Today, this one day, the average U.S. citizen will read thousands of digital words and see hundreds of marketing messages. According to a recent article, in just the past 60 seconds, the following happened:
- 700,000 Google searches were performed
- 168 million emails were sent
- 60 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube
Not surprisingly, this information overload makes it difficult to get the attention of consumers. Fortunately, differentiating your business from the competition with a company story is easier than you might think.
Telling Your Company Story
In his seminal TED Talk, Simon Sinek illuminated the most effective ways for organizations and leaders to inspire. Sinek laid out a useful framework of “what,” “how,” and “why” questions to which every business owner should always know the answers:
What does your company do?
- Chances are that you could answer that one in your sleep.
How does your company accomplish that?
- Most business owners have that one down too.
Why do you do it?
- The answer to this key question is typically never given or, at best, is quickly touched on, yet it is by far the most important of these three questions if you want to stand out, elevate your company above commoditization, and ultimately earn higher margins.
The “why” question is what businesses really need to ask themselves. Consumers want to know the answers to these questions, and yet businesses tend not to lead with or even tell the “why” part of their stories. The “why” is the final component to your company story.
COMMUNICATING THE REASONS BEHIND YOUR COMPANY STORY
A compelling company story truly captures the attention of consumers. Begin with the “why” to draw consumers in, and then use the “how” and “what” to complete the picture.
Your marketing should emphasize what makes your company different rather than what makes your product different. A list of specifications may tell people how your product compares to other products, but your company story tells them why they should love your company.
Today’s consumer wants to have a personal connection with a company before making a purchase. A compelling company story will foster that connection.
THE PERVASIVE POWER OF A STORY
The human desire to hear stories is rooted in the brain. Our brains are more engaged by and more likely to retain stories than facts. Because a good brand story can be readily assimilated by your prospects and existing customers, it is a powerful tool for building brand trust, engagement, and loyalty.
Better yet, stories are shareable. If your story is engaging enough, customers will pass it on naturally and enthusiastically. A recent study has shown that 92% of consumers trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above other forms of advertising. This is further proof that your company story or brand story is an extremely powerful asset.
RELATE YOUR COMPANY STORY TO THE LIVES OF YOUR CUSTOMERS
As you develop your brand, consider both yourself and your customer. Your story begins with your why, but it should also relate the role of your company to the lives of your customers. Specific questions to ask yourself include the following:
- What are your company’s values?
- What does your company stand for?
- How does your company improve the lives of its customers?
- Why should your customers care? Furthermore, although it may seem cliché, you should consider how your company improves the world.
TELL A COHESIVE STORY ACROSS YOUR COMPANY
When you have developed your company story, apply it to every facet of your company. Tell that story in your pitch presentations, website videos, Facebook posts, email newsletters, and thought leadership content. Everything that you develop and build, from your products to your HR policies, should be crafted with your unique company story in mind.
As people see your story adding up to a cohesive whole and carrying through all of your engagements with them, they will be motivated to engage with your company. Develop content that can be easily shared and give people tools that enable them to play a role via social media. Your story will spread.
YOUR “WHY” MUST EVOLVE
Storytelling doesn’t end with telling why your company was founded— that’s just the beginning. The why can evolve. Let me give you an example close to my heart.
Why did I start TribalVision? I started TribalVision because I saw there was a huge need in the marketplace. Owners of small and midsize businesses were being taken advantage of by large, entrenched marketing firms that charged them too much money and didn’t provide enough value. The only marketing solutions for these business were to hire one of these high-end ad agencies or to hire an internal Chief Marketing Office (CMO) at an annual salary of $150,000. There was nothing in between those two options. TribalVision was founded to provide an outsourced solution that would fill that gap.
That was the why in the beginning. But that why evolved. If you ask me the why question now, I may talk about helping business owners survive a down economy—that’s part of our why. We help business owners who’ve had a tough time, and we legitimately want their companies to do well—and that’s another part of our why. The business has gotten much more personal over time. TribalVision has helped organizations to hire three or four more people in their community or to help a company endure so that the founder’s son or daughter can take it over—and that’s now part of our why. Not to mention the real community that we’ve been able to build here at TribalVision, which creates an even deeper sense of connection with our work—and that’s part of our why. As you can see, our why has evolved and will continue to evolve as our company continues to mature.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and look at your current website and read your sales literature. Do you leave with a sense of your company’s “why,” its reason for being? If not, develop a guide that outlines the key components of your company’s story. This deliverable will be your bible for content marketing, influencing all of the communications that your company produces. It should include answers to the key questions we have posed and should outline your organization’s “raison d’etre” both internally to your team and externally to your customers and partners. By creating such a deliverable, you will also ensure that your team can answer questions about why your organization was founded and why it continues to be relevant in the marketplace. Each of your employees has the chance to share your story every day, so make sure to communicate your why to your team as much as to an external audience.