Now that you’ve talked about your industry and given context, it’s time to focus on the most important message. It’s time to focus on your company’s story and use it to explain your mission. Your story begins with a purpose. Why did you start your company? What drove that decision and what problem did you set out to solve? What motivates you to succeed when the odds appear insurmountable? You need to make sure your passion shines through and investors get to see the real you.
Don’t be afraid to make your story personal. Some of the best company stories start with failure. Strategic vulnerability is key to getting people to connect with you and share your vision. This probably goes against much of the previous advice you’ve received about crafting your story. The conventional wisdom is that sharing too much can make you appear weak. The truth is that even the best leaders have experienced failure. Winston Churchill led the fight against the Axis powers but on the way had his own share of failures. Every leader you’ve ever looked up failed at a critical moment. Don’t hide it, embrace it.
As a founder, you have to be willing to tell people who you are and what you care about. That may require providing personal details about challenges or failures that you normally wouldn’t want to discuss. The problem is that you can’t build trust without being vulnerable. Think about it this way: would you rather invest with someone who admits their failures and how they’ve overcome them, or someone who refuses to tell you anything about himself? You have to be so confident in what you’re doing that you’re not worried about being vulnerable. That confidence resonates with audiences, especially if you have a good story. If you want to know how to raise money or how to crowdfund, you have to embrace being vulnerable.
Connecting with audiences requires being honest and open about your mission. Your story needs to be rooted in an emotional appeal. That personalized appeal needs to translate into an opportunity, rather than a pitch based on guilt or obligation. The first part of your story is about you as an individual. The second part of your story is about you as a leader who can deliver—a leader that can execute on a shared vision. As the leader of an early stage company, people need to believe in yourself, your idea, and the team you’ve assembled. You need to be relatable and accessible when you try to raise capital.
It can be tough to develop your story for the first time. Many entrepreneurs suffer from writer’s block when they try to put pen to paper. It’s difficult to condense all of your passion and drive into a concise, relatable story that can connect with audiences. Fortunately, there are several frameworks, or archetypes, that can help you tell your story. Before we jump into those, it is important to understand why branding and stories are so important. The easiest way is to explore one of the biggest and most common fallacies, which we do in the next section.