Well-told stories attract customers, conference speaker says

Even small businesses with no budget to market can use this approach to build brand recognition

Be honest and open about your business and yourself. It will attract customers, said Mark Evans, keynote speaker at the Direct Farm Marketing conference in Morden.

Small-scale direct-marketing businesses that don’t have budgets to do much marketing can build brand recognition by openly telling their business’s story, said the keynote speaker attending the Direct Farm Marketing conference here last week.

“The best thing you can do is tell stories about yourselves,” Mark Evans, of Mark Evans Consulting, a Toronto-based company specialized in business messaging, storytelling and brand positioning.

Evans’ expertise has helped hundreds of companies tell their best story to leverage business.

That best story isn’t your success story either, Evans told the DFM conference.

He learned that himself after he once wrote a blog about what he’d learned from his failures and mistakes. It generated widespread attention and lots of interest in his business.

“What do you think that post did for my brand? It actually enhanced it,” he said. “People saw me as trustworthy. I got more leads than ever before.”

Evans takes the ‘real, feel and ideal’ approach to storytelling.

A story is real or authentic when you’ve been honest telling it and are frank about your ups and downs, successes and failures. By doing so you build what he calls “a brand personality.”

You differentiate yourself and show customers that there’s a real person behind the business, he said.

“It will drive brand awareness and make you connect with your target audience,” he said.

“And people crave authenticity,” he said. “Honesty and being truthful matters in business these days.”

The ‘feel’ aspect of this approach involves crafting a story to trigger people’s emotions. It’s a mistake just to give people information, he said.

“There’s a big misconception that we are thinking machines that feel and make decisions on knowledge and rational logic,” he said. “We’re actually feeling machines that think and make decisions based on emotions.”

The ‘ideal’ part of the equation involves the telling part of the story about the ideal customer experience.

“These are stories about the customer and how they see value in your products,” he said.

These stories also come from customers, which you strategically select, he said.

“Talk to your customers and ask them if they see value in your product. If they respond positively, ask if you can quote them.”

You can also monitor what value people are getting from your product on social media by keeping track of what’s said on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Evans added that it is important that new startups be aware of where their customers hear about them too, however. Your target audience may not be using the Internet, for example.

“It may be that you think that social media is amazing but your customers may not be on social media,” he said. “They may be reading the local newspaper or listening to the radio. You need to know who they are and how they get information about the things they’re interested in buying.”

Evans said he knows many entrepreneurs get nervous about sharing too much, and fear telling their story may lead to someone stealing their idea.

“That is one of the biggest fears that many entrepreneurs have,” he said.

But not telling your story is the wrong move to make.

“The truth of the matter is, whatever idea you’ve had, chances are many, many people are already doing the same thing,” he said. “I think stealth mode is going to hurt you more than help you. You’re not making anyone aware of your product if you’re going to be hiding behind the scenes.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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