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7 steps to getting your startup story right

Reading about startups and trying to build one is like reading a book and jumping into the battleground to fight.

Life in a startup is very different for those that are living in one of them and how it appears to someone from outside. That does not mean that there is no point in reading about startups. This is how you expand your “background knowledge” on the topic so when a situation arises in your life, you have something in the background to get a head start. Nothing can replace the power of actual experience but being prepared and equipped will take that experience to a whole new level.

A good startup story is a brilliant choreography involving the right players in the ecosystem.

Here are 7 steps to getting your startup story right:

#1. Identify

It starts with identifying a “real” problem or an opportunity. Ideally, you should find a missing piece of the puzzle that will complete something important for your target audience. If the problem is simply manufactured in your head, the solution does not have to be built in real life. If there is a problem in real life, the pain of going through that problem has to be quantifiable else the switching costs will be super high.

In the Identify phase, you have to be able to identify one or more personas of buyers who will be your target buyers. Your job is to get into their shoes and experience a day in their life without and with your product or service.

If you don’t know who the ideal buyers are, chances are that they don’t know who you are.

2. Verify

How do you know that the problem is real if you have never talked to the target customer? This is the phase to get out of the ivory tower and start talking to as many people as possible. Although Steve Blank and Eric Reis have made customer development and lean startup methodology household names in the startup ecosystem, there is still a lot of reluctance from entrepreneurs to actively start talking to target customers early in the lifecycle of a company.

Some entrepreneurs quip back citing examples from Alexander Graham Bell to Steve Jobs who could not or did not do market research respectively but went ahead with 228 innovations. What they conveniently forget is that companies like Apple comes once in a century and there is no point in chasing or mimicking exceptions of that kind.

When you are in the verify phase, the big things you are validating:

  • The problem you are solving is real
  • The problem you are solving is big enough that either something is being done about it, or they will be open to doing something about it.
  • The problem is urgent enough that something needs to be done now.

Your solution to that problem is priced such that the cost of suffering is much higher than the cost of implementing your solution.

You can rarely build your right startup with wrong assumptions. Verify now, and often.

#3. Clarify

The next step is to bring more clarity to the “why” you are embarking on a journey so that the target buyer sees the value almost immediately. When your value proposition is clear, stating that in front of your buyer will produce an “aha moment” for them. The best response you can get from your story is “Hmm.. How come somebody was not already doing this..”

A very well told sales story will appear like you are stating the obvious in a compelling way

This is where the need for learning the fundamentals of storytelling becomes key. Since your target customer will ALWAYS be a human being and since human beings respond to stories, it is in your best interest to invest in that education.

If your story is on the money, the buyer will be willing to part with his or her money.

#4. Simplify

At the outset, if you have gained clarity, there should not be a need to simplify further. But the way I look at it, simplify phase will take it to a level where even people who are outside the “inner circle” will be able to appreciate the value you are bringing to the table. This means that people who are interested parties, but non-buyers would be fascinated by your story.

Why would you need this step?

Is it not sufficient for target buyers to get excited about the story?

An enduring company needs a solid ecosystem to survive and thrive. Take for example, the investor group that you are courting. They are not the target buyers but they will be very interested to know that the target buyers are very interested in the solution you are bringing to the marketplace. You need a super simple way of explaining your value, proposition to win their hearts and minds.

#5. Solidify

To solidify is to strengthen your ecosystem that will help you fulfill the promise that you are making to the world with your (ad)venture. This is where you build your team, your extended team, your advisory board, your board, designers, developers, your partner network, your influence network and more. Whatever you can do to strengthen “who you are” has to be always in the back of your mind, but this is the time to execute on it.

You should have completed the Identify, Verify, Clarify and Simplify phases so that when you are recruiting the support of key people, they see a story compelling enough to lend their name and mindshare for the next phase and beyond.

Solidify is a phase where things will start to be in the “work in progress forever” mode.


Because the ecosystem has to match the market needs and the phase of the company and both keep changing along the way.

#6. Amplify

Amplify means to extend the reach of your offering. Without solidifying well, amplifying might create a disaster as you haven’t prepared to scale. If you have followed all the steps so far, you already have the elements ready to amplify.

You, your team and your extended team can choreograph a series of events that will raise the awareness of your offering, build a bond with your target audience, stand out from the competition and ultimately became the “default” choice when the need related to your offering arises in their mind.

How do you do this?

You start by demonstrating your thought leadership, caring for the target audience and moving on to break away from the way you care for your target audience and ultimately by working towards a series of accomplishments that will provide instant social proof and credibility to help boost the trust factor about you and your offering.

#7. Gamify

Gamify seems like the latest buzzword, but all we are trying to do here is that you build things into your offering that will help the users form new habits that include your offering in the mix.

Remember that the world existed happily without your offering in place and probably the world will continue to exist without your offering. For you to make a dent in the universe, the idea and the belief that your product is a “must” have to spread without friction. In essence, your offering should become part of their life (where it makes sense, of course). Gamifying will accelerate the process of adoption and frictionless transfer of your beliefs about the offering.

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