Beware of the flowers: why customers don't care about your business

We all love a good story, don’t we?  The more outlandish those stories are, the better.  How else could we explain the enduring popularity of the Holy Bible and Mail Online?

Not only that, we’re all natural storytellers.  That rant about your terrible dentist’s appointment counts just as much as War and Peace, in that they’re both relatable stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. 

But it’s the way you tell ‘em that really counts, especially when you’re using stories to promote your business – something we’re all being urged to do at the moment.

You can’t move for business stories online.  Finding your “why” is making new waves in marketing, and because I’m a bit obsessed with companies’ ‘About’ pages, I read a lot of business “whys” during the course of an average week.

What I’ve noticed is that business owners can’t wait to tell you how they started out from their humble front room, how they sacrificed their savings to do it, and how much they love providing for their families along the way.  There may be a few quotes along the lines of “believing in your dreams”, and there will almost certainly be liberal sprinklings of “passion” throughout.

All that sounds great.  But as a potential customer, do you care?

It’s not me, it’s you

I read an interview with the 90s’ musician Noel Gallagher a while back, in which he was asked whether he puts much of his own life experiences into his songs. 

He doesn’t, he said, because he’s not a fan of songs that only tell you about the writer.

“…I’m listening to someone pour his heart out and I’m like, ‘Good for you.  Tell me something about me.”

This is the brutal approach you need to take when you share your brilliant business stories.  No matter what they say about you, people will always wonder what’s in it for them, especially when they’re considering spending money with you. 

The way forward is clear: tell interesting business stories that reflect your ideal customers’ lives back to them.  Airbnb does this to great effect; instead of its founders talking about how their families are really important to them, their site includes a section that details ‘stories from the Airbnb Community’

Innocent masters it too, by telling a story that perfectly combines you and them.  Them, because they gave up their day jobs to make their smoothies, and you, because you effectively told them to do it!

Remember, whatever story you decide to tell, it won’t work for everyone – and that’s why it really is critical to know whom you want it to resonate with.  For example, busy parents will probably appreciate snappiness and convenience, while high-end consumers are likely to be after a languorous sense of luxury. 

What that means is: telling your ideal customers a flowery story about how you price your services means nothing, if what they’re actually looking for is convenience.  So do your research, then tell stories that the right people will remember (hopefully for the right reasons).

Recently I was sat in a coffee shop with a friend, talking to her about the perils of business storytelling, and how I could best come up with memorable stories for myself.

“What I love most about your story,” she said, “is that you love writing so much that you gave up a successful career to focus on it completely.”

(Yes, I know that’s a story about me…but someone else said it, so it doesn’t count).

Can I help you tell your stories?  Contact me for a no-obligation chat.  In the meantime, if you like the cut of my writing jib you can read more of my work over on Medium, or even buy my book.

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