Storytelling

5 Secrets to Crafting the Perfect Startup Story

How many times have you heard that as a startup you have to nail your pitch? And it must be under a minute or two, perfectly orchestrated, delivered amazingly and personal…all at the same time. While I believe a strong pitch is important, it’s not your story.

A big misconception in startup marketing is that once you get the pitch nailed you can just use that on your site, when you’re selling, hiring and all over the place. This is wrong. So, so, wrong.

The truth is you’ll have lots of different types of startup stories. To best position your company for success these tales need to fit the audience at hand – investors, journalists, clients, partners and customers, among others. Many entrepreneurs think their story will grow organically, but that simply isn’t the case. You should craft all of them, something that takes significant time and resources.   

Seth Godin once said, “Either you’re going to tell stories that spread or you’re going to become irrelevant.” I couldn’t agree more. As someone who helped thousands of founders craft their story, here are some tips to get to your startup story in top-top shape.

1. Figure out your why.

Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the Golden Circle Theory is a must watch for founders. It helps you get past selling “what” you do and “how” you do it and instead focuses your story around the “why.”

Related: 7 Powerful Public Speaking Tips From One of the Most-Watched TED Talks Speakers

When I mentor startups I ask them “what made you take the jump?” Startups are rarely the safe choice. Often they are crazy leaps of faith, based on something you can’t shake. You jump into it because you love something about the idea and is aligned closely with everything you hold true. This is your why, and it should be at the heart of your startup story.

2. Make it short, beautiful and easy to endorse.

If your story takes 10 minutes to explain you have some work to do. Your story needs to be short enough to be shared and beautiful enough to be worth the share. In today’s hyper noisy ecosystem, the bits that get shared the most are the ones that are passed on easily and stunning to consume.

The exact words and visuals you choose to show off your story are more important than ever before. Maybe you spend time on a diagram that people can look at and just “get” or maybe you start testing synonyms of words in your story and gauge how people react to them – whatever you do, don’t settle on a story until you can show that it’s short enough and beautiful enough to be easily shared and endorsed on your behalf.

3. Give it serious real estate.

Amazing stories deserve to be front and center. Far too often startup teams bury their story in their about section or they forget to get it up anywhere at all. They instead over index on selling the product or service on site and forget entirely to spotlight the magic behind it. When it comes to selling today the bar has been raised. Consumers want to feel invested in not just the product but also you and your team. They want to know why you are worth their time and money. Why you?

Related: 6 Steps to Overcoming Stage Fright and Giving a Presentation Everybody Listens To

So take your story and lace it through out your entire website, pull it into your decks and your sale assets. This is when investing in other mediums – videos, podcasts and visuals is worth it. Give your story the best chance possible by putting it at the heart of your collateral. Trust that the magic that compelled you to start this company is worth sharing and will entice others to be invested as well.

4. Test and validate often.

Testing is often viewed as a luxury reserved for those companies that have already “made it" and have the resources and time to test. Well, that is simply no longer the case. With the plethora of testing software out there it’s easy to experiment with headlines and visuals to best determine what is working. The next big excuse comes when founders say they don’t have the “time” to test. I disagree. A test can be as simple as switching up your opening line in a coffee meeting, or showing a different visual in that deck you are showing off. The goal is to test into what gets people to stop and say “tell me more.”

5. Relevance is what really matters.

Keep it relevant. As a founder you will have many audiences to tell and share your startup story, and each of them deserves a special spin to keep it relevant to them. Here are a few pointers:

  • Customers want to know the unique value proposition, the benefits of choosing you, the trust signals that demonstrate you’d be the right choice, and they want you to solve something for them so they have peace of mind.
  • Potential investors want to understand the problem you are solving, and they want to know the market opportunity to that problem. They want to know how you are going to do it differently than it’s ever been done before and they want to know the team and support you have to help you conquer this problem.
  • Your next employee and early team is going to want to see the passion. They want to know how your solution is different and where they fit into it. What’s the opportunity for them? What are the challenges you’re facing right now, what’s the risk? They want to know this adventure is the right adventure for them.
  • Influencers and press partners want to see how this is relevant to their landscape, and they want to understand the disruptive angle your solution takes. They want your story to be visual and special and worth them supporting.

If you can keep your story relevant to the party you are sharing it with you have the best chance that is will resonate and compel them to support it.

When it comes to crafting your startup story so many entrepreneurs think that an elevator pitch and a great deck will do the trick. They think the special story will happen organically as find success. It’s actually the opposite: You’ll be more successful if you take the time and craft a special story.

Related: Want Your Company's Story to Shine? Focus on the B.A.S.I.C.S.