For as long as there have been people, there have been stories. They connect us, inspire us, teach us and unite us. They transform facts into feelings, carrying our experiences, histories and memories into the hearts of others, so we can see a new world together.
Which is why, if you’re a founder looking for investment, stories are such a powerful, game-changing way to bring your business idea to life, excite potential investors and bring them on your business journey. They really are the magic ingredient that transforms everything you feel, know and love about your business into something investors have no choice but to be part of.
So, what is it about storytelling that can be so useful to entrepreneurs? Here, I’ll break down what to include, how to structure your story and how to make sure it resonates with the right people.
Start at the beginning
Stories help all kinds of businesses engage with their customers, investors and allies. But for early-stage businesses looking for investment, telling a powerful story is crucial.
In those first years as a founder, you might not have the kind of figures or followers that instantly inspire people to invest in your business. But if you’ve got a good story, you can still draw them in, fire them up and ultimately garner their support.
Your story really is everything. You can use it as the thread that runs throughout your pitch deck, as a hook to engage the people who’ll join your team, and even as part of your daily conversations when connecting with like-minded people within the same industry. So how do you get your business story straight, and start telling that story successfully?
Get clear on your goals
Building a story for your business pushes you to get really clear on what you do, where you’re heading and what it’s going to take to get there. And that’s a hugely helpful exercise. Because when you’re clear on all of those things, you’ll be able to explain them to potential investors, share them with customers and focus everything you do around everything you want.
So start your story-building process by asking yourself those big questions and writing some clear, concise answers. Get to the heart of what you do, who you are and why you’re raising.
"Make your story personal"
Keep it simple
Businesses are complex, but stories shouldn’t be. So as you start drafting your story, don’t get bogged down in too much detail. Yes, support what you’re saying with compelling top-line evidence, but keep it short, sweet and punchy – and keep the story moving along.
You want to grab people’s attention, make them curious and keep them interested. If they love what you’re telling them, they can ask for more in-depth details (so have those ready, but separate, in case you need them).
Make it personal
However experienced an investor is, a huge part of their decision to invest will be down to what their gut tells them. Investors are looking for founders they believe in, with stories that engage them emotionally, as well as rationally.
So make your story personal. Talk about the experiences that led to you starting your business, and don’t be afraid to share the challenges as well as the successes – authenticity is key! Being honest about the highs and lows helps to create connections, spark relationships and show the strength and resilience it’s taken to get to where you are today. There’s power in that.
Share your purpose
Diving into that personal experience and motivation will also help you get clear on the purpose that drives your business – the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, the problem you want to solve, the change you want to see in the world.
Pinning down that purpose and making it part of your story can help to elevate your business, and the value of what you do. It makes your brand feel more meaningful, giving people something to believe in. That’s not just rocket fuel for potential investors – it’s a vital part of building customer loyalty too.
Paint a picture
One of the most exciting things about telling your story is the opportunity to paint a picture of an alternate future – one that’s better and brighter because your business is part of it. So go there – talk about how you’ll change the lives of your customers and what the world will be like when you achieve your purpose together. Yes, investors are looking for a strong financial return, but for many of them, the chance to be part of something change-making will be a real motivator too.
Structuring your story
Pulling your journey so far into a concise, compelling story can understandably feel like a daunting task. So it’s often helpful to have a structure to work towards. Whether you’re working on slides for your pitch deck or prompts for a presentation, think of your story like a film and aim to build momentum and excitement as you move through it.
1. Start strong
The best stories don’t start with pages of background description. They start with something interesting happening in the world. So grab people’s attention straight out of the gate and explain the problem you’re about to solve – and the inciting incident that made you personally want to solve it. Every good story contains conflict, so set up the conflict between what your target customer wants, and what they’re currently experiencing.
2. Be the hero
Once you’ve set up the problem, sweep straight in with the solution – the big idea you’re going to deliver. Stories need characters, so position your business as the hero of the story, who can save the day by making customers’ lives easier and, therefore, better.
3. Build things up
In fiction, at this point, there’s usually something called ‘rising action’, where the hero starts to work towards defeating the enemy (or in this case the problem) and saving the day (or making the customer happier).
You can do this by showing the interest and traction you’re starting to get – the positive indicators that your business is delivering something customers want. If you’ve got great top-line data or testimonials to back that up, brilliant, but don’t get too detailed – keep things building.
4. Get to the good part
Think of the climax of an adventure story – the part where the hero proves their worth. When you’re telling your story to potential investors, this is the part where you land them with the incredible opportunity that’s in front of you (and them) and underline why you, as a founder, are the right person to make it a reality.
5. Wrap things up – invite people to play their part
Once you’ve hit that high point, work towards the conclusion of your story. Set out, in simple terms, the work that needs to be done to realise that big opportunity, and why you need their investment (and potentially involvement) to make it happen. Leave people inspired to take action, whether they’re investing, passing your pitch on to their network or putting you in touch with potential partners and customers.
Carrying your story through
Crafting a great story is an investment of time and effort, so make the most of it. Don’t just save your story for your pitch deck and presentations, work it into your marketing, your website and your socials so the same purpose shines out, wherever people come across your brand.
Testing it out and polishing it up
One final tip. The first time you tell your story shouldn’t be in a pitch. Test it out again and again, on your team, your friends and people who don’t know your business, to make sure it’s instantly understandable and resonates with your target audience. Keep refining it until their reactions tell you you’ve got it right. And don’t be afraid to make changes further down the line – there’s no need to rush your business story. Getting it right is key.