Does your story Jump Off the Page and Dazzle?

photo by Nicholas_T 

I had the chance to see the movie “21” last night and one of the central themes of the movie really stood out to me.  The main character is a super-smart kid from humble roots in Boston and is in desperate need of a full ride scholarship to Harvard Medical school (Harvard Med apparently costs about $300K for tuition and living expenses…).

The full ride scholarship is highly contested and in the end goes to the candidate that can dazzle the judges with their life experience story.  The problem our protagonist has is that he doesn’t really have any life experiences that are particularly dazzling, despite near perfect test scores and 3 years at MIT with a 4.0 GPA.

You’ll have to check out the movie to find out what happens, but it’s definitely worth watching, it’s entertaining and based on a true story.

What’s this got to do with business?

Part of the reason this struck a chord with me is that small business owners face a similar challenge all the time.

Granted it’s not quite as dramatic and probably doesn’t involve frequent trips to Vegas, but your business prospects are looking at you and your competition every day and trying to pick the company that stands out – who is dazzling?

In the movie, all of the scholarship candidates had great test scores, all of them had perfect GPAs, they all went to the right undergrad programs with good recommendation letters.  That was the baseline of what was expected.

It’s assumed that you have the basics, a website, professional presence, logo, that sort of thing (if not you should get that addressed first).

After that, there’s really 2 things you need to do at a high level.

1.  Decide what it is that makes you different – what is your unique strength?

2.  Come up with a way to share your story, get the word out and dazzle your prospects.

We’ll talk about how to develop or determine your differentiating point in a future post, but assuming you have a story to tell – how do you get that story across?

What’s holding you back about getting the word out?

This is an area where a lot of small businesses have a hard time.  Here are a few common issues I’ve seen regarding getting the word out.

1.  I’ve got a common business – nothing exciting about it, no one is going to care about my business.  (Coffee shops are pretty common, but Starbucks seems to have figured out how to be interesting).  There’s something that you do or that you can do that is interesting.

2. I’m in a regulated industry, I’m not allowed to do anything different or out of the ordinary.  There’s a great post on Small Business Trends about a niche service that supports blogging for lawyers:  On blogging for lawyers and other vertical markets.  Regulated professions certainly have more of a challenge, but the good news is that it doesn’t take much to stand out since most of the competition doesn’t challenge the status quo either.

3.  My business/industry is pretty complex, I can’t really summarize and get a message across because of that complexity.   At the end of the day, 99% of businesses are either solving someone’s problem/pain or providing something that delivers pleasure/satisfaction.  You might have to oversimplify, but your target market will likely understand what you can do…and at the end of the day they’re the only ones that really matter anyway.

How can you tell your story?

Here are a couple of suggestions that might help you get your story out there:

1.  Start blogging.  Use the blog to add value to your customers and to educate potential prospects.  Educate them on what you do and problems that can be solved (without selling) but more importantly, let them know who you really are, what you’re like – people do business with people they like, it’s as simple as that.

2.  Share testimonials, case studies and client stories on your web site or your blog.  The more you can paint a common picture of what the problem is, what your solution is and how it benefited your client, the better.

3.  Put together a video and get it hosted on Youtube – the link below is to my friend Matt Simpson’s blog.  It’s a post for a printing company in Montreal that uses a very funny approach to give you an understanding of what they do and how much they care (note – NSFW due to yelling profanities, but very funny).

Youtube – Pazzazz Printing 

What are other ways to get your story out – remember they aren’t likely to select you unless you can dazzle them with your story.  How are you dazzling your prospects?  I’d love to hear about it here.

Shawn Kinkade

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