How A Small Business Learned To Tell Its Story
Mike Kappel | Forbes
When done well, business storytelling gives a compelling reason for consumers to buy from you. A good brand can inspire trust between your business and customers, employees, and suppliers.
At Patriot Software, our story started in the basement of a factory with no heat, no air-conditioning and floors that would flood. Instead of customers, we had rats, birds, snakes and flies. We ran out of money, maxed out our credit cards and borrowed from relatives.
Not the prettiest opening to a story, right? But, it’s honest. Our “can-do,” “just-works” small business customers appreciate that, and they relate to the tough, early days of launching a startup. By hearing our story and knowing why we do what we do, they know that we understand their needs.
If you own a small company, knowing how to tell your business story needs to be a crucial part of your operations. A brand story has a strategic purpose aimed towards drawing people in. To perfect your story, try the following tips.
#1: Set The Parameters
Your business story should be engaging. But if it doesn’t have a clear focus, you’ll quickly lose the attention of consumers. Establish context right off the bat.
To start your brand story, answer the following questions:
- Who is telling the story?
- Why is the story being told?
- When and where is the story taking place?
- Who are the people in the story?
- What are the people trying to achieve?
- What challenges are faced?
Parameters will help you develop an engaging story that makes sense to your audience. Set the scene so that consumers know exactly what you’re talking about. Most importantly, establish why you’re telling them this story. This will guide the audience through the narrative and hook them all the way to the end.
#2: Be Authentic
Authentic storytelling is key to gaining consumer trust. Don’t try to fool your audience with an over-the-top tale. Customers know when you try to pull a fast one on them, and they don’t appreciate it.
Your business’s story doesn’t need to be elaborate. In fact, if your business doesn’t have an earth-shattering history, your story shouldn’t try to create one. A genuine narrative is more likely to connect with consumers than one without a shred of truth.
Transparency celebrates your uniqueness and acknowledges the human aspect of your brand. Recognize that things are not always easy by showing your own challenges and failures. This creates an emotional connection, as well as reveals admiral characteristics, like innovation and resilience.
You might want to take an “open book” approach to communicating with customers. Explain how things are made/done at your business. For example, you might use all local ingredients at your restaurant. Use these details to create an interesting story.
#3: Have A Clear Outcome
A great business story leaves your audience with something. What lesson was learned in the story, and what should consumers learn from hearing it?
Business stories should have a clear outcome. Provide a hopeful, thought-provoking message with actionable points that compel your audience to connect with your brand.
Here’s another story for you: In the late eighties, my partner and I wanted to write software, but we were not sure about the niche we should pursue. After doing tons of research in the phonebook and at the library (there was no internet back then), we learned that employment agencies had a desperate need for a recruiting network solution. Over thirty years after launching our startup, Top Echelon’s recruiting network has hundreds of recruiting firms and millions of candidates, which helps hiring professionals make more placements.
The story gives an idea of who we are and where we come from. The outcome sparks confidence in our offerings and values. You can use your business’s real-life outcomes to convey a message to your customers.
#4: Be Consistent
A disorganized brand story leaves customers confused and uninterested. Make sure your brand is consistent across all communication channels. Use the same colors, logo, and slogan for digital and print marketing materials. The repetition of images and verbiage associated with your business creates brand awareness.
You need to be consistent when speaking about your brand. Business storytelling takes practice. Know the story inside and out before presenting it to customers. This will help you tell the story naturally.
#5: Get Customers Involved
Use business storytelling to strike an emotional connection with customers. Talk about how an event related to your business affected you and what you learned. This creates an immediate response that makes your story memorable and shareable.
People like to be a part of stories. Your customers can be characters in your brand. Come up with ways to get your audience involved.
For example, Patriot Software reached out to some of our customers to hear their startup stories. Black Sheep Boutique and Lamplighter Brewing Co. were among several companies featured in business storytelling examples on our blog. Showcasing these businesses directly linked our customers to a part of our story.
Telling the story of your brand is an ongoing process. Each day, your business grows, shifts and adds new chapters to its story. Make business storytelling an essential part of your operations to attract and retain customers.
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