How to Tell Your Business Story. Start with One True Thing.

As a writer I often lament that all the good stories have been written. Every book is just a rendition of something that’s already been done.

As a traveler it often feels like all the frontiers (at least in this country) have been settled. Every place, mapped.

There’s a status quo to our thinking that lulls us all to sleep or drives us to seek something more interesting in our electronic pacifiers. But if you want someone to sit and take notice of you, you must have a story to tell.

The good news is we all have one. We have many. The hard part is deciding which one to tell. But that’s only really hard when you don’t know your audience. Knowing your audience should help you select the appropriate story that will resonate with them in much the same way you might select an outfit based on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.

How to Tell Your Business Story in 5 Easy Steps

I’m not suggesting you make up stories to appeal to your audience. They must be true and that’s where you should begin with the one true thing you know (and the one true thing that will touch them).

Once you have your one true thing — your guiding theme for your story — consider your life experience. What situation exemplifies your theme?

Set the Stage

you need to set the stage when telling your story

What condition surrounded your one true thing? Who was involved? How did you lead up to it? Set the stage for what you learned by backing up a few scenes. Draw people in by painting a vivid picture of how things were before you learned what you did.

You Wanted Something

you must capture what you desire in storytelling

Often our greatest learning comes when we are pursuing something else. You’ve successfully set the stage, now talk about your motives. What did you want at that time more than anything? Hopefully it’s something others can identify with. Even if they can’t identify with your actual desire to achieve the particular item or standing, they can probably associate the desire to accomplish something or receive something, and you can frame your desire in those ways.

Something Happened

you faced difficulties

Very few of us got what we wanted on our first try. If we did we wouldn’t remember it very well. It’s the friction and failure that makes a good story and spurs us on to achievement. In your story you have to meet a struggle. It can be outward with another human being or inward, like struggling with extreme self-doubt. This is where your story is.

This is the fork in the road, people will stay with you to find out what happened. Without the challenge people are back to their cellphones and kitten videos.

You Received Inspiration

inspiration comes from many places

Even self-made successful people will tell you someone was there during the struggle who had an effect on them. I still remember a crush I had in second grade. He never talked to me but he had the most beautiful eyes. I adored him from a far, the way you should when you’re 7. One day I was involved in an altercation on the playground. I allowed my best friend, Joe, who was a towering head taller than everyone else to handle it for me. My crush overheard the scuttle. He walked over and his first words to me were, “What’s the matter, Christina? Can’t fight your own battles?”

My heart went from soaring that he knew my name to sinking as I heard the blame in his voice. Needless to say, I’ve only let someone fight my battles once.

John Michael had a profound effect on me that lives on today. You probably have someone like that too. Whatever your struggle is in the story you’re telling, you need to mention how you didn’t do it all alone. You had a mentor, a parent, a coach, or a book that provided that necessary sage to your story. The hero needs a Gandolf, Obi Wan, Yoda, Alfred, Glenda, Merlin, Nester, Senex…well, you get the idea.

You Got What You Wanted

tell your audience how you got what you wanted

Unless you’re writing a novel, your business story needs to end with the hero getting something. This is most likely the success that had made you into the expert you are but it could also be something less tangible like a realization. Still, give your story an ending. You need to satiate the audience’s desire for answers and a satisfying wrap-up.

It’s that easy. 

You already have that story in you. Now you just need to find some time to understand your audience and how that story will help you connect to them in a way that makes you a valuable resource to them.

After all, your story isn’t very effective if it is only about you.

Why Your Homepage Content Stinks

Elephant in the room alert.

My home page design stinks.

It stinks because I’m not a graphic designer.

Thankfully my first year plus in business has kept me so busy the project I had worked on to redo my website with a designer fell by the wayside. But a lot of my business comes through word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business so my website stinking is not my main concern.

But if you’re a small business who wants more customers, or an association or chamber looking for new members, your homepage can’t stink.

Does My Homepage Content Stink?

I’m going to stick to what I know best: content. So here’s how you know your homepage stinks from a content perspective. Ask yourself:

Does my copy read like a college entrance essay?

Clear writing makes good website copy.

Don’t use highfalutin’ words, even if you know what they mean. Keep it simple. Tell your potential customers’, or prospective members’, how you can solve their problems in the simplest of terms.

Otherwise, you’ll only confuse them and let’s face it, no one wants to feel confused.

Does my copy read like my 5 year-old nephew wrote it?

Casual is good. A distinct tone is wonderful.

Adherence to basic grammar rules, if you want people to give you money, is still absolutely necessary.

Is it obvious I am a disenchanted English major who always wanted to write the great American novel?

Wordiness is just as bad as words that are unintelligible or words that can only be decoded by NASA engineers.

Do I mention clearly what I do and where I am?

Contant: you get what you pay for.You’d be surprised how many people use pat (aka meaningless) industry words to describe what they do.

Also, while many of us do business on the Interwebs, letting people know where you are means you’re less likely to get a call in the middle of the night wondering if you’re open.

And please…don’t advertise events without telling us where you are. You may assume your audience knows “Columbus” but there are something like 22 “Columbusses”, “Columbi,” “Columbus” (whatever) in the nation and who knows how many others in the world.

If my lack of fact checking is bothering you, Google it and leave the number in the comments.

Does my tone fit my brand?

This post is lip-smacking sarcastic for me, but it’s not a complete departure from my blog’s tone. I’m casual in my own business writing. That’s how I prefer it but I was an Econ/Poli Sci major so if you want dry and erudite drivel, I can do that too, but it’s not me. So I don’t.

If someone hires me, I write in their tone, not mine.

You have to think the same way on your website. Don’t choose a tone for your site that’s different from who your business is. It will only confuse people when they go from reading your social media and content marketing posts to doing business with you.

If your homepage design stinks get a graphic designer (and then get me one too) but if your content’s not up to snuff – if it’s not attracting your ideal audience, or getting them interested in what you have to offer, if it doesn’t convey why they need you and convince them they should’ve called yesterday, your content isn’t working hard enough. 

Think of me as a personal trainer for your words.

 

That’s where I come in.<Queue my dramatic theme song. Something akin to Wonder Woman but without the 70’s disco beat.>

I’ll whip them into shape and make sure they’re doing their jobs. No cutting corners, just getting you more business and more interest.

 

 

Your Website is now Your Organization’s Membership Chair

Open up and let members in with a great website and good content.If as a student you ever joined a club, you probably based your decision to join as much on the club’s reputation as you did anything else. Who was in the club, what people thought of the club, and what interaction you had with other members of the club, all contributed to creating the club’s reputation in your mind.

Today we don’t have the whispers in the high school cafeteria to help us make up our decisions. We base it on something a lot more concrete like a website.

Your Website is Your Membership Director

How often do you find yourself researching an organization online before you reach out to a membership person?

If you don’t provide good, accurate information people won’t join.

Recently, I looked into joining a club that had different chapters all over town. Each chapter held its meeting on a different day. I had a very small window in my calendar and wanted something that would meet on a Thursday night. No such luck. I decided not to join because they didn’t offer a meeting that worked with my schedule.

I based this decision on the information I read on their website. I sent an email (from information obtained on their website) to verify it but no one ever got back to me.

A potential member lost

Turns out, according to a flier I later saw, they did have a chapter that met on Thursdays. I ended up going to the next meeting and joining but the ending may not have been a happy one. Had I not seen the information in a flier and relied solely on their website, I would’ve given up on them.

If you’re a member-based group, your organization’s website is now more important than your membership chair.

You can be sure some people will always prefer to do their legwork online outside of talking to someone.

 I didn’t bother to call because I didn’t want to be recruited. I just wanted to know if they had a group that met on the night I was free. If they did, I’d join. If not, oh well.

Right now, don’t wait, ask yourself:

  • Is my website up-to-date?
  • Does it depict me in a flattering light?
  • Can people get the information they need easily?
  • Am I giving them a reason to return?

If you answered no to any of these questions, I can help. Contact me today.

Don’t let potential members disqualify themselves on erroneous information. Give them what they need and welcome them in.

 

Photo credit: fiat luxe via Flickr

Guest Blogging for Associations

One of my good friends is married to a chef. People are always telling her how lucky she is because her man cooks. But I had to ask…does he cook at home? or does he give his restaurant customers delicious meals and then pop in a frozen pizza when he gets home?

She laughed and said, no he cooks for his family too and we’re his guinea pigs on new dishes.

So it is for the blogger.

I’ve been spending a lot of time “cooking” elsewhere and have ignored serving it up here on the Tell Your Story blog, so I thought I’d share a few of my writing projects recently.

In addition to these guest blogging gigs, I’m also working on a fiction book about a would-be scientist and his great discovery. More about that later.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you find value in these.

For Associations:

3 Things Your Association Should Never Automate

 

What makes your online community special?

 

Attracting Millennials Through Storytelling

 

How to tell your association's story. #storytelling

The Secret to Member Engagement

This week I was over at Memberclicks as part of their Memberviews project with Multiview, featuring people who work with (and for) associations. They asked us what the secret was to member engagement.

completing members through engagement
Is your association completing its members?

To me, it’s like asking how to get someone to fall in love with you. There are a lot of snake oil salesman who are willing to give you a quick fix but building a relationship with your members takes time and dedication. It takes a mentality of placing them first and a commitment to understand what they want and how they want to be appreciated. Plus it also takes a bit of chemistry. There’s no way to make a member fall in love with you, if the member and your association aren’t a good fit.

Because salvaging a member relationship doesn’t work as they’re backing down the driveway with their car packed full of tokens of your time together.

Just as in a relationship, when it’s new, everyone is excited. As it becomes a daily part of their lives, things become less enchanting. Annoyances crop up. Thoughts of wishing you’d do things another way filter into their consciousness and just like in relationships, we can only hope the members will tell us. But if they don’t we have to be prepared to read them through body language and data.

Read my post and let me know what you think.

Can you make a member fall in love with you overnight?

 

Image credit: “Love” by Cuddlesaur on Deviant Art