Telling Your Customer Story


I gave a guest lecture this month in AEM 3249: Entrepreneurial Marketing and Strategy - a course in the Dyson School of Applied Economics at Cornell University. The student entrepreneurs were in the process of running focus groups and conducting interviews about potential customer needs and wants.


To help students make sense of their findings and prepare them for their pitch presentations, I walked them through the following storytelling framework:

  • Beginning: Share the key characteristics of your target market and introduce one of your potential customers.

  • Middle: Describe what life is like for that person - a problem they face or a need they have.

  • End: Describe how your product or service will help solve their problem or fill that need.

Here's an abbreviated example of a story I shared:

  • Beginning: During my interviews with health conscious, professional men, I met a guy named Jeffrey.

  • Middle: He told me he was looking for a convenient and healthy way to snack between meals. His story reinforced the data from our market research.

  • End: These findings gave us some great ideas for how we could position Man Mix - a between-meal snack designed for men.

As the students shared their customer stories, I was truly impressed in their ability to quickly apply this framework and deliver a compelling narrative about their new business ventures.

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