I think we all love a good story. It must be wired into us from ancient times when we gathered around a fire at night and grew closer as a community. We’re still the same, even if the stories have changed and instead of a real fire we are gathered around the virtual campfire on Facebook and Twitter. Your marketing and communications efforts for your business need to tell a story that draws people in and converts them from listeners to customers, part of your group sitting around the campfire with you.
Stories are not just for bedtime or the movies. The stories businesses tell are in every speech, interview, ad, post, Tweet, website, pamphlet, and press release. Green businesses have some of the best stories, and successful green entrepreneurs like Spencer Brown at Rent a Green Box or Gary Hirshberg at Stonyfield Farm are masters at telling their story and connecting with customers to build their brands. And you can do it too.
Too often though startups focus so much on developing their product that they have little time, money, or energy left for marketing. They follow the Field of Dreams model of marketing, thinking “Build it and they will come”. But if people haven’t heard your story or don’t connect with it, they won’t show up no matter how cool or green your widget is.
Here are five things that can help you tell your story to connect with consumers:
1. Know Your Story
Every business has a story to tell, the story of who they are, what they offer, and why this matters. Before you can tell your story you’ve got to know what your story is, refining it down to the smallest and simplest statement. If you can tell your story in 500 words, great. If you can tell your story in 140 characters or less, even better.
This isn’t always as simple as it sounds. While some entrepreneurs have an innate talent for crafting and refining the story of their business, others need help. The more often you tell your story and listen to critics, the better you’ll get at sharpening it down to its core. And by getting better at talking about the essence of your business, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what your business is really all about.
2. Make Your Story Stand Out
While every business has a story, not every story is heard. The internet and social networking provide countless new opportunities for telling your story, but the irony is that by making communication easier the internet has also deluged people with a constant stream of chatter. So many people are talking at us that it’s hard to be heard through all of the noise. For your story to be heard it needs to be simple, captivating, and relevant. For people to listen you must reach out and get them to think “Yes, I’d like to be a part of this story”.
3. Tell Your Story Often and Everywhere
As much as we need quick results, communications and media campaigns take time and constant effort. Press releases are important, but a single press release won’t usually get the phone ringing off the hook with orders. Use blogs, Tweets, videos, your website, Facebook, meetings, conferences, presentations at schools, t-shirts, pamphlets, web ads, newspaper articles, radio interviews, and stand on a box to tell people about yourself if that’s what it takes. Talk as often and in as many places as you can. If you stop talking, then you risk losing ground, sinking back into the noise. Working with a PR firm can help greatly, getting your story told in a greater variety of media and higher profile media than you might achieve on your own.
4. Connect With People and Build Relationships
In the old days making a connection with customers meant shaking their hand, looking them in the eye, and getting to know them one on one. We can’t always do this with every customer today, but the goal is still building trust and relationships. This is the stuff that good brands are made of.
Communicating on a more informal level helps to build these relationships. Your video, blogs, and tweets put a personal face out there so people know you, trust you, and trust your business. People love social networking because it’s free, but it’s not enough to say “I’m on Facebook”. Social networking with Twitter and Facebook are best when they complement your other efforts to make connections and build relationships.
5. How to Go Viral
Everybody wants to go viral these days, but what does this really mean? Going viral means your story is so good that other people tell your story for you. They see your video, or an article about you, and they want to share it. Going viral means you have done steps 1 to 4 so well that your story takes on a life of its own. There is no secret recipe, just good solid story telling, one way or another.
Good luck with telling your story. I look forward to hearing it soon.
Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green”, helping green businesses to get started and grow (www.StartingUpGreen.com). Working with startups and small to mid-sized businesses, he helps them to craft their story and connect with customers through accessible, low cost media relations and PR support. You can reach him at Glenn.Croston@StartingUpGreen.com