The goal of every business is sales. Without it, the business dies. Plain and simple. You need to sell your products or services one way or another. There are a lot of ways to do this, but there’s currently a huge gap between your target market and you and you need to close it. You need to build a bridge and then get them to walk over it.
Now this may happen one step at a time, over time, or you may have found a way to close that gap a lot faster. But people don’t normally buy something the first time they see it or hear about it.
So how do we close that gap so that people will buy our product? What bridges do we need to build? Do you just talk about your expertise and how great you are? Do you just talk about your products or services and how great they are? Or is there another way that’s proven to be successful.
If you watch TV or listen to the radio, you may be in the habit of partially tuning out when it comes to the commercials. I can’t blame you. I spent many years muting the TV during commercial time. But now, I’m going to ask you to pay attention to at least some of the commercials. If you watch or listen closely, you’ll see a pattern with their message and how it’s delivered.
More and more ads are persuading people to buy through the use of stories. And some, really tug on the emotions more than others but they use a blend of emotions and logic…and we’ll get to that later on.
But for now, I’d like to talk about stories in a different way. Your story.
How can you use your story to get your products and services into the hands of customers who need it? Those who bridge the gaps win. If you can use your story to build a connection with your target market you get them moving in your direction. They start coming to you.
As Kindra Hall puts it in her book ‘Stories That Stick’, “Is there a way to simultaneously capture attention, influence, and transform audiences? How do you build bridges that last and close the gaps once and for all?” Storytelling. In the end, stories are what sticks and more and more advertisers are using them.
But before we get to the Founders Story we need to go over the components of a great story. Again, according to Kindra Hall, the 4 things great stories should have are:
• Specific details (details about being human, not about numbers or stats)
Since this is about you, your company and how you can sell your product and services, the Founders Story will be used to give yourself the credibility you’ll need to start bridging the gap. You’ll be the ‘hero’ so to speak in this story but we’re going to do it in a way that’ll give the listener a natural emotional connection, without bragging about you.
Now the second element, authentic emotion, doesn’t refer to the story listener, but rather, the emotion felt by the main character in the story, you. No emotion, means no empathy. No empathy means reduced impact.
The third element, a significant moment, will be that turning point of an event that fans the spark into a flame. Stories that are too broad, too vague or too general aren’t going to be effective.
But these three elements are all part of the overall framework of the story. How is the story framed? With these things:
Let me add some context to these things for you.
So let me give you an example of a Founder’s Story by including mine. Now, it’s a little long, but I think it needs to be to have the emotional impact I’m shooting for and to include the framework I just mentioned. I’ll identify the three parts of the framework I just mentioned before.
I would say that my entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 13 when I got my little paper route in the city of Cohoes NY. I still remember the little office the Times Record newspaper had on the same block as where we lived.
I was nervous at the time, wondering what I just got myself into. I never had a job of any kind to compare this to. It was truly my first money making endeavor. I didn’t realize this at the time, but here I thought I was taking a risk with them but they were taking a much larger risk with me.
I remember it was all very new to me and I had a huge learning curve, but after awhile, I got into the routine of the route and ventured into other streets and was able to add an 11 story senior housing building to more than double my route from 40 customers to 110. I then saw the power first hand of building my little business and having my income double as well. I remember the thrill of having my first bank account and saving up for things I wanted and knew my parents couldn’t afford to buy for me.
I had the little entrepreneurial bug neatly tucked into my psyche.
Jump to post high school where I go to get an education in IT. Found my IT niche and ran with it. Worked different jobs in increasingly better roles but was watching a large chunk of the IT world go by because I was stuck in a narrow role of Unix field service on proprietary systems, spending most of my time driving around a third of NY state day in and day out.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want and it was that job. I lost my promotion in the last buyout and it was clear to me that I was going in the wrong direction with this company.
There had to be a better way and I was determined to find it; so, I quit.
To try and catch up a little bit for the world of everything Microsoft (Apple wasn’t so huge at the time), I was taking a systems engineer class and met a man named Ray that impressed me with how he portrayed his IT business and the opportunity for growth that he said existed. ‘We’d make a fortune, you and me if we team up together’, he said. ‘Tom, you take on the IT part of the business and I’ll run the backside of the business.’ Sounds good doesn’t it? It sounded impressive and it was very tempting. Sounds like we’d compliment each other that way, right? Well, in a normal business relationship with a normal person, I’d tend to agree. But little did I know that he was just coaxing me in to use me and take me for as much as he could.
So he convinced me to join his business and I said I would be a ‘partner’ and give it a year to see how it goes.
The very next day I received a phone call as a follow up to an interview that I had to be a Unix Server Admin for a great local healthcare HMO. It was my dream job; what I always wanted to do. But I turned it down, because I had already told Ray I’d join him in his business for a year as a so called ‘partner’. Even though no papers were signed, to me I had given my word and felt that I should honor that.
He turned out to be big on talk and short on results. As time went on I saw his true colors. After seeing how unethical he was as a person, how he wanted to run the business and how he treated me and the clients I just couldn’t stay with him any longer and left that business to start my own. Staying with Ray would hurt my reputation and I couldn’t let that happen. I was now married at the time and had 2 kids. Hurting my reputation would hurt the family.
After a few months, I made it official and started Net Essentials Inc.
I nearly tripled my income the first month. But, you know how sales can be, up one month and down the next. I didn’t have a roadmap or a coach and wandered down the path of trial and error as a new solo-preneur. I could easily have been more successful if I had known some basics about sales, contracts, passive income and outsourcing. I eventually figured out some things on my own but it took awhile. A lot of lost time and money because I was trying to figure everything out on my own.
Even now, when I read about business plan strategies and tactics I keep telling myself ‘I wish I knew these things when I first started out 20 years ago. I could have saved a lot of time and money and would have been able to grow the business much faster and easier.’ Things like:
• Self evaluation testing to know my strengths and how to tune into that zone of genius so I don’t waste my time on things I shouldn’t be doing
Even today, I’m still working my business to help others find that ‘better way’ for them, so that they don’t go through the same struggles that I went through. Now, I’m committed to helping people work through the process of launching their business by having a step-by-step strategy in advance, so they don’t wander down the same path I took of trial and error.
So please learn from my mistakes. Learn how not to waste years of valuable time, energy and money.
So that was my Founder’s Story. The intent here is to humanize the business or the founder and remind people that behind the logo or the product is a real person who started it all. Having that emotional connection will help draw them over that bridge you’re building.
So what’s your Founder’s Story? Everybody has a story. And even if you haven’t launched your business yet, I think it’s still important to have your story down both on paper and in your head so you’ll know how to promote yourself consistently.
Spend some time going through your story within the framework of normal, explosion, and new normal. Use the details of your past to tell your story in a way that explains how you’re meeting the needs of your ideal customer and solving a problem they might have.
Don’t like your story? Create a new one. Am I telling you to lie? No, what I mean is that every time I went through a significant life pivot I was creating a new story.
Ever get fired from a job before? I did. And I used that event to chart out a new path.
So that’s what I mean when I say ‘create a new story’. Learn from your old story and create a new version of you. Pivot, change, learn, grow. Pivot again. Take chances. Try, fail at something, try again. This is how you can use your story to have an impact on the world.
Are you sick of the corporate world? Stressed out? Depressed?
Everybody had dreams, but you have to be willing to take some risks.
The alternative is, what?
Build a new life. Create a new path. Take control.
I was bored with what I was doing back in 2001 and when the job went from bad to worse, I took control. If you have the opportunity and you have the support of your spouse or significant other, then take control.
Do you want to read more on the topic? Try, Starting a Business From the Inside Out
Would you rather listen to a Podcast episode? Try:
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