Every business tells a story – what’s yours?

two horses neck and neck at the finish line of a race

They say, “Every picture tells a story.” So does every business. But is it a story you tell on purpose to attract your ideal clients?

Great experience, qualifications, prestigious awards—these open conversations, gain attention, and establish credibility, but alone they rarely win a new client.

The changing economy requires all of us to get smarter about our marketing and sales, and to use all the tools in our marketing toolbox.

Several of our marketing tools fall into the domain of storytelling—blog posts, social media, white papers, PR, presentations, proposals—but I’m going to focus on the core of storytelling: your message. Also known as your unique value proposition. To keep it simple, I’ll just call it your message or your story.

Business stories have a job to do

If we think of marketing as a conversation, we want our business story to be about something that our prospective client cares about. If we carry on a monologue about ourselves and how wonderful and accomplished we are, we lose the chance to form a relationship through engaging with another person. We’ve all met somebody like that at a party and made an excuse to get away. So don’t be that way with your marketing!

When we get crystal clear about our company’s unique story and adapt it to every communication, we can be sure that it is working on our behalf. Telling our story consistently over time will raise the return on our  investment in marketing. The marketplace will come to associate our business with what we want to be known for, and will even tell our story for us. If we don’t proactively define our story, the market will do it for us. Here is a brief story about just that.

“There’s nothing the world loves more than a ready made description which they can hang on to a man, and so save themselves all trouble in future.”

- W. Somerset Maughm, Mrs. Dot

Today, our businesses need to tell true stories about what we do that are both relevant and compelling to our prospects. If we don’t connect the dots and tell them why our experience matters to them and what difference we can make to their business, we are not making the best use of their attention, and we risk losing the chance to communicate with them again. With the overwhelming number of requests for attention each of us receives every day, a clear story (message) helps us stand out from the herd with the clients we want to serve. When we fail to differentiate ourselves, we risk being perceived as not relevant to our prospects.

So what exactly IS a company’s unique story or marketing message?

I’d like to begin by saying what it isn’t. A marketing message is not a tagline or slogan. Taglines and slogans are great, but they are just one expression of a marketing message. For example, the tagline ‘stand out from the herd’ tells you something about what Blue Horse Marketing does, but it is not the message. Neither is a theme for a website or a verb that describes what you do. While these all have value and should express the message, they aren’t marketing messages. It’s easy to see why we get them confused.

A marketing message is something bigger. It is a core idea or statement that tells our prospective client or customer why they should work with us rather than someone else. It focuses on our client, not our business. It tells them what we’ll do for them in terms of what they need.

Remember the bore at the party? This is where the rubber meets the road. It is human nature to talk about ourselves. It is what we know best. Our challenge in developing a strong marketing message is to make it so compelling to our prospects that it actually changes how they think. That means it is focused on them.

And our story needn’t be long.  A few sentences can capture the essentials.

It takes time and effort to develop a strong message for a business. It often requires research, soul searching, and creativity, as well as being in business long enough to have learned why our clients really come to us. (Hint: it’s not just our great qualifications.)

Our message is not about our product or service. It speaks to the outcome our product or service delivers and how that benefits our prospect. It also promises what someone will experience or feel as a result of what we do.

A clear message makes it easier to write our marketing materials. Our message can—and I believe should—guide every piece of communication coming from our business. When it is working, our message will flavor everything about our business. Because it is a true and natural expression of our business, it will clarify and focus how we communicate, not change what we do.

Small businesses have many demands on our resources, yet investing in a powerful marketing message can save time while appealing to the prospects we most want to serve.

How could you tell your business story more distinctively, with more juice, and have more fun doing it?


4 Responses to “Every business tells a story – what’s yours?”
  1. Thank you for sharing this. I not only enjoyed it, I feel inspired to look for ways that I can implement it in my marketing.

  2. Barbara says:

    Burdoc – thanks for following the article to my website and commenting. I am always glad to know that something I’ve written is useful.

    In developing clarity about your business stories, it can make a big difference to have an objective or outside point of view. Most of us have about 1 inch of perspective when it comes to ourselves and our business.

    I wish you the best as you engage this important element of marketing!

  3. Hum-m-m, the story I tell on purpose about my business, huh. Had not thought of this as a story.

    I need to incorporate a metaphor to make it memorable and effective like your horse theme.

    Already my website has juicy looking pomegranates. A watering can and pomegranates could work for my business story! Do you think that would be too much?

  4. Barbara says:

    Bonnieclare – How nice to see you here! Thank you for reading and commenting.

    What I am talking about in this post is your marketing message. It is NOT my blue horse theme or my tagline. Nor is it your yummy pomegranates. Those are visual elements of the brand, all of which support the core story or message.

    Being clear about your core message will help you know what to write about. Your topics will be an expression of the core message. Over time, all the expressions of your message through your website, pomegranate theme, articles, presentations, etc. will train the marketplace – the audience you talk to – to associate you and your business with your message. Then it becomes easier for you to promote your business because your message has become familiar, and in so doing it becomes more credible. That is how your marketing message – your core business story – increases the return on your investment in marketing.

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