When I started Solpak, I was green in the food service industry. The product line we distributed had a proven track record elsewhere in the world but that did not make a difference when we introduced it in our area. Our first few months were a disaster on the sales side. Nobody understood our story.
We would talk to prospects and confusion would start immediately. Were we packaging food? Selling it? Transporting it? Someone even thought we were a competitor trying to get in on their business. They did not “get” how we could help them so the conversations ended quickly. Our sales were flat lined. What was going on?
Our small business did not have any clear storyline. We needed something that would communicate simply and effectively how Solpak fit into our client’s world. We decided to storify our business properly. Soon after, sales started gaining momentum and the rest was history.
Your small business needs (and quite frankly, deserves) to be storified and here are the 3 main elements to achieve that:
1. Create a story
People have short attention spans and are bombarded by thousands of messages daily. The first step in storifying your business is to tell them who you are, who you serve and what you do for them. Be as clear and concise as possible. Prospects can then assess if you fit into their world after just one sentence.
In Solpak’s case, we needed to be crystal clear. Solpak, a meal-packaging and transport solutions company, helped caterers and institutional food services. We distributed meal trays, tray sealing equipment as well as meal transport solutions such as thermo bags.
2. Define your promise
The next step in storifying your business is all about your uniqueness. What is your business promise? You need to affirm how you will be serving differently, why you are doing it and what your driving keywords will be. A promise your business can deliver on. What’s so different about your business when thinking of your industry? What’s part of your DNA that explains why you are doing what you are doing? Finally, what behind the scenes keywords will drive that promise (and your team)?
Our promise? Offering a compostable tray line that was unique on the market. Also, we did not require any minimum on orders and we shipped overnight anywhere in the country for free. We wanted to create a type of service that was fast, simple and reliable. Something unique since the industry is known for back orders and fill rate issues. We wanted a company where team members were happy to come to work. Our keywords? Fast, Simple, Reliable, Friendly and Competent.
3. Design your branding
Although having a brand is an obvious necessity, what still eludes many organizations is the importance of matching the branding choices to the story. Your branding includes choosing a name and tagline, defining your look and feel (including logos and colors) and finally adapting your branding tools. Your business name should reflect your story and your tagline should embody your story in 3 to 7 words. Your logo, thematic colors and fonts should emotionally trigger the right feel in your target market prospects. Your branding should be EVERYWHERE on your branding tools, such as your marketing pieces, email signature, clothing, etc.
In the storifying process, Solpak went through a transformation at the time. The name stayed the same, but the tagline “Your meal-packaging partner” was created. A clear reference to our calling but also to our promise: A partner is friendly, competent and reliable. Our look was refreshed with green, for its eco friendliness and dark grey for its efficiency. That logo and tagline was put out everywhere possible, from email signatures to complimentary pens.
Once we had created and reviewed the storification of our business, a new energy could be felt. The team had a certain pride in our new logo and evocative tagline. We were our client’s partners. We were fast and reliable. Our intentional friendliness made our workplace experience pleasant as team members. Our logo was on our shirts, our cars, even on a candy tray we gave as a gift.
A year later, on our first annual satisfaction survey, something special happened: In an open-ended question, we saw repeated occurrences of our keywords as feedback from clients.
Imagine our surprise when we realized that this storification worked so well that clients even noticed the subtle behind-the-scenes keywords that were driving our business. Imagine our surprise when we realized that this storification worked so well that clients even noticed the subtle behind-the-scenes keywords that were driving our business.
So, what is your business story?