What’s the Story? And Why Should You Care?

reading a book by a fireplace

Let me ask you a question: what’s your favorite restaurant? And I mean your very favorite–not the one you like this week, but the one that’s the most special to you. Picture it in your mind. Think about the last time you were there. Think about what makes it special.

My very favorite restaurant is Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World. Granted, it’s expensive. It’s exclusive. I made some really beautiful memories there. But one of the most enticing things about even choosing that restaurant was the story that Disney lays out for its guests. In this restaurant, every guest is treated as though they were the only patrons dining there that night. They are treated to an opulent menu that changes every night, giving a luxurious experience that is quite literally never duplicated. It is one-of-a-kind in the extreme, and you as a guest are made well aware of this before you’ve even set foot in the door.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

Now, imagine you’re looking for a new restaurant to visit. Think of the things you generally look for—availability, menu selection, price—and let’s think about Victoria & Albert’s again. They’re definitely not on every corner, which is fine, especially if you tend to eschew chain restaurants. Their menu selection could be considered…well, inflexible. I mean, the menu is the menu and that’s that. And it changes every day, so even if you enjoyed something they served there, you can never ask for it again. And let’s not talk about the cost. I won’t tell you how much we actually spent that evening. But it remains the most expensive meal my husband and I have ever shared, even years later.

How does that restaurant sound to you now?

The Art of Connection

Successful businesses are successful because they connect with their customers. By that, I don’t just mean that they convey the information people need to make informed purchases. That’s important, of course. But what’s as important—if not more important—is making connections on an emotional level. It’s why Hallmark is still in business, as an example. After all, why go out and buy a fancy decorated piece of paper to send to someone in the mail? You could easily put a pretty picture on their Facebook page much more quickly, and for free! But Hallmark has mastered the art of connection, and they’ve capitalized on that connection for decades. I can easily remember many commercials featuring people in the stores, looking at cards, laughing (or crying) until they found exactly the right card for their needs. Heck, I used to see it play out in front of me at the Hallmark shop where I worked as a teenager! And that feeling, that connection, is what keeps people coming back to that particular brand, time after time.

“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.”

― Maya Angelou

People. Connecting. It’s at the heart of every interpersonal encounter there is.

It’s All About the Story

It’s fairly common knowledge that in order to grow a business, you have to invest in marketing. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, from tv or radio ads to billboards to newspaper ads to websites. Although every choice has its own merits, the thing that can make the most difference is what you put into your marketing. Also, you often don’t get a lot of space or a lot of words to make that connection, so the temptation is to stick to the basics. But the answer that really lies at the heart of marketing is the answer to the question, “Why?”. That’s where good storytelling comes into play. It’s easy to tell someone where your business is, when you’re open, what you offer, etc. But what isn’t so easy is telling someone why they should come to you instead of someone else.

There are a lot of different types of stories out there. Maybe your business sells this one perfect thing that you built in your basement with your bare hands until it was just right. Maybe generations of your family have spent their lives creating the perfect experience for your customers. Or maybe you’ve found beautiful objets d’art through years of travel, which you’ve brought home to share or sell. These are all things that help you stand out in the crowd and make your business more memorable.

Do You Know Your Story?

Often, the person with “the story” is the person who’s too busy to tell it. This often leaves a hired copywriter, marketing team, or ad agency to try and discover or craft the story of the company. Since it doesn’t appear to transition directly into sales, storytelling is often left out of the marketing plan. The truth, though, is that good storytelling is in fact the cornerstone to effective marketing.

Here are some points for your consideration as you explore your company’s story—maybe for the first time!

  • Do you know your customer? It’s easy to say that your product or service is for “everyone”, but that’s generally not the case.
  • Following up with that: can your customer easily imagine themselves buying your product or service? Are you creating an environment that resonates with your intended customers?
  • Are you being true to your company’s culture and history? People have a knack for discerning when something feels fake.
  • Is the language you’re using accessible? This can be the tricky one. People don’t want to read a dissertation about why your company is amazing, even if they do want to know more about you.
  • And most importantly: are you tapping into an emotional response? Think about Hallmark again. Logic dictates that their entire company has been rendered all but unnecessary in these modern times. Granted, they’ve modified their product line over the years. But what hasn’t changed is the need for emotional connection, something they understand very well. Emotional response is often what makes the sale, not logic.

So, what is your story? Are you telling it well?

P.S.: If you’re looking for a little inspiration, take a look at this.