We tend to tell the stories we like about our business, such as:
• We were the first to develop this product.
• We have been around for 55 years.
• We are the best, the premier, the leading authority and the only ones who provide this.
• We have the best price, great quality or fastest shipping.
• Our products are the biggest, best and longest lasting.
This is called fact-based marketing and it is how it sounds. Fact-based marketing is when we market the facts, the features and the benefits. While it is commonly held that this kind of marketing is best, it has significant weaknesses.
We have all been the victim of a high-pressure sales tactic, a shady marketing scheme or poor customer service. After a few of these encounters, we develop our defenses to ward off assaults like these. In addition, think of the sheer number of promotional messages directed at us each day. In the car, pouring into our inboxes, online, in our mailbox and on the tube; we are inundated. We realize we cannot run out and buy everything, so we shield ourselves. We cannot even cognitively process each marketing message, so we default to disregarding a vast majority of the marketing directed at us. It is just too much.
Over time, we learned to protect ourselves from almost all marketing messages. We are highly attuned to any communication with the scent of marketing or sales. That leaves many professionals wondering in such a noisy world what actually cuts through the clutter.
There is one thing, but very few companies and organizations do it, and even fewer do it well. These few exceptional companies stumbled upon the solution. These companies get great word of mouth and do not have to spend tons on advertising. They don’t worry so much about the competition. These companies can treat their employees, vendors and the environment well while still having a healthy bottom line because they don’t have to squeeze every nickel out of every transaction. What defines these exceptional companies versus most companies?
They have a story.
Their story is something their best customers believe in. Their story is based on a mission. Their story may become their customers’ rallying cry. Beyond the story, these companies don’t have much in common. A company with a story can be a shoe manufacturer, online retailer, tech company, food company or camera company. It can be large or small, publicly held or private, for-profit or nonprofit.
Take a moment and think of your favorite product, perhaps a branded item that you are proud to wear. What about a business, a restaurant or a fitness establishment that you go out of your way to recommend? Not only do you believe in their story, the story says something about you. Who are these exceptional companies with stories that persuade? Some high-profile storytelling organizations are Apple, TOMS Shoes, Harley Davidson, Airbnb, GoPro and Patagonia.
But you don’t have to run a billion-dollar company to create a winning story for your organization. Business stories can be the work of just one person. The storytelling strategies of the Fortune 500 are available to you. You first need to decide that you are going to try a different kind of marketing.
This article recently appeared in the Lehigh Valley Business Journal.