One of the most difficult things for startups and entrepreneurs is effectively telling their story to customers. Thankfully there are experts who are gifted in crafting and delivering powerful messages that don’t just get attention, but also get results. Experts like Kevin Smith, Chief Story Architect at The Story Architect and Advisor to our clients here at Spark Centre.
Kevin Smith has come a long way from being an aspiring entrepreneur 25 years ago to successfully running The Story Architect today.
“They say you should become who you needed when you were younger. If you thought starting a company is hard now, imagine trying 25 years ago when there weren’t organizations like the Spark Centre.” Smith says, “I’ve always wanted to start my own business, but when I was younger there were very few supports for new entrepreneurs. No accelerators, no angel groups, no Silicon Valley. So, I went to university and started a business degree with an Entrepreneurial Major hoping to learn more but they didn’t actually teach “how to start a company”. It was just business courses dressed up as entrepreneurship.”
Following University, Smith got a job in sales and ran through a series of promotions until he was working with the very startups that he was hoping to one day be himself. He spent the next 14 years at Dell in sales and enterprise marketing and eventually added business growth strategy to his belt of successes. As Dell was buying startups for their tech and IP, Smith became responsible for helping accelerate their growth. This led him down a rabbit hole starting with the Lean Startup — one that revitalized his interest in entrepreneurship. When Dell went private in 2014 and offered employees a voluntary buy-out program, Smith saw his opportunity. He used the buy-out package to self-fund and launch his own consulting business to help startups. The Story Architect was born.
Since launching The Story Architect, Kevin has worked with dozens of startups and small businesses, helping them to craft their story and execute their go-to-market plans. From assistance with crafting their central message and understanding their target audience, to positioning their products and developing the marketing strategies they need to go to market, The Story Architect has been successfully arming startups and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to tell their story. One of The Story Architect’s most utilized service however is what Smith calls a “Story Blueprint”.
“The hardest thing that tech startups find is doing the tech-to-human translation of what they do and that’s how I help.” Smith explains.
The “Story Blueprint” service is an assessment of a startup’s value proposition, buyer personas, competition, current messaging and more. Smith spends some time with the founders and also does some customer discovery of his own to validate what they believe is true. He then uses a persuasive attention pyramid to build blocks of messaging that are designed to pass the 7-second test (telling your story in 7 seconds), the 30-second elevator pitch and also the 3–5-minute story — content that is exceptionally helpful when building web copy or a pitch. Smith uses a process he built called PACES (which stands for Problem, Answer, Credibility, Evidence and Steps to Take Next) to structure the pitch in a way that will be most effective in persuading an audience to take action.
“To be persuasive, you need to talk to a customer about their problem, show them that you have an answer to their problem, demonstrate that you’re credible to solve their problem, provide evidence that your answer is true and then give them a logical step to take next.” Smith adds.
In addition to The Story Architect, Smith has been an Advisor for Spark Centre clients for quite some time and has been an integral part of their journeys, whether it be the launch of a startup or fine-tuning or scaling a small business. In his experience as an Advisor with Spark Centre, Smith had multiple highlights to share but managed to narrow the list down to one.
“One of my favourite experiences is with a startup called SWOB — a better job finding and candidate finding experience for service employees and employers.” he says, “They are the exact type of startup that I love advising, a younger team who are very passionate about what they are doing and can far with the right direction. When I started with them, their website copy was very technical, accurate and factual. It did a good job of describing their product, but it didn’t focus on the benefits first. I helped them see what impact it would have to focus on the benefits, and they get more conversion. They immediately changed their copy around and that helped. And every time we connect, they are always ready to jump in and make changes and adjustments to get more traction out of their efforts.”
We asked Smith what his top five tips would be for startups and entrepreneurs when it comes to telling their brand story and he didn’t disappoint:
Tip #1: “You have 7 seconds to capture someone’s attention, that’s your first job. You need to have a novel/interesting/thought-provoking/shocking hook to make someone pay attention.”
Tip #2: “Less is more. The longer you take to get your point across, the more likely it is that someone won’t continue to pay attention.”
Tip #3: “Make it easy enough that a 10-year-old would understand. Not everyone has your level of experience with your solution. You need to simplify it and use analogies to help your audience connect with it better.”
Tip #4: “Focus on your customer’s problem and their benefit. Spend less time talking about your technology and features, and more time helping your customers understand how their world will be better because they used your product.”
Tip #5: “Establish credibility. Your ability to persuade people is based on how credible they think you are to solve their problem. Show customer logos, show press logos of articles you’ve been mentioned in, work with other organizations to build joint solutions and show their logos. Anything you can do to prove that your customer isn’t the first one to use product.”
To learn more about how The Story Architect is taking startups and small businesses from the first page to the next chapter, visit https://thestoryarchitect.com