Why small businesses need a good story

"Marketing is storytelling"
– Seth Godin

You may have heard the call for businesses to have a good story before. Marketing experts the world over (including Seth Godin obviously) have called for businesses to tell compelling stories in order to improve their marketing efforts and connect more effectively with customers.

But why the interest in storytelling, and what does it really have to do with marketing and business?

Storytelling in the business and marketing context is not simply about telling a story well. It’s about creating a business that is itself a worthy story. This starts in the very roots of marketing principles, with the 4P’s. But more than that, storytelling requires perhaps the most important P: Positioning.

Building a strong story for your business starts by knowing what your business stands for. That’s the essence of positioning. It’s about identifying who your audience is, and why you can look after them better than anyone else. That also means being clear about who your audience isn’t. You can’t create a brand that claims to serve luxury to the top end of the market, while simultaneously claiming to offer the lowest prices in your industry. Luxury and low cost aren’t consistent, and one of the hallmarks of a strong business story is consistency.

What does good storytelling deliver your business?

First and fore most it brings you the right customers. As we’ve said, you can’t be all things to all people. But if you’re clear about who you’re best set up to look after and why, then you can encourage them to connect with you.

Secondly, clarity around your position makes it easier to answer all the other questions in your business. As Philip Kotler outlined in his foreword to Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, “Positioning is a revolutionary idea precisely because it cuts across the other four P’s.” In other words, if you’re clear about your positioning (your business story and messaging), then it will help you to determine things like price, product, place (distribution) and promotion.

Finally, clarity around the story of your business helps you to set yourself apart from your competitors. It gives customers a reason to choose your business over another – and that of course it entirely the point of business.

How do you create a compelling story for your business?

Creating a unique and compelling story for your business typically starts with understanding your customers, or more accurately, the customers you’re best able to help. Start With Why author, Simon Sinek suggests that business leaders start by focusing on why their business exists. What is its purpose? If you can answer that, you’re well on your way to creating your own good story.

Most important however is to find a story that represents the truth about what your business delivers. Make up a story that’s not based on fact, and you might find it does more to harm your business than help it.