Leanne Faulkner’s youngest son suffered from eczema. Leanne made her own soap using goat’s milk. She then started Billie Goat Soap to help other people. Billie Goat Soap (100% Australian-owned and made) is a small business success story, turning over $2.4 million in a year.
Why does every business need stories, like Billie Goat Soap?
Increased competition is a key concern for business owners, a recent Australian survey found. Stories help your customers remember and recommend you to others instead of your competitors. Research tells us people buy for emotional reasons and justify their decision with logic.
Stories appeal to emotion – the heart. Yet many small business owners are unsure how to do storytelling well.
The best way to build confidence in storytelling is to be clear about what NOT to do. So here are seven storytelling sins: steer clear of these, and then share stories for business success.
1. You are a story-free zone
Today’s sophisticated customers want to know more about your business than just the facts about products and services. Why did you start, for example?
For example, at the age of 18, faced with the thought of losing her part-time muesli-making job, Carolyn Creswell took a risk. She bought the struggling business for $1,000. Today, Carman’s Muesli is a household name, with products in every supermarket. It’s a start-up legend.
2. Your stories are hit or miss
Business storytelling is different from the barbecue yarn – it’s storytelling with a purpose, and for results.
Link your story to the point you want to make. If you want to make a point about standing out, tell the story about turning up to a black-tie event in shorts.
3. Something for everyone means nothing for anyone
At a recent networking event, when asked who his target market was, an entrepreneur replied: ‘Anyone with a pulse!’
Understand who your customers are, what would appeal and tailor your stories. Not identifying your audience leads to storytelling failure, like a joke about an Irish guy at a Belfast sales conference.
4. Business only
A business story does not have to be about business. As long as it has a point, personal stories are powerful.
Here’s an example from Naomi Simson, RedBalloon founder: "It was lonely setting up an online business from home. Until RedBalloon generated the revenue to employ people and move into premises, it was Dexter the Spoodle I brainstormed with during our daily walks. Now Dexter is almost as much part of our brand as the red balloon."
5. You forgot to mention your customers
Stories about your customers are double value: they show you care about them, and show they love you.
Online footwear retailer Zappos’ core value is to ‘deliver WOW through service’. Zappos overnighted a free pair of shoes to a best man who had arrived at a wedding shoeless. Customer stories are the simplest way of getting great stories.
6. You go on and on
Today, attention spans are down to just nine seconds, author Sally Hogshead informs us. For your stories to work, make them succinct.
To craft a punchy story, my clients write their stories down. A long-winded story will turn off any audience, fast.
7. You’re faking it.
For success, all your stories must be true. Successful business owners build a library of stories. They listen and capture their customer stories. They find true stories they can use in business, every day.
Storytelling is the difference between achieving results or not, keeping customer or losing them, winning that pitch or blowing it. Facts tell, but stories sell – you, your business and your services.
Yamini Naidu is an economist turned business storyteller. An author, key note speaker and mentor, she works with business owners helping them shift from spread sheets to stories. Her new book Power Play: Game changing influence strategies for leaders is due out in April 2016.