I would like to share with you a vignette from my interactions as a mentor with a budding entrepreneur that has discovered a novel solution to solve a most common and troubling problem, the hangover:
I volunteered to mentor a young individual who sought to bring to market a novel product in the consumer healthcare market. The product is a nutritional supplement to combat the dreaded hangover. Given my background as a physician and entrepreneurial background, there was tremendous alignment. The idea in principle was excellent, but what was lacking was the skeleton to the idea, the story; built around the what, the why and the how.
The story around the WHAT
We went on a journey to prepare a series of stories that describe each of these facets. The story around the WHAT involves the product concept, what are the active and inactive ingredients. But more importantly, a story had to be built around what linkage does each ingredient have to address the core problem, the hangover. What evidence is behind each of these linkages? What is known about each active ingredient that can secure approval by regulators like the US Food and Drug Administration or others? And lastly, what means will be taken to define the intellectual property of this product concept whether it be through patents, trademarks, and/or trade secrets?
The WHY is an easier story to tell
For most of us, fellow readers, have some time in their lives experienced the dreaded hangover. But the story of why helps to build messaging to all of your customers, not only the buyer, but one must include the retailer, the wholesaler and the financier. This story needs to build layers of evidence on why THIS product is needed and more importantly why this product will be purchased. The layers include information on customer preferences and feedback, product testing and lastly a narrative of sales to date. This narrative, I call the “product resume” is analogous to the personal resume. If you as a prospective employee want to get hired by a company, you must construct a succinct resume of your experiences and your career progress over time. The same applies to the product resume – who was your first client, how many new clients did you secure in year one, year two and what geographies do you have sales in. This information will be valuable when pursuing larger clients; the Walgreens of the world lean on the smaller retailer to first test commercial likelihood for success in local markets before taking on the challenge of pursuing national sales.
Lastly, the story of HOW
The story of HOW needs to walk the product through all phases of development, from research and development to product testing and evidence generation, marketing plans that include social media and lastly, leveraging your story on “how” to secure financing and secure customers.
Starting a business is more than coming up with an idea and selling it
One may say that these elements are all part of the business plan, which is true, but the ability to put it into a narrative that makes sense to your friend or a venture capitalist helps to paint a vivid picture of the what, why and how this product will be a commercial success. It is the power of storytelling as an entrepreneur that must paint memorable and visceral messages that generate vigorous emotional connections. Apple has been incredibly successful building visceral connections with their customers through the telling of stories dating back to their infamous Super Bowl ad.
The Art of Storytelling
For centuries civilizations have communicated through storytelling, from folk songs to hieroglyphics, all convey messages that were memorable and impactful. Bob Dylan recently was awarded a Noble Prize in literature, for his career is filled with songs written with memorable and impactful lyrics. These same lyrics have built emotional connections with his listeners that endure for decades.
We as entrepreneurs must take a holistic view of our startup pursuits to not merely look at the product or solution, but write a series of stories that convey memorable, and impactful meaning that resonate with financiers, retailers/distributors and your customer.
Write on my friends… Tell your story…