If you’re wanting to create a strong brand, a powerful sense of identity and purpose for your business; both inside so you have a good sense of True North for your company, and also outside so your people know what you’re about… How would you get started?
If you’re struggling with trying to nail down what it is you and your business are all about – you shouldn’t worry about it. You’re in good company. But it’s worth putting the effort in to try to figure out what your story is. As I’ve mentioned before, having a compelling narrative for your business is a great way to keep your customers coming back, because they’ll want to see how the next chapter of your story unfolds.
But how do you get started? Where should you be looking for that story and what do you do with it once you’ve found it?
Find the story
The story of your business is unfolding around you right now, even as you read this article. You just need to learn to put on some journalistic spectacles to be able to see it.
Is your business about food? Then the story is in the experiences of your customers as they dine or otherwise consume it. What’s happening in their lives as they do so? Are they eating in your restaurant because it’s a special occasion? Your cafe because of a work lunch or business meeting? Your cakes because of a wedding or a birthday or a sickness or a going away?
Perhaps you sell a product or a service. If you do then the same thinking applies. Who is using the product and why? What’s their experience while using it? What’s the back story? How did they become your customer? What distinguished your product or service from the crowd for them? What problem did it solve? What was the burning boat and how are things now you’ve put it out for them?
The story isn’t just in your customers though. It’s in your day-to-day business operations and back story too. How have you come to be in business and why? Where did you start? What was the journey like? Where were the obstacles and how have you overcome them? Have you overcome them? Where have you failed and what are you doing about it?
You may feel like you have to put a sanitised version of your business out there, for fear of scaring people off if they see the chaos beneath the surface. Sometimes, there could be a good argument for this. But be careful. Your customers will sense and pick up on material that doesn’t quite ring true.
Rather than always trying to present your business in the best possible light, consider sharing your failures and shortcomings with your people. Stories of how you’ve experienced failure or made mistakes in your business may resonate on a deeper level. Particularly if you’re then able to follow-up with a success story at a later date.
Write the story down
This part almost goes without saying, but unless you share those stories with your people – they may as well not exist. And there’s really no excuse not to. There’s plenty of channels for you to do so and at least one of them, probably more than one, will work for you.
Not everyone enjoys writing, but if you can learn some basic skills then you can tell a story using blog posts and articles, on your own and other people’s sites. With some effort, you can condense your story to 140 characters and tweet it. Or turn it into a status update or message.
If pictures are your thing, try telling your story with a Pin or an Instagram. Sharing the story of your product, your customers or your business with pictures is especially powerful if there’s a strong visual dynamic to your offering – food for example, or textiles make for great pictures. But so can action shots of you and your business.
The barrier to entry for video and audio is virtually non-existent these days. If you have access to a smart phone and the Internet, then you’ve overcome them already. All you need to do now is record some material. Selfies are still all the rage. Try recording a 2 minute selfie-video with your thoughts from a recent experience for starters. If you’d prefer to try podcasting, recording audio is even easier. The Soundcloud app is freely available and once you’ve uploaded some recordings, it’s a trivial matter to turn them into a show or podcast that your people can subscribe to.
The hero’s journey
The important thing about the story of your business and you, is the journey. Yes – there’s always going to be a place for marketing pieces that promote a particular product, service or some other aspect of your business. But the thing that’s going to engage people, that’s going to speak to their emotions about your business is the journey. Because that’s the only real story we ever have to tell.
The hero’s journey is the oldest story and it’s the only story that ever gets told. It gets told in many different ways, but it’s always the same story. It starts and ends in different places, but it’s always the story of the trials, tribulations and change that takes place in the hero of the story.
In your business – you are the hero. Your employees, if you have them, are your heroes. Your product or service is the hero. Look hard and dig deep for the story of their respective journeys and you’ll find the narrative and identity of your business. Start telling the story to your people so that they form a relationship with your business that goes deeper than just the product or service, and builds trust and loyalty as a result.
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