"Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today."
Robert McKee – Screenwriter, author and master storyteller
In the last post I focused on Purpose stories, which focus on meaning. What do we stand for as an organization? Why did we start this business, division or team? What passion do we have for solving a specific problem or serving a certain type of customer? And I shared an example from NIKE. The second type of story leaders can share focus on Value.
Value stories highlight how you help your customers succeed. The customers can be the ultimate consumer of your product or service, internal groups you support or business partners that you work with.
One way to think of these stories is to view your customers as heroes who are on a quest to accomplish their goals. Along the way they need help, which is where you come in. Your story paints a compelling picture of your customer’s journey, the obstacles they face and how you help them realize their goals. You show how you, your organization or your team adds value. This approach works for both external and internal audiences.
Entrepreneurs that present to investors often have a very limited amount of time to tell their story. In my work with hundreds of startups, I find that their stories are more successful when they clearly illustrate a customer’s problem and how their company’s solution works. Here are two examples:
Histowiz automates the process cancer researchers use to process tissue samples.
HigherMe helps retail and hourly employers hire better employees.
Entrepreneurs build credibility with potential investors when they tell clear and concise Value stories. The entrepreneurs show they understand their customers and how to build a business around solving the customers’ problems. As a result, investors have more confidence that they’ll get a return on the money they put into the startup.
What You Can Do
Outline the hero’s journey for your customers. What are they striving to accomplish? What obstacles and pain (high costs, lost sales, inefficiencies) do they encounter?
Create stories that show how you help them succeed on their journey – the value you deliver. Stories have a Beginning (the customer’s situation, goals and challenges), Middle (how you helped them, the progress and struggles) and End (the results for the customer).
Identify opportunities to share Value stories. These can be 1:1 interactions, team meetings, recognition events, reports to senior leaders or boards.
Engage other people to tell value stories. Teams, individuals, customers, suppliers, partners and even industry experts can carry your message to broader audiences.