Editor’s note: This article, by Inman News Publisher Bradley Inman, was originally published at BradInman.com. Click here to view the original item.

Around the time that I started Internet video company TurnHere, I saw a film shoot for a television commercial that blocked off an area between 5th and 6th avenues on 44th Street in New York City. I counted 75-plus people, a catering truck, off-duty policemen and two big rigs — all to produce a 30-second commercial that we would someday TiVo out.

For years, the details of this scene anchored my story about "Why TurnHere?" I contrasted the extravagant scene on 44th Street to the TurnHere production model — that company has produced 22,000 video ads at a very low cost, each with a one- or two-filmmaker crew and minimal equipment — no caterers, no booms, no off-duty cops and no big rigs.

When changing an industry, such comparisons and contrasts are central to the entrepreneur’s story. Examples help people relate to and understand what startups are trying to do. Spreadsheets, business theories and metrics are a necessary part of the story, but they do not engender enthusiasm to build support for a new business idea.

Actual stories with details, along with illustrations, inspire people to get behind you.

When I started HomeGain, I carried around a full-color postcard that displayed the retouched and professional photo of a handsome real estate agent, with the headline, "Why Paul?" It was a real estate marketing flier for the Northern California agent.

I used it as a prop to explain the inefficiencies of real estate marketing and how consumers had no good way of comparing and contrasting agents, which was the core proposition of HomeGain.

We also used a comparison to the stock market to explain why our new idea of offering consumers free electronic home valuations would be popular. "You can check your stock quotes every day, shouldn’t you know the value of your No. 1 asset, your home?" …CONTINUED

When starting a business, the story is all that you have. Get your story down, position it right, make it entertaining, and ensure it is engaging. When breaking new ground, you must start a new language to convey what it is you are doing.

At Vook, we contrast our approach to the traditional book publishing industry. When we began, we bragged that we were a virtual company — no office space with everything on the cloud — as a contrast to the traditional book business that has an abundance of expensive real estate holdings, killing the industry’s margins.

At the offices of one large publisher in New York City’s Midtown, you must navigate through a maze of security stops, phone calls and admins before attending a simple meeting.

When crafting your story, consider the basic three-act structure for a play: setup, confrontation and resolution. The "setup" should be a colorful anecdote that engages the listener and sets the context for what you are doing, like I did with the television advertising story. The confrontation is with the industry you are disrupting. Resolution is how your solution will change the world.

Send me your pitch — I will consider publishing it and getting feedback for you.

Click here to view the original post at Brad’s Blog.

Other sources and facts:
1. HBS Elevator Pitch Builder
2. NPR’s Scott Simon on "How to Tell a Story"
3. The Vital Role of Business Storytelling

Brad Inman is the founder and publisher of Inman News; he created and later sold online real estate lead-generation and marketing site HomeGain.com; and is the founder of TurnHere.com and Vook.com.


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