Knowing what structure to use when communicating your company’s story can be a giant headache for busy entrepreneurs and company executives.
Whether it’s securing that big government department as a client, or an industry leader who you need to engage as a strategic partner—or even private investors who you need to raise capital from—the challenge of telling your company’s story can be met with an uneasy sense of foreboding,
Sometime it’s a genuine fear that you might get the message wrong, or worse, lose valuable clients or big partnership opportunities because you did nothing but confuse or muddle your audience.
It doesn’t have to be that painful.
Now being a busy entrepreneur or executive, it is likely that you don’t always have a lot of time to prepare a slick presentation, a blog article, a white paper, a brochure, copy for your website, etc., so here are three simple steps you can use to prepare virtually any presentation or document relatively quickly:
Basic elements to include in your story:
Give examples that are meaningful and relevant to your audience and remember one thing: story is sequential—“This one-time this happened, and then this happened, and therefore this happened, and so on.”
Add Salt & Pepper
Structure is great but using the principle of contrast is one of the best ways to add some flavour to your story as well.
You can build contrast into your story by taking your audience on a journey that introduces conflict (the problem) and then resolves that conflict (your solution).
If you can do this, then you’ll be streaks ahead of the pack who simply recall talking points and recite lists of information.
Audiences tend to forget rote lists of information and vague CEO-speak, but stories come naturally to us because that’s what we’ve done since the dawn of man: tell stories.
Take the following message as a quick example to illustrate the point further:
“Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centred innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives.”
“…put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade.”
The first message is incomprehensible to most, let alone memorable.
The second message—which is actually from a master communicator, John F. Kennedy—motivated a nation toward a specific goal that changed the world.
JFK (or his speechwriter) new all too well, that abstractions and CEO-speak are not memorable, nor do they motivate. Yet how many times do you see references in presentations and other corporate material to “maximizing shareholder value, company deliverables, blah, blah, blah”…....“making shareholders money at any expense” is more to the point but no CEO would ever say that.
The Need for Narrative
Story is an important way to engage your audience—typically customers, partners, or investors in the corporate world—and appeals to our human need for logic and structure in addition to emotion.
A 2003 a Harvard Business Review article on the power of story hits the nail on the head. It says storytelling is actually the key to effective leadership andcommunication in business:
“Forget Powerpoint and statistics, to involve people at the deepest level you need to tell stories.”
You should not fight your natural inclination to frame experiences into a story; instead, embrace this and tell the story of your company to your audience using the simple structure outlined above.
This will help you sign your dream clients, strategic partners, and/or investors.
We’re keen to hear some feedback from readers of this article, specifically:
It’s a typical situation: entrepreneur has great business idea, or solid proof-of-concept, but entrepreneur needs to raise capital to scale their business and compete.
So they need to raise some seed, or expansion funding to take their business to the next level.
Entrepreneur puts together a lengthy business plan and begins firing it off to investors en masse--otherwise known as the scattergun approach to finding investors.
Hang on…is that the sound of crickets?
All those hours spent knocking together a beautiful business plan covering every last detail of your future ambitions and not a sole is interested.
This is a soul crushing experience for entrepreneurs and an uncomfortable experience for seasoned investors who are on the receiving end of your solicitation to invest (usually via a cold call, or cold email).
This is the common approach to finding investors for your startup. We’re here to eradicate that approach.
A little knowledge goes a long way and a lack of knowledge regarding startup investment has to be one explanation for the continued use of this ineffective method.
Or it could just be the sheer excitement of knowing that you’ve discovered the Elixir of Life and you just want to tell the world one email, or phone call, at a time.
The number one way to overcome this problem is to stop firing off emails and phone calls to Johnny Longpockets (don’t worry, I am guilty of this) and his cronies immediately.
Second, it’s time to smarten up and start thinking like a pro.
Third, is knowing that the best way to engage with investors is to establish CREDIBILITY before you start talking to them.
Without this crucial third step, Mr or Mrs Investor will be less concerned with your Elixir, and more concerned as to the reason why you are talking to them in the first place.
Until you get past the issue of credibility, the investor you are talking to will not listen to what you have to say. If it seems like they are, then they are just being polite, trust me.
A better way...
If you are giving your elevator pitch to an investor for the first time then chances are you have had some type of conversation leading up to it.
During that initial conversation you must establish credibility in such a way that the investor knows exactly why you are talking to them.
The conversation might go something like this, “Hello, I am Bill Smith, and I was referred to you by Johnny Longpockets who mentioned you might be interested in…”
If you have a name that means something to this person then use it (of course, you will need permission from that person first).
If you have not been referred to an investor then the conversation might go something like this instead, “Hello, my name is Bill Smith, and I read in the Financial Review that you have an interest in…”
You need to take whatever link you can that allows an investor to see why you have specifically targeted them with your proposal.
No investor is going to listen to you until you do this. If you’re Bill Gates then feel free to just introduce yourself as Bill Gates. But if you’re not, then don’t.
It is highly likely that you will need to borrow some credibility from some firm, or person, who has a fair amount of salience with your investor.
For example, “Hi Johnny, I bumped into Peter Jones, your accountant, and he encouraged me to give you a call about…”
It doesn’t have to be the local accountant. This will work with a friend of the investor, a former colleague, a nephew, a niece, a law firm, or simply a social contact, such as a golf or tennis partner.
If you don’t get out much then sites like LinkedIn and Xing are great tools for discovering common connections.
There are also sites like Crunchbase, AngelList, Gust, Angels Den, etc. that have profiles for investors made available once you’ve registered with them.
In Australia, similar sites include the Australian Investment Network, AAAI,Melbourne Angels, and Sydney Angels.
Even a simple Google search will often turn-up mutual connections.
By researching investors online you are likely to see where they have worked in the past and with which businesses they have partnered.
Chances are you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone. All you need is a link. The world isn’t that big anymore (just think 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon when you’re prospecting).
Any common ground with your targeted investor can allow you to borrow sufficient credibility.
Finding and then referencing this common ground at the outset of your initial conversation is essential to your prospects of starting a relationship and securing investment.
Time for some feedback.
We’re keen to hear from entrepreneurs who are going through the process of raising seed or expansion funding for their startup, specifically:
Happy hunting and don’t forget to establish your CREDIBILITY before you start talking to investors.
Have you DOWNLOADED your FREE REPORT yet? “6 Capital Raising Myths Exposed”. CLICK HERE to fix that.
Well the time has come.
The amount of verbiage that gets bandied around in the media and even well-meaning friends and family (we forgive them) about how to raise capital for your startup, or business, is beyond reproach (slight exaggeration but not far from reality).
We thought it is about time that a few truths were told regarding the capital raising process.
Entrepreneurs are continually mislead about the true essence of the capital raising process and what it takes to capture the attention of private investors.
We've produced a report called "6 Capital Raising Myths Exposed" to try and combat this problem.
Here's a sneak peak of the full report:
"Numbers alone are enough to attract investors."
Entrepreneurs have somehow been led to believe that investing and investment decisions are all a matter of arithmetic. Facts, numbers alone, do not persuade. In order to persuade an investor, entrepreneurs have to be able to tell their stories...
"Investors will read your business plan."
Hundreds of would-be entrepreneurs have been taught that writing a long and polished business plan is necessary to raise investment capital. This is absolutely wrong. Find out exactly why this is the case...
"I don't know any angel investors"
If you live in Siberia then this may be the case, but otherwise, this is simply not true. Of course, you cannot open a phone book and look under angel investors. This type of investor is not recognised by most lawmakers and they tend to keep a low profile. Find out exactly where to find them...
"No means no more talking."
When an investor gives you a resounding "NO" after you have pitched them for investment, your natural response as an entrepreneur is to move on, with the view that they offer no additional value to your business building. This is probably the biggest mistake you can make when trying to raise startup funds. Find out why...
"Valuation doesn't matter."
There is a common misconception that your initial valuation doesn't matter because you'll make up ground as the business grows and receive higher valuations in the future. If only that was the case...
"The deal is done when an investor says yes"
It is natural to assume that, once everything is completely agreed and only signature signing and paper shuffling remain, your capital raising will close of its own volition. Nothing could be further from the truth...
That's just a small taste of the six most common capital raising myths. CLICK HERE to download the full report for FREE.
The full report goes into much more detail and explains the rationale behind each myth based on significant experience working in private capital markets.
We hope you find it useful and I'm keen to hear some comments and feedback from entrepreneurs or investors in the midst of raising capital, or who've been there, done that, in the past.
My contact details are on the final page of the report so feel free to give me a call or send me an email to discuss further, or comment in the field below.
And that DOWNLOAD link again.