Sharing founder’s stories can be the most effective way to instantly connect and build trust with your audience.
Before going deep into the what, why, and how, let’s define founders in the context of this article.
In this context, a founder isn’t limited to someone who launched a startup, a company, an online store, or the like. It refers to everyone who has built their businesses of all sizes and types.
If you’re selling online courses, or you’re offering content marketing services, or you’re a Medium writer trying to connect with your followers, promote your writing, and getting freelance clients, you’re the founder of what you’re doing.
In other words, all of us can leverage our own founding stories in our marketing strategy.
What Are Founder’s Stories?
Notice I use stories, not story because it’s not just an original story of how you started something. It’s not limited to one single story.
Your journey in bringing something into life as a product or service comprises a lot of opportunities, challenges, and everything in between. It contains so many stories of your small wins, big wins, struggles you’ve been facing, and what you’ve done to overcome those struggles over time. It even includes things about your personal life.
Those stories frame who you are and why you do what you’re doing for yourself and your community. Think about these story ideas:
How I made xxx after two months of being on Medium
Here’s what my life looks like as a full-time YouTube creator
What I’ve learned after selling my first online course and making xxxxx
At 21, I tried to sell online and failed miserably
The one thing I always do in the morning to stay productive
My life after work: It’s even busier than running my business
COVID-19 hit my business so hard, but I survived (and thrived)
See? You can tell your stories from several different angles.
Why Founder’s Stories Are Compelling
“When a story enthralls us, we are inside of it, feeling what the protagonist feels, experiencing it as if it were indeed happening to us. “ — Lisa Cron
Founder’s stories are powerful because they tell real stories about you. As you already know, storytelling has the power to engage, influence, teach and inspire the audience.
In his essay “The Science of Storytelling: What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains,” entrepreneur and storyteller Leo Widrich notes that there’s research on what happened when we hear a story:
“…not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are, too.”
Legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman, in Triggers, speaks to additional benefits of sharing stories in business settings:
“People love stories and one of the really good ways to relate to your prospect is to tell a story. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a story can be invaluable and often creates an emotional relationship that keeps your prospect rivet and listening. Stories create human interest.”
In a 2019 study, three researchers from Boise State University and Virginia Tech found that founder’s stories can “reflect values and ideologies that influence consumer perception of and response to brands.” If stories show that the founder is acting based on “good reasons,” they can help enhance brand authenticity.
In her Instagram post, Kat Potter, founder of Little Black Kat Creative, shared how she decided to quit her part-time job and begin a full-time freelance designer and illustrator. She emphasized that fear prevented her from chasing her dream, which makes her followers feel connected.
Three Ways To Use Founder’s Stories in Your Marketing Strategy
It’s one thing to learn the benefits of sharing founder’s stories; another thing is knowing how to use them the right way.
Here are some ideas you can try to get started.
1. Diversify Your Stories
“I’ve read this one before.”
“Oh, this story, again.”
“Come on, do you have anything else to share?”
Telling the same story over and over again can backfire.
Researchers Rachel Gershon from Washington University and Rosanna Smith from the University of Georgia recently conducted 10 studies to examine how self-repetition decreases authenticity.
They found that people who repeat the same stories many times are viewed as less authentic.
There are two reasons. First, they might violate the implicit assumption that they’re delivering unique content to their audience. Second, the audience might be less interested in those stories if they already heard them before.
“In some sense, just as individuals must cite the work of other people that they reference, they must also “self-cite” when they may be observed self-repeating — even in contexts where self-repetition is routine — otherwise, they are likely to risk negative inferences from others and related potential costs.”
Avoid this problem by diversifying your stories.
Remember, you have a lot to tell. No matter if it’s a long or short story, if it’s something about you that you know it’s valuable to your audience, say it out loud.
Here are some types of stories you can share with your audience.
Your original story
Why did you start your business? What was your purpose or mission? What is the problem you’ve been trying to solve? How did you come up with your brand name? What were your first sales or first customers? How are you different from others?
This is an inspiring story from Aria Bashir, founder of Zaria Boutique. Inheriting her mother’s passion and vision for fashion and design, she started a business selling tailor-made clothing to make Muslim women “feel confident, feel beautiful, and be modest.”
Stories in your journey of growing your business
Your original story tells who you were when you started. But along the journey, you’ll go through a lot of ups and downs, which may make you change or adapt your business. They’re the things that might haven’t been told in your original story.
For example, Maya Modi, founder of Maya + Kiwi, shared her milestone of shipping the biggest order to Uncommon Goods.
Or Amanda Tero sent a thank-you to her readers for helping her overcome the financial struggle (by buying her books).
“Someone bought a $0.99 ebook on sale. I got $0.33. Someone else bought another ebook… or a paperback set. Those cents ‘here and there’ added up and I could buy a bag of apples or container of spinach or the supplements that keep me from being bedridden. Sure, it might sound melodramatic, but when you break it down, that is exactly where things stand.”
That makes her authentic.
Your personal things or lessons
How can you balance work and life? What is your life like after work? What are your tips to stay fit while you have to sit in front of your laptop all day? What do you do when you feel vulnerable, sad, angry, depressed, hopeless, etc.? Think about your hilarious, embarrassing, or funny moments. You don’t have to be perfect (we’re not).
Sometimes, sharing a random thought like the one Melissa T., founder of Beauty Lounge Minneapolis, did also works.
By telling your audience another side of yourself, you can connect with your audience at a deeper level.
Once they find something about you that resonates with them, they may want to stay with you longer (and forever).
2. Share Founder’s Stories on Social Media
With over 3.8 billion social media users across channels, there’s a high chance that your audience is on these platforms.
Determine which channel your followers are showing up and then share your stories there.
3. Create a Series of Founder’s Stories on Your Blog
Groove is an excellent example of applying this tip. Groove is a customer service platform that helps businesses simplify their customer support process and improve customer experience.
The Groove blog has a series called Founder’s Journey, where the founder Alex Turnbull often publishes his stories about how he has built and grew Groove. He also shares tips and lessons for entrepreneurs.
Some of his great stories:
- “Why I Stopped Hustling”
- “The Story We Haven’t Shared: How Our Startup Almost Died”
- “Everyone Starts With Nothing (Stop Making Excuses)”
Founder’s stories are a valuable asset in your marketing strategy.
Tell them, and you’ll find it easier to engage your audience, establish relationships with them, and enhance your brand authenticity.