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It’s easy to “sell” when you have a story to tell…

11 July 2019

Whatever you are “selling”, be it a product, a service or even an idea, it is much easier to sell when you have a story to tell.

And every single business has stories to tell. 

Fundamentally, it’s part of our human nature to tell stories. It’s what connects us and helps us to develop strong relationships.

This is not just marketing bunkum either. Just think of all the times you’ve heard stories that have had an impact on you; right from being a small child and having that sense of awe and wonder that comes from being immersed in imaginary worlds through to becoming an adult and being influenced on a daily basis by the media that is now all around us. Some stories may have moved you emotionally or left some kind of lasting impression. Undoubtedly, your buying behaviour will also have been influenced by the stories you’ve been told, probably on many occasions, and without you fully realising it.

Why should businesses tell their stories?

You wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t want to sell your products and services, but have you stopped to think what it is you are actually selling and why? 

This might seem like a really obvious question, but it’s surprising how many companies simply list their products and highlight the features. Often this will be using some slick imagery and the products look fantastic, and for certain products and brands sales may be great, but there is a whole psychology behind buying behaviours and how people arrive at their decisions. 

Beyond this, however, there are other reasons why your business should tell its stories:

  • To enhance your credibility and reputation.
  • To become an award-winning business.
  • To increase visibility in a competitive marketplace.
  • To attract high calibre staff and retain them.
  • To be recognised for what you do and the difference you make.

How to tell your stories

Recently we have been involved in delivering mini workshops with the Institute of Directors and Make UK who both wanted us to talk to their members about crafting an award-winning entry.

Basically, it boils down to telling stories in a compelling and engaging way which brings the business to life and conveys all the human elements of the drive and passion that is the foundation of the enterprise. We make the best widgets just doesn’t cut it. But if you make widgets that make a real difference to people’s lives in some way, and you have invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears in reaching your goals, then you have an amazing story to tell about your journey and what it means to you, what it means to your staff, but very importantly what it means to your customers or beneficiaries. People don’t just buy widgets, they make an emotional decision about what that widget means to them, what difference it will make to their life.  And yes, this also applies to B2B purchasing. Your customer will have a whole series of headaches, pains or aspirations they want to resolve or achieve. By understanding these issues and demonstrating that you can make a real difference, will also make all the difference to the success of your business.

In running our mini workshops, we wanted to keep things fairly simple so we developed a VIVA model that delegates could take away with them to help them craft their award-winning entries.

You can also take these elements and weave them into your marketing campaigns.

 

VIVA: Vision / Innovation / Values / Achievements

Vision – in awards applications, this is the “why”. What is the purpose of your business, what is the passion behind it that underpins everything you do? Why should people care?

Innovation – this can be a tricky one because unless you are product designer or creative in some way, a lot of people fail to see how their company is innovative. For the purpose of writing awards applications, however, innovation can be as simple as how you’ve taken a tried and tested process or model of working and have adapted and applied this to improve your business. If you can then talk about how this has benefited not only your business but how it impacts positively on your customers’ businesses and perhaps even on their customers’ customers, then you have a powerful story to tell.

Values – These days, a lot of attention and focus is on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability and protecting the planet (and rightly so). As a category, CSR is one of the key features of awards applications and some awards organisers have created categories just on this alone (The Queen’s Award and Make UK are just two good examples). If your company has strong values and you can articulate these, that’s fantastic and well done for making a difference. If there are areas for improvement, then take a look at what these awarding bodies are focusing on and use this to review and update your own practice and processes in your company. Values cover a broad range of things from how you treat your employees to how you are reducing your carbon footprint.  People also buy from people they trust and like and if your company has strong ethics and values that shine through, this will also make a difference for sustaining long term relationships – with customers, suppliers and your staff.

Values also includes your value proposition. This is where you drill right down into understanding your target audiences and what makes them tick, and you craft your business’s messages around this. In a nutshell, your value propositions should say, succinctly, what you sell, to whom and how it benefits them. (We run half day workshops on value propositions so this is just a very brief summary).

Achievements – how often do you sit down with your teams and look at what you have achieved. Do you celebrate achievements in your company, even the small ones that recognise what an individual or a team has accomplished? It’s so easy to get bogged down into the day to day challenges of  business, that we can forget to look up and be proud of what we’ve done. Growing a company is hard work. When you achieve growth milestones – celebrate them. Sustaining a business over many years is hard work (especially in today’s economic climate). If you have an anniversary – celebrate it. You may have implemented a low carbon or recycling programme that has saved your business money as well as energy – celebrate it. Your team might have completed a hard task in aid of charity  - celebrate it.

 

It’s easier to sell when you have stories to tell

Much of this article has been about crafting your stories to help you to win awards. By telling your story to the judges, you are basically “selling” them the messages, ideas and notions of what makes your company great, and why you should be recognised for this.

Now apply these principles to your sales and marketing campaigns, and let the stories do the talking about the difference your business makes to its customers, staff and suppliers.

 

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