This article is part of the “Way of the Tortoise” series. You can check out our other posts in this series here. Check back regularly to read our other updates.
I’m not going to keep jamming the same stuff into your head that you have heard and read. You already know the getting found online is not only a difference maker; it is essential to your business’s survival.
When I talk to clients, I always start with this question: Tell me a story. They look at me funny; their facial expressions contort, and they ask A story about what? Me? My business?? I just nod. Without fail ,they always start with telling me what’s wrong with their businesses or telling me what their pain points are. But that’s not the point of the exercise. I want to know about their business and how it came to be and why it came to be.
What I’m talking about here is an exercise for small business owners. What my goal is, is to help you, the business owner, reconnect with what your business does, what it means to you and your customers, why people love it (or possibly hate it).
With this understanding, you can begin to create strategies and stories about your business that will help you establish a path forward for marketing your business online. How? I promise to connect the dots at the end.
Learning through storytelling.
Business owners I talk to fumble when telling me about their business’s history. They get trapped in the day to day operations; the hustle and the grind and putting on any of the number of hats they need to keep things running. They forget that isn’t what the business is all about. That’s not the soul of your business. That’s what we’re trying to get to.
Exercise: Answer the following questions. Write your answers down!
- When did your business “open its doors?”
- Why did you start your business? Did someone else start the business and if so who?
- Why do you care about this business?
- Why do you run this business instead of working for someone else?
- What’s your business’s parable?
- How does your local community feel about your business?
- How do you provide value to your customers? List five to ten things your business does to provide value. Remember, it’s not just the “widgets” or things you do or sell. How do people feel about what you do for them? Below are examples:
- My business provides piece of mind during a time when things are uncertain
- My business allows families to enjoy dinner together
- My business allows other companies to focus on what matters most
- My business makes people f*cking happy and makes them laugh
- My business provides trust and expertise in an area where there’s a lot of dishonesty
- My business provides a local and personal touch and alternative to some retail chain
With your answers written down go and re-read them. Ingest your words and grasp the understanding of your business that your answers provide.
There is a story there, dammit! There is something meaningful to you, to your customers, and to your greater community.
Exercise: Tell your business’s story to someone
I know, this sounds cheesy. But this is the exact thing I ask clients to tell me about when I’m working with them. Tell me a story. In fact, I ask that of strangers, too. It’s a good icebreaker. I mean it, though. Tell someone a story about your business. It can be any story. Something funny; something sad or frustrating; or talk about your business’s beginnings like the first dollar you ever made.
Putting it together
Okay, I said I would connect the dots for you and I will.
With a firm grasp of your business’s story and the answers from the questions I posed above you should have a strong understanding of your business’s identity. You should also know why people come to you and not to someone else.
What problems does your business solve?
My friend, Adam Fout, over at Blue Steele Solutions, says that a business’s primary aim is to solve a problem. He’s a billion percent correct.
In thinking about your answers to how your customers think about your business you need to pick out the problems you solve for them. Do you help them fix leaky roofs? Do you make a delicious cup of coffee that is just better than Starbuck’s any day ending in “y?” Understand the various problems that your customers have and identify not only the problem but the intent behind it.
When I say “intent” what I’m talking about is what drives people to research a solution. If my MacBook starts sounding funny, I’m going to research MacBook noises, and I’ll probably search up my model year of MacBook. If it’s not something I can fix, I’m going to search up a local resource to do it for me. Does that make sense? So think about that for a bit and jot down a top-ten list of intentions/problems that people face before they contact a business like yours. I also realize that this may not specifically relate to your business. In that case, get creative.
Don’t forget to ask
Take surveys. Ask your customers why they come to you. Ask them what their problem was and what happened before they came to you. Ask them why they choose your business over a larger chain, etc. You can write these down for someone to answer on their own time, or just ask them in person.
Exercise: Ask ten to twenty of your customers and clients what happened and what they did about problem “X” before coming to do business with you.
Make a list of your answers. Be descriptive and keep your answers somewhere you can access them later.
When it comes time to start creating a content strategy we’re going to get back to the things you wrote down from this article. This information will go a long way in helping you create the necessary content to connect to the people who want to do business with you.
Your final exercise is to signup for the newsletter so you can keep getting updates to this series when they become available. I know. That was blatant, but do it!
Photo Cred: Avatar: The Last F*cking Airbender, watch it.