Every business needs its own ‘story’ or the brand has little true substance.
There is a tendency for companies to talk far too much about what they do and to overlook that what customers really want is to buy from a company they believe can and will deliver. That may seem like a subtle difference but there is a big difference between what a company says it can do and what a customer has confidence and comfort they can do. I could hand you a brochure that tells you my company builds beautiful conservatories but without any pictures of my work, outline of my company’s approach and evidence of happy customers you would be quite right to have some pretty big reservations.
The bit that fills all of these gaps is what I would term your ‘story’. It’s the ‘fluffy stuff’ that lets a customer know who you are, why they should do business with you and it is every bit as essential as telling them the specifics of what you do. Whatever the communication piece; website, brochure, flyer, video, I would say that only 20-30% should be about what you do and the rest should be about you and what makes you different (and better).
Pick your central communication piece and make that your foundation.
As I have talked about before in the past, when discussing social media, the rule applies that it is better to focus on one thing at a time and to do it really well before you start something else. There are three places you can start with when working out what your story is:
- A set of brand guidelines that defines your values, mission, vision and voice.
- A website.
- A company profile or ‘overview’ brochure.
- A presentation e.g. Powerpoint.
Each of the above pieces I would strongly recommend every business has. They are all important but most businesses will likely have no brand guidelines and, instead, either their website or brochure will be the reference point for everything else. What a set of guidelines does it to provide a clear and quite clinical ‘bible’ for all of your communications whether visual, written or spoken. It would serve you well to do a quick Google search for your favourite brand’s guidelines and see if you can find them, or just take a look at what they tend to include.
There are pros and cons to starting with the other three. If you start with a brochure or the presentation, the plus side is that you will end up with a clear, linear narrative for your story but there will be a lot of information left out as it is a top-line, summary piece. If you start with the website, it will be the other way around as you will have a lot of information to convey and then have the challenge of how you structure and also deliver a simple story as part of the user experience.
My recommendation if you cannot start with the guidelines, which are the purest place to begin, is to start with the brochure, get your narrative together then let that drive the website.
How to write a great story and make sure it’s memorable.
Let’s assume you are starting with a brochure. The reason it is such a good place to start is that, like any book, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. The same cannot be said for a website as it can meander off in any direction the user chooses to navigate.
What I recommend to clients is to have a profile brochure of 16 pages or more, no fewer than that, and for it to cover the following structure:
About you, the owner, setting the tone of what you have to say in the whole piece, why you chose to be in this business and what you stand for.
A brief history of the company, your successes and maybe even some of the experiences that helped to shape the business you are today. Almost every negative can be spun into a really compelling positive.
- What you do
What products and/or services you provide.
- Who you serve
Who your typical markets and customers are, what they expect, showing that you understand them all and have specialist knowledge and experience.
- Reasons to choose your brand and business
How you do it differently and, more importantly, better than the rest. What your business ethics are, what your brand stands for and the consistencies in what you do that you are proud of and that your customers love.
- Provenance of capabilities and experience
Showing examples of your work/applications, happy clients/customers, accreditations, awards and anything else that will give a customer confidence and comfort.
- Closing statement or promise
As you started, so you should finish, setting out the summary reasons for customers to choose you and your final closing pitch to them.
- Call to action and contact information
Don’t simple provide your contact details, use this as a final opportunity to entice people to get in touch with you and to start a conversation. Give them a reason.
You can see from my list above that there 8 aspects I believe are important. If you had just one page on each of these and you add 4 sides for a front and back cover (and their inside pages) you’re already up to 12 pages and that’s without some lovely big pictures. Note that a folded brochure has to be a multiple of 4 sides/pages in most cases.
Not only do you need lovely, big pictures but you also need plenty of space. This is why I say no fewer than 16 pages!
Don’t skimp on pages just to get the cost down. Tell your whole story but do it in a way that is interesting and emotive but to the point and is wrapped in your business style. Give them a feel for what it’s like dealing with you in the way you write your content and don’t flounder or skip around useless ‘padding’ that means little. If in doubt, leave it out.
This process will give you the heart and soul of your business pitch.
Once you have the end results of this process you will find it really does act as the ‘bones’ for every other communication piece. The difference will be that some pieces expand into a lot more detail or focus on specific areas e.g. a particular service or offering. You will be surprised how much you have to say once you get it flowing.
If you are interested in learning more about creating your brand story, contact us today.