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Honk Shoo (and Mi Mi Mi)
"What" stories are forgettable. "Why" stories are retold.
Once Upon a Pitch Problem #1
You create a top-notch pitch deck with the right slides in the right order and with the right details. You flawlessly and charismatically pitch that deck to the right audiences at the right time. Yet, the audiences thank you and that is the end of the interaction, no follow up, no interest and no funding. The first principles of a startup pitch is to describe a business problem and then to describe your business solution to that problem. You did that perfectly; however, only describing the problem and the solution naturally create a “who cares” or “honk shoo mi mi mi” pitch. It is forgettable and your idea is dead-ended.
Why always matters. Every memorable story finishes with the moral of the story, the big reason to believe in the story. That moral of the story allows the audience to hook into it, remember it and retell the story to the next person. This is how fables spread throughout human culture from generation to generation, repeatedly teaching community rights from wrongs. Fundamentally, this is how investor audiences get excited and retell the story to the next investor, advisor or expert. The moral of the story is the “why” of the pitch, the big reason to believe in the business. It is not the “what” of the business. The “what” of the business is the product or the service that you are going to make. The “what” has a product name, features, benefits and price. Examples of what: “selling organic fresh produce at a liquor store” and “a satellite constellation monitoring methane gas on the Earth.” The “why” of the business is the new world in which the business problem is eliminated because the “what” solved it: “selling organic fresh produce at a liquor store” becomes “our community’s health and well-being thrived from easy and affordable access to healing nutrition” and “a satellite constellation monitoring methane gas on the Earth” becomes “the Earth and humanity were saved from life destroying methane emissions.” The audience retells the story of the “why” to the next person, the big vision of a better world when “what” you make successfully solves the problem. Why always matters, know your why, then tell your story.
“And ever since that day . . ..” Jump to the end of your story and tell it to yourself. What does the world look like in 10 years when your solution has solved the business problem? What has changed? How have those changes created new opportunities and challenges? Close your eyes and time travel forward to that new world and investigate it, live it, and breathe it. In this new world, what must be true and what is now false? What do you see, smell, taste, touch and hear? Imprint this vision onto your mind so you can tell that story of this new world to the audience, a world where your solution eradicated that business problem. That is your “why,” that is your moral of the story, and when you tell that story, it will be memorable and retold by your audiences.
The good ‘ole profitable business. If #1 and #2 above reveal to you that your idea is a “what” business only, then build your “what” business but please do not waste your time trying to make it a “why.” Most businesses are “what” businesses and they are radically successful. Venture funds, however, need huge “why” ideas for the required financial returns to their portfolio. They cannot spend time on “what” ideas. They have to find big “why” businesses because of the math of their business. Friends and families, bootstrapping to revenue, banks and credit love “what” businesses because they are easy to understand and to find paths to revenue. Smart business operators love a “what” business with solid operations and healthy revenue over a “why” idea that needs hundreds of millions in funding just to prove market match (and even more funding to find revenue . . . I didn’t even mention profit yet . . .).
What They Said
How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. This is where so much of business communication goes awry. Mission statements, synergies, strategies, visions - they are often ambiguous to the point of being meaningless. Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images . . . because our brains are wired to remember concrete data. In proverbs, abstract truths are often encoded in concrete language: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.” Speaking concretely is the only way to ensure that our idea will mean the same thing to everyone in our audience. - Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, page 17.
See You on the Track
Author The First Principles Pitch, startup storyteller, board member, advisor and investor. Once Upon a Pitch is a weekly newsletter looking at one business pitch problem and offering storytelling solutions to help solve that problem.
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