Tell an Authentic Story to Build Your Brand
Everyone, in life and business, knows the value of a good story. Whether it’s your grandmother or the legendary CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, doing the telling, a good story can entice, entertain and educate. Marketing has always been about telling a good story. As the adage goes, “There are no truths, only stories.”
Brands or companies without strong foundations and interesting stories are doomed. When you think about it, the idea that a Lexus is better than a BMW or that barbecue ribs taste better when made by a Texan chef isn't about taste, but the stories they tell.
Yet most consumers have been conditioned to believe that business communication must be clear, rational and objective, with no place for emotion or subjective thinking. But great communicators know that the best way to inspire, motivate and persuade others is to infuse the human element through the simple telling of stories.
Too many business owners spend too much time talking about the amazing features of their products, services or companies. They drone on and on, saturating us with jargon that smells good but leaves us hungry for real food. So what happens? The prospect goes to sleep or, worse, just walks away. People don't want or need to hear about your bells and whistles; they want to hear a real train.
Communicate what you and your brand are all about through the power of stories. Here are two ways that a story can help you reach and retain your customers.
1. Create a story about your target or ideal customer. Let’s say you operate a men’s clothing store. You’re going to write a short, fictional story about a visit from a target customer, whom I’ll call “Max.” When Max walks in, what's he wearing? What do his clothes say about him and his work? What’s on his mind? Does he need to look a certain way for his work, or is this casual wear? Does Max have a family, or is he single? How often does he come into your store? What do you know about Max and the clothes he wears that could make him feel good about himself?
Identify specific and authentic character traits that are factors in consumers’ decisions on what they'll purchase. The more qualities you can list, the more likely you’ll be able to predict their behaviors, preparing you with an approach to meet their needs. Meeting consumers’ needs means making sales.
But for the process to work, you must write the “story.” Otherwise, you’ll continue to think of your prospects in vague or general terms. Your prospects are real people, not a demographic group.
2. Tell a story about how you helped solve a customer's problem. In this scenario, you’re an architect who designed a new office for a business consulting firm. Describe how the business operated before you entered the picture — e.g., clients met with the principal in her living room or at a Starbucks. With the office you created for her, she looks more professional; clients see her as more successful.
Because there are now fewer distractions, she's able to get more work done and increase the number of clients she serves, thereby increasing her revenue. Rather than showing prospects your architecture credentials, or pictures of past work, you're telling them how your work transformed a business, which leads to the real objective — more sales.
Again, you need to write this in story form — where there’s a beginning, middle and end — because you want readers to see and feel how the business of the character (who is actually a past client) has improved based on your actions. When people read descriptions in this form, it's easier for them to identify with the person being described.
The more they identify with the person, the more they’re likely to hire you. The story takes the reader from being a passive observer to an active participant, which leads him to want to have the same experience. Thus, he’ll want to use your services.
Craft two different groups of stories: The first group represents clients or customers who you feel would be most attracted to your products or services. These stories will help you identify and better serve new customers. The second group comprises real-life success stories that you can use as part of your promotional materials — and on your website. Prospects will be able to read how you helped solve a problem of someone whose situation is similar to theirs.