The headlines make it sound pretty easy. Just follow the tips, steps, goals, lists and you will be able to:
‘Tell a brand story people will love’
‘Craft a Marketing Story that People Embrace and Share’
‘Build a Brand Story: Lessons from the Experts’
‘Craft a Tale that Sells: Storytelling for Business’
Everyone is talking about how storytelling is your answer. Storytelling will bring in new business; will convince prospective customers to come onboard. Storytelling is the new hook for new business.
But storytelling for business isn’t a cure-all. There are no simple tricks. And what works today may not keep working.
Take the wheel and drive your story
Good business storytelling is about sharing what’s true, what’s genuine about your company, your products and services and how they fit into the world. Good business storytelling helps people understand what drives your business and the people in it. Good business storytelling can persuade people to care about you and your products.
You are telling the story of your company whether you are doing it consciously or not. Potential customers pick up a sense of you and your products and services. But is it the story you mean to tell? You need to drive your story.
Yet, before you own your story, you need to figure out what it is. And it’s important to periodically review. What is your company’s story … today?
Ready to scale? Simplify the message
Sometimes it takes the help of an outsider to help clarify your message. To identify not what you do, but what you do for people. To help you tell the story of how your company fits into the world. The story of why your company matters.
It’s not easy. We all get blinded to our own stories when we’re in the middle of them. And it’s easy to get stuck on one version. Like people, businesses grow and change. And stories tend to expand and multiply. The story a founder tells at startup is going to be different from the company story 5 years or 10 years later.
For a company ready to scale, it’s important to simplify the message. Regain your focus.
Recognize that the company has grown into an organization with 10 or 12 strong stories. It sells many products, has a wide variety of customers, and has developed different goals in different departments. Sales can’t sell that. That’s the time to move the company’s message or story away from being a founder’s idea. It’s time to boil down those 10 to 12 stories and come up with 2 or 3 clear, concise, and useful storylines that the full staff can work toward.
One exercise to clarify your story can start with a few simple questions:
- What do we do?
- Why do we do it?
- How are we unique?
- Who benefits from what we do?
- What value do we deliver?
This exercise is similar to creating a strong mission statement. Here are a couple of examples that clarify the company story and are common goals for all employees.
- sweetgreen: To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.
- Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
- Square: Make commerce easy.
- Cisco:Shape the future of the Internet by creating unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers, employees, investors, and ecosystem partners.
Want to be compelling? Focus on your customer
The best business storytelling is about your customers.
Hand a camera to many people and they turn it on themselves. But honestly, how many selfies do you want to look at? It’s the people who turn cameras outward who tell the best stories. They are the ones you want to hang with. It’s true about business storytelling as well. The best marketing or business storytelling faces outward. By ‘focusing on your customer,’ I don’t mean write lots of testimonials or even case studies. I mean help tell the world how your business helps your customers do what they do.
In its lightly branded campaigns, North Face shares how it enables exploration by athletes, educators, innovators – role models who move mountains. By association, North Face helps move those mountains too.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise could just tell us that it “provides technology solutions to help businesses innovate and drive value in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape.” But instead through its HPE Matter campaign, HP tells stories about what customers are able to accomplish with HP tech. In this example, an HP article describes how an HP-driven network upgrade in the Texas A&M’s stadium enhances the Aggies fan experience from watching the game, alerting security to problems in the stands to ordering pizza.
Cutting through the noise
To cut through the noise and catch the attention of potential customers you’ve got to first cut through the noise in your own company. Step back and take some time to clarify goals. You might be on the right track, but you might need a reset.
It’s important to make sure you’ve got a focused brand story so you can all row in the same direction. And it’s helpful to assess that story regularly. Even if your messaging is working, the game is always changing.