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  • What Entrepreneurs Could Learn From Storytellers

    “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”—Indian ProverbWith the intense competition in today’s marketplace, entrepreneurs are always searching for new and better ways to become memorable to their market. The art of storytelling can help entrepreneurs make a clear and impactful case for their product. It can also help attract customers and build momentum for their brand or organization.

    First, you need to understand the purpose of your story as it relates specifically to your customers’ needs and go beyond explaining the features and benefits of your company to the essence of what will inspire your target market. Know your perspective customers sensibilities so you can give them a reason to identify with your brand, then weave a concise story that captures the purpose behind your product offering that your market won’t forget.

    Before developing your storyline for your company, create a memorable phrase or statement that encapsulates the image of your firm. Nike’s tagline ‘Just Do It’ captures the idea of going beyond what one thinks he’s capable of.  Or in other words, become a person who doesn’t overthink and then misses out on a unique opportunity. ‘Just Do It’ has become a catch phrase for anyone that is bold, brave and daring. These are ideas that  spark a story and inspires.

    Apple’s marketing campaign focuses on doing things differently and appeals to their customers desire for standing out in the crowd, being first at something and for  being trailblazers.  The ‘Pepsi Generation’ and ‘Things are Better With Coke’ sold customers on buying a soft drink that would include the buyer in a cool and improved generation.

    These are examples of companies whose messages inspire customers to buy a product by tapping into a known core desire of their market. The savvy entrepreneur has a deep understanding of what drives his market on a psychological level. He knows about his market’s needs, interests, passions, anxieties and yearnings from personal experience and market research. While the product or service must meet his needs for solving a problem, it also must satisfy a psychological need to the customer of what that product  represents.

    Entrepreneurs and Leaders Who’ve Used Storytelling to Influence their Audience

    Many famous people like Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs are well-known for using compelling stories to inspire their audiences. Their success didn’t come from merely being the best at what they did. It came from providing their audience with a vision of the goal and the feeling of becoming a part of a cause.

    The ability to weave a tale is among the most powerful elements in any leader’s repertoire. So says the Mandalay Entertainment CEO and high-profile Hollywood producer Peter Guber (who backed best picture nominee “The Kids Are All Right”), author of the new book “Tell to Win.”  So who does he count among the world’s best storytellers?

    • Steve Jobs. ” he knows his devotees can’t just be customers—he needs apostles for his products who tell his story as their own and move it forward. Look at the lines in front of his stores when he opens new products. After he tells his story, the reaction reminds me of folks waiting for a big movie opening.”
    • Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank. “Kevin uses stories to create the impression among athletes that wearing Under Armour beneath your game shirt is a way to drive and fulfill your aspirations as a competitor.  He takes a story about perspiration and brings it to the level of inspiration.”
    • Lynda Resnick, CEO of POM Wonderful and many other businesses. “Story is Lynda’s mantra. If she can’t find the story she can tell in the product, she simply doesn’t sell the product. Whether it is POM Wonderful, the pomegranate juice, Get Crackin’ pistachios, or replicas of Jackie O’s pearls, her narrative wins the day and hearts of her audience.”
    • Bill Clinton. “He is able to glean what’s in it for his listener, get their attention and then their intention. His authenticity of purpose enters the room before he speaks the first word. He charms them and disarms them and then rearms them with his narratives.”

    Build Momentum For Your Product Creating “YOUR Story”

    Before crafting your story, ask yourself: “Who is my audience and what is my goal?” People are attracted to new products or services that fill a need, and make and improve the quality of their life. The reason you tell a ‘business story’ may be quite different from the reason you tell a story at a party, but great story teller’s use the same basic techniques.

    Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, writes, “Right-brain dominance is the new source of competitive advantage.” Tapping the right side of the brain allows for deeper engagement by uniting an idea with an emotion. So what’s the best way to do this? Learn the techniques on how to tell a compelling story. Pink says that no matter who you’re trying to influence, you’ll need to “start with a deep understanding of your audience, and ensure your story has a clear and powerful meaning — to them. Then you can set to work honing it for maximum impact.”

    In the case of launching a new business the more you know about your target population the better you can craft a story that will appeal to their sensibilities.  To succeed at this, you need to be knowledgeable about your market, their challenges and the desired life they want–before you launch your business!

     What Business Journalists Say About Storytelling

    Pattie Sellers, Senior Editor at Large for Fortune Magazine, encourages entrepreneurs to tell their story and to make it authentic. She says in her YouTube, “Tell Your Own Story” that storytelling via social media is useful for people now more than ever, as you have the opportunity through social media to tell your story at length.

    The Do’s and Don’ts in Storytelling

    Don’t come off as flat and dry.

    Lists of your business’s features and benefits are boring. Instead, create a variety of brief stories that showcase why your product will enhance your customers’ lives. If you need some inspiration, try listening to great speakers and influential leaders who tell stories in their speeches. Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Susan Cain, Sheryl Sandberg, Salman Khan, Conan O’ Brien, JK Rowling, Dick Costolo are a few who inspire their audience beginning with a great story in their commencement speeches. Each of these speakers use storytelling to make the audience care about what they care about. Start noticing the ‘hook’ that other storytellers use to engage their audience and then try to create your own hook for your business’s story.

    Go a step beyond just telling how your product works and what it’s used for to a description that’s tied to a core desire or value and you’ll be more likely to capture the interest of your market. People buy things that they perceive add value to their life. If you can identify the value your firm could add to your customers’ lives you could attract more interest in your product.

    If your stories are meaningful, succinct and are tied to the values and interests of your market, they could make you more memorable in the marketplace. The connection you build with your market through telling a great story could build momentum and excitement around your brand and your organization. Whether you’re trying to get investors, enhance sales or simply explain your business to others, stories are far more memorable than facts alone. Stories shouldn’t be left to “storytellers”-fiction writers, journalists and film makers. When entrepreneurs use them effectively it can help them grow their business.

    Beth Kuhel, M.B.A., C.E.I.P., Executive Leadership and Career transition coach, writes about leadership strategies, career advancement and improving the workplace for Forbes, Huffington Post, Personal Branding blog and has been featured in Business Insider, Entrepreneur magazine, Tiny Pulse, U.S. News & World Report. Beth’s weekly career CJN career column was sponsored by Weatherhead School of Management.

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