MEMBER TIP: Why your brand should tell a story

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Family Business Place member (and marketing extraordinaire), Tabitha Fox, explains how family firms can harness their story-telling power.

Everybody loves a story, particularly one that overcomes adversity and finishes in a glorious success. Humans thrive on a well-crafted narrative, one that captures their attention and enables them to place themselves in the situation. 

So, it makes sense that if we can stay gripped to a film plot, or pick up a book time and again, or listen to a comedian reeling out a story which makes us laugh at it every time, that family business should embrace the concept of storytelling. Let’s be honest, as family firms we’ve got some great stories to tell!

Storytelling isn’t a new concept, it’s something that some of the most successful brands have been doing for years. Most people know that Apple was started in a garage by two college dropouts, or that KFC started in a tiny petrol station in Kentucky, or that Virgin started as a record stall in a market. 

The reason they remember these stories is because they don’t involve plain sailing, they acknowledge that business can be difficult, just like life. They allow customers to connect to their journey and feel like they are a part of it. By letting the audience know that a business has faced and overcome issues, it allows them to acknowledge that the product or service offered may also help to solve their problem too.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

We’re all customers, we all discern between different companies and service providers, so what makes us finally buy? While pricing is important, the way a business looks is equally vital (if not more so). 

Imagine you want to buy a birthday cake and there are two options. The first is one off the shelf from the supermarket, the second costs slightly more but is from a small business, run by someone who discovered their love of baking when they were unexpectedly made redundant, and they work to help other people in similar situations; plus, you can get the cake personalised and they’ll deliver it to your door. Which do you opt for? There’s a story to the second option, a personal touch, an adversity that we’ve all faced.

As a rule of thumb, if the story isn’t engaging or doesn’t exist, the audience will switch off, just like you might turn over the channel if a TV programme is boring you.

Shift the message from ‘we’ to ‘you’

Have you ever been caught at a party or networking event chatting to a person who just talks about themselves? How did it make you feel? Unappreciated? Not listened to? As if they weren’t interested in you? It’s much nicer when someone listens and there’s a two-way conversation.

This is the way your business should talk to your audience. Instead of focussing on ‘we do this’ it should be ‘this could help you’. By taking the customer’s pain point, understanding it, and showing a way of fixing it, your business can involve itself in their journey.

Drive engagement

Creating a story loop encourages your audience to remain engaged with your brand and it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you consider what makes people tune in to The Archers every episode, it’s not because there are huge cliff-hangers, it’s because there’s a level of familiarity. 

As an example, a small business that I know of not only let their customers know they were closing for a two-week holiday, but they also asked them for Netflix suggestions, and then updated them on what they’d watched. The result was an excellent binge-watching list and a bunch of devoted customers who not only felt that they’d been listened to, but also welcomed the team back with “we hope you had a well-earned rest”. That’s customer loyalty!