I met Sarah, a fellow entrepreneur friend of mine for coffee the other day, and we had the best conversation. Sarah has a nutrition focused startup, and was really struggling to get people to pay for the products and services she offered. Being a nutritional scientist, facts and statistics make so much sense to her, and she has been using this as the main focus of all her communications - marketing, raising investment and building a team. But as she continued speaking, I realized that each of the clients Sarah helps, have a story and they get tremendous life-changing value from what she offers. Sarah and I discussed the need for a shift in focus - to rather focus on the value being added to the person when she is communicating with someone. It’s been a while and Sarah says her business is growing faster than she can keep up! I believe intentional conversations can bring much needed change, and that is why I’d like to have the same conversation with you today that I had with Sarah previously.
I am a firm believer that we need to be givers in order to be successful, and that value should be our commodity of choice. Adding value should be a core part of all we do, particularly as entrepreneurs. If you are able to add value to people, they will want to support your business. What exactly do I mean by “value”? In simple terms, value simply refers to the usefulness of something, or can be seen as the answer to the very common question “What’s in it for me?”. In a cluttered world, we as entrepreneurs should be focused on adding value as opposed to making profits. We should be focused on creating solutions to problems that make people’s lives and this world better, that’s what I mean by adding value. According to Bob Burg, your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment. We need to be mindful of this even when people are taking the time to listen to us as entrepreneurs - they should gain value out of the interaction.
Did my opening snippet of a story make you feel like there might be some value for you in this video? I sure hope so. Because as much as adding value is important, communicating value to stakeholders is vital. And the best way of doing this is through stories.
Statistics don’t change people’s behavior, stories do. I’m sure the narratives that are most memorable to you are those that were told as stories, rather than slides full of data and numbers? One the biggest benefits of story telling is that it often leads to increased levels of understanding. It’s the way human beings are wired. Story telling developed along with human beings’ desire to connect and be understood, and I believe it has not stopped developing. Sometimes when I hear the phrase “story telling” I imagine a group of people gathered beneath a tree, eyes focused on a central story teller. I want you to imagine that and let it go. Stories can be told in so many ways, and with today’s technology and the ability to so easily use media, story telling is one of the most modern things you can do.
So, if you want to be communicating value to someone, what better way than to do it through a story? Gary V said “No matter what you do, your job is to tell a story.”
Very often, the story of why you started your business in the first place communicates tremendous amounts of value - it is often the case that an entrepreneur had a problem, solved it and realized they’d like to share this value on a larger scale.
Let’s get a bit practical. When it comes down to communicating value through story telling, it’s very important to bear in mind who your audience is. You will have several value propositions in your business, although the core might be fixed. The value you need to share with a potential customer might be different to the value you can offer to a potential supplier or team member. After you have identified the stakeholder you’re addressing, and where the value point lies for them, you can tell a story that would make sense to the intended audience.
There are 3 main things to watch out for when telling a story:
- You focus too much on setting yourself apart
Have you ever had the experience where an entrepreneur tries to sell you so much on their uniqueness that you are left with no idea as to what they are actually trying to sell? Don’t focus on what sets you apart until you have explained the part to the customer that would matter to them.
- Leading with facts and features
Don’t do injustice to your products or services by reducing them to facts and features - stripping them down to bare parts. No, your product or service deserves to be told as a whole, as a part of a potential users life and the value it will bring.
- Forgetting that people make decisions with their hearts AND heads
Communicating value does not mean simply playing on emotion. It also needs to make logical sense. So it’s important for your story to incorporate enough facts that it will be memorable yet make sense for the listener to act.
I’d like to encourage you today to be value-focused. Ensure all you do adds value, and be sure to communicate accordingly. Be like my friend Sarah, use your skills to solve problems and drive innovation, and then use stories to tell the world why what you do makes it a better place! Let me know how it goes!
Communicating value, story telling, speaking to stakeholders, capturing an audience’s attention