Once Upon a Time…

People love stories. That’s why we spend so much time with movies, TV shows, books, video games, and news and entertainment websites. But that’s still not nearly enough. We need even more stories! That’s why more than a billion of us tune in to watch our friends’ and families’ stories unfold on Facebook; and for most, part of the attraction is that we even get to tell our own stories. So, as a business manager, it shouldn’t surprise you that your potential customers are taking the data points they collect about your company and converting them into stories. It’s the way our brains are wired. Since this is the human process, it’s wise to make sure your company’s stories elevate your position. Here are some thoughts on how you can guide the story process in your company to better attract and retain customers.

THE STARS OF YOUR STORIES: Your Staff, Your Company and You
There are three main stars in your company’s stories: your staff, your company and you (the business owner or senior manager). By understanding the stories that are being told about each of these stars and identifying new and improved true stories, you’ll elevate your company’s position within prospects’ and customers’ minds.

YOUR STAFF: What’s the story with this staff member I’m talking to as I evaluate your company? Why does he work here? What did he do before? Where is he from? Where has he been? Do we have any shared interests? Is he a Giants fan or a golfer? Does he have kids or live in my town? Is he kind, funny, trustworthy, a braggart, inconsiderate or a bore? Does any of this matter? Maybe. I’m sure you can think of several times when your connection and empathy with a staff member was a basis for becoming a repeat customer with a company. Or, conversely, the lack of connection or repulsion caused you to quit the company as its customer or prospective customer.

YOUR COMPANY: Your team’s story is important. What scenes from your company “movie” highlight your values? Many of your company’s factual and interesting vignettes include helping your customers and community. If your company scores Highest in Quality for customer satisfaction and earns Diamond Certified, what’s the story behind that? A few stories that we tell about Diamond Certified companies can be found at www.diamondcertified.org.

YOU: Potential customers intuitively understand that the leader of the company sets the pace and helps create the company culture. Stories that demonstrate your integrity, quality focus, fairness or other virtues are very important for potential customers to digest and develop a strong belief in your company. Side Note: We tell human interest stories about Diamond Certified Expert Contributors at experts.diamondcertified.org. Take a look—you’ll see hundreds of interesting stories about local company owners.

Story Themes and Meaning
Except for identical twins, people don’t look the same. That’s how we recognize thousands of unique faces and know stories about hundreds of them. We tend to like and connect better with people when we attach “good” stories to them, and we tend to avoid people with “bad” stories. What we deem good or bad is open to interpretation. We unconsciously judge these stories/people based on our own sense of virtues. Simply put, stories that illuminate a virtue (like integrity) are good, while those that demonstrate immorality (like dishonesty) are bad.

Whether you like it or not, stories are being disseminated from your team all the time. They may not be aware of it, so rather than leave good and bad stories to chance, you should educate your team about stories and their effect on customer relationships to give your company a distinctive advantage.

Step 1: Educate your team about the concept of this letter—how staff stories, company stories, and owner stories affect the perceptions of customers and prospects and, consequently, their buying behavior.

Step 2: Create a story month so team members can share positive stories about their lives that highlight any of their virtues. Tell each other stories about moments in the company’s history that were compelling or emblematic of what your company stands for. Share stories about your life. Have staffers give feedback and discuss how each story is likely to positively or negatively affect customers and prospects. Which were the most relevant? Most interesting? Funniest? Which gave you a warm feeling? Which virtues or negatives does each story display? Remember, if you qualify for Diamond Certified, it will be part of your story. It’ll prove that these stories illuminate company values that lead to great customer outcomes, as judged by a very high percentage of your past customers.

Step 3: Deploy your stories in person and through social media. Give feedback, shorten and improve these stories. If you keep doing this with your team, after about a year you’ll have confidence that the true stories disseminated from your company illuminate the best of your team, your company and you.

Step 4: Your customer has a story to tell. Do you know it? The simple act of telling you or your staffer their story deepens the customer-company relationship. If your company knows more about your customers and prospects than your competitors, you win.