Shark Tank, Narrative, Your Audiences – and Success

I’m a huge fan of TV’s Shark Tank. Not an episode goes by when I don’t learn something about business, investment, marketing or some other tidbit I can use in my work. My favorite “shark” is Barbara Corcoran because I find she bases her investment decisions on smart money-making plus appropriately enthusiastic entrepreneurs who share their stories of passion and work ethic.

This season there is a new shark in the tank, Troy Carter, who prior to this was totally unknown to me. Seems he used to be Lady Gaga’s manager, and is known for media production. He’s certainly on my radar now, big time. Barbara – watch out! Troy may be giving you a run for your money into my “favorite” position!

Why such a quick pivot? For the simple reason that one of Troy’s interests in an entrepreneur is “narrative.” In the episode I watched, two entrepreneurs were seeking a quarter of a million dollars for selling SOCKS (of all things). All the other sharks wanted to know about data and statistics – how many have you sold, how much does it cost to make them, etc., etc. But Troy asked them, “What’s your narrative?”

Yes – narrative is important enough even to sell SOCKS! Yet – it’s barely mentioned in other business circles, at least not using that terminology, and not so intentionally.

But I believe that for us as patient advocates, narrative is one of our MOST IMPORTANT MARKETING TOOLS. So let’s look at it more closely – what, why, when and how.

Your narrative is your story. It’s WHY you want to advocate for people who need you; the REASON you decided advocacy is your choice of careers. It’s what gives you your passion for the work, and drives your mission to help others. Then, it’s combined with WHAT You DO because of it – which results in benefits to your audiences.

There is nothing so personal to any human being as their health and their money. Health and money represent longevity, quality of life, and security. As patient advocates we touch on all those most important personal needs, so there is no better way to connect with a possible new client than to share personal stories – our narratives.

By the way – your narrative is NOT the same as your elevator pitch. There are nuances, and one might develop from the other. An elevator pitch is the WHAT. Your narrative is the WHY, WHAT and HOW.

That is what narrative is, and why it’s important. So when and how do we use it?

Using our narrative as part of our marketing isn’t difficult, but there is an art to it. You don’t want to tell your story at the expense of listening to a potential client, nor do you ever want to “one-up” your audiences. You want to use it to help them understand why you do the work you do, and to showcase that empathy and sympathy we’ve discussed in previous posts.

Your story needs to be presented succinctly, short and sweet, with a pause after it so that the person you tell it to can follow up, either with more questions about your story, or with more questions about their own circumstances.

My story is l-o-o-o-ong. But I tell it quickly, as follows:

I do this work because I had my own run-in with the healthcare system in 2004. I was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma and given only a few months to live. But I figured out on my own, despite many roadblocks put in front of me, that I had no cancer at all. I’ve never had any form of treatment – and here I am today. I learned that the healthcare system just is not set up for patients to get what they need, so I vowed to help other patients succeed despite the system. That’s why I’m here to help you. I’ve been there, I’ve learned the ropes, and I’m ready to help YOU.

<<pause>> And then I just listen.

I never mention my story again unless I’m asked further questions. It’s unnecessary because I’ve made the point that I’m experienced and empathetic and I can, therefore, most certainly do the job for them, too.

So what’s your narrative? Were you a nurse who hated to see the shift in how patients were treated in the hospital? Were you your parents’ caregiver who learned your way around the system, and now want to help others? Did you work for an insurer and realize they were (pardon me) screwing their customers at every turn, so you vowed to use their secrets against them? Now add that impetus for your work to the services you can perform for them, and the benefits of doing so – and THAT is your business narrative.

Be sure to develop your succinct version of your narrative. Learn to drop it into the conversation at the right time to showcase your empathy. Even harder – learn when to stop talking about it! After all, your clients aren’t hiring you because of your story – not really. They hire you because you “get it” – you’ve been there. Now they want your focus on them.

So – did Troy Carter invest in the sock company? Yes – he surely did. He liked their product, their numbers, their marketing plans – and those more-difficult-to-quantify aspects of the two fellows who pitched him, too – their drive, their enthusiasm, and of course, their narrative.

Those socks are now being sold through a quarter-million dollar investment, and making millions in the marketplace.


That’s just socks. You deal with life, death and money! Imagine what YOU can do with YOUR narrative!

Shifting gears, but maintaining the spotlight on narrative…

Take a look at our newly launched AdvoConnection Speaker’s Bureau 15 of our finest who want to speak to those who are ready to hear them, each understanding the importance of narrative as a part of their talks….


Would you like to be part of our speaker’s bureau? Any directory-listed APHA Premium member is welcome.

Photo – screenshot from ABC’s Shark Tank, October 9, 2015


1 thought on “Shark Tank, Narrative, Your Audiences – and Success”

  1. I watch the show and that episode as well. At first, the guys pitching their product weren’t quite sure what to say. I imagine most contestants watch the show and take notes of the questions asked prior to their big day. You are right Trisha, not one of the Sharks have ever used the word Narrative before. The guys pitching had a moment of the deer in the headlights look, then realized he was asking for their story. Yes, it must be brief and speak to your practice and experience. Yes, it is vital. People connect by trust. If you can establish that you have experienced a like event or have info that could help them, they are much more open to the idea of hiring you. Our services are not cheap. A potential client needs to see your passion and the value in retaining your services.

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