Lean Marketing through Brand Story-Telling

by Kristy O'Leary

2 min read

Everywhere we turn, we’re seeing lean startups. From running lean to pivoting to minimum viable products, the ideas have become pervasive. With so much emphasis placed on efficiency, what are the implications for startup stories?

Allan Gates has some ideas on the matter. Gates and Lise Hansen are co-founders of Bonfire Stories, a St. John, NB communications firm that delivers brand storytelling through digital marketing, social media and traditional PR. Bonfire is quickly carving out a niche in the startup world as leaders in minimum viable marketing (MVM).

MVM, Gates says, is a pragmatic approach to startup marketing: it recognizes the limits of an entrepreneur’s time and funding. It is a lean approach to marketing, one that echoes the way entrepreneurs are developing the rest of their business.

“Focusing on startups does sound counter-intuitive for an agency,” says Gates. “We decided to take this direction because startups wait too long to define and communicate their story. It’s true that good marketing won’t save a bad product. But it’s also true that bad marketing can hurt, or even kill, a good product.”

Bonfire breaks down its approach to lean marketing in the e-book Minimum Viable Marketing: A Playbook for Startups. Gates and Hansen outline five strategic and tactical components to MVM: positioning and messaging, branding, pitch decks, social media, and web.

“Exceptional brand storytelling helps to support the lean startup philosophy. Startups have to engage with their customers, they need to tell their story and share their solution,” says Gates, adding emphatically, “they need to connect.”

Gates says social media plays a critical tactical role in starting up.

“Social media is the great equalizer, it allows startups to communicate their story in ways they could not through other channels.”

Platforms like Twitter allow ideas to catch fire and gather a crowd. Startups can engage quickly in order to test iterations and gather customer feedback. It begs the question, is social media driving the lean startups movement or is the lean startup movement driving social media? Regardless, great stories are driving both.

Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, defines a startup as “The human institution designed to create something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”

Creating a great brand opens the door to customers, colleagues, mentors and angels. It invites people to sit around your bonfire and contemplate your vision. Companies who brand well and brand early have greater chances of success. Your startup story doesn’t begin with your first investor; it begins with the decision to solve your chosen problem.

“Solving complex problems is baked into the spirit of tech startup companies,” says Gates. “The idea that we can do things in a better way and make the world a better place.”

So don’t wait, CEO. Every pivot, every iteration, every loss and every win become chapters in your brand epic. You’ve created a human institution, now communicate the vision and start carving out your place is history.

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