Communication has never been so important for modern businesses, competition is fierce and the only way to stay ahead, and in the game at all, is to do the job better than your competitors. The only way to do this is to give them “something to be part of, something to believe in, and a great story to spread the message” Richard Palmer. Engagement with your customers, thankfully,has become easier now that we have the digital world enabling multiple forms of immediate, public communication between many groups. But how do you get them interested in you, especially if you’re a new or small business?
Step one: Make sure you have a GREAT story. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Storytelling dates back to the very beginnings of human civilsation, recounting the stories of the hunt, explaining why the family are going hungry that evening! In fact the earliest recorded evidence of storytelling is 35,000 years old, in the form of cave paintings in the Lascaux Caves in the Pyrenees.
From ancient times stories have helped us understand the world and our place in it. They have defined cultures, from the great philosophers and poets to cave dwelling storytellers, and countless religious leaders, stories have put ideas into context and provided entertainment, learning, comfort and identity.
So how does this relate to NOW?
Stories are a vital media to help us navigate through our world of message overload. As a species, we have become so used to the context of storytelling, that we expect, and want, to understand the world through this medium. We are now savvy to how the advertising world manipulates us, but you know what, we are complicit in that consumption of stories. We want to believe in a great story, we actively seek them out on blogs and twitter so we can re-tell them, (or re-tweet them) to our friends and colleagues so we look knowledgable and current – your stories make you interesting, and they do the same for your brand.
But what IS my story?
Every business has a story, you just have to identify which parts your customers will respond to, then weave that all together into the rich tapestry that is your own unique story and narrative. You BRAND is the golden thread that runs through your story, it’s your company’s personality, it’s how the story makes you feel. Decide what your brand’s personality and sprinkle that magic dust on everything you do.
Next you need a narrative, a journey that your customer goes through from the first touchpoint to the last, this might include when they first encounter you on the internet, or in the store, all the way through the purchase (hopefully) of one of your products, to their experience with the product and the service they experience when something goes wrong. This last part is becoming more and more important, as consumers get more power, and there is more competition for their time, they expect more from brands. Trendwatching have a brilliant article on this called Brand Butlers.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get you going.
1. What are your key competencies, what do you better than anyone else? Is it your product, service, R&D capability? This should form the heart of your story, and your brand
2. From the above, you can figure out what your company’s personality is, if you had to narrow it down to 3, or even better, 1 word, what would it be?
3. Who are your main characters? Who in your company best represents your key competencies and personality? You can use them in your narrative to flesh out your story
4. Do your communications represent your personality and your key competencies? Do they take the customer along a seamless journey? How can you make sure your website, brochures, events, all feel like they belong to the same family? This will help build trust, confidence and loyalty with your brand
5. How can you develop a dramatic story that demonstrates your product to help spread the message? Don’t be afraid here, and certainly don’t be shy! The bigger the story, the more it gets noticed!
6. Engage with your audience, spread your story – there are so many ways to do this now (sign up to our twitter feed to get some great pointers), product specific bloggers can be worth their weight in gold, make sure you know you they are and engage them with your brand, they will be joining you on your journey.
7. Build a social media campaign. This isn’t as hard as it sounds to the unfamiliar, especially when you have built a strong story. Your campaign should be personalised for your business, specifically your customers. Set up a twitter account if that’s relevant, follow people who are relevant to your industry as well as potential customers, be a provider of useful information that will build your profile. Rule no. 1 for social media though, don’t be invasive! Use it to better understand your customers needs by using it as an extension of your storybook. For a great guide on starting to use social media check out this article on Social Media Examiner.
And most of all, have some fun with it!