Quality and price aren’t the only things customers consider when they choose who to do business with. They also care about what your business represents.
Your business’s story defines who you are, where your business came from, and why you do what you do. By crafting a winning story and incorporating it into the conversations you’re already having with buyers, you’ll build trust, differentiate yourself in the market, and (most importantly) build the emotional connection that will make customers choose you over similar competitors.
“Logic makes people think; emotion makes them act.” — Zig Ziglar
Let’s explore how honing your storytelling skills can increase customer loyalty and help boost your sales.
Storytelling has a long history of being used in the sales process. It works so well because it humanizes the product or service and appeals to people on an emotional level, giving them something powerful to connect to. When told a compelling, authentic story that resonates, customers are more likely to make a purchase.
While certain people are more gifted at storytelling, you certainly do not need to be an expert storyteller to use it to your advantage. Anyone can hone their communication skills to make their story tailored to their audience.
You may have come up with a mission statement in the process of writing out your business plan. If you haven’t, it isn’t too late to do so. Creating a mission statement can help guide you in every aspect of running your business.
Your mission statement gets to the very heart of why your business exists and focuses on what you hope your business will achieve for your customers, and the impact your business might have on the world. It can give you an even better understanding of why you started your company in the first place.
One of the key elements of your story is your “why.” It’s the purpose of your business — the reason that you started doing what you’re doing, and the reason you continue doing it today.
Nailing down your “why” is incredibly important these days, as consumers have made it clear that they prefer doing business with companies that stand for something. According to the Global Strategy Group and Nielsen:
– 83% of consumers consider brands’ values when considering a purchase,
– 89% are likely to switch to brands they associate with causes,
– and 66% of consumers would pay more for products from more socially responsible companies.
It’s a mistake to assume that you don’t have much of a story to tell, or that no one is really interested in hearing about it. No matter how humble your beginnings or how ordinary your experience may seem, your story does, in fact, have the power to connect you with your customers. You just have to identify what makes you different than everybody else.
What’s the “special sauce” of your product or service? Is it the quality of the materials you use? The level of in-store service or online customer experience? What do you offer that nobody else does, and why do you offer it? Your competitive advantage is a reflection of your company’s values, and incorporating it into your story can appeal to customers who share those same values.
For any story to be effective it has to be told to the right audience. As a business owner, your audience is your ideal customer. Spend some time figuring out just who that is, in demographic terms.
Not only will this help you spend your marketing dollars more wisely, but it can help you hone your story. You may have to tweak it, depending on the audience. As long as you aren’t making things up or embellishing details, you can always fine-tune it by focusing on the elements that would be the most appealing to your customer.
A compelling story can become a core part of a business’s identity. Once you develop your go-to story, you can use it in different ways. Promote it on your website and share it on social media.
Think about some larger companies that we’re all familiar with, and you can probably recall at least some part of their story that’s been built into their brand identity. You can take different elements of yours and use it strategically in a variety of ways in sales and marketing efforts.
That said, your story should be flexible. This isn’t a script you’ll be reading to customers. It’s a short synopsis of your value as a company. Own the core ideas and make it your own when speaking with each individual customer. It needs to be simple enough for each employee to understand and promote in their own way, but also concrete and thorough enough so that the message is consistent and does not leave out any valuable information.
Before you start integrating your story into your marketing materials and sales interactions, you have to test it to make sure it properly connects with people. Sharing your story with friends and family is a good start, but they can be biased, or they can hold back their criticism so as not to hurt your feelings. Even your own employees might be hesitant to share the full extent of their opinions.
Instead, share your story with strangers at first, or a small, select group of customers. Surveys can be very helpful to collect anonymous reactions, which will give you a clearer idea of which elements are the most interesting to customers. They may linger on a certain aspect of it and ask you more about a certain point. Let that be a guide to how you can improve your story and expand on the parts that are really connecting with your target audience.
Related: How to Use Surveys to Drive Success in Your Small Business
If you’re struggling to come up with an interesting hook for your story, you may be tempted to embellish or exaggerate details. Don’t do it. Even if you’re not trying to intentionally mislead people, adding in details to make yourself sound better is dishonest, and creates the wrong dynamic with your customers.
Authenticity is always more attractive to people. Be true to yourself when crafting your story, don’t be afraid to include the parts that show your vulnerability, and respect your customers by always telling them the truth.
A sharp, well-honed story only includes the most helpful and interesting parts of your business identity. If you’re unfocused when telling your story to potential customers, they’ll be confused about who you are and what you’re offering to them.
Keep in mind what your story is, and what it is not.
Your story is:
Your story is not:
The key to focus when it comes to storytelling is practice. You’ve probably been telling parts of your story to people for a while now without really realizing it. Don’t force it on your customers when you’re speaking face to face, but if it comes up naturally in the course of a sales process, open up. Eventually, telling your story will become second nature, and an intrinsic part of your business interactions.
Yes, your story is about you, but keep in mind that it should also speak to and involve your customers. Don’t forget about including them. There are a few easy ways to do this.
This is where the solution part of your story comes in. Ultimately, every business exists because it aims to provide a better answer to a common problem. You have to weave in how and why you are ideally suited to provide the best solution for the buyer’s needs. Customers are seeking an answer, and your story should include how and why yours is the one that will best meet their needs.
You may have started up your business without having any advanced skills in your industry. You may have had a career in an entirely different field. That’s okay, and it’s nothing to shy away from. You can and should still make it clear to customers that you’re an expert at what you do.
One way that you can do that is by demonstrating your passion for the services you provide. If you’re enthusiastic about it, you’ll show them that you really care about what you do. Experience is important, but it only comes with time. When you’re just starting out, you need to be passionate. There’s likely something in your background that can convince customers you’re well qualified to meet their needs, and hopefully even exceed their expectations.
When your customers can empathize with you, they’ll want to help you and see you succeed. Don’t strip out the elements of your story that will appeal to people on an emotional level. If you struggled at different points, those parts could be worth including. It may be one of the pivotal moments in the creation or continued success of your business. Sharing how you’ve overcome challenges demonstrates your commitment, and it can inspire customers, too.
As with anything, the more that you work on your storytelling skills, the more naturally they’ll come. Over time, your story will become a core element of your business identity, inspiring not only customers but also your employees and future hires. The benefits of being an effective storyteller extend beyond making a sale. It can be an incredible tool for growing your business and building your brand over the years.
Corey Philip is an 8 figure home service industry entrepreneur and founder of HomeProSuccess.com — an online resource focused on the growth and marketing of trades businesses.