Coaching gives me a unique insight into every business I work with. It isn’t just the financial and operational processes I get exposed to, it is the emotional aspects, the history and how that business functions on a day-to-day basis. Every client’s story is interesting and indeed fascinating.
In a B2B environment, telling a story demonstrates the reality and purpose. It focuses the wider business community on the challenges and aspirations of the company and how the business isn’t a made-up vision or a rather clichéd and outdated mission statement, it provides a real insight into the business and its purpose. It’s authentic and believable because it is real and tells a story that is informative and interesting to the recipient.
B2B marketing can be a tougher story to tell than B2C because it is invariably just about people, their vision and attitude, rather than being a specific invention or product benefit. Or as marketers call it, those rather difficult to differentiate from one business to another’s USP. Stories are often told with consumer brands that correlate with this story-telling ethos and consumer marketing naturally latches onto the importance of a brand story because it, more often than not, has a long-term branding strategy. The B2B market is noted as being a little short-term, with strategy focusing on the here and now lead generating exploits (which is important), but forgetting the long-term values of the brand and how they can grow greater advocacy, gaining automatic entry to the quote/tender list without having to try to hard.
Examples of the consumer markets’ great stories
We know about the beginnings of that great institution, Marks & Spencer, and indeed the launch of Apple from the ‘Jobs’ family garage in Palo Alto, California. Stories of vision and entrepreneurialism, rags to riches, and the struggles and successes along the way, are highly emotive, authentic and aspirational. As human beings, we absolutely love and buy into those stories. It creates a closer affinity to the brand and we feel part of it. Almost as though we can recall and show empathy with the difficulties, whilst sharing in the successes through our brand loyalty and wanting to purchase the great food from M&S or our next piece of desirable Apple tech.
We all have great stories to tell but we forget to tell them
What are fascinating to our prospective clients are our stories. We are, of course, emotional creatures whether in a personal or business situation. We buy into the people, the history and find credibility in their purpose.
Every business has a story to tell and retelling that story to prospective customers is a very powerful part of our marketing arsenal. Have you told yours yet…?
As a business coach, I have my own story. My entry into the working environment stemmed from an interest in food, learning how to become a very accomplished Chef, and then taking that food passion into launching a food manufacturing business. My story in manufacturing then covers 25 years of successes, failures and difficulties. The success in winning the first supermarket chain contract and, subsequently, years later, just a few days before my wedding, the business unfortunately lost the biggest supermarket contract we had ever acquired. I still shudder at the fear, stress and difficult situation in losing a significant piece of business, which accounted for more than half of the company’s turnover. The turmoil in having to take the business into a ‘voluntary agreement status’ in order to, firstly, survive and then build, once again, trading out of that difficult situation, the lessons I learnt and the desire to not go there again, wishing only to recover and surpass that difficult period. My story continues and, through hard work and determination, 25 years on the business became a £10m entity dealing with the multiples and exporting to 14 countries globally. My story then hits a complete career change, a subsequent successful exit allowing me to fulfill a desire to coach and teach other business owners, helping other businesses to realise their potential.
My story is so much more than I can tell in this article and would have been filled with every conceivable emotion that we all experience as business owners and human beings. It demonstrates the realisation of an idea, the aspirations, unwanted turmoil, fear, resilience, opportunity, success, diversification and wanting to teach, share and give back to the business community.
The story demonstrates ‘why’
The accomplished global marketer Simon Sinek talks about expressing the ‘reasons why’ people should buy your products and services, and, as we know in any service-based business, people really do buy people. The authenticity of the people is in their story, the people and the reasons why they do what they do.
Personally, those stories, when told, are the most powerful demonstrations of why I personally should consider a business as a prospective supplier.
If your marketing can tell your story, what would it sound like?
Disruptive thoughts and new ideas are really important in marketing and I advocate to all businesses owners to seriously consider how your marketing can perfectly encapsulate your story and, importantly, how it can impress upon prospective clients to seriously consider working with you.