Fall television is back on the air, which means that my wife and I get to watch long-awaited episodes of one of our favourite shows - Shark Tank.
The show is heavily edited, but it's always neat to hear business owners make their pitch, especially when they start telling their stories.
Last week featured a husband and wife couple that caught my attention. Their company was called Uprising Food from Cincinnati, Ohio, and their product was a healthy bread that is dairy free, gluten free, paleo, keto, and full of probiotics - all things that traditional bread is not. As a bread lover, and someone interested in healthy alternatives, I was intrigued.
While the Sharks tried the bread and the sandwich samples offered, the couple went about their pitch full speed ahead. They both have extensive corporate marketing experience, and spoke about how their goal was to "upgrade bread." The Sharks even found the product surprisingly tasty considering its health benefits.
Then things started going off the rails.
When pressed, the couple went into corporate mode. While admitting that they were nowhere near becoming profitable, they started throwing around terms like "topline revenue" and "aggressively driving CAC (customer acquisition cost) to the floor", and even spoke about their desire to go public despite their already significant losses.
As Shark Barbara Cororan retorted, "I don't think I've ever sat in this seat and heard more fancy words in my entire life." She pointed out how even though the company was called Uprising, and the packaging proudly proclaims "The Battle Has Begun!", the founders were quickly losing the war.
When Shark Mark Cuban started to hammer the couple on their heavy use of jargon and their high price point, he commented on the crust. The bread comes in an unusual cube shape, without the natural curves of a white loaf or a hand-shaped sourdough. For an unsuspecting consumer, the cube might look impenetrable, or at least uninviting for an initial slice.
That's when the co-founder, explaining the importance of the crust for preservation, said the magic words (while counting on his fingers for emphasis):
"People buy that product for the trifecta of three reasons: you can't find something this healthy, that tastes this good, that's this fresh."
The Sharks unanimously agreed that that one line was the best sales pitch from the entire presentation. What the founders of Uprising missed is that that one line should have been at the heart of their entire presentation.
For as good as the bread may be, the founders missed the first key lesson of sales - keep it simple.
While the Shark Tank investors do weeks and months of due diligence behind each deal, when they hear those presentations they're transporting themselves into an ordinary consumers shoes. They explained that customers don't want to buy a $12 cube of healthy bread based on complicated sales jargon and allusions of going to war!
The makers of Uprising lost sight of their story, which in this case is the core story of their product. Their collective corporate marketing experience may help them in business, but that's not the story customers will buy into. Customers want a product that's fresh, healthy, and tastes great - full stop.
As a business owner, your mission is two-fold.
Find the stories.
Find the stories that your customers and clients are going to gravitate towards. If your personal story is amazing and inspiring, then it will form an integral part of your business because people will want to buy from YOU.
If you have an amazing product then look for your stories there, and specifically the stories about how that product is going to be a game changer for your customers.
If you provide a service, those stories are about the clients that you've helped through the years. The stories are usually an anonymized retelling of their stories - the problems that they came in with and how you helped resolve them. They're the stories that make your potential clients reading your website think "hey, that sounds a lot like...., maybe this person can help."
The stories are there, but once you find them...
Keep it simple!
Your customers and clients don't want to hear your complicated marketing philosophy, or your plans to send them off to war over a cube of bread.
Above all else, keep your stories simple. Think about the beginning, the middle, and the end. The beginning is usually a problem, the middle usually touts your product or process and why it's amazing, and the end is how you solved that particular problem and how you can help others with similar needs.
A simple story is what resonates with a reader. We remember simple stories, and more importantly we're more inclined to share them with others.
Businesses always get so excited about 'word of mouth' marketing - it helps to tell stories worth talking about.