The importance of your business’s great story:
Your story is what you do or what your business does. Through each and every activity that you or your employee’s interact with the members of the communities you do business with you are telling people a story about yourself. Most of the time our activities reinforce a view that our audience has already predetermined about us. This can be good or bad depending on the views of the person we are dealing with. The story we tell with our business is too important to leave to chance. As mentioned Business Leader as Storyteller I’ve listened to Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars twice in an attempt to determine the best attributes of a good business story and I’m happy to be able to list them here. Please bear in mind that the attributes listed here are my interpretation of what Seth has to say and are not taken verbatim.
Attributes of a great story.
- Understanding the world view of your target audience: Before you even begin your story you must first determine who your audience will be. One method of doing this could be determining your ideal customer is. To craft a great story that will truly be effective you’ve got to know what predispositions your audience has so you can help them reinforce those thoughts by adopting your story as their own. By using this approach you are narrowing your focus to a smaller target group, but the idea here is to find people that will want to hear your story and repeat it as their own. These are the people who will take notice of what you are saying and buy into it to an extent that they interrupt everyone they know to tell them about it. It’s important to get this part right because if you interrupt everyone with your story you will just come off as annoying and irrelevant.
- Tell a coherent story that is consistent when told through various channels. When telling the story of “how we do it here” to your target group it is vital that your facts are consistently supportive of the message you are trying to convey. Disjointed facts and points that seem contradictory will only confuse your audience and cause you to lose their attention. Delivery of the story must be clear and facts must be presented in a way that reinforces the underlying message you are trying to convey. The best method to accomplish this is to determine the process flow of every point of communication with your audience and define the type of communication that takes place there. Points of communication can include customer invoices, the conversation your associates have with customers when answering the telephone, email, tweets, or blog comments, or the conversation a cashier has with the customer when processing their order. All these points must be defined and the associates trained on what message is to be conveyed.
- Giving just enough details. Give the target audience just enough information to engage their imagination. The art of suggestion works like a connect the dots puzzle. If you’ve ever looked at a Thomas Kinkade painting then you’ve viewed the type of impressionistic work that we are trying to create. Mr Kinkade uses shadow and light to create impressions which the viewer turns into a scene. If we slow down and look at his paintings intently then we understand that we were viewing an impressionistic pattern. If we are telling our story to the right audience then they will fill in the gaps to complete the picture of their world view. This is important because of the limited attention span of the average prospect in a media saturated culture and the fact that once the user completes the impressionistic story in their mind it becomes their own story.
- Don’t harm the target listener: I really wish that I didn’t have to put this in here, but considering the low trust environment here in the United States I felt I had to. Don’t tell stories that will harm your audience if they choose to believe them. If you do you will lose in the long term. Choose a long term strategy that will benefit your target audience and your business will grow virally as the story takes hold and is spread. The key to a great story is building trust and if you are found to be harming people eventually you will become the next WorldCom or Enron.
- Be authentic – be real: The best stories are true. Stories that are not true will make the target audience feel stupid for believing them once the truth comes out. If you make someone feel dumb they will not support you and once they find out they have been duped they will never repeat your story again. Stay away from false stories and lies. Let your competitors be the ones that over promise and under deliver. Succeed by under promising and over delivering. Being authentic and real is the only real way to succeed in a low trust environment.
- Differentiated from competing stories. It is hard to shout above the crowd and in today’s media saturated culture it is foolish to compete with a successful and well established story. If your competitor is selling on price and doing it well then you would do well to sell on service. Value is perception and customers buy because of perceived value so the trick is to tell a story of how you are different then the rest and how your difference is valuable. The “how we do it here” story should be customized to your target groups world view and be so different from the other stories out there that comparison is not possible. This is how you avoid the devastating effects of price competition and if you do this well your customers will probably enjoy paying a higher price.
Your business’s story becomes a great story when it becomes the audiences story.
Further reading: The importance of telling the right story the right way.
Your thoughts and comments are most welcome.