according to Davi. It is too often associated with external communications such as the logo or the tagline. It is better to think of a brand as a “response rather than a stimulus” – how the audience perceives you rather than how you project your image. It’s more important to have the brand manifested in the product experience than in the packaging.
Speaking of storytelling, Ynext Incubator’s Class of 2016 will be telling their stories at Demo Day on May 12, 2016. This is an invitation-only event for active and accredited investors. If you know someone who’d like to attend please have them email firstname.lastname@example.org.