In today’s world, the Internet is to business what water is to a duck. And although electronic communication has increased our reach around the world it’s also made doing business less personal than it used to be. Despite all of the technological advances we’ve made and will make in the coming years, nothing has really replaced human contact.
When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, there was a Mom & Pop business on every corner. And we all shopped at these neighborhood establishments, knew the owners, usually on a first name basis, and liked it. It was nice to know the people you did business with. They were neighbors, friends—people we knew and trusted. A handshake was the contract and you never dreamed of going back on your word. Few businesses follow that neighborly model anymore.
We don’t write letters, we send emails. We don’t meet for lunch, we tele-conference. We don’t make deals on a handshake; we hire teams of attorneys to draft 100 page agreements, covering every possibility under the sun. We don’t know our customers but we’re obsessed with the numbers and getting more.
Tell a story and your customers will know and like you
Your business has a story, a narrative that started long before anyone knew who you were. You worked hard. Maybe you worked your way through college because you had a dream. And that dream kept you going through the night, over the weekends and kept you up at night more often than not. You knew if you just kept at it, you could realize your vision and your dream. But do your customers know that story? Do they know you? Yes, you probably have an About Page on your website and have sent out press releases or post cards telling people all about your business. But has that story been distilled down to the facts, accreditations, and the obligatory bio with as much life as a cardboard cutout of who you are? Your public persona?
A perfect example of a company that has used the story approach to expand its business is Trader Joe’s. It started out as a local convenience market in California in the 1950’s and now has hundreds of locations, thousands of employees and does billions in business. Trader Joe’s story is told in a unique, refreshing, and down to earth way. And goes even further with their timeline narrative. After reading their story, what shopper wouldn’t want to at least go there a have a fun shopping experience? Their primary form of advertising is a circular called the Fearless Flyer – word of mouth pretty much did the rest for them. Wouldn’t you like to have people flock to your business because your story was as appealing as Trader Joe’s?
Every business has its own story – tell yours
Despite opinions to the contrary, people don’t respond to sterile bios and dry copy. Despite all our gadgets and techie toys we still want to know the people we do business with. We want to feel that we could be friends and neighbors—we want that connection. It’s just human nature. So what is your business story? Do your customers know who you are, what you believe in, and how you feel about the world? Don’t you think it’s time you did? I promise you if you do tell your story that people will want to do business with you. And they’ll tell all their friends too.
Disclosure: In my freelance writing business one of my specialties is business story writing and I have linked to that site in this post.