How To Tell A Business Story That Inspires Action

Making A Good Origin Story Even Better


Cathy Goodwin

3 years ago | 4 min read

Do you have an answer to the question, “What’s your story?”

Not necessarily a candidate for a film script — just a story that helps your listener understand more of what you do?

Why settle for a response of, “That’s interesting,” when you might aim for a response of, “I want what they’re having!”

The difference depends on not just what you tell, but how you set up your story.

Making A Good Origin Story Even Better

Nathalie, a business owner, submitted this story for one of my storytelling courses. She gave me permission to share.

“My friend invited me to accompany her to some start-up events. I noticed that most founders struggle a lot with their financials, spending too many endless nights with Excel. As a controller, I was surprised, since this is the most insightful and interesting part of a business.

“‘There must be a way to help other business owners appreciate the power of sales statistics,’” I thought to myself.

“With the help of my newly learned web development skills, I developed software that automatically creates sales charts and dashboards after entering sales data.

“Additionally, I wanted to make sure they never feel lost with the interpretation of their figures — so I decided to include regular free visits to my customers to discuss future possibilities and threats.

“Now, my clients know exactly which products to promote better and save time as well as money through more effective marketing. You can spend evenings with your loved ones — not with Excel.”

That’s a pretty good origin story right there. It’s got the ingredients. But will this story inspire action? Did it hold your interest?

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

We start by asking, “Why are you telling this story?”

An origin story isn’t something you share in casual conversation to satisfy curiosity. It’s not a story you share to help a new social acquaintance get to know you better as a person.

Normally an origin story will explain why you’re so passionate about what you do and why you’re unique.

But nothing’s written in stone, as long as you’re being strategic about your storytelling. In this case, Nathalie’s origin story will explain the benefits of her software. She’ll want visitors to take some action, such as request more information.

So it’s important to go deeper into the client’s problem, create a vivid experience, and evoke emotion.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash.

Here’s the revised story:

When we talked to founders at these events, a lot of them rolled their eyes when they heard I was a controller.

“I’m so sick of spending my nights staring at Excel spreadsheets,’” one CEO said.

“This is the part of my job I hate most — going over numbers,” said another.

Why did these CEOs — very smart people who founded profitable companies — resist doing something that was so critical to their mission — something I actually enjoy doing myself?

I realized these founders didn’t have a CFO to make the numbers tell a story. They needed charts and dashboards and ways to play with ‘what-if’ scenarios — the most useful and fun part of accounting.

So I created software to develop the tools I’d normally create for my own clients.

The first CEOs who tried them were thrilled. One said it was like playing a video game!

And now they can easily decide which products to promote and where to spend their marketing dollars … and still spend plenty of time with their families.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash.

The biggest differences?

The new story doesn’t just tell. It shows.

Dialogue helps audience members identify with the individual CEOs, not just view them as abstract entities. The benefits were clear and immediate. Listeners could imagine themselves tapping away at their laptops, playing “what if” scenarios.

What if there’s more to the story?

Some listeners might object, “That sounds like work.” And their backstories include being overwhelmed, overscheduled, and exhausted.

So Nathalie could add, “Some CEOs wished a magic wand would set up their what-if scenarios and help find new insights into the data. We couldn’t find a magic wand but we did the next best thing — we built two consultation calls into every software package.

“A couple of our customers confided they’d been nervous about spreadsheets and charts — but now they’re using them every day and have to be reminded it’s time for lunch. It’s as addictive as video gaming!”

What we’ve got here is a laser makeover — a back-of-the-napkin quick change.

Image from a photo by David Karich on Pixabay.

For some audiences, Nathalie could go into much more detail on what the product does and how the outcomes can change a business. For a short intro, she’d tighten the story so she could share in two minutes or less.

Revising your story is one of the most important parts of marketing.- and one of the most critical.

When I work with clients we go much deeper. If you’d like to work with me one-on-one to transform your stories into high-converting marketing copy, click here to set up a consultation.

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Cathy Goodwin







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