Why do we need a strategic narrative?

In the old world, people didn't care about the WHY, and the messaging was mostly fact-oriented. Companies focused on describing the problem and the solution. Fortunately, things have changed, and the idea of having a compelling purpose has taken a permanent place in the business world.

We have now stepped into the age of purpose-driven business, and asking WHY has become almost a regulatory part of every new business plan. To this day, Sinek's "Start with why" has reached more than 10M views on YouTube, and companies around the globe are racing to tell us why they exist.

But to truly activate the benefits of having a strong purpose and the WHY we need storytelling. Companies seem to understand this, but we still often see that the actual execution is done inadequately.

Companies without a clear story lack a clear strategy

Silicon Valley heavy-weight Ben Horowitz, said that companies who have failed to articulate their story don't have a clear and well-thought-out strategy. "The company story is the company strategy," he says.

Nonetheless, people still think stories and storytelling only as ways to deliver the brand message to the customers. Horowitz said: "The mistake people make is thinking the story is just about marketing. No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better, you make the strategy better."

We might have a great product, but with the help of compelling storytelling, we can push our company into the next level. Without a good story, we might find it challenging to get the right people to join our company, work on the product, and to find people willing to invest in our business.

Attracting investors with a compelling narrative

A strong, compelling, and authentic story can be a way to catch an investor's attention. Such stories have, for instance, led Andreessen-Horowitz to invest in multiple startups. And of course, in addition to investors, we want the attention of our future employees, partners, and customers.

Our core story defines our company culture and future product development, motivates team members, and makes our vision easier to understand. A good story is brief but comprehensive enough to communicate our strategy and we should think of pitch decks more as vehicles for telling our stories to the investors.

So that said, strategic narrative is not just any story. It should state who we are as a company and explain what makes us unique and how we, as a company, believe value is created.

Refining a strategic narrative should be on the CEOs agenda

We might quickly think this is a job for the marketing department. Marketing pros master the art of commercial language and know how to build a communications plan which appeals to the media. Both of these can be useful tactics but aren't the kind of strategic narrative or messaging we are looking for.

Horowitz says, "The story must explain at a fundamental level why you exist. Why does the world need your company? Why do we need to be doing what we're doing, and why is it important?" Why would we give this to the PR people when we are the ones who need to know this and who has to take ownership?

We are also responsible for making sure everyone working with sales, marketing, product, or fundraising is living and breathing the story. For example Andy Raskin, who has helped companies to refine their strategic story (including companies like Salesforce, IBM and Intel) won't accept a client unless the CEO is the one leading the process.

A good story affects what to build

Based on our experiences, crafting a story is a dynamic strategy process. It will require you to collect new input from your customers, align your organization, and truly clarify what insights you hold regarding the market and its shifts. You need to have your blue ocean strategy defined, so you understand the most important factors customers (or investors) are looking for when deciding to buy or invest.

The reality with many startups is that they don’t have a blue ocean strategy from the get-go. This means the story also affects the product roadmap. You should focus on building the differentiating factors for supporting your strategy. We’ve learned that a good story can serve as a cheap way to do customer discovery for B2B startups.

First, you need to validate what story gets the customer excited, and then you’ll validate the features required for not falling short of expectations. A good story can be the missing puzzle piece for your product management, answering the tricky questions on how to align product discovery, product development, and sales.

This also applies to startups who are crafting the story primarily to get funding. As every experienced startup founder and investor knows, investors want to follow lines, not dots. Thus a credible story needs milestones, and this should be a priority driver for your product roadmap.

Start crafting your narrative

In the world today, companies need to have a real purpose for their existence. This purpose is worth nothing unless it's visible in the communication and strategy. A modern tool on how to include your purpose into the strategy is forming a compelling strategic narrative.

A well-formed strategic narrative simplifies everything you do. It describes what you are selling, how to raise funding, and what you should be building. Crafting an excellent strategic story can be very difficult. It's a job for the CEO, and it might force you to rethink your strategy and what based it on.

With Coventures, we've helped multiple CEOs with their strategic stories. It's a topic we're very passionate about, and we'd love to chat with you in case you're crafting yours and need any help.

Click "Get in touch" and we'll get back to you!

Tools and resources we like

Andy Raskin  - The greatest sales deck I’ve ever seen

Andy Raskin - How your narrative drives growth

Andy Raskin - Storytelling for Startups

Justin Kan - Narrative Pitch

Mark Bonchek - How to Build Strategic Narrative

Woden - The Story is The Strategy