Facts bore, distract and confuse. Stories excite, stick and sell!
You have a great technology, the research is there, you’ve won awards, connected with a co-founder and maybe even received a little grant funding. Now it’s time to crank the wheel and attract whatever resources your startup needs to take your business to the next level. So how do you generate interest in your venture to hire talent, or compell a room of investors at a pitch competition?
The first element of creating a good story is to tell stories that inspire and carry clear messages
Upstate New York entrepreneur, startup investor and venture catalyst Martin Babinec (TriNet, UVC, StartFast, IntroNet) says entrepreneurs with technical backgrounds spend too much time talking about the problem and solution. “They hope to compel the audience by spelling out the technical challenges that were overcome, and the uniqueness of the startup’s product design. It comes across like an academic lesson...shortchanging the opportunity to secure support,” said Babinec.
Facts don’t sell because it’s like memorizing a vocabulary list. Stories on the other hand, create an emotional connection in a fun and effective way. And if told with passion, they can be persuasive, convincing and ultimately hold the attention of your audience.
In “No Story, No Business,” author Joachim Guenster (aka the StorySculptor) tells the tale of a hero salesperson who suddenly started losing customers to inferior competitors because he was a “facts seller.” The character knew everything about his product down to the smallest detail, including his competitors’ products and the market. Yet still the salesperson was losing customers because of the technique he used to deliver his technology to customers. Until he found the best sales method in the world - telling stories! “In the end it is the story that sells because of the incredible staying power it has. It embeds itself deep into the subconscious of the listener and makes potential customers into enthusiastic brand and product ambassadors.”
This is why it’s important to tell stories that inspire and carry clear messages, instead of relying on spreadsheets, specifications and figures. Even if these facts prove your technology is superior to anything on the market today, it won’t matter how impressive if your audience can’t process the information. All you’re doing is cluttering someone’s brain. If you want someone to buy something, invest with you and make a referral you need to communicate what your technology is about, and why it benefits them. This will result in your audience understanding why they need what you’re selling.
Here’s a sample of a bad story with too many scientific facts:
The key chemical transformations that are needed in the conversion of biomass into fungible fuels or useful chemical intermediates, such as olefins, are characterized by effectively removing oxygen ideally without significant loss of carbon. One approach would be to achieve this employing several catalytic conversion processes, allowing each to be optimized in terms of catalyst employed. Polyols, molecules with multiple OH functionalities, are easily obtained from cellulosic biomass in known conversion processes. We’re proposing to develop novel, heterogeneous catalysts that will convert biomass-derived polyol substrates in liquid phase, hydrophilic media. The target reaction is deoxydehydration, that is, oxygen and water will be removed simultaneously by reduction and dehydration, respectively. With the help of a sacrificial reducing agent, the net loss of two OH groups from polyol can be effected, and a versatile olefinic product obtained.
Here’s a sample good story story that captures emotion:
Outdoor air pollution is among the top 10 causes of mortality in the U.S. It’s also the latest environmental cause, annually responsible for 1% of total deaths. Those health risks are not evenly distributed among the population. An important aspect of sustainable development is to understand how urban design and urban environments can help meet social and fairness goals. This includes avoiding large imbalances in environmental risks among subpopulations, especially across race and income. Our project will uncover new relationships among air pollution, demographic attributes relevant to environmental justice and the spatial layout of urban areas. We will also develop an education and outreach program to engage disadvantaged youths.
The second story is much more relatable. It’s clearly written using short sentences to describe a big problem and a solution to solve the problem. The first shows us how cluttering someone’s mind with facts will only lead to confusion and ultimately, the person “checking out” of the conversion. In our next blog post, I’ll discuss the importance of knowing who you want to sell to so you can determine how you want to sell it.