Written by Diane Currie Sam, BSc, MA, award-winning business coach, sales & marketing expert and master storyteller
My web designer friends are not going to like this headline, but I urge restraint and careful planning before hiring a web designer. I’ll tell you why:
Most business owners do their marketing backward. The start with strategy (I need a new website!), then they try to come up with the content for the website, and much later, they may start to think about what overall story they are telling, what their brand actually means and what their company stands for.
The same backward thinking works for any type of marketing – they start with a marketing strategy or idea (“hey, we should do a series of YouTube videos) based on something they see someone doing, (or they just think is cool), then they realize they need to produce content (anyone want to write a script for the video?), and sometime later, after producing a series of videos, they may start to wonder how this video series fits in with their core story or brand.
This leads to directly to that feeling of frustration that you’ve now spent a lot of time and money on marketing pieces that just aren’t striking a chord with people, that aren’t bringing in the clients and new business you’re looking for.
One of the problems with most marketing programs and marketing experts is that they teach you the strategies they happen to know (“I’m the Facebook ad guy”, “I can teach you how to get clients on Linked-in”, “I can teach you how to sell from the stage”, “I can design a web site for you” etc).
There is nothing wrong with learning and implementing strategies and techniques. But not before you’ve sweated the content and honed your message. These experts are there to help you with implementing your ideas, and are operating under the assumption that you have great content to give them.
What I’ve found after over 20 years as a business/marketing consultant is that while people may be great at what they do, they struggle with how to talk about it, how to communicate their message. Most experts you hire to help you, including web designers, will miss out on asking you about the most vital foundation of ALL your marketing: what story you are telling?
Lots of companies tell you how to communicate, but unfortunately they miss out on the deeper questions:
What is your message?
What are going to say?
What makes you different from everyone else?
As a result, while you may implement marketing strategies, you still feel frustrated because you can’t seem to find the right words to explain exactly what it is that you do, in an impactful way that draws the right people to you. Let’s say you own and operate a landscaping company. You know you are different than your competitor down the street, but how do you explain that? How do you get that message across in a way that is both compelling and unique?
The answer to this problem is what I call story-based marketing – basing your content development and marketing plans on real, authentic stories. It is actually starting with and exploring the stories you want to tell, then basing your content on those stories, and then planning and implementing strategies based on sharing those stories. For example, as the landscaping company, if you want to become known as having the best customer service in town, don’t just tell everyone that and expect people to believe you – share stories about what you actually did for people, how you went out of your way. Better yet, get your customers to tell and share stories about you and what an amazing front garden they now have that helped to sell their house that had been on the market for a year before you came along.
Then, once you have the stories figured out, you will have your message. Your message, your compelling, unique message, will arise out of the stories you explore. It’s fascinating. I’ve seen it happen, over and over again.
With those core stories in hand, you can then develop story based content, and you will be much more powerful and clear when you are communicating with whomever you’ve hired to help you implement or create your marketing. You will be able to tell the video producer what the storyboard or content of the video should be, what feeling or theme you want conveyed. You will be able to very clearly communicate to your web designer exactly what you need designed, and what content will be shared on the site. The creative people you hire will love you, and you will save yourself money in the long run. Everybody wins when you start with knowing your story.
I hope my web designer friends like me again.
Diane Currie Sam, BSc, MA, “The Business Story Coach” combines intuition and encouragement with nuts-and-bolts marketing and business expertise. Her coaching and training programs show business owners how to discover their authentic stories, share their viral-ready stories through social media, and boost their business results.