When it comes to business skills, if you read the advice of successful entrepreneurs, you’ll find they have one thing in common. The X factor of a successful marketing plan is: talk the talk.

Talk the Talk

When asked on Quora about the best piece of advice he ever received, Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, had a very simple and attainable answer: learn public speaking. Westergren says, “the ability to deliver a great talk is absolutely invaluable. And it is perhaps the most under-recognized and under-nurtured skill.”

You are the voice of your business, and you need to be able to clearly define your vision. Whether it’s seeking funding, selling to customers, or motivating your team, you’ll have to find your voice and communicate with confidence in order to be an effective leader.

Talk to Strangers

Entrepreneur Neil Patel says the number one reason start-ups succeed is simple: the market. The product or service you’re developing has to be the perfect fit for its target market. In a study of failed start-ups, 42% of them said they went under because there was not enough market need.

One common assignment for MBA students is to come up with an idea for a new product, and then get feedback from the public on whether or not they would buy the product and how much they would pay for it. This market research will determine if your business idea is viable, and it requires communication skills.

Michail Michelis, co-founder of Startup Hero, calls his version of this fundamental concept, the Starbucks Test.

Walk into the nearest Starbucks, and go talk to a random person. Tell them your friend is about to start a business, and you would like to buy them a cup of coffee if they’ll give you honest feedback. Lying about who the founder is, will allow people to be more honest since they don’t worry about hurting your feelings.”

Michelis also suggests going to Meetups relevant to your market and, again, talking to people. If you’re not comfortable speaking in front of an audience, speaking to a member of the public one-on-one, or networking with like-minded peers, is a good place to learn the skill.

People Who Need People

Once you’ve become comfortable speaking to new people, you’ll have to build on those conversations, and start creating real connections.

Zvi Band, CEO and co-founder of Contactually, and all-around tech start-up wizard, emphasizes the importance of relationships in growing your business.

“People still do business with people they know—trust and reputation are still core to us. The best asset a professional needs to realize is their relationships.”

Once you’ve earned a share of a market, you have to keep your customers, vendors, partners, and board members invested in their relationship with your company by making them a part of your story. Your story is a work-in-progress, and continues to be written by the relationships you maintain.

Once Upon a Time

All the experience and confidence in the world won’t help if you don’t know what to say when given the opportunity. Every interaction you have with the public, whether it’s through social media, press releases, or networking events gives your company a platform to share its identity with new people. Communicating your story, which differentiates you from the competition, introduces your company to the world.

If you don’t know your story, start by jotting down the answers to “5W1H.” Detail the what, who, where, when, why, and how your company came about. Your story is unique, and it conveys your vision and values. It’s an important story to tell, so you’ll need to know it inside and out, and be able to tell it seamlessly, with passion and conviction, in order for your business to have a happy ending.  

When you read the wealth of resources out there about why companies fly or fall, the common thread is communication. All the branding gurus will tell you the core of any business marketing is in its story. If you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.

Recommended Reading

Seth Godin

Add Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin to your reading list or check out his TED Talk on the subject for some more inspiration on creating a following.