Stories Made Meaningful
Download the Full Book for Free
What is an organization’s story?
A Story is the Foundation of Marketing.
The story that an organization tells is the foundation of its brand, culture, strategy, and marketing. It provides employees and customers with an understanding of the organization’s functions, values, beliefs, and direction.
A story is different from the messages used in marketing.
An organization’s tagline, elevator speech, and About Us paragraph is not their story. These are the tools that marketing teams use to help communicate their story. Without a great story, these tools fail to move, influence, and inspire an organization’s audience.
Story is rooted in strategy, and Messages are tactics. Having your story in place first makes writing the marketing messaging more effective.
When you need a new story – or a better story
- Your current messaging isn’t cutting through the clutter – It’s either too ambiguous or too confusing
- Your marketing isn’t working as well as you need it to – because your messaging isn’t resonating
- Your brand and marketing materials are not reflecting the level of value you and your products actually provide
- Your brand feels uninspired, outdated, or off-track to the customers you are trying to attract
- You’re having a hard time recruiting
- What story would incentivize someone to choose you over another who’s offering the same salary?
Stories must be meaningful.
They focus on things people really care about. No matter the product or service, there is a deeper reason why customers buy from an organization. This reason may not be understood or communicated, but it always affects people’s perception and ultimately, the bottom line.
And stories must be unique.
They are different from the competition. Even where the products or services between two organizations are similar, what these two organizations stand for is not the same. And the reasons they provide their deliverables should be connecting with people on different levels.
Your story is about what your organization stands for and where it’s going. It’s the business you are really in.
What a story isn’t.
When most people think of “stories,” they think of their history, situations they’ve been in, and tales of what brought them to this place. They might think of their favorite movie, book, or special memory. But why is it so challenging to create a great story? Why do some stories fall flat?
In business, an organization’s facts, statistics, features, benefits, and value propositions are essential. They act as the entry fee into the larger market of opportunity. These pieces don’t differentiate or inspire customers to take action. In the larger market, these incomplete stories become noise.
What makes a story meaningful
The critical elements to a story lie underneath all the notable facts and figures. It’s the values and deep desires that are at stake. With clarity around values and desires, a brand can start to understand the business they’re really in.
When crafting a story, begin with building a meaningful foundation for the organization to grow upon. Finding this foundation allows you to articulate the organization’s meaningful difference and will impact marketing long-term.
To compete in the sporting goods market, McDavid needed a deeper story.
Ankle and knee braces are the signature product for McDavid USA. Before developing a meaningful story, their marketing focused on product materials, levels of support, and pain relief. This caused their perception in the market and their sales performance to weaken and fall behind their direct competitors.
Looking past the facts, features, and benefits, McDavid’s story was more than managing knee pain. Removing pain from athletes allowed the customer to participate in the activities they love. But they don’t just allow you to participate, McDavid’s products allow customers to perform. To achieve their best. To push themselves farther than ever before. To have confidence in themselves.
McDavid doesn’t just sell knee braces, they sell confidence.
The business they’re really in:
Story: The Pieces
The following six questions should initiate a conversation about your organization’s story.
Why does your organization exist?
The reason beyond making money, making basic widgets, or generally serving people. Think about the reasons that drive you to keep refining your craft. What keeps you motivated and inspired every day, week, month, and year? The bigger the better. Vast but not vague.
Where is your organization going?
This is a shared picture of what the organization can create. A place or goal that continuously challenges your organization to improve. This ideal place should be for others, resilient, and idealistic. What is the ideal state we are hoping to arrive at?
Who does your organization serve?
All of the audiences the organization affects. Think about the people who interact directly with your organization versus the final consumer of the deliverable (they often differ). Think about the downstream effects, benefits, and emotions.
Who is on your organization’s team?
The characteristics that every team member needs to help the organization achieve its goals. These should be unique to your organization. These characteristics help define the culture of the organization. What type of person will help the company succeed?
What are you going to accomplish?
The finite objectives that act as milestones on the road to success. These are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound goals that provide short term focus and motivation. How will we know if we are on the right track?
How are you making an impact?
The high-level actions that an organization makes to create meaningful change for their customers. Think about the most important activities that provide a difference. How does the business move the needle forward internally and externally?
A story inspires and guides marketing.
If done properly, your marketing should effectively communicate the organization’s meaningful why to customers, employees, and the world. This foundation can be extremely valuable for marketing, and should not exclusively be used in the marketing department. An organizational story can support and guide decisions in multiple areas of an organization regarding personnel, strategic planning, innovation, and resource allocation.
Your story will provide direction, inspire unity, help you communicate your difference to the market, help intentionally shape how people perceive your brand, help marketing, which helps sales, which helps growth. Uncover the business you are really in – and tell that story!