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Mythbust – "My Business Doesn't Have A Story"

I am going to tell you about a business, same facts same business, but in two different ways. You decide which is better:

Version 1: Ray had never amounted to much.

By the time he was in his mid-50s, Ray was selling milkshake mixers to restaurants that they didn’t want them. And then it happened. There was that fateful day that changed everything; truly a Eureka! moment. It was on that day when Ray called upon a customer and discovered a radical new way of doing business, one that he had never, ever seen before. So amazed was he, so enamored, Ray committed himself 100% to working with and for the brothers who owned the restaurant. Before long, they gave in to Ray’s enthusiasm and cajoling and hired him.

Within 10 years, Ray Kroc’s vision for McDonald’s begat an empire of hundreds of stores, millions of hamburgers, billions of dollars, and spawned an entirely new industry – the fast food business.  

Version 2: Ray Kroc joined McDonald’s in 1955 and helped grow the restaurant into a global chain of fast food restaurants, now serving approximately 70 million customers daily.

Or what about this one:

Jeff had an enviable, fantastic Wall Street job that he probably would have stayed at for years had not fate intervened. One day, his boss gave him the assignment of analyzing a new industry. Jeff was amazed by what he learned, namely, that it was growing at an unbelievable 2,300% per year. He had to be part of it. Jeff quit his job and he and his wife packed up the car. While she drove west, Jeff pounded out a business plan on his laptop. When they got to Seattle, Jeff set up shop in the garage of the house they rented.

Five years later, Jeff was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Compare that to this stoic version of the same facts: Amazon.com is an e-commerce company founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 and based in Seattle, Washington.

I am illustrating these two versions of the same facts about the same businesses because far too many entrepreneurs think of their ventures as the latter, i.e., practical facts and dry data, when they should be sharing the former, namely a compelling story, interestingly told.

Whether you know it or not, whether you think so or not, you have a great story to tell about your business, and moreover, there are people out there – customers and customers yet to be – who would love to hear it.

People love stories. They love hearing stories and they love telling stories.

What are movies? Movies are stories. What are books? Books are (or should be!) stories worth telling and sharing. And what makes for a good tale told ‘round a campfire? You bet, a good ghost story. Stories engage people. They draw them in and make them want to know more. As the New Yorker put it in a review about Jonathan Gottschall’s book, The Storytelling Animal, “Gottschall’s encouraging thesis is that human beings are natural storytellers—that they can’t help telling stories, and that they turn things that aren’t really stories into stories because they like narratives so much. Everything—faith, science, love—needs a story for people to find it plausible. No story, no sale.”

For the small business, few things are better than a good story about the business. Your story will humanize your business. Think about Jeff Bezos’ tale. Wasn’t the history of how he came up with Amazon far more engaging, and humanizing, than the Wikipedia-like recitation of Amazon.com facts?

So, too, your business.

You have a good story to tell. Maybe it’s about how you cobbled together the money to get started, or your early lean years, or how you landed that big client. Whatever the case, I want to encourage you to tell it. Make it part of your marketing and post it on your social media. Because, after all, remember – “No story, no sale.”

 

Steve Strauss is the author of The Small Business Bible and a senior columnist for USA TODAY. He also runs the website, www.MrAllBiz.com, and hates ketchup.

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