Good Business Starts with Your Story
December 1, 2010
Posted by: Today’s Tip Contributor on November 18, 2010
Something I learned early on as an entrepreneur and small business owner is that starting and maintaining a successful business depends on how well you understand and tell your company’s story. It sounds overly simplistic. Still, identifying and staying true to your new company’s story creates the foundation for a strong and healthy business. Consider the following tips:
1. Determine your MIT (most important thing). Passionate and excited entrepreneurs are often sidetracked by all the things they hope to accomplish with their new company, among a seemingly endless array of possibilities. Clarity of purpose is critical in the first months and years of developing a business. This approach provides the structure for how you make decisions and adopt strategies. You must be able to tell your company story in one sentence or less. This is your MIT. Wal-Mart does this exceedingly well. The company pledges to deliver the lowest-cost products, period. FedEx promises to deliver overnight, guaranteed. Achieving this level of simplicity and clarity is fundamental to success.
2. Live your story. Take your MIT and build a story around it that explains, as briefly as possible, who you are, what you are doing, and why it matters. In many instances, the only reason someone will pay more for your product or service than your competitors’ is because they believe that the story about your product demonstrates that it has more intrinsic value than your competition.
This is a critical point. It is all about value and values. People make decisions on products and services based on enlightened self-interest. They will weigh the dollar cost of the product with the story they want to tell about their own lives and how the product you are selling contributes to, or detracts from, their life story. Ultimately, if your product story is compelling enough to that customer—if it contributes to the story they want to tell about themselves—you win.
3. Write the Next Chapter. Last, live the story you tell and allow it to evolve. As your business grows, you will find that some of your assumptions and hypotheses are no longer valid. This may affect the way you tell your story. Like a good book, your story will have unexpected turns and twists but be sure to embrace them and allow them to be part of your company history, even if they require admitting you were wrong, duped, or naïve in the past. If your intentions are good and people can see this, they will appreciate you all the more for the honesty and humility demonstrated by your willingness to learn and grow.
A Part of Something Big
Dale Dixon, CEO of BBB-Snake River Region, brought this article to my attention. It is a simple, quick read that captures the essence of branding.
A few comments:
- All great brands are great stories. Great stories beat campaign slogans, tag-lines, media spin, and ad buys.
- Great stories can be compressed down to a 30 sec ad or a billboard, but you have to work at it. That said, great stories can be told in all mediums: word-of-mouth, a cardboard sign, a video, etc. If it can’t be told in multiple mediums, it’s probably not a great story.
- In today’s hyper-transparent culture, you can’t fake a good story or cover up a bad one.
- Unfortunately, the process of “getting your story out” has become commoditized and cliched. However, you still need a story - and it still needs to be told. The way to do this, as the article mentions, is to actually have a story. Go back and look at the definition of a story. It’s not just a beginning, middle, and end. It’s something captures the attention of the audience and holds them until a conclusion - then is naturally re-told.
Final thought … if you don’t know who you are (as a person or a company), there is no story. Start there.