4 Must-Have Elements for a Compelling Business Story
Whenever I begin work with a new client, I ask them to tell me about their business story.
What do I mean?
Simply, I want to know what they’re about. Why they do what they do. Who they help. What results they produce for their clients and customers.
Unfortunately, the kind of answer I often get reminds me of this Picasso:
Things are a bit jumbled and confused. I get a general idea of their business, but there’s no single, well-articulated message that comes through strong and clear.
As a work of art, the abstract, mixed-up elements in this painting make for an engaging visual experience. But as a business narrative, it’s a recipe for disaster.
What makes for good art does not make for good business. Your job is to bring your business story into clear focus. Here’s how.
#1: Know Your Why
Have you seen that famous TED talk by Simon Sinek?
If not, go watch it as soon as you can. It’s called How Great Leaders Inspire Action. In it, Simon explains why most companies approach their marketing backwards.
He says that most companies make the mistake of leading with the what and the how of what they do. But this isn’t inspiring. In fact, it’s boring. No one becomes excited about the plain ol’ facts.
Instead, he explains that you inspire a passionate following by leading with your why. Meaning, what’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What are your beliefs?
Simon draws a diagram of three concentric circles with why in the center:
He explains that your messaging—your marketing—should always start in the center (with your why) and move out from there (to the how and the what).
This brings to mind TOMS shoes. What began as a tiny shoe company grew into a wildly successful global brand not by making the most beautiful, well-crafted or expensive shoes in the world.
No, success came fast and furious because of their mission: To provide poor children in developing countries with a new pair of shoes. Often the first pair they’ve ever owned.
TOMS started with a simple model: For every pair of shoes you buy from them, they give a pair to a child in need. It’s their One for One program. Giving is built right into their business model. Not as an add-on or afterthought, but as a fundamental tenet of their business. And it’s caught on like wildfire.
So, what’s your why?
Why do you get out of bed in the morning and why should we care?
When you get clear on the reasons WHY you do what you do—and begin to articulate these in your marketing—you attract a passionate audience of people who believe what you believe. You draw ‘em in like honey bees to sweet nectar.
#2: Tell Your Personal Story
The second element of your business story is your personal story. How did you get here? What brought you down this path? Why should I believe you what you’re telling me?
People often think their personal story isn’t important or relevant to their business. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
You see, customers want to do business with real people. They want to do business with people they know, like and trust. With people who care about them.
That’s why it’s imperative that you avoid presenting your business as just another boring, faceless corporation. Instead, let your personality shine. Let your prospects and customers see the real you (well, the best real you.)
There’s no need to tell your entire life story. Pick and choose the events and experiences that are relevant to what you’re doing right now.
There are 2 primary goals when sharing your story: to establish credibility and to connect.
You establish credibility by sharing your successes. I don’t mean your personal successes, like “I won a National Merit Scholarship.” I’m talking about your customer successes. What results have your clients or customers gotten by working with you or buying your products and programs? Share their stories and testimonials.
You connect with others by revealing your failures. How have you struggled with the same issues you’re teaching now? Be honest and tell the truth.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable like this can be scary, but it’s necessary. It’s what makes you human and allows people to create an emotional bond with you. For more on why this is true, check out another powerful TED talk by Brené Brown called The Power of Vulnerability.
#3: Identify Your Niche
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:
You need to focus on ONE thing and ONE target audience to attract clients like crazy and gain traction quickly.
When you try to be all things to all people, no one’s interested. People are looking for an expert who can help them with their specific problem. For someone who has a unique angle on their problem. For someone to help them achieve their specific goals.
I had a client who was a successful weight loss expert. She regularly spoke at conferences and made media appearances. Business was good, but not great.
Then we refined her focus from “weight loss” to “how discovering your hidden food sensitivities can help you lose weight fast and easy.”
Her new message was more specific and narrow. It gave her a unique selling proposition (USP) in a crowded weight loss market. She went on to publish a New York Times bestselling book with her new message and things took off at warp speed.
A great niche solves a specific problem for a specific group of people. Even better if you can help them get out of pain and solve their problem fast.
#4: Describe Your Transformational Outcomes
The final element of your business narrative is knowing your transformational outcomes.
This means understanding the results your customers / clients / patients get by working with you. The changes in their lives. The pain that disappears. The goals they reach.
For example, let’s say you help people with unexplained and annoying digestive issues.
Before they work with you, they’re running to the bathroom after meals, they’re in pain, they’re feeling frustrated and helpless. This is Point A.
After they work with you, their pain is gone, they no longer have to run to the bathroom after eating, and they feel confident and free for the first time in years. This is Point B.
The difference between Point A and Point B is called the gap, and your job is to bridge that gap. To help them get where they want to be (preferably with as little effort and time as possible!).
Your marketing must paint the picture of what will change in their life when they work with you. It must provide the promise.
Notice in my example I didn’t talk about how you achieve the change. Truthfully, the how is not that important to your prospect. They simply want you to help them get out of pain and achieve their goals. Whether you do that with a magic wand, one-on-one coaching or an online course isn’t their top concern.
Transformational outcomes are the secret ingredient in your marketing. Without them, your message is weak and ineffective. With them, you become a client attraction magnet.