Do you know why your business story is so important? Yes, you have a story. Every business does. It includes why you are in business and how that is important to your customer (or donor if you are a nonprofit organization.)
Studies have shown that people think in stories. Stories are communication tools that have been used throughout history to pass on knowledge and values. They are key to how we relate to one another.
People also make up their own stories. When issues get complex or we don’t see all the details, we just make up our own story. You do not want your customers making up stories about your business, organization or products. You want to lead them along the path that shows them how YOU are the best solution to their problem.
In this business story, we start with your customers’ point of view. They are the main characters in this adventure. What is it that they want and what is keeping them from getting it: that is a big important question you must answer to be an effective business storyteller. To capture your audience (and sales) you will need to think about what your product or service gives to your customer that makes their life better, easier, more fulfilling…you get the idea.
You can start your story really well once you understand a customer profile. Now it’s time for you to get your imagination out and put it to work. Who is your ideal customer? Is she female, working or retired, how much disposable income does she have, what does she need from you? If you don’t know who your audience is–that ideal person (persona) who benefits from your business–then you don’t know how to tell her the story. For example, if your audience is sixteen years old, you tell a story very differently than if she is twenty-six or forty-six years old.
So now you get to go think about how you can help your customers achieve their goals so you can achieve yours, which makes you both heroes.
Your business is a brand, but building your brand is more than your name, logo, catchy tagline or signature colors. It includes those things, but branding is mostly about managing your customers’ perceptions. Yes, you guessed right, it always comes back to the customers and what they think when they see your logo.
Branding your business is how you use every marketing channel, every event, every customer contact to connect with your shoppers’ hearts. I know it sounds a bit touchy-feely, but studies have proven time and again that people decide with their emotions. Once we connect emotionally, our minds come up with the reasons why we made the right choice. Howard Lim, one of my favorite branding experts, says, “Humans are intuitive, emotional beings and they do not invest in a brand until they feel something for the brand.” If you want people to invest in your brand, that means buy your product or service, then you have to figure out a way for them to feel good about doing business with you.
If you are into sports, then you know the feeling you get when you see the Nike swoosh, and when you love a coffee experience, then the Starbucks logo probably moves you to a happy place. I even have friends who emotionally respond to the John Deere logo.
Without an emotional connection, a logo is just a picture announcing, “Here we are,” but what you really want is an image that makes people feel good because they have heard great things about you or they believe in your business values or have had wonderful experiences in your shop, restaurant or hardware store.
What You Say
Having a strong brand in the midst of lot of other brands is a challenge. Sometimes we just try to talk louder to make ourselves heard, which means more advertising, more direct mail, more email newsletters and Facebook posts. Shouting that you are wonderful does not always make it true. If ‘being the friendliest’ is part of your branding, your business values and your story, then what you say about yourself has to be what the customer experiences. Ask yourself, “Is it true we are the friendliest place in town ?” Is your staff trained to be the ‘friendliest’ to every person that comes through the door, that calls on the phone, that posts a rude comment on your Facebook page? Although you have to know what your story is and what your business stands for, you also need to make sure it is authentic.
Once you understand what you want to be known for, you can create your mission, images, colors, business culture and employee training to reflect your story. Then you just repeat that message throughout your media channels, your customer service, the type of products you sell and everywhere you connect with a customer. People notice consistent, authentic brands.
What You Do
Your brand is also the promise you make to your customers. Promises such as having unique products, caring staff, hometown values or fast service. The way you win the hearts of your shoppers is in how you deliver (and over deliver) on the promises you make, because your brand is all about what the customer thinks of you. If you meet and exceed customers’ expectations the first time they visit your store and every time they visit, you are on your way to creating brand loyalty. Being consistent in giving customers what they need, want and expect is creating that elusive ‘customer experience’ everyone in retail is trying to find.
What They Say
People will talk. Don’t we know it! If we like you, we talk. If we don’t like you, we talk more. Social media has taken word-of-mouth marketing to a whole new level. People you will never know (in countries you will never visit) may be talking about your customer service right now. The point? If you build brand loyalty because you are working hard to give your customers something more than they expect, it can produce the kind of social media advertising that all the talking in the world won’t get you.
The first step in building the brand you want is to identify what your business is really about. Ask yourself what you want to be known for and how you want customers to think of you. Then look around your business and imagine it from the customers’ perspective. Begin dreaming up your mission statement and working with your employees to implement it. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun, because being in business is exciting stuff!
If you really want to do more to create your brand identity, check out our resource page.