Find Your Narrative For Growth
Marketing and Branding

Find Your Narrative For Growth

Kristen Gail Andersen
Kristen Gail Andersen
9 min read.

Storytelling, narratives, and growth for founders.

We are living in the golden age of storytelling and this has made life more interesting. As customers, we tend to connect with and remember stories more than facts, and this is an opportunity for many brands. But as a founder or startup marketer, your job is not to tell just any story. Your job is to tell a story that straddles the value you deliver and your customers’ most pressing needs, often the ones they are actively looking to solve. This is the story that unlocks behavior and leads to growth.

That’s what we’ll unfold here, from understanding what a growth narrative is to avoiding common mistakes. Fair warning though, your growth story starts with your customer and your positioning. You and your company are the final pieces that lock into place.

What is a “Growth” Narrative? 

Illustration of an energetic woman from redthread-dk

A narrative is your story alone. It often starts with, “I was inspired when” or “we wanted a world with more…” And there is nothing wrong with this story but does it truly connect to your customer’s present reality, interests, emotions, and goals? If not, then it is your story and not theirs.

A growth narrative, in contrast, begins with the thing your audience passionately wants to solve right now and connects that to your authentic story.

This is easier said than done. Your prospects may not yet appreciate the ultimate value that you deliver. They may “just” be looking for XXX when you could deliver so much more. Your loyal customers know it to be true. So do you. But they don’t. 

Put simply, you can sell the best cappuccino in the world, but if your customers are just desperate for a caffeine fix, then they aren’t going to wait in line and pay a premium for your cappuccino. That is when your growth narrative must bridge the thing you do with the thing they want. Perhaps the best cappuccino in the world also offers a longer-lasting caffeine fix. (?) 

Finding the answer is as much about your narrative as it is about your go-to-market and your positioning, but fortunately, it’s heavy lifting that pays off down the line. With your narrative in place, your story can mold to fit any format or situation, from a sales presentation to social media, your website, or a stage.

Tweak Your Story and Tap Into Growth

Illustration of characters lined up conversing with customers with logo from redthread-dk

Passionate founders solve real problems but often fall short of connecting them to their customers’ present reality and concrete pain. 

Here are just a few of the real-life examples I’ve seen:

Table showing real-life examples of Assumed pain or gain and Concrete pain from redthread-dk

The good news is that your growth narrative can also speak to the larger “assumed pain” or bigger problem you want to solve. After all, most companies do want to make a difference. The majority of diabetes patients do want to achieve better health…

But the concrete and pressing pain is what they will act on first.

Let’s take the last example and see how the message changes:

  1. The world is slipping away and it’s time for every person, team, and company to do their part. Company Sustain is here to help you make that difference by providing you with reporting that lives up to the highest regulatory standards.
  1. Leaders are under pressure to do everything at once but long-term sustainability is achieved one step at a time. Our sustainability reporting platform immediately evidences the work you’ve done and helps you document future progress, all according to the highest regulatory standards.

Note that both options sound fine. However, the second option acknowledges the big picture while tapping into the prospect’s most pressing concern and context.

Common Mistakes in Positioning and Narratives 

Illustration showing a scene of time shortage from redthread-dk

Mistake — your narrative is about a too-big movement

Your narrative should inspire and go beyond ”features talk,” but be sure to anchor that in reality. Often, customers want a simple solution to an irritating problem.

Mistake — your narrative lacks messaging levels

Brands and products operate on different levels, from features to product, community, and movement. Messaging should also be adapted if you are talking to a subject matter expert versus procurement or a CEO. Be sure the right messages are always served up to the right people.

Mistake — you forgot to talk to your customer

It is impossible to understand your customer’s reality and mindset without asking them. Surveys help, AI is a champ, and interviews are gold. You will never regret investing in gold.  

Mistake — your narrative puts you in direct competition with someone you cannot beat

Re-define the competitive space by finding the problem that only you can solve and do it for a defined and specific customer. This can provide you with a wedge strategy where you are the only winner. 

  • Example: You offer the best price for customers who require XXX features. 
  • Example: You’re the only solution that is easy to implement for small businesses. 

This final “mistake” is actually a larger point and warrants a few articles on its own. Strong positioning is the foundation of your growth narrative, so let’s expand on what that is.

Positioning: Know Your Place Then Tell Your Story

If you have a strong “enough” product-market fit and are still struggling to find the right words, you may have a positioning problem. Enter the positioning Venn diagram.

a diagram of a company from redthread-dk

To unlock this piece of magic, take your time filling out each circle and pay attention to the overlaps. In particular:

  • Overlap 1, “What you and your competition do well” and “what your customers want.” This is considered a “license to play.” In other words, you don’t lose or win here, so just make sure the customer can verify that you meet their standards.
  • Overlap 2, “What you do best” and “what your competitors do well” This is the space where everyone likes to hear themselves talk but no customers are listening. It may even be the “ultimate value” you deliver or “how and why you are great” but again, your customers aren’t paying attention. use your time and messaging on something else.
  • Overlap 3, “What customers want” and “what competitors do well” This is where all of your FOMO lies. Be careful of investing resources here as you likely cannot win it.
  • Overlap 4, “What customers want” and “what you do best” This is the space you want to find and focus on. Interestingly, it’s often the polar opposite of “What customers want” and “What competitors do well.”

My favorite thing about the positioning Venn diagram is the overlap between your competitor’s strengths and what your customers want. For example, if you are a young company that lacks the robust history and credibility to sell to enterprise companies, you may feel tempted to appear bigger and more impressive. But look at this challenge in reverse. To a medium-sized company, you could be the modern solution that will finally give their account the attention it needs (precisely because you are not selling to an enterprise). 

Stories Tap Into Powerful Emotions 

Illustration of being stuck in the wrong positioning box from redthread-dk

We won’t spend a lot of time here, but rest assured that your buyers have feelings. Your solution may help them feel confident and calm in an uncertain situation. They may fear missing out on something their peers are doing. As you dig into their reality (based on survey or interview responses), consider and debate with others how that might feel. You can even use AI tools to expand on the possible emotions sitting just under the surface like, “Would implementing this make me shine in the office.” Or “I’ve tried this before, if I try again will I just prove that I’m a failure?”

Then factor this into your messaging and use it to build stories. People make decisions based on emotions. They usually just call it their “gut.”

Prepare Your Narrative Step-by-Step 

Your key steps for achieving the above are as follows:

  • Evaluate existing customer research and data points for understanding.
  • Interview colleagues or other stakeholders who can offer perspective.
  • Brainstorm the situations your customers may face and how they might feel.
  • Develop customer surveys or interview customers using open-ended questions; focus on their initial buying situation and the pains they wanted to solve before becoming a customer.
  • Compare your strengths with the competition, looking for the space where you easily win.
  • Pressure test your findings with colleagues in the organization and use this as an opportunity to continue selling the purpose and value of your work.
  • Build your narrative using a hero piece of content, such as a sales presentation or the website.
  • Evolve the story into other key content. Consider creating a “messaging house” as a single source of truth for the organization.
  • Involve your colleagues in the output through workshops or meetings; encourage them to translate the findings to their day jobs.
  • Identify opportunities to A/B test the effectiveness of your narrative, for example with two different landing pages or by asking sales colleagues to test the messaging.
  • Test and continuously evolve your new positioning

Key, your sales deck is an unmatched opportunity to evaluate your new narrative.

The storytelling formula

Illustration of entrepreneur conversing with a customer from redthread-dk with logo

When I drafted this article, it included the following sentence: “There are many formulas for creating a sales deck — choose your favorite. They all work.”

But that’s not entirely true.

If you’ve earned a few customers and are looking to grow, then your sales deck is utterly important and the typical formulas are not up to the job.

I’ve always built from-scratch sales decks that unfold each growth narrative in just the right order: empowering the buyer, describing the market situation, creating consideration, debunking doubts, positioning “just right” against the competition, and priming the next sales step. I claimed it was bespoke and never formulaic but fortunately for us… I was wrong!

April Dunford’s “Sales Pitch” describes why overused sales-deck formulas fail, like the overly-hyped “before and after” new world. She lays out a thoughtful method that mirrors many successful presentations I have worked with. Naturally, I am a fan and the formula is yours to replicate.

  1. Option one – carve out rock-solid positioning. Then open April’s book and start building your deck. It’s hard work but entirely worthwhile!
  2. Option two — hire someone who has opened April’s positioning and sales pitch books to help you out.

Option two happens to be my territory, so I know it can be done. 

A positioning and narrative expert acts like a temporary colleague and finishes the job in about two to four months. This approach is valuable for a few reasons: (1) it keeps your positioning deeply tied to your business strategy, and helps you implement the work internally. Unfortunately, agency setups struggle to achieve this. (2) start-ups don’t need a full-time, permanent employee working on their narrative alone (though if you’ve snagged a senior marketing leader with a decade of experience and positioning expertise, take the win and run! (3) It’s exceptionally difficult to adopt an outside-in view of your own positioning and narrative.

Frankly, if you are a passionate founder, then you care too much. A fractional marketer or consultant brings a much-needed outside perspective.

I offer a free introductory call to help founders identify their next step for creating a growth narrative. You can find my booking details on my website or LinkedIn at: or

Telling Your Story — Three Boxes You’ll Want to Tick

As your story comes together, it’s helpful to ensure it addresses the main questions your audience will have in the back of their minds. While this list is not comprehensive, it’s a great start for any piece of content, from your website to the sales presentation:

  • Prevent confusion and irritation by making sure your customers know what you do as soon as possible. In other words, include the “why” but also the “what.”
  • Artfully pepper your content with points of influence by demonstrating authority, pointing to what peers are doing, or calling out influential trends.
  • Debunk doubts. Pull from your customer interviews to identify likely concerns and subtly address them throughout your content. You don’t need to remove the doubt completely, just start chipping away at it.

Storytelling for Investors and Employees.

This is where you can finally let loose. Employees and investors will appreciate your customer narrative, but they also want to know your story, the vision, and dig into the company culture. 

Naturally, investors will also expect relevant financial information, and want to hear about your founding team’s competencies. Employees want to know about the fruit basket and the opportunity to join the company on the ground floor. As with your customer exercise, put yourself in their shoes and tailor the story to their interests.

Your New Growth Narrative — Did You Nail it?

You know your customer’s buying context and pains now. You’ve recognized and accepted the gap between what they want and what they actually need, and you know how your narrative can bridge the gap. 

This is when you start to stand a bit taller. It is the moment when the words come flying to you, almost like magic. All you need is a pen and paper to capture them.

About Kristen: Company and Services

After 15 years at leading digital agencies, consultancies, and corporates, Kristen was grateful for the experience but desperate to ditch the bureaucracy, move faster, and deliver impact. In 2022, she opened “Red Thread,” a fractional marketing and project-based consultancy that helps growing companies connect with their customers and build a story with impact — one growth narrative at a time.

Core services include: defining your growth narrative, positioning, customer insights interviews, and messaging development for websites, sales, and presentations. Kristen also offers part-time (“fractional) marketing leadership.

100Tasks subscribers: book a free introductory call to explore your next steps for building a growth narrative at

About Martin Bell

Martin Bell (Founder & CEO of Bell Ventures) is the visionary and driving force behind the hyper-successful 100 Tasks Startup System which has driven the growth of 20,000+ startups including Zalando and Delivery Hero.

At Rocket Internet, he pioneered the 100-Day-Launch process and led 120+ private and public sector venture-building projects.

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