Using Storytelling For Startup Marketing

montiLast Thursday night my wife and I attended The Monti’s StorySLAM in Durham, NC. Run by Jeff Polish, The Monti is a non-profit whose mission is to create community through the telling of stories.  The concept is simple: the storytellers craft and deliver a story based upon a pre-assigned theme.  In front of sold-out crowds of 200+.

The StorySLAM is the Monti’s version of an open mic night.  A few dozen storytellers drop their name in a bucket, and eight are chosen to speak their 5 minute story.  Last week’s theme: humiliation.

Although I didn’t have a chance to share my story of personal humiliation, you can listen to my last rehearsal, recorded during the Thursday afternoon commute.  Listen/download here [4m 33s].

All story telling should look this awesome
All story telling should look this awesome

The eight speakers and host delighted the audience with stories about high school humiliation, marching across Louisiana alongside a covered wagon, peeing on your shoes at Whole Foods, and dropping a deuce while running the fastest 2 miler of a collegiate athlete’s track career.  Big laughs had by all.

The point to this post: As a startup, your story may be all that you have. If you only possess a brand new product with little to no customers, revenue, or reputation, your story is critical.

Why your startup story matters:

  1. It explains your lack of experience or history in the industry.
  2. It will make people care about you and what you’re doing.
  3. It validates the problem you are solving.
  4. It will anchor all future conversations.  In fact, it will probably be directly tied the mission and crusade you are embarking upon.

How to tell a better startup story, adapted from The Monti’s own storytelling tips page:

  1. Want people to pay attention from the beginning? Start with a killer “hook”.
  2. Keep it short. Your story is only a single piece of the conversation. It should serve to frame up the rest of the dialogue between you and your customers.
  3. Convey your “WHY” with passion.  People want to see and believe you actually care about what you’re doing.
  4. Follow a logical path for your story.  Set the context, create the problem, expose the conflict, present the solution, close with a lead in to the next step, whether it be a demo of your product or Q&A.
  5. Make your closing point clear and impactful.  If you had to leave them thinking one thing, what would that thing be?

The exercise of building a story and rehearsing it until my ears bled served me incredibly well.  Crafting a compelling narrative is freaking difficult, and much different that presenting a Power Point or webinar.

Are you a great storyteller?  I am not.
Are you telling your startup’s story as best you can?  I certainly have room to improve.
I’ll be heading to more Monti events to start figuring this out.

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