You may have a brilliant business, but if you don’t crack the DNA of your brand story, your business could fall flat. Here’s your expert guide to telling business stories that wow!
Trust is paramount in business. Whether you’re speaking to a stranger at a dinner party, pitching in a meeting or designing your brand collateral, if you can’t inspire your audience to believe in you, your business will never grow wings and fly.
However, many of us struggle to know exactly how to create the required level of quality connection. Whilst we may know the value our business brings, (and if we don’t, we have bigger problems than we think!) we often can’t articulate our mission in a way that attracts and inspires.
What we need is weapons grade communication skills to bring our business ideas to life, draw people to our brand and create the loyalty necessary to fuel its success.
ENTER THE POWER OF YOUR BRAND STORY….
Humans hunger for belonging and a sense of shared purpose. And the best way to meet this universal need is not through dry logic alone: we must start telling inspiring stories. Whether on a website, through social media interactions or face to face, it is your story that creates a sense of commonality and purpose.
Brand story explains how Starbucks won the attention of the masses and elevated itself over its competitors, some of whom may well make superior coffee. Starbucks is founded on far more than the simple specifications of their product. In fact, the stories they tell barely mention their products at all, and instead focus on reaffirming people’s faith in humanity, and by doing so, build a stronger, more emotional connection with their customers. For example, Starbucks recently created a selection of stories that featured ordinary people doing extraordinary things in order to create positive change in their communities. These were powerful stories in which employees were respected, customers were valued and bean farmers in developing countries were paid fairly. By coupling these human stories that engender brand loyalty with a fantastic ability to execute on rigorous strategy, Starbucks has positioned itself for massive success.
Storytelling is a skill, and like any other, can be learned. And with a few simple tools under your belt, you too can create a great story and begin to build a picture of your brand that your audience will love.
7 PRACTICAL TOOLS TO TELLING A COMPELLING BRAND STORY:
1. DEFINE YOUR TARGET MARKET.
Before you do anything, you must define your audience. Without knowing exactly who you want to reach, you cannot clearly tell a story that will resonate. So, discover as much detail about your audience as you can. Ask yourself: What do they want? What do they need? What are their struggles and pain points? Why is it important to find a solution to make a particular aspect of their lives easier? Keep asking yourself questions about your ideal end-user and be as specific as you can about their cares and concerns. Because, once you know the answers, you will intimately understand your target audience and can position your brand as the best solution to their troubles.
2. POSITION YOUR BRAND.
Once you’ve defined your ideal customer, you need to accurately describe your brand with a clear positioning statement. This is a short, sharp statement that captures who you are, what you do and the value of your business. Your positioning statement is an attention-grabbing opener you can use in all online channels as well as face to face, and forms the very heart of your brand story.
To help you craft a positioning statement, define the following as briefly as you can:
1. What you do? (The solution)
2. Who is it for? (Target audience)
3. Why do you do it? (The need)
4. The amazing outcome as a result of your solution
5. Your key differentiation that sets you apart.
As you practice and re-iterate, you’ll eventually come up with a brand message of just a few sentences that will help to articulate your value proposition both online and in person — and in any situation.
3. DEVELOP YOUR NARRATIVE.
Once you’ve nailed your positioning statement, expand on your story to give your chosen audience a more detailed picture of who you are, what you do and why you do it. This will become your signature brand narrative that could either be a stand-alone story or multiple stories that form part of a broader narrative. For instance, you could expand on your customer story and explain how a customer solved their problem using your product. Or, you could talk about your origin story and explain what inspired you to start this business, why you committed to it and how you eventually overcame stacked odds. You could even tell the story of the amazing milestones you’ve reached and why these have been important to you and your customers. Simply tell the stories that are emotive and bring the most hope to your audience.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Keep your brand story simple, eliminate complex jargon and tell it in a relatable manner, because nobody wants to listen to a technocrat droning on. You need to capture the imagination of your audience, and you do this by replacing jargon with simple, vivid and visual language to paint a colourful picture of your business. Metaphors, similes and analogies can simplify the complex and help your audience understand the solution you are presenting. They also create powerful visual images and evoke such powerful sentiment that your audience can’t help but become immersed in your story. And greater audience engagement means greater loyalty. Consider the iconic brand Amazon, named after the river in South America. The idea was that their selection of books would be vast and wide, just like the largest river in the world. And this promise reinforces the metaphor as “a place where people can come to discover anything they might want to buy online.” What a brilliant way to clearly show what Amazon stands for!
5. STAY HUMAN.
Focus on how your products or services touch the lives of real people. This means that your stories should include actual people, real situations and genuine emotions. So, explain — in terms people can relate to — how your company adds value to the lives of your customers, clients and stakeholders. Do you provide a quicker service? Is your product of greater utility to the consumer? Do you make complex products easier to use? Show precisely how you make life better for people. And always own your mistakes without ever over-apologising. Simply take responsibility for whatever went wrong and immediately point towards a solution. When Steve Jobs faced the PR fiasco surrounding a fault in the iPhone 4, instead of repeatedly denying his mistake, or grovelling for forgiveness, Jobs instead went for the honest approach. He said, “ We’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy”. He was truthful, and in a later press conference, offered clear fixes. It’s a strong move and we relate because no one can be perfect all the time. By making truth the cornerstone of everything you write, speak and create, you’ll become trustworthy and be the type of respected brand people want to associate with.
6. DESIGN IT TO BE SHARED.
There’s no point having a great story if it exists in a vacuum. It needs to be shared. But how do we design content that people love and want to send to others, when people only share on social what shows them in the best light? You must cater to that need and design your content accordingly — and all without losing your unique personality. However, this is NOT about selling out on your core values. Instead, it’s about discovering what people care about, helping them meet their needs and finding points of mutual interest to create a shared vision. So, look at your past creative messaging and see what resonates best with your audience. Notice how consumers engage with your brand and whether certain messaging leads to an uptick in sharing. Because, when you know what inspires, you can formulate stories your customers will want to spread.
7. SPEAK YOUR STORY.
“I love networking events”….said hardly anyone! An opportunity to exchange stories and make meaningful business connections often turns into an awkward cringe-fest with most people longing for the exit. However, powerful online branding must be translated in-person to reap the most benefits, and for this we need to network with purpose! But how? Simple. By being genuine. Rather than parroting an elevator pitch to all and sundry, forget pitching full stop. Instead, start a human conversation with someone. And be generous by focusing on the other person, asking open-ended questions and gently finding out about them. Do this, and you’ll soon discover whether they’re worth talking to! And, importantly, most people will appreciate your genuine interest. Once you’ve built trust, your business stories will naturally start to flow. So, always value connection over pitching, because when you do, you’ll reap the reward!
The winning thread woven through all these tools is connection. The most valuable global brands such as Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola have long recognised the power of creating meaningful connection and have nurtured stories that have become legendary in status. Ultimately, we trust them.
So, whether you’re tweeting, emailing, writing a blog post or simply talking to a customer, create a brand story we all relate to, understand and like. You need to be truthful, real, and prioritise connection above all else. And when you do that, the rest will follow.