In a world in which content is clearly king, one of your most valuable business assets are stories that validate its capabilities.
Stories can not only express how your business can help potential customers, but also the vital human qualities that differentiate it from look alike competitors. Consider that your business made a considerable investment to earn its stories. In fact, sometimes the best stories are the result of persevering through costly circumstances to ultimately prevail in the end.
“Look at the bright side; you’ll have a great story to tell.” You’ve heard this expression, right?
So, the question for business owners is this: Knowing that stories are invaluable for differentiating a business, why are most companies not taking the time to mine the value of the investment they have already made?
The following three steps will help you to accomplish this.
#1 – Inventory and Care for Your Stories
The stories that every business needs to capture are its beginnings, core beliefs or values, and unique capabilities. Ideally, this information is summarized on the company website.
This may earn the initial attention of a prospective buyer; but then what?
To engage buyers and move them through the sequence of getting to know, like, and ultimately trust your business, there has to be a whole lot more.
The solution is to inventory your stories by categories, such as the type of buyer, product or service solution, and customer challenge or pain point, to name just a few.
If a business does not hold sufficient inventory to serve new customers, they go elsewhere. The same holds true when responding to social media and direct sales inquiries.
The idea is to have the stories for successfully serving your current customers ready for the next similar opportunity when it comes along.
#2 – Use Stories to Educate and Engage Buyers
If you have founded a business you know that getting that first customer is crucial, because then you have a result to point to when the next inquiry comes along, and the one after that, and so on.
However, not all customers are alike, so it helps to organize your stories to share the right ones with the right prospects. For example, a small project is not going to resonate with a high-end buyer that needs a complex solution.
Conversely, the entry-level buyer will be put off by grandiose projects. They may rightfully assume your business will not give them the attention they deserve; or they may reason your business is only interested in more lucrative projects.
Thus, you need stories in your back pocket to handle these concerns and objections. For example, when I owned my landscape design and construction business we were often asked to justify our prices. Here is the formula we used to handle that, and every other objection.
1. Identify the pain point
2. Offer a solution
3. Back it up with a story
We explained that roughly 50% of what a landscape customer pays for is hidden underground. This includes the root system to a locally grown tree, the proper base for patios and walls, quality valves for the irrigation system that will last for decades, as opposed to years, etc.
Then we would share the story of one of our many clients that wished that had come to us first, because the investment they made with another company was lost after most of it failed to perform as promised.
Here is the story lesson: You cannot evaluate pricing without fully understanding all of the hidden qualities that contribute to the integrity of a project.
Pulling back the curtain to educate buyers builds trust, plain and simple.
#3 – Stories Cut Through the Competitive Clutter
In my opinion, there is no better way to differentiate a business than with stories that are the result of direct experience with real customers.
There are many reasons for this.
- Real stories are credible
- They can be validated with names, places, and dates
- Stories make emotional connections with buyers
- They are personal, often memorable, and tend to build trust
- A story lesson is easily shared
- The challenge is to inventory your stories, practice, test, and refine them, and always be ready to use them well.
Traditional marketing is being replaced by social selling and relationship marketing, with stories being the cornerstone for executing both well.
Is your business ready?
About the Author: Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley)