A schooled up reminder of getting your first most important story right

New Zealand’s first PopUp Business School attendees in Porirua learned why their first most story, a value proposition and Million Dollar Message, is so important

Recently I had the privilege of presenting ‘storytelling 101’, and the importance of your first story,  to New Zealand’s first cohort through the PopUp Business School Aotearoa.

Fifty people signed up for the Porirua two-week intensive, lead by the irrepressible Tony Henderson-Newport, who brought across and Kiwified a British initiative started back in 2012.

His co-conspirator and facilitator Anna Watson created an environment which seeks to maximise impact and harness momentum for entrepreneurs with business ideas. The Porirua event was backed by the Porirua City Council, WREDA and Te Puni Kokiri (TPK).

It is great to see these corporate organisations reaching out and supporting people who might otherwise miss out on such valuable training…hats off to them.

PUBS invited me, wearing my Punchline.biz hat, to address this culturally diverse group on business naming and the importance of the first story a company tells.

My talk was about 10 minutes long, followed by some quite challenging questions.

A Million Dollar Message needs to nail the what and why of your business

The summary of what and how businesses should think about their announcement to the world was:

  • Your business name is a superb opportunity to start your story
  • Your next 2-10 words are your Million Dollar Message which nails who, what and why you are

Having a business name that gives me a big clue of what your offer is, is to my way of thinking, commonsense.

It is unlikely that a new business will have the budget of an ‘Apple’ or ‘Nike’, who spent and spend millions telling people what they do. Their name doesn’t actually do that.

Having an esoteric company name, that may be clever in its own right, but which requires you to explain what and why you have it – before you even get into what it is your business does – is inviting someone to lose interest right from the get-go.

So, work on and work out a name that resonates with the business you’re in, whether that be establishing a workshop space for Pasifika arts or helping people with the complexities of setting up their initial computer systems for their own business.

The next 2-10 words are also crucial. This expression is sometimes known as your value proposition, strapline, slogan or tagline. It will be the first thing read on a website, and will often be the deciding factor whether someone landing on your home page reads on, or clicks away to someone else.

The ultimate truth-test for what I call a Million Dollar Message is at a BBQ, and someone asks what you do.

You want those words, which present a ‘what’ and if possible a ‘why’ to elicit an “I get it’ response…immediately.

Ideally you want someone to get onboard with you, whether that be a coffee catchup, a “I know someone who might be interested in this”, or a sale.

The attendees at this PopUp Business School received what could be described as a mini MBA and my ‘Storytelling 101’ is a small but crucial part of helping their businesses fly.

It was an honour to assist these entrepreneurs take off in the right direction.


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