If you are like me, you have older relatives who love to tell the same stories over and over again. We may have heard those stories so often that if we are in their company when they begin telling them one more time, we could finish telling it for them without missing a word. But those are just stories about past events that bring a smile to a well worn face. What is your story? By that I mean what is your business story? And how often and well do you tell it? If you own a business, large or small; new or mature; providing services or making or selling products or something in between, you have a story to tell. It could be simple or a bit more complex. It could be familiar or newly inspiring. It could be exciting or unique. Or one that may be considered commonplace but still important to you. Regardless, you and your business have a story to tell to every stakeholder, from your employees to your vendors, customers and competitors, your community and yes, even yourself. Your story is the basis, the foundation and rationale behind you and the reason you are in business. It is the fuel behind the energy you summon every day to get up, go to work and take those risks. In spite of the power and importance of your story, my question remains. What are the words to your story? How well and often do you tell it? If ever there was a time to invest in a review of the content, values, ideas, power and substance behind your story, it is now. We face fearful and trying economic times. If ever we and our businesses need our best work, our best efforts, it is now. So I encourage you and your key management team to take a fresh look at what you say and how you say it. I suggest you begin with the name of your business. Does it clearly, quickly and simply communicate your story? Or have you had it so long or fallen in love with some name or combination of letters that it blinds you from seeing what others see and hear? Ask around to long time clients as well as new contacts for their reaction. You might want to ask that older relative who sees things from a different perspective. Or maybe their grandchild to get the reaction from the newest generation. Then review your logo. Do you even have a logo or style of writing your company name that adds value to your business name? If yes, can it be easily read in color and black and white, whether it is large or small, on paper or on screen? Or is it so old fashioned that it ages your business in ways that are not to your benefit? A freshened up look has done wonders for many enterprises. Maybe it is time for an updated look, style or color to give the impression of being up to date and professional. And it gives you a new paragraph to your story to publicize to clients new and old. Now what about your printed collateral material, from business cards to flyers, brochures to signs? Are they consistent in color, name and logo, size, shape and configuration? Are they all in good condition, telling your name story proudly and professionally? If not, maybe it is time to make those long neglected investments. Now look at your on-line materials leading off with your website (check every page for consistency), your email signature, monthly newsletters, social or business networks from FaceBook to LinkedIn and more. Is your typeface too small, your story too wordy to be read, your contact information missing or hard to find? A few minutes and dollars with your webmaster or designer may be appropriate and worthwhile to at least look like you know what you are doing even if you don’t! Now what about you and your employees? What do they say and how do they say it when you and they are telling your company story to customers, vendors and investors and business associates? Do you assume they know what you are talking about even though they have not yet heard your story before? Or are you boring long-time associates with trivial information without a clear and powerful focus on the benefits to them to do business with you. Salespersonship matters. It can make a dramatic difference between succeeding in these trying times or just getting by. Listen in when your salespeople are selling and critique what they say and how they say it. But please, do so only after you have listened to yourself to review if your storytelling is as good as you think it is. Lastly, what media have you chosen in the past to tell your story beyond the confines of your four business walls? Have your media choices been productive and effective, or just the ones you have always used! You should consider testing some of your advertising and promotional dollars in other media. If you are not investing 25 to 30 percent of your budget into new areas worthy of testing, you may be too conservative or too much in love with the old ways and missing out on the newer, more effective, more dynamic media options of today. May you, your story and your business enjoy a prosperous year. Ben Tenn provides small business management consulting and coaching with an emphasis on marketing and sales. He can be reached at (818) 993-8222 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Your Business Story Should be Told Well, Consistently