[Series] Trying to Find Your Business’s Messaging? Start With the Parable of You.

This is part of our ‘Way of the Tortoise’ series. You can check out our other posts in this series here. Check back regularly to read our other updates.

Today we’re talking about content. Not just any content. But the content that is specific to who you are, as a business. You know what I’m talking about. The “About” page. The “Mission Statement,” all your competitors have one of those pages. Today, that’s exactly what we’re going to cover.

It never fails to surprise me how few business owners take time to really think about their business and what they want to say about it. And I get it. A business owner has their head down and they get to work and they “do the thing” which needs doing, whatever that thing is it gets done. Unfortunately, burying our head in the sand doesn’t help with all the other stuff that needs to get done… What’s important here? Content, of course! But, again, not just any content; we’re talking about the content that tells the story of a business and you, the business owner. Every comic book hero and villain have origin stories and so does every business.

Getting started is the hardest part…

Getting started is hard, it can feel overwhelming. Not having a direction can make someone feel anxious and walk away. But right now, we’re going to start and “do the thing.” Stay with me and let’s do some things together.

Say it with me: “I am going to do the thing.”

The first thing

The first thing to do is to sit down, write it out, or type it out. What’s the “it” I speak of? Your brand’s key message. Or we can call it our mission statement, too. No big deal.

Questions to ask yourselves:

  • Do I have an ideal customer I serve?
  • What kind of work do I do?
  • Who do I do that work for?
  • What enjoyment to I get from that work?
  • Why do I get enjoyment from doing what I do?

Example 1.) At DigiSavvy, we help businesses get noticed online by creating them a digital strategy that just works. We serve businesses and education. That’s pretty vague. We don’t have a vertical we specifically serve… Yet. I personally enjoy seeing small businesses grow and thrive. So much so that I will spend more money on the local business when I can. I love what I do because I get to be technical and I get to be creative. Awesome.

The next thing…

Do you have a snappy slogan or saying for your business? If not, it’s okay. You don’t need one. But I love a good slogan because in few words in can communicate a ton of value.

Here’s our slogan: DigiSavvy gets you to where you’re growing. Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? In my opinion, the slogan’s brevity is what makes it so beautiful. There’s beauty in brevity I always say.

Great! Let’s keep it rolling, even if you don’t have anything yet.

The third thing…

Take a deep breath!

Well, what if you don’t have anything to say about your business? Okay. I’m going to tell you some truth right now. Between you and I, that’s b.s. There’s something to be said about your business. There’s a story there. And it doesn’t have to be a “great” story. In fact, the best stories are often the ones that start with a person who has the odds stacked against them, and yet they persist through the odds and succeed. Actress and comedian Aisha Tyler wrote in a Reddit AMA: “Success is not the absence of failure. Success is persistence through failure.” Does that resonate with you? I’m sure in some way it does! Running a business is hard. The decision to start one and to not give up is even harder. So let’s unpack a little of that.

When did you start your business? Why did you start your business? Did you take up the reigns from a relative? Did you start out with nothing? Spill it! People want to read about those details. At least the sort of people who want to do business with you.

Example: DigiSavvy’s roots go back to 2010. A couple of friends played a game of cards in a game shop and decided they wanted to take what they knew and help small businesses be the best they could be.

The above example isn’t comprehensive. But I’ll tell you a few things about it. I didn’t even run DigiSavvy full time until two years ago (2014). The decision to go solo was hard. About one-year into it I was ready to walk away… I felt like a loser—like I wasn’t doing a great job at the one thing I wanted to do. With some encouragement from friends and loved ones I persisted and I’m glad I have.

Step back and take a closer look

When I talk to clients about content there’s a few things I see right away: Fear, disinterest, or confusion. Not necessarily in that order. My clients fumble with this question a lot: “What is your brand’s key message?” A key message is a simple belief about your business or about what you do and how you go about doing it.

Many a business owner fumbles on what should be a simple question. But when you’re out there running a business, things that aren’t right in front, or need doing, are things that don’t get done. Content, sadly, is an often “neglected child.” It doesn’t need to be the case either.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with a key message or slogan or whatever, I would suggest the following:

  1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed by anything, loved ones, traffic noises, etc. Close your eyes and think about your business. In your mind, is the business successful? Keep those eyes closed, here are a few more questions to ask yourself while blindfolded.
    • In a few years, how will your business have changed? Will you have hired anyone?
    • What are you most proud of about you and your business? For me, it was just being able to be solvent after the first two years of running our sharp full time.
    • With those eyes still closed, what colors do you see? Yeah, what colors do you see? Take a few moments and really be present mentally in this mode of
  2. Think about businesses in your neighborhood. Which small businesses do you frequent? Why do you frequent them? It matters! What values of theirs do you share or admire?

What’s Your Parable?

A parable is simply a story rooted in moral or spiritual context. Remember that saying “One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?” It means that you should be happy with what you’ve got; don’t go grasping at straws. You’ve already got what you need.

I think many businesses have a parable, a moral or spiritual center. What would yours be?

A big part of what I do is give my time back to the community. I teach classes at Girl Develop It, from time to time. They provide low-cost education to women looking to get into the tech field. I also consult small businesses at the Small Business Development Center.

If I were to break down my community involvement and pack it neatly I’d describe my business like so: We help people and businesses help themselves by empowering them through education.

For your business, it might be: A1 Shop Cleaners are the best-built cleaners on the market. Our cleaners save you time and money and let you focus on what matters most.

One client I spoke with runs a non-profit and helps at-risk teens. We talked and he came up with a message: Relating experiences to positive change. Simple and to the point.

I know I just told you to put a lot of thought into what you want to say. And I think that’s true. You should do that. But I also think that going simpler is okay. It can be overwhelming and I think that’s why business’s have such a hard time with coming up with their own content.

But I think if you ask yourself the basics: what, when, and why. That’s a great start.

If you need help developing your site’s business content, then we should definitely talk.

Photo Cred: Nick Casale

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