How to Develop a Story Behind Your Company

Your Ecommerce store’s success depends on a variety of factors – the number of customers you have, the amount of profit you generate and the effective marketing campaigns you generate – but true excellence in business isn’t driven by your “what”.

Anyone can understand the “what” of a business: its operations, its campaigns, its policies, and so on.

However, purpose is the bigger “why” of your online store.

In his article “It Takes Purpose To Become A Billionaire”, venture capitalist Anthony Tjan states:

[…] The most interesting (and most respected) businesses and personalities are also the ones with the strongest and most authentic purposes behind them.

In other words, the intensity of your online business’ success is influenced by the intensity of your business’ drive to fulfill its purpose.

In this article, you’ll learn how understanding your company’s purpose, and developing a story based on it can help it grow.

Start With “Why”

In his Ted Talk entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, Simon Sinek states that amazing companies and personalities such as Apple, Martin Luther King and the Wright brothers all have one significant factor in common: they start with the “why”.

What does starting with the “why” mean? We can figure it out by talking about Sinek’s concept of the “Golden Circle”.

start with why

The “why” is your core beliefit’s why you started your online business in the first place. What’s your purpose? Why does your business exist? Why should anyone care about your business?

The “how” is the process of you achieving your business’ core belief. How do you do it? What separates your business from others? What’s your unique selling proposition?

And the “what” is what your company does to fulfill your values.

Now, every single person in your company may know what they do and how to do it. But do they know exactly why they’re doing it?

Remember this: People don’t buy “what” you do. People buy “why” you do it.

Starting with the “why” allows you to filter through the general public and target only those customers who share your company’s core beliefs with you.

It doesn’t matter if your purpose is to make the world beautiful, more fun or more efficient – as long as your target market relates with your company’s purpose, you can make your business stand out for the years to come.

A 2014 study by Coca-Cola supports this trend: around nine out of ten CEOs and future business leaders agree that business should have a social purpose. 78% of CEOs believe that a social purpose offers relevance to the next generation of clients and employees while 70% of these company leaders actually claim that social purpose ensures business survival.

Now you know you need a purpose behind your company, you need to know how to communicate your company’s purpose to your target audience.

This is where storytelling comes in.

Follow With “How”

Effective storytelling allows you to keep your customers to relate with you and what your business believes in. It doesn’t matter whether your company’s story started in a garage (Google) or in a dorm room (Dell): every company has a story to tell.

But for your company to take a step ahead of your competitors, though, you don’t just need a story – you need to have effective storytelling abilities.

In order to develop those storytelling abilities, there are a couple of things you can do.

1. Create your company’s core message in your story

Your company has a purpose for existing – and it’s not just to make money. Your goal is to clearly define what your purpose is so that you can attract loyal customers who believe in fulfilling the same purpose as you do.

Answer these vital questions about your company and its purpose so you can develop a story outline:

  • How was your business founded? When? Where?
  • What’s the primary problem that your business desires to solve?
  • What inspires you, the founder, to wake up in the morning and work on your business?
  • What do you think can your company do to make the world a better place to live in?
  • Compare your business, then and now. How has it evolved?
  • Think of a time when you had to struggle during your company’s development. What were your failures and how were you able to overcome your barriers to growth?

Also remember to let your customers do the talking for you.

Who defines your company’s brand? It’s not your employees, not your suppliers and not even you! It’s your customers.

For this week, you can go ahead and message at least ten of your customers and ask them how your online business has contributed to their personal or professional growth in any way – a “success story”, if you may. Don’t forget to mention a humble incentive so you can encourage replies!

For potential customers who want to know how HubSpot can help them, this well-developed page enables the company’s customers to do the storytelling process for them.

storytelling

Action Steps: Use the “card-sorting exercise” to help you choose the keywords that you’ll use in your brand’s message.

  • On several note cards, list down relevant keywords that relate to your brand. Ask customers or your employees about keywords that they’d use to describe your company.
  • As a group, sort through the note cards and separate the relevant keywords to define your online business from the non-relevant ones.
  • In the “Relevant” pile, rank the keywords according to which one is the most relevant to the least relevant. Prioritize them with 1 as the most relevant and 10 as the least relevant.
  • Now, create at least 2-3 sentences using these keywords to describe your brand.

2. Make sure that your story passes the “four-step” test

Effective storytelling evokes a strong neurological response from your customers. According to the study of neuroeconomist Paul Zak, our brain produces the stress hormone cortisol (to allow us to focus) during tense scenarios in the story; we also produce the feel-good hormone oxytocin (to allow us to connect and empathize) during adorable and cute scenes in the story.

A compelling story does this to your target audience – but how sure are you that your story is effective enough? It needs to be:

True: If it didn’t really happen, why will you waste your resources in telling your customers about it? Make truth your foundation for every story that you create. Your true story should feature real people, real problems and real emotions. If it’s real and you’re genuinely passionate about it, you won’t have a hard time getting your audience to relate to it as well.

Original: Your competition may sell the same products or offer the same services as your online business does, but your company has the ability to create an original story by focusing on offering a fresh perspective to an old idea.

Apple’s Super Bowl ad, an assault against “conformity”, was original in both delivery and content. As such, it made a huge impact as it blew both customers and industry watchers away.

Customer-centric: Your customers will forget the data and the numbers, but they’d never forget a good story. How do you make sure that it’s good? You focus less on bragging about how fantastic your business is. And you focus more on how you can serve and add value to your fantastic customers.

Human: If your business were a human being, who would he/she be and what would he/she care about? Capture a truth from your experience and express values that you deeply care for.

Action Steps: Create a relatable business persona that will connect with your customers. Is your persona masculine or feminine? Conservative or aggressive? What quirks does your persona have – quirks that are unique only to him/her? Give a name to your persona and adopt its mindset as you develop your brand’s story along the way.

3. Always keep your target audience in mind

For your story to be effective, your target audience needs to relate to your story.

Define your target customers. Who’s reading your business blog? What is the usual profession of your online store’s Facebook page’s fans? What is the usual behavior of the customers who regularly read your newsletters?

Here’s an important audience identifier: *what common “pain” or problem do they need your help with? *

If your online store sells hip and trendy office-wear for 20-something professionals, creating a compelling story about how your dress can help with your potential of promotion or about how you can conveniently wear the same dress in different styles so you can save money can be both relevant to your audience.

Tell the stories that your target audience wants and needs to hear.

Threadless is a community made by designers for designers. As a brand built from real stories, Threadless connects with its target customers by identifying who they are, creating videos that connect with what they value and letting them know how they can help them through their products.

threadless

Action Steps: Spend at least 30 minutes to get to know your target audience better. What status posts do they relate with the best? You can also email them or post a question that goes, “In your day-today lives, what’s your greatest challenge that you want to be addressed?”

4. Don’t be afraid to your use voice in your storytelling

Be conversational. If you sound like a mindless robot in your story, you’ll eventually bore your audience. Or worse, you may lose their trust in you if you give them the wrong idea that an emotionless zombie is actually running your company for you.

When you’re crafting your story, resist the urge to play it safe. Instead, let your unique personality shine in the way you deliver your story.

When you do this, you get two advantages: 1) you stand out from the crowd and differentiate your business from others; and 2) because your voice gives your audience a glimpse into the kind of business that you are, you can easily filter those people who want to connect with you to those who don’t.

Dove’s voice in telling her story is more like a maternal figure or an older woman who you respect tremendously. This voice tells you that you are beautiful no matter what.

dove

On the other hand, Oreo’s voice is playfully funny – kind of like the awesome friend who you tell unapologetic jokes with.

oreo

Keep it simple. Don’t freak out over having the perfect grammar. Focus on developing your message in the style that you want your closest friend to talk to you.

And also, conversational also means short. Get to the point and learn how to make in impact in just a few words. You don’t need to sound smart, and you don’t need to write fluff just so you can meet a required word count.

Action Steps: Go over your online store’s “About” page and revise it according to your brand’s business persona. If your brand were a person who’s having coffee with his/her closest friends, how would he/she describe the company to them?

Want inspiration? These five brands that crafted their social media voice may help you craft yours today.

What Now?

An effective story is why your company was founded, how your company can help your customers and what your company is as a humanized concept.

It’s a relationship-building resource that you can use to inspire your employees to work harder and to encourage your consumers to love you deeper. As such, your story should create memories or evoke strong feelings from your audience.

Because of the beauty of storytelling, small online startups can have access to big voices that can help them communicate their message to their target customers.

Your sales reports and your quantitative data can persuade people – but these don’t necessarily persuade them to act. For you to inspire your audience, you need to create an emotionally relatable story that fires the drive and enriches the imagination of your audience.

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. And they stay because of how you made them feel when they did business with you.

On the “Action Steps” items mentioned in this blog post, which action idea are you actually going to do after you read this? Let me know in the comments below. Who knows, we may even help you figure out what you need to get started!

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