What’s your Story?

“Once upon a time” usually stirs up warm childhood memories about classic bedtime stories being read by someone very close, perhaps a mother or father. As the story unfolds, good and evil characters become real. Characters come to life and a diabolical plot thickens or perhaps a magical land becomes real. The storyteller adds individual character voices and spooky sound effects to make the story more engaging to the young listener’s imagination. Page by page, chapter by chapter, the story becomes reality to both the reader and listener. Both become emotionally involved with the author’s story. As the reader dramatically acts out the last sentence the child quickly asks, “Can we read it again,” proving the audience bought the story.

Do you look at your business as a magazine article, a short story or maybe a novel? Is each project like a chapter or a limerick? How many characters have you written about over the years, and who has played those roles? How many people have you written out of your book for one reason or another? Is your company’s story all about you, like a long-winded autobiography, or is it about the unique individuals with whom you’ve met and wanted to develop long-lasting business relationships?

Many business owners struggle to communicate their company’s story with potential customers because the story is incomplete, it is told in a bland way, or they simply make up a story right in front of their customers. Shooting your story from the hip can lead to disaster and frustration.

Many company stories begin like so: “We have been in business for X number of years and have won this national award, and we provide professional services to our customers from start to finish, etc.”

Why do people have a hard time telling their own company’s story? Typically people do not want to come across as pompous or self-promotional, desperately looking for more clients. To avoid this offensive behavior they tend to be shy and give the listener the short version of their company’s services. The result is a dissatisfied listener who is not compelled to learn more. On the other hand, there are those who are not shy about telling their story. They have no social etiquette filters and let out a jet stream of information which pins the listener uncomfortably against the wall for 20 minutes.

We best remember those stories that relate to us personally. You company’s story needs to relate to your audience and to the individual listeners that may be interested in your services. Create a general version of the story when you advertise to a large number of people and another more specific version when you are marketing to a neighborhood in which you are working. Each member of your team should project similar versions of the company story to ensure the message is consistent.

We have been telling stories to each other since humans made their homes in caves and painted characters and events on the walls. Their stories were creative, simple and clear. They often told about the experience of the hunt, who they worshipped and who their leaders were. When you are telling your story, remember that a good story generally includes interesting places, well-defined characters, comedy, tragedy and for the most part a happy ending. You have worked in interesting places. You work with many interesting characters. Be funny. Tell them how you overcame adversity on a particular project and how everyone lived happily ever after.