Storytelling is all about answering your audience’s biggest questions and dilemmas. Corporate storytelling makes you more relatable to customers and investors. In fact, you won’t be remembered for your business model; you’ll be remembered for your story. Discover the ins and outs of storytelling with your host Victoria Wieck and her guest Donna Griffit. Donna is a Corporate Storyteller who has worked globally for over 16 years with just about anybody. Join in the conversation and learn how to communicate with your customer and investor with storytelling.
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Using Corporate Storytelling To Attract Investors With Donna Griffit
Week after week, we bring you some amazing guests with incredible expertise and real-life experiences in their area of expertise. In this episode, I have Donna Griffit, a person that you might want to follow. All the things that she does, you can find on her website, DonnaGriffit.com. You’ll find out that she has helped many Fortune 500 companies raise money and come up with amazing storytelling so they sound more lovable. Before I get too much into this, I want to welcome Donna to the show.
Thanks for having me, Victoria.
I’m so excited to get into this topic. I know that you have amazing expertise in all the related categories, such as finding your target audience, your voice and all that. Since the show is very short, I wanted to focus on the one that I think our readers are going to respond to, which has to do with storytelling, specifically storytelling from a brand and corporate perspective.
I think this is the one thing that a lot of female entrepreneurs don’t often use to their advantage. Many of us do things for people. You don’t want to be braggadocious. You don’t want to be talking about yourself all the time. We’d rather do the things. Tell me a little bit about how you got to be this expert? What is it you do to add value to these amazing companies that you’ve helped?
I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies, but the past decade-plus has been devoted to startups. After the last financial crisis, startups were in a very challenging place because then it was not a pandemic. It was the crumbling of the economy. When COVID started, there was a lot of uncertainty, but there have been some amazing investments happen. Back then, it wasn’t quite as quick to come back. I think startups also realized that in order to stand out and persuade investors, they needed to be able to tell a better story.
Understanding that you need to do something and knowing how to do it, there’s a gap there. Storytelling is a big buzzword now where we would go, “Storytelling is so important.” Very few people that I find know what that means. It’s not standing around telling a story and jokes. The story is a structure. It’s an art form. Incorporating stories of your own journey into it and your understanding of your audience and their story is where the win is because people remember stories and messages that are created like stories.
If you want to be memorable, you want to stand out. They’re not going to remember your pack, LTV, and business model. They’re going to remember stories. I remember startups that I worked on several years ago. They had a great origin story or founder story. I still remember it because it sits, resonates, and that’s what you want.
In order for startups to stand out and persuade investors, they need to be able to tell a better story.
I completely agree with everything you’re saying. I think that more and more, all the research I’ve done for my book, which is coming out in 2022 called Million-Dollar Passion, which is that people now more than ever, in the age of Federal Express and digital marketing, it seems like everything is static and yet, we do business with people that we can relate to. We do business with people that we like. If you are buying from a company that has a great story, you’d rather buy from them if it wasn’t like 200%, 300%, 400% higher.
The art form of storytelling, “What story do we tell?” How do we tell it, the tone? How long does it have to be? Sometimes it’s overwhelming, and a lot of entrepreneurs that I work with know the importance of storytelling, but they don’t know how to go about it. In your opinion, what are the things that need to be in a story? When you said there was a structure, there’s like a beginning, middle and the end. Is there a formula?
Yes, absolutely. For the formula, all we have to do is look back a few thousand years like the Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, or check all the great early writers and see how they wrote. They were writing from a very primal place of how our brains with no technology, no bits and bytes took in the information. There’s a very specific way that our brains are hardwired to take in information, and it’s in chunks.
There’s a principle of chunking it’s called, which is basically 5 plus 2 minus 2. Meaning, anywhere between 3 to 7 chunks of information is all our poor human brains are capable of taking on. All-day long, we’re getting a lot of information thrown at us, and our brain is busy putting that information away into little folders and buckets. You shared something with me. I’m like, “That sounds familiar. That goes in that folder.” A new thing comes in. I don’t quite know what to do with it. I’m struggling with it. I either ignore it or fight that.
In order to keep people streamlined with the information, you want to chunk your message in a way that they’re capable of taking it. Looking back at Greek tragedies and Shakespeare, everybody wrote an Act 1, 2, 3, 4, and very specific things that happened in the act. Act 1 is the exposition, problem, opportunity, and something that’s happening. There’s a tendency when we’re selling something to want to start with ourselves, our products, how great they are, how amazing they are, but without the context, nobody cares unless they get what it has to do for them and their lives.
If we’re talking investors, how they’re going to make a lot of money off this investment that you are truly going to change people’s lives for. We have to understand that need. People are probably thinking, “The problem solution,” that’s dated. It’s thousands of years old. There’s a reason that it’s persevered and Hollywood still writes this way. This is exactly how we’re used to taking in information, but it’s a seamless structure. We start off with the problem need and we go to your solution and how it informs that need. That’s the key. You need to constantly show how you are solving the pain for your target audience.
The third act is what the business is behind it. What are the numbers saying? What is the market saying? What’s your competition doing? All of the things that back it up, but note that only comes in the third place. You can talk about how big the market is when you’re talking about the problem. That definitely is a great seed to plant, but the business thing only comes after they get what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Finally, the fourth act, which people often leave off, is what’s next, your vision for the future. You’re doing this now. Is this leading to a bigger end game? What do you need in order to get there? What are the milestones along the way that we can see that you’re succeeding in getting there? Asking for the funding that you need or for the sale or whatever your call to action is, in the end, makes sense because they know why you’re asking her for the money and what you’re going to do with it.
What Donna talked about is storytelling targeted toward a particular group of investors or people interested in funding your project. She also does storytelling for business to consumer. Is that correct?
I do B2C, B2B.
What she described is the storytelling structure that investors expect.
Without knowing it, they’d never say, “I want you to talk to me about the hero and the villain.”
No, for sure. I discussed this in my book very extensively. If you know who your target market is, the first thing I always say to everybody, and I know you’d agree with this too, is you have to figure out what your service does to add value to somebody’s life. That has to be so clear before any story can begin. I do a lot of business, I still now with Corporate America, probably a lot of your clients. I’m selling to department and Duty Free stores. I’m talking to TV stations about a new collection. What they’re interested in is, “How much money can I make off of this? How are you going to make me more money than the next guy down the street?”
I usually start with, “Here is a problem.” For example, we can say rose gold is hot right now. A lot of things you have, you’re not offering. The customers that are looking for rose gold are people that are very trend-conscious, and you’re not offering the trend pieces in rose gold. I designed these pieces for you. For example, that would be like the problem.
Storytelling is made up of answering your audience’s biggest questions and dilemmas.
It’s not our lives are miserable because we don’t have rose gold, but if people want it, making their lives better and happier. They’re willing to put money on it. That’s an opportunity. It doesn’t have to be solving brain cancer or world peace. It’s finding the need and the people willing to pay for that need. That is where the meeting place of making a difference and people’s lives better, and being able to make a lot of money on it.
I think sometimes people think, “No, I don’t want to talk about the making money piece.” When you’re getting into capital investment, it’s not called venture philanthropy. It’s called venture capital. They are looking without a doubt to make a 10X on their investment, at least. You need to be able to show them, “I am impacting people’s lives. This is something you want. There’s a real demand. There’s a real need. I can prove it from my numbers, but we’re going to make a lot of money on this.”
You’re good at this. For example, let’s say you have a client you’ve taken to an investor. They succinctly describe the problem and a problem that’s big enough where they can make money off of. You’re offering them either a solution or a solution and an opportunity and the growth potential of the market. Do they respect you more than doing that rather than rambling on about, ‘I love this product,’ and whatever?
Absolutely. You’ve done the work for them. Basically, storytelling is made up of answering your audience’s biggest questions and dilemmas. The structure that I have for the investor deck, which I’ve created, and there’s a cheat sheet for it on my website under resources and guides. There’s one for the investor deck and one for the sales deck.
What I did was take a whole list of questions that I know that investors ask and want to know. This is from years of doing this, talking to them, seeing them deconstruct pitches and put together that list, then chunk it into these four sections, and answering those questions as we go. What’s basically happening is you are addressing their questions and their argument pieces before they even come. That’s melting the resistance and showing credibility, “This person knows what they’re doing. They understand this. They’ve got the questions I would have asked before I even asked it.”
“They understand my pain.” The other thing too, you find that a lot of times when you go to an investor group or potential investor and you have done all the homework, they were surprised that they didn’t know that there was a problem. They didn’t even realize there was a market for something like that.
Most investors are extremely savvy, especially in Silicon Valley, on trends and things that are going on, but I’ve heard investors say, “If I learned something new from a meeting with a founder, I consider that a win.” It’s not that they’re probably not going to know anything about what you’re talking about, but if it’s new and more complex things. Things around crypto, blockchain, Kubernetes and other new trends like NFT, there are always new things emerging. They may not understand the technology under the hood in-depth and maybe they do, but at the same time, you need to level set.
You might be talking and can find out the beginning. Are you familiar with NFTs? “Yes, I’ve done great.” You can have a slide that’s like a primer, a 101 that level sets without going too deep. It’s a very simple way to set it. If they need it, great. If not, move on. They will appreciate that you can explain it in a simple way. Einstein said, “If you can explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If you’re rambling on about complex technologies and the ins and outs, you’re going to lose them so fast. It doesn’t matter how it works inside. It matters that it works and it’s doing its job. They’re going to dive into the technology when they do due diligence.
Donna, I help a lot of female business owners, and the one common thread I see all the time, and it drives me crazy myself, is about my personality. I know it’s something that doesn’t work, but they hang on to this. I get a lot of people saying, “My business is growing like crazy. I get 200,000 people visiting my websites. I don’t know how to monetize it, so and so. I want to find investors.” I tell them, “What do you want to say?” The first thing they do is list all the statistics. I’m like, “Those numbers are so boring.”
Some of them can be extremely interesting. I think numbers are the language of love of investors. I often tell people if you have amazing numbers like that, do what I call the brag slide. Upfront, put the six biggest, most exciting numbers, patents filed, growth month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter, pipeline value, and monthly active users.
If they see these big numbers, six of them, not the whole list of every stat you have, that makes them sit up and take attention like, “You’ve got me now, what do you have?” You bought yourself a few more minutes of their attention. They’re like, “I’m dealing with someone that A) Has momentum and B) Knows the numbers that would pique my interest. I’m ready to hear some more.” Don’t rattle off a whole list of features or stats, but do put front and center the big moments.
Whenever I presented things, I would usually summarize what the stats say first. For example, I have a client who’s a nonprofit. This basically has to do with climate change, animal welfare, all the different things. She lists 43% of the planet is so and so, and 23% of the wildlife in Africa is so and so.” You go through it without a whole list of things. The whole point they’re trying to say is we’re in code red. There are all these things that were happening at the same time. What I advised her was you can use the stats to support what you were saying, but when you’re going through 43%, 23%, all these numbers, I feel like you’re not getting that emotional connection.
Let’s separate between the numbers about your achievements, the numbers that you’ve hit and the numbers in the market. With startup, if you have great numbers, then talk about the need out there. You can pepper it with a couple of stats. It’s an 87% growth in the last two years the demand for rose gold. Throw in some things that show that you know the market. You don’t have to say too much, just the big names. Either that they know or they might find interesting, “I did not know that.” Look for that surprise moment.
I’m glad that you clarified that because I struggled with numbers. I’m a designer, so I don’t do a lot of math. When I see this sea of numbers when they’re pitching me, it’s giving me a headache already. If they would summarize what they’re trying to say, I can look and pick out the biggest numbers out there. I’m not an investor either.
Get as far as you possibly can without raising funding, if possible. Only raise when you’re ready to scale.
Another thing I wanted to ask you about is a lot of my clients and audience, frankly, are people that could use investors or they could go on their own. They could grow slowly or bring in some investors. Is there a number that the Silicon Valley or the venture capital community likes to see? Is there a number that they won’t even touch if it’s too early in a startup space?
Victoria, I think all the cards have been shuffled in the last year and a half. I once might have answered that. Now, I am seeing things that perplex me and massive investments in companies that I am like, “They don’t have anything yet?” I’m seeing companies that have incredible sales, a great product, and a great team not getting funded as fast as I thought they would. I am just as perplexed about it as you are. I will say this, get as far as you possibly can without raising funding if possible.
I know that that’s changed now because a lot of people are raising on the idea and just on having it there, but unless you’re a serial entrepreneur, that’s not a given. If you can build an MVP, you can get a proof of concept and some early traction to show that it works. The people like this and people are waiting for this. You’re then going to have a much easier time. You always run the risk of them saying, “Those are some early numbers. Let’s wait and see how it goes.” The further you can get being scrappy and lean only raises when you’re ready to scale and have a justification for it. Don’t raise because you think, “All startups need to raise.”
That’s very good advice. Whenever you make base money, you do give up some control.
You give up equity. You give up your blood, sweat, tears, and it’s going to have a price down the road. I’ve seen founders left at the end of the life cycle of the startup. There was a company that I’ve known for many years. It’s announced that they were acquired by a big company for less than they raised. The founders are left with nothing to show for 10, 11, 12, 13 years of work. You give away this equity. People think, “I raised funding. That’s a huge achievement. Yay me.” That’s the achievement. Meaning somebody believed in you. Now, you’re ready to get out there and prove it for yourself.
That leads me to my next question. How would you go about doing your storytelling differently if you were not crowdsourcing?
You want to tell the story, but you’re talking to the crowd who are investing in you, but they also need to believe in the product more. They might be potential users or see the value for an audience. I would go the same route of looking for the pain, but it can be much more direct. You have to be much less capitally focused because even if it’s equity crowdfunding, they’re not as savvy as Angel and VC investors would be.
They need to understand that they have the potential of making money here, but they’re not investing because they’re putting in their $500 to $5,000. They’re going to see incredible returns on that. They know that it’s like playing the stock market in a sense, but they do want to believe in what you’re doing. Perhaps if it’s a product campaign, get the product, want it and see the value in it.
You can see Donna has got quite a bit of experience with all the different phases of startups, the growth, the scale and the exit. I’m going to switch gears for a little bit from the business to consumer. There are quite a few people who do great business having 4,000 or 5,000 customers that repeatedly buy. I think that was good because, in my opinion, the business to consumer, you do have to sell your why and that emotional connection. They have to believe they’re buying more of a personalized product. Would it be the same storytelling?
It depends if you’re telling your B2C story to an investor or your audience. I’m working with an incredible woman-founder of a company called Pashion. It’s shoes that go from flats to heels. She’s got a utility patent on it. It’s super comfortable and also fun because it completely transforms your shoes. Her customers love it because she’s understood that, in this day and age, we want comfort and style. We’ve gotten used to being at home in our yoga pants. Putting back on those six-inch stilettos, and she’s been working on this for many years before COVID, but it’s getting your finger on the pulse. Also, it’s the sustainability play.
Millennials and Gen Zs don’t want to be spending money on a closet full of shoes, yet they do want that style. There are so many different versatile ways to use it. With investors, we have to also spin it in the way of positioning it among big brands that have made this big shift. Look at the Rockies, Allbirds, ThirdLove, Spanx, and how they’ve redefined a category. That is what Haley is doing. She’s redefining a category. We also need to paint the big vision picture of, “This is going to be that next big life and market-changing category,” and have the gumption to come out there and say it.
I think that many of you, I know, one of the most favorite topics of this show is storytelling. It seems to be something that you can never learn enough of. First of all, it’s always evolving. Secondly, there are different ways of telling stories. As you said, stories are easier to remember and much more emotionally connecting. It’s easier to remember than numbers. Stories are memorable. Some of the most memorable things I can remember like movies and books. We all have our favorite books. They are very memorable.
It’s a known fact that things like Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and all these things are timeless. I think storytelling is having its day. I’m glad that you have all the expertise because you were practicing storytelling long before it became in vogue for a long time. Probably several years early, and I’m sure that in that career, you’ve had some great stories, some not so great, but I think we’re now having the benefit of that.
I loved how you simplified it to the four-act structure because it’s easy to follow. You can plug it in. Donna has amazing resources on her website. It’s DonnaGriffit.com, where you could get a lot of free resources, practice before you hire her for the real big thing that you’ve got coming up. Donna, any last words about storytelling or female entrepreneurs in general? Any advice that you have?
Everybody has a story. Don’t ever sell yourself short on the power of your own story.
My passion is helping women find and amplify their voices. I lead a community online called Women Founders Unite, where it’s women founders, investors and business owners in the startup space. It’s very supportive. Women are there to give advice to each other, to help and to scaffold it. I think that the only way we’re going to flip the ratio is by women helping each other. I’ll go the opposite of what Madeleine Albright said, “There’s this place in hell for women that don’t help each other.” I’ll say, “There’s a special place in karma for women who do help each other and for being there for each other.” That’s one piece and you’re welcome to join the community on Facebook.
The other piece is everybody has a story. You might take it for granted, but you have a fascinating story. Someone out there, at least one person, is going to listen to it and not just your mother and think, “That’s inspiring. That has changed the way I look at things.” Don’t ever sell yourself short on the power of your own story.
All of our life experiences are interesting to somebody. You only need a small group of people to believe, love you and fall in love with you and your product. I can’t agree with you more about women lifting each other because it’s time now that we learn to collaborate, stop competing and doing all the things because it would only lift a whole community of people globally. How can people get ahold of you? Is it still DonnaGriffit.com?
Donna@DonnaGriffit.com is my email, or you can click Contact or Let’s Talk on my website, and send me a message. I’m pretty quick to answer emails. You can also schedule a call, and please do mention Victoria’s show is where you’ve heard me because there will be a special discount waiting for you as well if you do engage my services. If you want to say thanks and share something that you were able to use, I love hearing that it was helpful.
Many of you know how I feel about this whole area of coaching and consulting. I find that a lot of people who now coach storytelling has never done it before. They’ve learned to coach storytelling, but they’ve had to live with a story that they helped tell for years. I’m glad that you come to this show with a lot of firsthand knowledge, experience, and expertise that’s relevant now. I’m thankful that you were able to spend this time with us. Many of you, I know that you might want to go through all the free resources there first.
Anyway, this show only has 30 guests a year because I do a whole bunch of them on my own. We choose them very carefully because I want my audience to get real people, real expertise. It’s very relevant. I’m so honored to have you here. Until next time, all of you, stay healthy and happy. Remember, happiness is a choice, and I hope you all make great choices. Be sure to subscribe, rate and review. I’ll see you on the next episode.
About Donna Griffit
Donna Griffit, a Corporate Storyteller, has worked globally for over 16 years with Fortune 500 companies, Start-Ups, and investors in a wide variety of industries. She has consulted and trained clients in over 30 countries. Through her guidance, clients have raised over a billion dollars. In addition, Donna has the ability to magically spin raw data into compelling stories that captivate audiences and drive results.