How do you create that spark that gets customers and investors truly excited about your business?

It can be one of the biggest frustrations for startups. You know your business idea has real value and potential, but you’re struggling to get traction with customers and investors. No matter how much you re-work your pitch document, website or marketing, your idea simply isn’t catching their interest. You can’t figure out why. What are you missing? Where’s the gap?

The good news is that you will be able to identify the gap. But to do that, you’ll have to look at your business afresh, and through a different lens. You’ll need to put aside all the factual nuts and bolts of your business, the cool thing it does, the tech, product design, user interface, etc, and start focusing on the one question that matters most: how do you connect with people emotionally?

It really is this clear cut: if your idea is not catching on, then you are not connecting at an emotional level. You are not creating the spark that builds affinity between you and the people who matter. You’re not giving them the chance to fall in love with your business.

So much woo? Scientific evidence says otherwise. Consciously or instinctively, all our decisions are driven by our emotions. Whether it’s an impulse buy or a decision we take time to research thoroughly, with every choice we are looking to satisfy an emotional need. And now that we have more choice than ever, why wouldn’t we look for the businesses that push all of our emotional hot buttons – inspiration, delight, reassurance, caring, trust. Why settle for less when we don’t have to? More and more people, especially younger generations, are not.

Finn Robertson, Insights Manager at Eleven.

Back to the key question: how does your business connect emotionally with the people that matter? With investors who will back you even in lean times, and with customers who have the potential to become life-long advocates. How do you create that sweet spot Venn diagram overlap between you and them?

First thing you need to do is turn the spotlight on your own business. For people to connect, there must be emotions to connect to. Think about those hot buttons above – inspiration, delight, reassurance, caring, trust. Which can you claim? What’s your story, your reason for being? Can you tell it with conviction and heart? It might take a few rounds before you’ll be able to articulate the real value of what you do. It can be hard not to default back to facts and numbers because they seem safer, more concrete. Challenge assumptions by asking lots of ‘why’ questions.

Once you feel you’ve nailed your true value, you’ll need to validate it externally, with customers, prospects, investors. No matter how honest a look you’ve taken at your own business, you’ll still have biases. You’ll want things to be true that may not be, and equally you may underestimate or overlook opportunities. It takes courage to hear an outside view of where your value truly lies, especially if it doesn’t quite tally with your own. But this is where the gold is. Be open.

And keep asking the ‘why’ questions here, too. Traditional forms of capturing customer information focus on the ‘what’ – what people do (their actions) and what they think (their opinion, e.g. “I prefer purple”). But ‘what’ is only useful when you know ‘why’. You need to uncover the emotional needs driving those actions or opinions. Without that depth of understanding, you have no chance of knowing how to connect.

By now, you’ll have great insight about your business and the people who matter. Now, it’s a matter of switching on your strategic brain to unlock and identify the sweet spot where the value and emotional drivers overlap. That will become the touchstone for next steps, showing you whether you need to completely re-set and re-focus, or simply adjust and enhance. But whatever the implications for your business, you can now be confident that you do have a great idea, and you’ll know how to ignite the spark that builds affinity and allows people to fall in love with your business.

Finn Robertson is Insights Manager at Eleven.

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