Startup

Storytelling For Startups—The Key to Reaching Your Prospects’ Hearts (and Minds!)

Eden Amitai
August 17, 2021

Somewhere near the southern tip of France, there is a remarkable cave.

Known as the Chauvet Cave, this paleolithic wonder houses the earliest known examples of a written narrative. With hundreds of images, ranging from literal depictions of animals, to mystical shapes and creatures, the ancient drawings likely served as a way to share experiences, to pass down knowledge from one generation to the next.

Thankfully, we no longer rely on twigs, prehistoric pigments, and cavernous walls to convey messages (though my colleagues might assert that my whiteboard presentations often look like archaic symbols and glyphs). But at core, the principles remain the same; stories work because they create connections beyond the limitations of ourselves, fostering deep empathy with others.

B2B Tech Marketing - More Than Just Facts and Features

But what about when it comes to your SaaS/cloud/tech product?

In tech marketing, I have heard the argument that features and facts should take center stage—leave the feel-good stories to the less technical products out there. If we assume that decisions regarding technical purchasing are solely driven by logic and statistics, this would seem to make sense.

Honestly though, I think this is just one piece of the puzzle; Sure, your features and data should be clearly demonstrated—but stories are just as crucial, and in fact, they can dramatically influence the purchasing decision process on a physiological level. Using fMRI scans, Princeton researcher Uri Hasson and his team found that while telling a story, both the brain of the listener and the speaker displayed similar patterns. According to their research, “Communication is a shared activity resulting in a transfer of information across brains. The findings shown here indicate that during successful communication, speakers’ and listeners’ brains exhibit joint, temporally coupled, response patterns.”

Hearing a good story also produces oxytocin, the hormone primarily responsible for creating feelings of trust and empathy. Says Dr. Paul Zak of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, “When our brains encounter a good story, oxytocin is released, causing us to feel empathy. The empathy is what causes us to want to take action. People who have this experience are more likely to act on their emotions: purchasing a product, donating to a charity, etc.” This type of reaction is something we want to create, no matter the product.

In my experience as a product marketer at cybersecurity companies and now at anecdotes, I have seen the power of a great narrative, compelling even the most technical of personas to create emotional bonds with products.

Here is how I use elements of storytelling to create messages that resonate:

I talk characters, arcs, and climaxes, not just figures and facts  

Remember the last time you sat through a presentation? Remember the charts? The tables? The data plastered across every slide? No, of course not. But if you were to turn those same inanimate (and quite frankly, boring,) elements into a cohesive story, with main characters, a storyline, and conclusion, your audience would remember it in two weeks, and maybe even two months down the road.

Good stories stick; facts and figures rarely do.

I do my best to create experiences, not just ideas

Like a lot of people, I love a good coffee. But there’s coffee and then there’s Nespresso. Nespresso’s story says that drinkers actively contribute to a more sustainable coffee ecosystem each time they drink their joe. Regardless of whether or not it's my preferred brand, they have succeeded in elevating a simple coffee into an experience, one in which their drinkers do good with each cup.

Though I haven't measured it myself, I'm pretty sure this feeling of “doing good” raises that oxytocin, each time reaffirming a commitment to their chosen brand. To this end, I am constantly asking myself how we can create experiences here at anecdotes, to elevate mundane Compliance activities into compelling moments.

I look at our story as our edge in a crowded market

No matter the vertical, as a startup, you've got a lot of competition out there. The right story can help level—even bulldoze—the playing field. Take relative newcomer credit card payment processor, Square; according to Wired.com, Square has “been able to do what most large companies haven’t — and not just because they’re smaller and more nimble. They’re successful because they have an authentic and meaningful story, and they use it to fuel and focus innovation.”  

Look at your stories as your key to standing out.

I use stories to tap into the irrational decision-maker (who lives in all of us)

No matter how savvy your buyers are, sometimes, they may miscalculate their ability to stay rational and logical. Andrew Dalglish, Director of analytics firm Circle Research asserts that “B2B buyers are influenced by their emotions too. It’s essential that any research into the B2B buying process recognizes this or it will give an overly rationalized, superficial picture.”

This is all the more true when deciding between two similar products; the product that has succeeded in establishing a deeper level of connection has a better chance of being selected.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

As product and content marketers at startups, we have a unique task; we are charged with creating messages that inspire our prospects to take a chance on something new. Data alone cannot do this job. It will hit all the intellectual buttons, but on its own, it may not spark a change.

When those same facts and features are intertwined with an evocative narrative, we now have the power to reach not only minds, but hearts as well.



Eden Amitai
Love Technology, User Psychology, and Marketing. Believe in working hard to play hard. Director of Product Marketing at anecdotes.

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