How to inspire and catch people's attention with your business story

"In a world where people have a lot of choices, the story may be the deciding factor," Nick Morgan, a communications consultant and author of How to Tell Great Business Stories.

The way you present your invention or idea to others can either hinder or help you achieve your goal. The secret is in the story you tell.

In a study done at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, students were asked to give a 1 minute pitch. Only one in 10 students included a story in their pitch, the rest only included facts and figures. Afterwards students were asked to write down everything they remembered about each pitch. Only 5% remembered a statistic, but 63% of students remembered the story.

Our brains are not wired to remember facts and figures for very long. By telling a story instead, you will send your listener on a journey of emotions which is much more likely to inspire and prompt the listener to take action. A good story can also create a personal connection between your idea or invention and the listener. A story even has the power to change opinions and inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and to change things for the better.

The purpose of telling people about your product or idea is not to entertain, it is to reach a desired outcome such as raising funding or reaching customers. The more of yourself you reveal, including admitting past failures and mistakes, the more trust and rapport you will establish. 

To tell an effective story, keep these points in mind:

  1. Understand your customers and audience. Find out what will drive them to do business or buy from you. 

  2. Make your story authentic to make your audience respond. Show your human side Don't be afraid to include stories from customers or employees.

  3. Use fact and figures to back up your story. Combining story telling and data will persuade your audience both emotionally and intellectually.

Capture your purpose

Every inventor or entrepreneur needs a mission and a purpose. This is even true for many successful companies, who had a defined purpose and mission statement before they developed a product to bring to market. Both Apple and Google falls in this category. It is the mission and the purpose which will drive you and give you the momentum and support you need.

What does an investor want to hear?

Investors are interested in much more than just the idea itself. A good idea is worthless if the person behind it is not passionate and motivated to see it through. To gain an investor's attention show your passion and your personal reasons behind your passion. Doing it just for the money, won't keep you afloat through the touch times and an investor knows that. An investor is often not just investing in an idea but in the person and the skills and knowledge of that person.

The decision of Scott Weiss, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, to invest in Ben Kaufman's idea Quirky is a perfect example of this. Ben had a past of trying to bring his own product to market, and made no secret of the difficulties he had faced. He told Scott about his struggles and the lessons he had leaned. He had a real passion to make things easier for other inventors and nothing was going to stop him.

What does your customers want to hear?

Your customers are not just buying a product or a service, they are buying into the idea itself. A faceless business with no real purpose is uninspiring. Connecting with your customers on a personal level will increase trust and eliminate suspicion. People want to know what's in it for them, but likewise they also want to know what's in it for you. Make sure your customers know you are doing it for the right reasons without any hidden agenda.

Once you have eliminated the initial suspicion, you can start touching on any other objections, suspicions, question or concerns by using stories which go straight to these points before they are raised. These stories will make your customers feel like you are on their side and that you can identify with them on a deeper level.

Annette Simmon, Author of “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact” calls this "I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking" Stories

How to tell your story for Crowdfunding.

For people to remember your product on crowdfunding it must have a story built into it. It has to be personal and emotional. When dealing with crowdfunding, you are dealing with your future customers, so remember to follow the points in the above paragraphs.

As an example, a small group of entrepreneurs wanted to crowdfund a heavy duty theft resistant bike light into existence. They didn't have a story however, and they were finding it hard to come up with an emotional story, which their potential crowdfunding investors could relate to and connect with. Then one day one of their friends had his bike light stolen and was subsequently hit by a car. The team used this story, and the product which is now being sold in 160 bike shops worldwide, raised $84.00 in presold bike lights on Kickstarter.

What's your story?

Ask yourself these questions:

Who am I?

Where did I come from?

Why am I doing this?

What is the obstacles faced in my story? (every great story needs a villain, a setback, a problem, an obstacle or something else to be overcome)

Final Caution:

Don't try to make your story too fancy and go beyond the truth. In 1997 a clever PR manager created a buzz around Ebay. He told the media that Ebay's founder Omidyar's started Ebay to help his fiancée trade Pez candy dispensers. This was done after the real story of Omidyar's wish to create a "perfect market" did not inspire the media. It was later revealed in Adam Cohen's 2002 book that the story was completely fabricated, but by that time Ebay was far too big to suffer any consequences.