As an entrepreneur, I understand your passion when pitching your solution to investors and customers, but passion alone won’t make one more technology pitch stand out above all the rest. I can tell you from my own experience as an advisor and an investor, what everyone remembers is a good personal story. Thus it behooves you to highlight your message with a bit of storytelling.
I’m not talking here about trying to be a stand-up comic, or weaving theatrical tales. Storytelling in business just means personalizing your communication here and there with anecdotes to highlight important points, and make the message come alive to peers and constituents. Here are some key ways that personal stories can raise your message above the standard sales pitch:
- Show that you are authentic and deserve their trust. Investors tell me that they invest in people, more than products. That means that you must convince your constituents that you are a real person, trustworthy, and authentic. Story telling allows these people to see the real you, outside the context of a marketing pitch for a specific business or solution. In reality, sharing stories is the first step to building a real relationship with other people in business, as well as your personal life. Good relationships are the primary basis for trust in business, leading to supportive investors, loyal customers, and effective partnerships.
- Connect to people’s emotion as well as logic. Facts and figures are easily forgotten, but emotions are long remembered. Find a place in your message for a story about the positive emotions that your solutions can generate, or the negative ones it can eliminate. Your audience will not only remember these, but will assign them a large positive value. When it comes to the art and science of persuading others, you can never afford to forget the power of emotions. At least one study has shown that ninety percent of decisions are made based on emotion, but that people then go back to logic to justify their position.
- Relate when and where your passion started. In most cases, a new startup idea and plan was driven by a specific personal incident that left you with the conviction that you still have for this opportunity. Help me to feel that same insight or pain that you felt, and I will likely remember and understand your message for a long time. For the average angel or VC investor, who has heard about hundreds of disruptive technologies, many new ways to reduce costs and improve usability, the impact of your personal realization will stand out, and might even have an equal impact on them.
- Explain your contribution to a higher purpose. These days, it is popular to highlight how your solution contributes to a higher purpose, such as saving the environment or helping the less advantaged. You can make this point much more powerful by relating a story of your personal commitment to this cause, and your plan to use your solution. A stellar example is Blake Mycoskie, founder of shoe company Toms, who donates one-for-one a pair to dis-advantaged people in other countries, is never shy about sharing his personal stories of working directly in the field where the donated shoes are lifesavers.
- Weave a real person throughout your message. Unfortunately, most elevator pitches, product descriptions, and marketing messages are abstract, and include no characters at all. People remember people, with associated emotions, whether that main person is you, someone you know, or a customer you lost. No long background stories are appreciated.
- Highlight testimonials from specific people. Rather than just listing the innovative new features of your solution, as well as your commitment to quality and service, use feedback from named customers or beta users to make key points. Testimonials from these people, especially if they are recognized influencers, are much more memorable.
Of course, it is possible to overuse stories to the point of undermining your credibility or wasting people’s time. Don’t expect your storytelling to be a substitute for basic business plan content, including competitive analyses and financials. Providing the fundamentals in a more memorable context, and enhancing their impact, can give you that competitive edge you need for success.