Close your eyes and imagine a world before the internet. Scary right? Now imagine it before TV, even before radio. That’s a bit of a stretch, but believe it or not, families would sit together and gather around the radio for entertainment.
How times have changed!
Now, keep imagining a world before any of these technological miracles because before these distractions were something called stories.
Stories are as old as civilisation itself. I’ve even come across the argument that suggests cave drawings were the earliest ways to tell stories, their messages true to the people that made them; ‘don’t go hunting sabre-tooth tigers without a real sharp spear and some trusty mates, Ogg.’
Fast forward ten thousand years and even with our addiction to the digital, stories have withstood the test of time.
Why is that?
Because we connect with them on an emotional level. They mean something to us. They touch us, they make us think. Good stories transport the reader (or listener) through time and space to other worlds, some fanciful, others so realistic they make our hearts beat faster as tension rises and we sit on the edge of comfort looking into an abyss of possibilities and we can’t help but stare into the eyes of our own demons.
It’s the connection we feel that’s so incredibly powerful.
Because when we connect with something we see ourselves. We share thoughts and hopes and expectations. We can imagine being Katniss Everdeen and Jack Reacher. We can relate to their troubles, their needs and their desires. We might not always agree with the way they deal with them, but we’re still emotionally connected.
This is why successful brands and businesses tell stories.
They’re connecting with their audiences. They know what their customers want, what they believe in and what values are important to them. And they know this because they’ve invested the time and energy to understand their customer’s journeys.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. For some people it doesn’t make sense not to focus on selling at all costs. After all business is all about making money right? And how can you possibly make money if you don’t sell your product? Wasting time on things like emotions, connections and journeys doesn’t sell a damn thing! Right?
Three of the most successful brands on the planet tell their stories so well you only have to say the name and you’ve already formed an opinion. It’s often emotional, an irrational love-hate opinion based on nothing more solid than what you’ve heard or read, or seen. You don’t necessarily have to buy in to what it is their saying, but you sure know if they touch you.
Apple is all about you and the power of your imagination. And you’re cool right? Apple brings an emotional, sensory experience to computing and technology. It’s the way the keyboard feels when you type, the intuitive way the operating system works – it’s practically magic;
Harley-Davidson is all about your aspirations to be part of a bad-ass brotherhood while still being able to express your own path to happiness. You don’t care if people love you or hate you because deep down you’re a rebel and ain’t nobody gonna tell you how to live your life;
GoPro makes you a hero with a camera that can go anywhere and do anything because you’re an adventurer, an explorer, a one-of-a-kind dude, a real interesting guy to talk to at parties.
Know what I mean? They’re stories!
To tell a good story businesses need to take a long hard look at themselves. And sometimes that’s going to be painful and there will be tears.
A business needs to know what it believes in and how it projects this belief to the world. This belief should impact everything it does. It’s a commitment that permeates through the entire organisation from the CEO to the Receptionists and Security Guards and Sales Directors and Marketing Managers and Social Media Planners and everyone in between. It can’t be done half-assed.
If a business believes their most important vision is to sell, sell, and sell some more, regardless of the customer experience, their customers will suffer and so will their business. This is why we have to put up with Spam and broken promises and disappointments and delays and little white lies hidden by big fake smiles. They don’t care what you think or how you feel, they only care about the sale.
This ‘sell at all costs’ mindset uses words which lead to actions and those words and actions reinforce this focus. They don’t discuss options – they drag you to the table, they don’t listen to your very real concerns – they twist your arm, they don’t empathise – they bully by making you feel you feel small and incompetent because you don’t know as much they do. Because, after all you don’t! In this mindset, you’re just another dollar bill.
It’s a very short term, knee-jerk approach.
These businesses are continually looking for new customers because those customers they’ve already dealt with won’t be coming back in a hurry. And why should they? Would you go back to the same company you felt had over-promised and under-delivered?
If, on the other hand, the business is customer-centric their story and the experience is very different. From answering the phone with a smile and replying to emails straight away, to honestly describing benefits rather than features, to walk you through the buying process rather than dropping you into a ‘sales funnel’ they’ll take care to reinforce their values and address any gaps in the journey with genuine, heartfelt and mindful solutions.
On a very basic level, people care more about themselves and how they feel than the products they buy. And this is why the story of your business has to not only include your potential market, but also engage them. You must connect.
When was the last time you bought something, anything, because you liked the service? Or you got a smile? Is your favourite restaurant or bar the cheapest place in town? Or somewhere you feel comfortable, appreciated and understood?
Like it or not, people aren’t going to do business with you just because you want them to.
People need to connect. They need experiences they can relate to. And they need to relate to you! So, if you haven’t already worked out what your company’s story is, invest the time, the money and the resources to do it. It will pay off and it will build strong foundations for your success.
Remember, it’s not what you deliver but how you deliver it!