a founder's framework:

selling through storytelling

Maria Cate

Maria Cate

Co-Founder & CBO | cooth

Founders come from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. Some start their ventures alone, and others launch with business partners. Some are relational, some are technical, and some are both. Many are successful, and even more fail.

As entrepreneurs, founders are self-motivated and energetic. Notorious for burning the candle on both ends, they’re committed and resilient. They’re no stranger to taking risks and have the courage to venture into the unknown without knowing what the result might be.

Something all founders have in common is how quickly they find themselves constantly pitching their business. In person, on social, on their website. What do you do? Why do you do it? Who do you serve? How does it work? What sets you apart?

Sound familiar?

In all reality, founders have to know how to position their business and sell. But I don’t mean the selling that makes you cringe and roll your eyes. I mean selling that is fueled by storytelling, curiosity, and a genuine desire to help your customers. As defined by Harvard Business Publishing, storytelling is the power to engage, influence, teach, and inspire listeners. Curiosity is about learning and experimenting. The desire to get to the bottom of things and solve problems. To understand a complicated situation and come to the table with a solution. Not because it’s easy, but because they believe they have a better way. 

Before you can fully help your customers, you need to understand them.

It’s shocking how many founders with incredible solutions fall flat when it comes to positioning their business. It’s all about them and their product’s features – a huge miss with partners and investors.

Storytelling is an essential component of a successful company’s DNA. It’s how you and your employees connect with your customers. It’s your reason for being. Your why. Your brand’s story fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation, and extends customer loyalty. The best founders can deflect the competition and drive instant value through their story. It’s the bedrock to connection, and what sets you apart. It’s easy to follow along, and it sparks curiosity and desire to learn more. It drives credibility, and instigates trust. 

How does your brand story stack up? Guide your thinking with the following framework:

the hero

Spoiler alert – it’s not you. Your customer is the hero, always. Define your customer’s desires and the story you tell will instantly have a relatable hook. 

Brainstorm what potential desires your customers might have that you can fulfill.

The villain

Vilify your customer’s pain points and give them characteristics. Typically your customer will have 3 factors influencing their decision to buy – internal, external, and philosophical. They should have a root source, be relatable, singular, and real.

Brainstorm all of the literal and metaphorical villains your brand takes a stand against – external problems we resolve, internal problems customers are feeling, and philosophical wrongs we prevent.

The guide

Your customers don’t need another hero – they need a guide (that’s where you come in). Establish your solution with empathy and authority. Typically this comes in the form of social proof, testimonials, case studies, thought leadership, stats, logos, or awards.

Brainstorm empathetic statements you can make so your customers know you care about their internal problems.

The plan

Who follows a guide without a plan? Lay down stepping stones to make it as easy as possible for your customer to understand your process. Remove the sense of risk of doing business with your company. Clarify the process, and drive assurance with your ability to take them through it. Some companies write these out in an agreement plan – a list of agreements you make with customers to help them overcome their fear of doing business that clarifies shared values between both parties. An agreement plan can also be used to increase the perceived value of a service you promise to provide.

Brainstorm the steps a customer needs to take to do business with you. What feats do customers have related to your industry? What agreements could you make with them that would alleviate those fears? Do you share unique values with your customers? Can you spell those out in an agreement plan?

The call-to-action

Clearly invite your customers to take the journey with you. They’re looking for brands with solutions to their problems, and if you can change a customer’s story for the better, what’re they waiting for? A CTA can come in two forms – direct (leads to a sale) or transitional (on ramp to the sales process). 

Brainstorm what actions you want your customers to take. Are they direct or transitional? What is the customer journey through both of those avenues?

A strong brand story has enough simplicity to be memorable with enough complexity to make it powerful. If done correctly, your story should be the foundation for branding efforts, marketing efforts, and sales efforts. It should be able to adapt to changing market conditions, customer needs, and brand goals.

Is your story hitting the mark? Contact us for a gut check, framework, and plan.