Your company story is a vital part of your branding and customer experience. It sets the tone for who you are, and what customers can expect from you. It’s the foundation of building connections with your customers, because when all is said and done, you’re in the business of solving problems for your customers, and doing so in a way that makes people happy. The money you get as a result, is really nothing more than a reflection of your business model and satisfied customers.
Storytelling is an incredibly powerful way to build relationships. It brings people together – think about sitting with your grandparents, listening to them talk about what life was like when they were growing up. Didn’t it make you feel closer to them? Storytelling for business remains powerful regardless of where you are, the language you speak, or how big your brand is. When done right, a compelling brand story can give small businesses an edge against the competition.
And in doing marketing well, you’ll use storytelling for business in more than just your brand story. You’ll weave it into every type of content you’re producing, whether it’s blog content, ad content, infographic content, or a video script.
Every day, customers are bombarded with advertising to the point where they often feel overwhelmed, and start ignoring it. You’re not immune to this effect, so you know what I’m talking about. As marketers, we need to remember what it’s like from the customer standpoint, and use our storytelling ability to stand out from the competition.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at what your story is telling customers – to make sure you’re not only sending the right message, but doing it in the best possible way.
Is Your Story Customer Centric?
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is crafting a story that’s about them. To connect with your customers, especially on the emotional level required to build a relationship, you have to stop thinking (and talking) about your company, and change the perspective. Customers don’t care about how awesome you are and what you’ve achieved. They care about what you can do for them.
It’s easy to make your brand story company-centric, and while you may think this is the approach that works, the truth is it risks coming off as egotistical and boring. People aren’t going to have a good impression of your business, and they most certainly aren’t going to connect with you on an emotional level.
Is Your Story Truthful?
The word “story” often connotes a sense of make-believe, but when it comes to your brand, truth is essential. Any and all marketing content should be showing, rather than telling, customers how your company is relatable. Everything should be based in real situations, helping real people, built on real emotion, and fact.
Is Your Story Original?
Unless your pioneering an industry, chances are that there’s at least one other company in your space, competing for the same customer base you are. You may have a similar brand story, but no matter how similar you are to another company, you must create originality when storytelling for business. One of the best ways to do this is to consider what’s interesting about your company, and why this is important. This is what makes you different from the rest of the businesses that are out there doing the same thing you are, even if they’re doing it for the same reasons.
How to Write a Compelling Brand Story
Start with notes about where you came from as a company, where you are now, and where you’re heading. Begin with who the founder is, and why the company was started in the first place. Don’t leave out any details – your customers want to know the inspiration behind what motivated you to start the business. Be sure to highlight the points that show why you’re in business – the true purpose of your organization.
Next, develop a statement to explain why your company exists. Keep it different from your company mission and vision statements – it does not fall into either of these categories. Instead, this statement takes the deeper purpose of the company into consideration… what matters to the customers and the stakeholders, and is driven by values.
If you’re struggling with this part, ask yourself:
- Why is our company here?
- How are we making the world better?
This will give you the basis for your statement, and it’s with that statement in hand that you’ll be able to craft your story. It is the starting point, and from there, you’ll aim for a one-page document that supposed it.
It should tell the narrative of your brand – where you’ve come from, and where you’re going, in an authentic and truthful manner. Write it with a conversational tone, to draw your audience in and engage them. Pretend your talking to someone new over drinks, rather than giving a professional presentation. Keep it short. Write everything you want to say, to get your thoughts out on paper. Then edit. And edit again if necessary. There’s no minimum word count required to convey your message effectively.
TOMS is the perfect example. The company story clearly tells customers the founder, Blake Mycoskie, saw the hardships Argentinean children faced growing up with out shoes, while he was traveling there in 2006. He decided he wanted to help, by building a shoe company that would send a new pair of shoes to someone in need, for every single pair customers purchase.
Today, the company has given more than 60 million pairs of shoes to children in need, across 70 countries. Since the shoes have been such a success, they also launched TOMS’ Eyewear in 2011, giving glasses and eye treatments to those who need it, with the purchase of each pair of glasses. Beyond giving eyesight to more than 400,000 people in need, it helps support community-based eye care programs, and helps create jobs to provide basic eye care.
In 2014, the company launched TOMS Roasting Co. to provide more than 335,000 weeks of safe water in six countries. With each purchase of the company’s coffee, a one week supply of water is given to someone in need.
But that wasn’t enough, either. In 2015, the company went on to start Bag Collection to help train skilled birth attendants, and sending birth kits to help women safely deliver their babies. As of 2016, the program has helped more than 25,000 mothers.
Storytelling for business tells the truth – showcasing numbers to demonstrate how purchasing their products helps those in need. Yes, there’s the charitable angle to pull at the heart strings for easier engagement compared to some other industries, but the point remains the same. Tell your story to speak to your customers, and you’ve made headway in converting those prospects into buyers.
Editing Your Existing Brand Story
Let’s say you’ve already got a brand story, but you want to make what you have more compelling for your audience. Begin with focusing on why you’re doing whatever it is you do. Ask yourself:
- Why am I (are we) passionate about what we do every day?
- Why do I (we) wake up in the morning?
If you’re not sure where to start with the answers to these questions, ask your customers why they’re loyal to you. Ask you employees why they work for you, and their motivation for coming into work every day. Use search engines and social listening tools to find out what people are saying about your company, and how they’re talking about you.
If you’re dealing with a company-centric story, you’ll want to scrap the whole thing, or at least look for ways you can take the current text and spin it to a customer-centric style. For instance, instead of:
- We build websites and online communities.
- We make dog toys.
- We offer home security services.
- We build websites and online communities to help our clients tell their stories and share their message with the world.
- We create dog toys that help keep Spot busy for hours on end, while keeping him safe, so you can rest easy knowing he’s in good hands.
- We offer home security services because we’ve been there. No one should ever feel unsafe in their own home, or violated as the result of a burglary.
You’re still saying what you do, but your delving a bit into the why of you do what you do.
What makes you different than the competition? How are your products or services better at solving your customers pain points than the other solutions out there? Rethink what you’re selling. When you’re up against a lot of competition in the same space, it becomes less about the products and services themselves, and more about the experience you give customers.
If company A and company B have the same exact product and A is priced $5 lower, that doesn’t necessarily mean company A will get all of the business. While most people think of price as the key differentiator, an average of 97% of global customers say customer service is a key differentiator in their decision to use, or step away from, a company. Since 60% of customers say they have higher expectations for customer service now than they had just 12 months ago, this can be difficult. But, what it tells us is that if you, as company B, strive to provide a better overall customer experience, making the customer feel appreciated and valued, you can keep hold on a viable piece of the market share.
The Story is Done – Now What?
Once your story is done, it must be engaging and easy to share. One study shows one of every five minutes spent online is spend on social media. Why is this a big deal? Your audience is more than likely sharing content with a significant portion of the time they spend online… and you want customers to share yours to gain exposure to new prospects.
To make your brand story sharable and more distinctive from the rest, try these ideas:
Go beyond the standard text. Include photos and video. Photos enhance your story, but videos enhance it further. You have a number of options here: showcase your office space, manufacturing space, employees, and more. In your video, feature employees that speak about why they work for you, and how they hope the company helps customers. Whatever you choose to cover in the video – make it personal and feature it along side your narrative so viewers have context. It’s okay to feature customers in photos and video, too, as long as you have their legal consent to do so.
Add quotes. Getting thoughts from customers who are out there championing your brand adds distinction from the competition. You can also include quotes from leadership and business partners, if they help tell the “why” behind your story. Highlight the words or sentences that tell or support your story, with some visual flare.
Your story doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t remain the same over time. As you grow and expand, meet and exceed goals, and keep dreaming for the future, your brand story should change and evolve as a reflection. Does it mean changing details? Maybe, if new details become relevant. But, as long as you keep the customer in mind, along side why you are in business and what motivates you, you’re in good shape.
What does your brand story say about your company? Are you pleased with the message?
Photo credit: iStock