How (and Why) to Create a Compelling Brand Story

June 29, 2016

Before you hit the post button, ask yourself: What is your business all about? How do you improve your customers’ lives? What keeps you going?

When you have answers, and use that knowledge to shape your communications, customers are more likely to listen.

Why? With more than 40 million active small business pages on Facebook, overwhelmed viewers are tuning out branded content. To reach them, you need to connect on a personal level.

A compelling brand story forges that connection. It shapes your identity, your customer service, your marketing efforts — every aspect of the business. Try these proven strategies to get on customers’ radars:

1. Have something to say.

People want to know why they should do business with you. That’s why you need to clearly define your brand DNA — who you are, what you believe, why you do what you do, and what words help you tell that story.

Nick Westergaard, a small business marketing expert, says it starts with a promise: “To build a brand, we must make a solemn promise to those we serve. If the paying customers aren’t at the end of what we’re doing, then we’re spinning our wheels.”

Next, he advises to write out your business’s creation story, highlighting words that exemplify your purpose and passion, such as helping, innovation, or social justice. You can also highlight concrete benefits of your product or service, such as convenient,soothing, and reliable.

Keep your keywords front of mind, share with employees, and incorporate them into your messages.

2. Use classic storytelling techniques.

Have you ever marveled at how effortlessly a great story flows? That’s because simple rules guide the narrative, all designed to make it memorable.

Great stories have six key elements: 1) a time, 2) a place, 3) a main character, 4) an obstacle, 5) a goal, and 6) ensuing events. Sounds simple, right? Yet most of us struggle to figure out how to turn everyday life into a story.

We may be slow to recognize it, but stories regularly unfold before our eyes. For example, a panicky client needs a custom cake delivered that evening, and your team — through hard work and creative sourcing — delivers just in the nick. That’s a story that can be woven into your website, social media, blog or any channel you use to get the word out.

When stories are retold over and over, they become part of the culture and heritage, says storytelling expert Paul Smith. “People will tell stories about you and your company whether you want them to or not. Fortunately, you can help choose which ones they tell.”

 3. Activate emotions.

You’ve heard it before, but that’s because it is so important. Emotional appeals draw people in and make messages stick.

Features-heavy communications are forgettable. For a lasting impression, focus on images and words that evoke feelings.

Picture a row of colorful donuts. You could say: “Our donuts are baked fresh each morning.” Or, you might create a more compelling image by using a different approach: “Is that your stomach growling?”

Tapping into the senses and promising a contented feeling triggers a part of the brain that says “act.” Here are 50 emotion-packed words to add power to your messages.

4. Test taglines for impact.

Your tagline is more than a slogan. It tells your story in a few simple words. Let’s look at those of two tech giants and decide which rings true.

Microsoft: “Your potential. Our passion.”
Apple: “Think Different.”

Not to step into the debate about which company is better, but only the Apple tagline passes the SAUCE test: simple, appealing, unexpected, credible, emotional. Test your own tagline against these five qualities. Does it need tweaking?

Fixing weak messages is worth the effort. One recent study found that more than 60% of small businesses spend six or more hours each week just on social media! Make that time count.

5. Let customers tell your story.

Your business depends on customers. When you offer people exceptional experiences, you gain loyalty. You motivate customers to build a brand story for you as they share with their networks, both in person and online.

Getting people to talk about your business is the fastest, most effective way to grow and thrive. What you say about yourself pales in comparison.

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