IT DOESN’T MATTER whether your company is a 100 year-old family enterprise, a fresh startup, or something in between, you have a story. In fact, like most businesses – big and small – you probably have a lot of them. And telling your story to your customers and prospects can help them get to know you. Today, it’s easier than ever to digitally shake hands and create immediate trust with customers right at the point of purchase (AKA your website). Digital marketing and social media technology make it easier than ever to share information about your business. Best of all, video storytelling allows you to do it visually and with emotion – all while reinforcing your brand.
So, what’s your story?
Sometimes, important details reside within the heart and soul of your business. But they may not be evident at first, even to company veterans, founders and established marketing pros. To discover them, it is always helpful to start with a very basic exercise. This approach may seem painfully obvious, but it is never a waste of time to start with the fundamental questions of Who? What? When? Where? and Why? You might have a final objective in mind, but it’s always best to begin at the beginning.
The first question to ask is:
Who are you? Aside from the broadest “mission statement” reason for this question, it is about people. For some businesses, it relates to the founder(s). Or maybe your story centers on current or longtime company leadership and their outstanding achievements. And remember to think about all of your people. Your employees’ lives are part of your company too and sometimes their stories are the most compelling. And who are your customers, suppliers and vendors? Do you serve a unique or niche market? Is that part of your story?
What products do you make? What services do you provide? What is your core competency? What are the processes that differentiate you from your competitors? And if the business has a pro-social, altruistic side, what do you give back? In short, what makes you special?
This is a good way to look at your company’s history. When were you founded? What was happening in the world, your city, your industry when your business was born? Examine details and micro-timelines. Did the business start as something else and morph into its current form? Have you set trends? Have you been ahead of the times? You might also look at other information as well, including industry, community or cultural developments and statistics or even precursors that predate the founding of the business.
Is your location part of your story? What is unique about the headquarters building? Do you serve multiple locales? What contributions have you made to your community/region/state? Are your products (or services) created or delivered someplace unique or interesting? Where are your suppliers located? Where did the business (or founders) come from?
Why was your company created in the first place? What drove the founder(s) to start the business? And did the same forces – or passions sustain and grow it? And why do you exist now?
HOW? (important bonus question)
Sometimes, explaining the ways your company does what it does is way more interesting than you think it is. What are the positive side effects of your processes? Do you create environmental advantages? Do your hiring practices benefit a particular group of people? How do you keep your quality high or your prices low (or both)?
Lawyers call it “discovery.” It’s a process you should use to re-learn the details about your company you probably forgot a long time ago. When you spend every day enjoying a 20,000 foot view, you owe yourself the luxury of taking a closer look. You might uncover juicy details that can contribute to the personality of the business. Find your story and tell it. Let your customers get to know you better and the relationship will flourish.
George Riddell is President of BigHouse Production LLC, a video production company in Seattle, WA. George and BigHouse helped create the “Grow Here” branding campaign for the Association of Washington Business – the state’s Chamber of Commerce. During the campaign’s 3-plus years, they have told compelling stories about AWB member businesses using TV, radio and online digital media. You can see some samples from the “Grow Here” campaign in the BigHouse portfolio.