How to Market Your Startup’s Narrative Through Storytelling

I think an underrated art of business is the simple act of explaining to people what you do. Those moments when you give your 30-second elevator pitch, or just discussing your business in general. When you don’t tell your story well, there is a huge disconnect. It’s a terrible feeling when you love what you do, but maybe the storytelling aspect is difficult for you. Maybe it’s a little bit (or a lot) technical. But you know what you’re doing is pretty darn awesome.

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In Episode 555 of my Onward Nation podcast, I spoke with Pamela Herrmann, author of “The Customer Manifesto.” As we talked, she explained her interest in helping Main Street entrepreneurs articulate what they do. When she asked me how I describe my work, I fumbled a bit, to be totally honest.

Since then, and for a number of reasons not limited to this conversation with Pamela, my team and I have gotten crystal clear on what my business does, and we are able to explain it in a simple and engaging way. It’s made a big difference in how we connect with peers and potential clients.

What I remember, though, about my conversation with Pamela, is how she brought her work (neuroscience) into the conversation seamlessly. She was studying neuroscience for her work with both big corporate clients and Main Street business owners.

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There’s a neuroscience connection to the experience you have while networking: the one where people’s eyes glaze over, or they get super-interested in their phones when you’re talking about your business.

Here’s what’s happening: You are talking from an area of the brain called the neocortex. This is where all the high-level reasoning and critical thinking happens. We are delivering messages from that part of our brains, but that’s not where people are listening to those messages. Initially, these messages go to the filter of the reptilian brain. That’s the part of the brain that has to quickly assess if a situation is dangerous, or just dangerously boring! There’s, of course, lots more to it than that, but you get the idea.

The point is, while you are speaking about high level, technical things, as fascinating as they are to you, the other person is trying to work out in their minds if they should even trust you to begin with. It’s the same part of the brain where the fight or flight impulse is worked out, so that’s the level of thinking that is going on here in these moments.

So how do you overcome that reptilian brain conundrum?

You have to be able to market or articulate in a very relatable narrative what it is that you do.

What is it about your business that captivates you? It’s not just in conversations about what you do, either. It’s how you write your web copy. Whether you’re creating content in the form of a newsletter, articles, or video, it doesn’t matter. You have to be able to create a narrative around what you do in a way that people understand.

So, here’s how to fix that communication breakdown in order to get people excited and invested in your startup: through storytelling.

When you tell a story, you create a connection. You create a moment that is relatable to the other person; something similar to their own experience. And when that happens, you don’t have to get into the technical weeds of what you do.

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Pamela put it this way:

“When you approach marketing from that perspective, now you’re starting to build the seeds of loyalty, which gets somebody nodding their head yes and saying, ‘I like you. How can we work together? I don’t even know what you do for a living, but I want to figure out what the potential is for doing business.’”

Storytelling is becoming a bit of a buzzword, but it is a critically important skill for aspiring entrepreneurs to master.

Personal connection means helping people get beyond that fight or flight reptilian brain response, so you can hear what they have to say, and they can hear you. With that, you can begin to build a beautiful business relationship.

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