Do you have a kick-ass story to tell about your solution?

If your answer is no, you have a problem…or at the very least, you will probably have difficulty getting people’s attention. 

Case in point: “Dragons Den” style events seem to be all the rage these days, providing startups with the opportunity to give quick 5-minute demos. It seems the one thing these events have in common is that most of the companies presenting at them struggle to communicate what they do within the allotted time frame. At one recent Toronto event, after a company had presented for 5-minutes, an angel investor well versed in the tech sector turned to me and said, “I don’t get it”.

Enter: storytelling. Storytelling can be a particularly effective strategy for smaller tech companies with very technical products or those that customers may not be familiar with, and can provide a quick story to frame the discussion and get prospects to the “Ah-ha” moment faster – especially when time is not on your side.

One great example would be a story I heard from a Canadian startup recently. The founder was giving me a briefing of his new mobile app designed for children, but instead of launching in with tech specs or market size, he opened with this story:

While in a lineup at a store recently, the woman in front of me had a small child with her, who was trying to get her attention while she was speaking with the customer service rep. I turned on the mobile app and gave my BlackBerry to the child, who immediately stopped nagging his mom, sat down, and began to play with the app, allowing his mother to finish her conversation with the sales rep. The mother then turned to me and asked, “what is that game and where can I get it!”

Simple and to the point – it helped answer the key question – why would a parent with a BlackBerry buy this app for their kid?

April Dunford, from Rocket Launch Marketing, echoed the importance of storytelling to a group of tech entrepreneurs at Toronto DemoCamp 26 during her presentation entitled, “Startup Marketing” on March 29, 2010. Dunford’s slides can be found here:

It’s not rocket science – so why don’t more companies leverage stories? Simple. Because it’s easy to launch in with the tech specs you’re familiar with instead of seeing things from the perspective of someone who knows nothing of your solution.

For startups, or those in a sales and marketing role, the takeaway is simple: find your story that you can use to highlight the value of your offering. No matter how large or small your company is, everyone loves to hear a story, and they can be structured to sound more natural than a sales pitch.

So what makes a kick-ass story?

  • Keep it short and sweet – don’t risk losing the audience’s interest.


  • Address a key point – make sure the story has a defined purpose. If there is confusion in the market around why someone would want your product, make that the focus. If prospects are concerned around security, your story could be structured to address that key issue. 


  • Keep it fresh – your story may need to change as the factors in the market and the product itself changes.


  • Consider the story’s reach – even if you tell your story one-on-one with a prospect, it’s possible that someone you tell could Tweet or Blog about it. Consider if it’s a story you feel comfortable having everyone know about…not just the person you mentioned it to behind closed doors.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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