As long as humans have existed, storytelling has been an essential part of communication. It’s how cavemen survived, it’s how the ancient Greeks immortalized moments of sorrow, war and celebration, and it’s the glue that unites generations of families and communities. Storytelling is also a skill that business leaders need to perfect in order to grow. Compelling storytelling communicates a brand’s position, values and vision that attracts a following. After all, customers rarely just purchase a product—they buy into a story. And effective storytelling is never more critical than during turbulent economic times.
Why Is Storytelling And Competitive Positioning Important?
It’s on the CEO and leaders of a business to decipher a precise construct of a new, value-led proposition to engage customers, investors and talent. If they get this right, they will be rewarded with a compelling rallying cry to center their business around and enable clear communication of their vision. As a consequence, they stand a greater chance of gaining competitive share, increasing market value and shortening the sales process.
During times of economic uncertainty, while revenue, growth and budget remain under the spotlight, gains in market share joins them as one of the most effective ways of measuring company success. Taking share, though, is heavily dependent on the ability of the leadership team to articulate the company vision both internally—to ensure all departments are aligned and paddling in the same direction—and externally, carving out a unique position for the company that sets it apart (and ahead) of its competitors and solves a problem for customers.
When The Story Gets Lost
While many company leaders have a natural ability to tell and sell their story (it’s why they’re in the position they’re in, right?), what happens when a company grows so quickly, it becomes impossible to tether all of its facets into a single story or vision? It’s a bigger problem than you might think.
At Agent3, our positioning team has spent the past six years working with CEOs and business leaders across the B2B tech industry who have found themselves in exactly this position. They know their businesses need to catch up with their vision, but they’re finding it increasingly challenging to articulate their evolving capabilities and their associated relevance to the market. In short, they are unable to package the potential of the company in a way that could support and enable exponential growth.
Why Can’t A CEO Tell The Company Story?
How hard can it be to articulate what your business is and what it does in a way that resonates with the current market and future, you may ask? As a rule, CEOs are smart, tenacious and inspiring, but even they come across challenges when both the business and the market change differently but at the same time.
When consulting with CEOs on the challenges facing them when articulating company positioning, we typically see a common pattern of factors, including:
- The business has evolved rapidly, including by acquisition, and now it’s not as easy as it once was to capture, at a high level, what the business capabilities and portfolio deliver in a clear way to everyone.
- In reality, the business is operating in silos—albeit very successfully—but is missing the bigger ticket opportunities that could be gained through a more overarching positioning in the market.
- The business has a diverse range of leaders—from the C-suite through to line-of-business areas—and getting everyone to paddle in the same direction is a time-consuming and compromised situation.
How To Move Forward
Here are five things leaders can work on to help define their business:
- Define where in the competitive market space you want to focus on going forward. Use an evidence-based approach. Which (type of) audience is going to help you secure growth? Which part of the competitive marketplace should you position yourself in? Creating a relentless and granular focus on this as a single project removes all the noise and forces absolute focus.
- Clearly pinpoint where you want your business to be in the future. This means defining the organization, its offer, what that offer enables (or what problem it solves) and why it is different from competitive offerings. Do this without compromise.
- Create a group of business, sales and marketing leaders who understand both the business and its customers. Keeping the group small (five to six people) is imperative for clear decision-making, maintenance of focus, and reducing the drain on resources.
- Realize that perfection in such work is a myth. There are no single USPs (unique selling propositions), but being 90%-plus right will be workable and get you to market in half the time with great reward.
- Keep people focused by remembering that, ultimately, this is 60% about what the business will realistically become in the next two to three years, and not just what it is now.
Get this right, and CEOs will be able to drive deeper understanding for analysts, investors and shareholders, delivering greater value for the business’s potential and worth. In addition, it can help enable the business to engage with the next tier of customers, enter new markets, expand into new verticals, and grow and protect its competitive advantage.