When you meet someone new, what are the first things you talk about? Where you live? What you do for a living? What you do for fun?
We like to know each other’s stories. We all share personal details about ourselves as part of establishing a personal connection with others. The more important we perceive that connection to be, the more attention we pay to the details we share.
Although today’s world offers the ease of instant communication across the country and across the planet through websites and social media, we still rely on personal connections to make our business decisions. Whether it’s through e-mail or Skype, a webpage or Facebook, we want to deal with a real person on the other end. In fact, new ways of communication have made establishing human connection even more important than ever.
The most successful businesses today – both large and small – have achieved their goals by sharing their stories. Stories motivate us. Stories teach us. Stories make us feel connected with the storyteller.
Scientists have found that stories help us remember facts and details we might otherwise forget. Susan M. Weinschenk explains this concept in her book Neuro Web Design: “Stories are an excellent way for us to process and store information. A story contains a large amount of information in digestible chunks. Stories allow us to break down events into smaller units so that we can better understand the information being communicated.”
It’s time for you to build your business through storytelling. Every good story has a beginning, middle and an end. Here’s how to make that time-tested framework work for your company:
The beginning: Who are we?
Before we do business with someone, we want to know who they are. When we hire a new employee, we check references and we read letters of recommendations. We love a personal referral. Why? We want hear a piece of that person’s story and to see how it fits in with ours.
Clients and customers want to check you out the same way. Too many companies are not bold enough in sharing this valuable asset. Think about some of today’s best-known companies. Do you know how they started? Of course you do. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)? In Steve Jobs’ garage. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)? In Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room.
Sure, people want to know about your degrees and your awards, but what will make them remember you is what you reveal about how you got where you are. How did your business get started? Did you have any stumbles along the way? Chances are there is a compelling story there. It doesn’t have to be a rags to riches story to be interesting. Maybe you grew up in the company. Maybe you developed it as a side business and it took off. Maybe it was through a lot of years of trial and error or hard times.
Look at your About Us page. Think about your company get-togethers. Can clients and customers get a sense of who runs the place? Whatever your story is, it reveals valuable details about who you are and what you are made of. Share it.
The middle: Why are we doing this?
Now that you’ve gotten potential customers’ attention, you need to tell them what you are doing, and more importantly, where you are going with your business. This is where you can share the aspects of your company that make you different from your competitors. Here is where you can share your goals and your values.
Remember to think in human terms, not business terms, in order to make people take notice. If you have not thought about your company’s mission statement for a while, it’s time to do so. Does it reflect what your company really cares about? Does it show clients your core values?
Poet Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Stories let us feel and think about a company and its employees in a new way.
The ending: Why should you join us?
Every story needs a satisfying ending. Once you have shared who you are and why you are in business, it’s time to get others on board. This part of your story can be aimed at both employees and customers who want to be part of your team.
Share your successes. Share your statistics. But most importantly, share how your company is making a difference in people’s lives. The reason stories have survived since the beginning of time is that people like to re-tell them. The best stories change and grow with the re-telling, as each storyteller adds his own particular flavor and his own personal voice.
Sure, it’s great to talk about ROI, but when you plug those numbers into specific – and personal –examples of how your clients have achieved success, others will remember your story and pass it on to others. You’re looking to inspire that “Hey, I want to be part of that” response in others.
It doesn’t matter what the medium is. Whether we are face to face at a table or face to face on a computer screen, whether we are on the other-side of the world or on the other side of town, whether we are a voice on the end of a cell phone or the voice of some written words on a website, we are all looking to make a human connection. Social media hasn’t changed that; it has only enhanced it.
Your company has a story. Tell it.