Storytelling: 5 essential tips for your startup’s success

All humans are hardwired for stories. It is in our nature to engage, educate and explain how our world works. From an early age, storytelling is central to human existence and it is common to all cultures to feed curiosity with inspiring narratives. Yet in the fast-paced world of startups, storytelling might come across as a nice-to-have rather than the backbone of an early-stage company. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Storytelling can make your startup stand out from the crowd and a strategic approach to it can convert your business goals into meaningful conversations and ultimately, successful deals. Plus, in a time of global pandemic, it is more important than ever to effectively present your brand to the world. In my opinion, these are the most important learnings for truly effective storytelling.

  1. Humanise your brand

Even though we’ve committed to a digitally-driven world, and technology has been reshaping industries faster than ever before, what humans still crave is genuine connections with others. With that in mind, it is important to remember that people will always want to engage with people, no matter the service, product or technology your startup is selling. Therefore, the context of your story must be a human, not an institutional, relationship. Customers will want to get a sense of your company as if it were a person. Your story should say who you are, and not just what you do. A good story will not only connect your startup with prospects, but it will make your customers come back for more, increasing that much wanted brand loyalty.

Top tip: Simply tell your audience how you’ve started, why you believe in what you’re doing and how you make a difference in this world.

  1. Bring your shared purpose to life

While clarifying who you are and what you stand for are crucial elements that will help you connect with your audience, the next step in your storytelling is to build a collective narrative by identifying a cause that appeals to your clients and fulfills their needs and aspirations. Your story has to answer your audience’s questions and illustrate how you and your customers are working together, even co-creating the product or service to solve a meaningful problem.

Top tip: Involving your customers in this “shared purpose” and including them in the customer journey mapping goes a long way in building authenticity and stakeholders’ buy-in.

  1. Keep your message clear, simple and repeatable

Storytelling is an extremely powerful tool in building brand recognition and, if used wisely, can definitely increase the value of your startup’s product or service. How you tell your company’s story so that it captivates the audience is probably one of the most important skills you can have as an entrepreneur. Without minimising the importance of cool websites and modern banner designs, in the end it’s your words that will sell products or services. That being said, avoid specific details or technical jargon and instead focus on your essential message! The real goal of storytelling is not to provide all technical details of your service or product, but to acknowledge that humans are communicating with their fellow humans and working towards identifying a solution to a common problem.

Top tip: The ability to write well is fundamental in telling your brand story to drive connections, so make sure you have your content marketing strategist on board. You’ll need a word wizard to craft that perfect message for your communication channels.

  1. Display and align your storytelling across all channels

Many startups actually have a powerful story to tell. However, far too many fail to create visibility and push it to the masses, either because of not using the right channel or simply because of not aligning their messaging strategy across all communication channels. Make sure you execute your campaigns across multiple platforms (online, offline, advertising, copywriting, design, website) to build a consistent brand. In this sense, it’s for instance not enough to publish a press release on your recent product update, as additionally your CEO and/ or CTO need to be on LinkedIn, fully engaged with customers, prospects or potential investors. As a matter of fact, LinkedIn is probably the best place to provide meaningful insights into your company.

Top tip: Create a messaging matrix to ensure that everyone in your team (not just the marketing department) knows the brand’s messaging and positioning perfectly. The messaging matrix is a basic chart listing key messages for each one of your target audiences.

  1. Use storytelling right from the beginning

One common mistake among startups is that they often neglect the important role of storytelling and only focus on developing a product or service until it’s market ready. Storytelling is actually the lifeline of any startup, including the early-stage ones. Therefore, even when you don’t have a final product, but only a demo, take the chance and conduct interviews, shoot videos or start a podcast to help your prospects understand and visualise your idea. They could even give you that much-needed feedback and thus, work with you on the “shared purpose” I mentioned in my second learning.

Top tip: Even when you have only one customer, they will most probably be very willing to help in sharing your company’s story, so don’t hesitate to ask for a testimonial or personal insights to write your first case study. This will build trust and faith into your company.