Your business is like a blank canvas to your prospective customers. They want to know what you are about, where you came from, and where you are taking them. It is critical that you tell your customers an authentic and compelling story. Having a great product or service isn’t enough anymore. Your competitors have great facts and figures. They may have better prices, a better location, and even great employees… but they don’t have your story.
Your story is what sets you apart. The story is what makes your cup of coffee, your widget, or your service different. Tell a great story and customers will flock to you. Give them a book with blank pages and they will go elsewhere. A story is like a first run movie, it needs a compelling plot with interesting characters.
A good story starts at the beginning. It’s the “once upon a time” section. Where did you come from?… How did you get started?… Who helped you along?… As Marketer Patrick Hanlon explains in his book, “Primal Branding“, businesses need a “creation story.” He expounds…
If brands are a narrative, then the creation story is the beginning of the tale. All belief systems come with a story attached. Brands that start in the middle of their story are like walking into a movie that’s already started; you spend the next few minutes trying to figure out what’s going on. But consumers don’t take the time. They just keep walking.
Does your business have a creation story? Does your business bible start at Genesis or are there some pages missing? Think of some of the most popular businesses and you’ll usually find a story of ordinary people creating something new. It might be Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak building a rudimentary computer in a garage. Maybe Ray Kroc and the revolutionary McDonalds franchise comes to mind. How about Larry Page and Sergey Bren designing a new search engine called Google? Great stories start from the beginning.
Like a great speech, your business story must transition from the opening to the main story. Paint us a picture and bring in the characters. Let us know what makes your cup of coffee worth $3.00. Tell us about the jungles of South America where the aromatic coffee beans are grown. Bring in Juan Valdez and his passion to produce the best coffee in the world. Add the wind and the rain and put us in the middle of the story. Tell us about the aroma and let us know it’s good to the last drop. When we can see ourselves in your story you have created a passionate customer.
The better your story matches our worldview the more apt we are to buy your product. Find out who your customers are and craft the words and pictures to match. You can’t sell to everyone but you can tell compelling stories to groups of people with similar interests and tastes. If you are trying to sell meat to vegetarians you probably won’t get to far, but if you have a story about a better turnip or a fresher carrot, customers with this worldview will flock to your stores.
In his book, “All Marketers Are Liars,” author Seth Godin gives us some simple advice…
“Every consumer has a worldview that affects the product you want to sell. That worldview alters the way they interpret everything you say and do. Frame your story in terms of the worldview, and it will be heard.”
What’s in it for them?… is a great question to ask. When you can answer that question definitively, you can mold your stories to your customers interests and tie them in with their needs and wants.
Dorothy Leeds in her new book, “The 7 Powers of Questions“, notes that questions get people to open up…
Why do questions work? For one simple reason: Most people love to talk. Most of all, they love to talk about themselves, and they love to talk about the things that interest them.
The lesson here is to ask questions and draw your customers out. The better you know your customers the better your stories will be.
Good stories have names and places. They solve problems and make the world a better place. They overcome adversity and help us find happiness. Make your stories interesting, fresh, and compelling. Part of a great narrative is to add some drama. What happens if your customer, heaven forbid, buys your competitors product? What great experiences do they have when they buy your product? Contrast and comparison add to the plot.
On almost any good book, the back cover has reviews and testimonies from readers. The same goes for your business. Your existing customer’s stories, experiences, and reviews are a great way to build your word-of-mouth business. As compelling as your story may be, a customer’s story may carry more credibility and offer your prospective clients a different reason to do business with you. Use them frequently on your printed materials and your website and be sure to weave your customer’s stories into your own.
Finally… a great story must have a conclusion. More than an ending… a climax! The climax of a good story implores a response. It’s not enough for the audience to “soak it all in.” They need to be compelled to do something with it. Ask for the sale, and close the deal. Provide that revelation moment for your clients when the light bulb comes on and they decide to take you up on your offer. Bring them to that split second ah-ha when the decision is made.
An effective story has a payoff. It may be a sale or a word-of-mouth referral. It may be an emotional experience. It may challenge your customers to take action. A truly remarkable story may do all of the above.
Simply stated… Tell A Story, Make A Point!
Telling Your Story is the first of five items that join together to create business SPARK. Up next in our continuing series is Product Excellence.