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Today’s episode is a continuation of the series, “Top 10 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Business,” which was initiated by one of the show’s listeners, Kathy. She is making the shift from the corporate world to entrepreneurship, and is in the process of starting her first business; she asks, “What do you suggest that I consider and avoid before taking the leap of faith?” Tom discusses the seventh thing to remember before starting your business, how to tell your story.
An important part of connecting with your customers and audience is to know how to tell your story. Tom’s role as the Kauffman Foundation’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Western North Carolina allows him to work with startup early stage companies and founders; he continually encounters interesting patterns that emerge about companies’ ability to effectively tell their stories. In this episode, Tom reveals the last two tips for you to follow so you can get better at telling your story.
Tip 4: Answer the right question (not the comfortable one)
The order in which you communicate your story to your audience begins with answering the right question and not the one you want to or are most comfortable with. Frequently, people are asked the question—what do you do? Too often they answer by describing how they do it and not what they do. For example, someone asks, “What is the Success in Business Podcast? What do you do?” The correct way to answer is to say that “we help entrepreneurs and small business owners everywhere to succeed and thrive.” What you don’t want to say is “we are a daily podcast that provides lessons learned, best practices, and coaching for small business owners and entrepreneurs. While this is not a huge contrast and they are both important, the latter answer describes how instead of what. This order sets you up for the next question—how do you do it? Remember, the way you answer a potential customer’s question defines the direction of your conversation.
Tip 5: Follow a Proven Story Narrative
This last tip for how to tell you story illustrates a proven narrative method in three simple steps:
Define the problem
Introduce a solution
Describe the value
To put this process in action, Tom creates a quick story about a company that he coaches through the Kauffman Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, Plum Print, which is based in Asheville, North Carolina and New York. First, Tom describes the problem: your kids constantly bring home artwork from school that tends to build up over the years. You value their artwork so you want to keep all of them, which create a lot of clutter. Since you might be too busy or you don’t know what to do with it, you store it in hopes that you will do something with it in the future. Next, Tom introduces the solution: Plum Print provides a service that allows people to preserve, display, and enjoy their children’s artwork in the way that it should be. It doesn’t require anything more than sorting it and dropping your chosen pieces in the mail. Plum Print transforms your student’s artwork into beautiful coffee table books, notecards, and more. The process is simple: Plum Print sends you a box with a prepaid label to fill your masterpieces and you send it back. Then, the company expertly digitizes it forever, allows you to review and approve the design online, and sends you the final copy. Lastly, Tom explains the value: For less than the cost of a nice dinner and in less time, Plum Print allows you to preserve and enjoy your child’s artwork while cleaning up the clutter.
If Tom started his story by talking about the solution, it wouldn’t resonate as much because he didn’t identify the problem first. Narrating your story in the most efficient way allows you to personally connect to your customers and audience.
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If you’re a first-time listener, Tom Ryan’s Success in Business Podcast is a weekday show that provides how-to advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Thanks for listening.