A great storyteller captivates his audience, weaving words together like a tapestry to create vivid images in the minds of listeners. He knows when to bring in other characters or supporting pieces to make the story come alive. A great storyteller is believable, in some ways simply because he probably has a great story to tell; he colors every detail and chooses every word to build the interest of the listener.
When it comes to your story, how great is it? If you're riding in an elevator and only have four floors to explain what you do, can you do it? If you're at a business mixer, is your "story" delivered the same way as on the elevator? If you're a presenter at a conference, how do you share your story in a quick introduction or program description?
If it's your business you're talking about, then you're of the storyteller and your brand s the tale. What impression do you give to your captive audience? Are you weaving that colorful tableau or merely reciting the same, old line?
According to Scott Bedbury, former head of marketing for both Nike and Starbucks, "A brand is a metaphorical story that... connects with something very deep - a fundamental human appreciation of mythology... Companies that manifest this sensibility ... invoke something very powerful."
That "something is emotion. Whether it's a feeling of security and trust or excitement of unknown possibilities, great brands have the ability to reach into the heart of customers. Businesses may offer superior products and services or über-competitive pricing, but the most loyal of customers will buy in to the story of the brand, especially if they feel they can be a part of the story.
So how do you know if your story is resonating with your customers so that they make a connection with your brand and who you are as a business? What steps can you take to hone in on your branding and your business' message to set you apart from the competition? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, stupid! There is a natural draw to becoming super creative with developing a brand identity and message, but if the message isn't straight-forward, it will fall short - your customers simply won't "get it" and won't be able to find an emotional connection. Think about your word choice, tone, and style. Keep it simple and direct. Don't leave your customers guessing what your brand is. Make the vision crystal clear.
- Develop a positioning statement: What do you stand for? What are your core values? Why should a customer choose you over a competing VAR? Think about your value proposition and then work through the story of how that actually evolved into your business. Chances are, there are some good nuggets and an "aha" moment in there that will allow you to dig deeply into the core of what your business is and what it stands for.
- Once you tell your story, make sure you live and breathe it: OK, so that sounds pretty simple right? But if you tell your customers and prospects how you are different than everyone else, you'd better be prepared to prove it - over and over again. Because your story needs to be solid and fool-proof. And everyone who works for you needs to believe in the story, too. It has to be ingrained in your employees so that you're all telling the same exact story. Be consistent in your message, not just in an ad or an email, but in how you think and do things every day.
- Spread the good word: Consistently use your story and your message in everything you create. Relentless repetition (and following through with the message's promises) will reinforce your brand, positioning you as a leader and a resource.
It's fun to tell stories and even better to listen to them. Best-selling authors or award-winning musicians don't just randomly sit down and scribble out a full-length novel or song's lyrics. They take calculated steps to develop and tell a particular story, typically one that's very close to the heart. Your story should be no different. Your brand depends upon it.