Branding and Storytelling for Entrepreneurs

Let’s talk about branding, marketing, and storytelling.  

Many times we start with a problem. Then we move to solutioning, which requires lots of ideas, failing fast and forward, pivots, and relaunches.  Eventually, we land on a solution to the original problem – which in some cases can be an innovation.  

Now the question is: how do you tell anyone about this innovation, let alone sell it? That process begins with the art of storytelling, but with a good story comes the branding to represent it – and marketing, which shares the innovation’s story with your target audience.  

Some of us are really good innovating solutionists. Others are really great storytellers, but if you are a founder or small business owner, you are likely wearing all the hats, often at the same time. Where do you start?  

I have a colleague and multi-entrepreneur Nora DiNuzzo who has founded two organizations to help small businesses with their brand and growth strategies.  She shares some valuable insights and lessons that we can all learn from:

  1. Be sure you are creating enough content that effectively communicates what you do and why you do it.
  2. Message flow is most effective as WHY > HOW > WHAT because your audience cares about WHY the most and you don’t want to bury the lead.
  3. Remind people a lot about what you do, don’t assume everyone knows or remembers.
  4. Strategize first, starting with brand, content, and then the publishing framework.  Then comes consistent execution of the content.

Nora and I have had great conversations over the years about people’s brands, names, and stickiness.  Check out our GSD Factor Podcast episode where we specifically dive into these topics more.  What I appreciate about my friendship with Nora is the authentic and transparent conversations we have. In the podcast episode, you’ll hear her evaluation of my own companies’ brands and her opinion on which one is solid and which one could use some improvement.  See … we are all works in progress.  

As a mentor with both the Wond’ry at Vanderbilt’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Center and Williamson County School Entrepreneur and Innovation Center, branding and marketing strategy are conversations I’m always having with my mentees.  With both organizations, we really drive the importance of customer discovery.  Not only is customer discovery key to ensuring there is a problem to solve, determining if your solution can begin to solve it, but to also test out the stickiness of your company name.  Is it unique, and memorable, and can it be easily shared?  

The next big topic of conversation is around the art of the pitch. I say the art of the art of the pitch because it aligns with the art of storytelling.  Your pitch is the teaser or trailer of your story.  Without the pitch you won’t get a chance to share the story with the market and more importantly your potential customers.  

A pitch can be as official as a pitch competition or as low key as sitting in a coffee shop and someone asking you what you do.  You must be prepared for any and all scenarios.  Know your audience in order to share the best pitch for that moment.  Also, practice a lot.  The most successful entrepreneurs have practiced pitching over and over to themselves in front of a mirror or camera, to others who can provide constructive feedback, and to multiple audiences.  With each pitch, you learn what to do and what not to do, and you get better each time.  

I have always appreciated Nora’s top advice for pitching: 

People need to KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST you – in that order – before they will spend a dime. 

It’s really a three-step and often a 3+ touchpoint process to move a prospective client/buyer through the funnel from Know (Top-Funnel: Awareness) to Like (Mid-Funnel: Consideration) to Trust (Bottom-Funnel: Intent).

It seems simple when you lay it out this way, but so many founders are busy being brilliant and solving the world’s problems that they forget about the make-or-break point of being likable!

I like to call that the best part of the Double-Stuffed Oreo. Yes, you have to work on your messaging and marketing (Know/Awareness). Yes, you have to work on your demo, pricing, and offer (Trust/Intent), but don’t forget about that yummy and ever-so-important thick middle – the content and communications that help you build relationships and get people to LIKE and consider you.

As you are living out your innovation solutionist life, don’t forget to strategize around all components of your business including the brand, and remember the importance of the pitch.  When you do these things, you will be able to get more shit done.