You need a story

Linkedin-youneedastoryA long article today. Please humour me because there is a reason and a purpose.

(If you haven’t got the patience then all you need to know is that you need a story, a compelling story.)

In a world of similarity and highly competitive marketing pitches you do need a story to separate yourself (your business) from the rest. After all why should I buy from you if you are the same as the competition?

The story can start to make you look different. It teases out so much more about why and how you do what you do. It enables the potential client to be able to isolate and recognise you as a discreet and separate entity from the rest. It can create connection and understanding.

The immediate question is how to write that story. At its simplest you can lay out the facts. That usually covers off much of the who, what, where, why, when and how of your business. But it is a little dull.

The Directors’ Centre – the story version 1: the facts

·        Robert left university having set up his first business, a café and restaurant, in his final year

·        He subsequently set up and ran an outside catering and a festival catering business as well as a recording studio and a record company as well as a training company.

·        He fell into consulting when invited to work with the Leadmill in Sheffield

·        He started to be invited to help other businesses including Body Shop and Virgin

·        When he got out of his depth he did an MBA at Warwick Business School

·        He returned to Warwick to head up consultancy and training for SMEs at the Business School.

110 words

You get the drift. A bit dull, eh. Too many facts don’t make the story leap from the page so here is a different approach, telling a story including the people and the reasons behind the decisions…

The Directors’ Centre – the story version 2: a bit more personal

Despite what my father wanted for me, I knew I could never play the corporate game, wear the suit, obey the boss. So I started my first proper business in my final year at university.

I had this massive ‘aha’ moment: We went to a café for a mediocre pizza but why were we paying £1.50 for 10p-worth of flour, cheese and tomato? I remember saying “We could do so much better than this” – an entrepreneurial seizure because from that moment all I could think about was the how and why and when and what and so on.

As a result of running my own restaurant and café, I went on a course on growing your business. I loved it and I thought, “Maybe one day I could do what Peter and June are doing – helping other businesses by sharing knowledge, experience and wisdom.” Such a Eureka! moment.

I read and I studied and I watched and I listened. And what you wish for often comes true. I started to be invited to help solve problems in other people’s businesses. At last I felt I was doing something really useful.

190 words

The version 2 has more of a zing to it. A bit wordy and for some audiences that is far more engaging. For others it will still be like watching paint dry. But one has to admit that is more compelling than what was essentially a list of credentials.

The Directors’ Centre – the story version 3: tighter and more to the point

I have had three big ‘aha’ moments.

Aged 20, a flash of realisation: I could never be an employee. I had to run my own business.

Next, I was served a mediocre pizza. I remember saying “We could do so much better than this!” and so my first business idea had been started.

Finally, I attended a remarkable business growth training program. I knew that one day I was going to help people to run the businesses they really wanted to run so they could have the lifestyle they really wanted. That would be how I could create a difference.

100 words

Getting better, I think.

One more go, to get to the kernel, the heart of the story.

The Directors’ Centre – the story version 4: even tighter and even more to the point.

I always knew I had to run my own businesses and have run many in my time. But the real ‘aha’ feeling was when I realised that my passion, my drive and obsession, was to help other people run the businesses they really wanted to run. As a result they will live they life they want to live. And that’s why and how I create a difference”

67 words

In my humble opinion, version 4 wins.

So, why have I gone to these lengths to show you these examples? (assuming you are still reading and haven’t simply skipped to the end.)

Action Point

Have you a story?

Do you use the story on your website, other collateral or in your initial meetings?

Is your story compelling? Does it help people to ‘get’ you and what you do? Does it help to get traction and help to separate you from the rest?