What Story Are You Telling About Your Business?
As an independent retailer, you already know that to be successful you have to do more than simply sell “stuff.” But, how do you tell your unique story and connect with the people who aren’t yet your customers, and how do you know what information will resonate with them? Your local customers know your story and your focus on helping people live more fulfilling lives, but what about the larger community around you, or visitors to town? If you aren’t also reaching these people, you are missing a large opportunity to interact and build your story (and brand) with potential customers.
Put the “Us” in your “About Us” page
Let’s start with your website’s About Us page. How much time and effort did you put into writing that page? Do you even have an About Us page? If not, set one up immediately! This is the page that people will visit to determine what your business is about and, ultimately, whether they “like” you or not. People do business with people they know, like, and trust, so help visitors get to know you by writing a comprehensive and unique About Us page.
Most About Us pages have the same boring copy. “Business X was founded in 1992 and moved to its new location on 123 ABC Street in June of 2000. We sell this, that, and the other stuff. We believe that…” You get the picture. Boring. That tells a person exactly nothing about what differentiates your business from all the others. A business is run by people, and visitors want to know about them. Your story, as the business owner, is far more important than that of the business itself.
Here are three questions to help you start crafting your About Us story:
- What is the driving passion that started your business?
- What do you focus on when choosing which products to sell?
- What are some insights into you, as a person?
These questions, while they might seem trivial to the business, are what will inspire your audience to connect with you. It’s worth re-stating: People buy from people they know, like, and trust. Anyone can find your store. What are you doing to build up how well they like you once they find you?
Beyond sharing your story, write content on your About Us page that tells people how you want to help them achieve their goals—of stress relief, relaxation, personal reflection, inspiration, or whatever it is you want to do for them. People have a need. You fill that need. But, do you understand what that need is? Ask your current customers why they choose to purchase what they do. What is it about the product that makes them feel the way they do? Does it make them feel as if they are “splurging” on themselves or pampering themselves in some way? Is it a practical need you fill? Turn these insights into the driving force behind your why.
Finish up your About Us page with insights into you, as a person. If you don’t already have a section on your About Us page that highlights you and your team, please go add it today. It might seem scary to put your name and face out there with the company, but you want to make a connection. You don’t have to tell too much about yourself, but a little bit helps to bridge the gap between “business” and “person.”
Here are a few questions you can answer to get you started:
- What is something that amazes you?
- What books are sitting on your shelf begging to be read?
- Where’s your favorite place to take an out of town guest?
- Where is the one place you would like to visit?
And, don’t forget to add links from your About Us page to your social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram. This will provide you with authority links to your site, as well as letting people know they can find and follow you on social media.
Next Step: Content, Content, Content!
I’m not advocating you create content for your website simply to create content—content needs to be useful and helpful to your customers. If you sell scarves, create content around the most luxurious fabrics used or how to wear a scarf three different ways. If you sell gemstones and rocks, tell the stories behind the properties of various rocks and gems and their place in history. If you sell books and music, share artist bios.
Content isn’t just about pushing products. For instance, on your Facebook company page don’t simply take photos of your items and try to “sell.” That approach doesn’t build up a community. Provide insightful, useful, and specialized information that gives your followers an experience.
Content can be in the form of text, photos, or videos, none of which need to be as daunting as most people build them up to be. You know your products, and by now you have started to figure out (and write down!) your customers’ needs. With this knowledge, you can begin to craft the type of content that will catch your audience’s eye.
Those three ways to wear a scarf—take photos of them! Even better, choose someone willing to be the model and take the photos in your shop. Then create a photo carousel (https://www.facebook.com/business/help/773889936018967) by uploading all three images into the same post on Facebook. Write a short explanation, such as, “Did you know you can change the feel of your outfit simply by adjusting how you wear your scarf?”
Or, take photos of a variety of ways to display crystals or create crystal grids. Take photos in your own home if you feel comfortable sharing that telescopic view with your audience. Remember, the key is to be personal, because you are selling items that benefit a person’s well-being. It’s the people behind the business name who create that feeling of personalization and connectedness.
Choose your unique spin
Just as each of your customers is unique, so is your store. Help them discover the one thing you want to be known for, whether that’s stellar customer service, unique and meaningful products, fantastic store events, or something else—you decide what best represents you.
Start to pay attention to your customers and what they say about your store. Learn why they value you and begin to focus your efforts on the story your business is telling them.
Again, the more you find out, the more content you’ll be able to add to your About Us page (both on your website and on Facebook). These customer insights provide you with a reflection of how people see your business. Don’t ignore this! And, if you want to be known for one thing but are currently seen as being different than that, you have the opportunity to adjust the way you create content and connect with people— and align with what your customers connect to.
Take charge of your story
The story you tell is what builds a community around you. More than customers, work on building a community of followers who know you, like you, trust you, and are more than happy to refer others to you. You want to talk to people and help people to talk about you. Make it easy to share stories on Facebook. Create content that is helpful to your customers and easy to share. In this way you craft the story you want told, and your followers and customers will begin to tell that story to others. Make them a part of your story.
Make your followers and customers feel special
We all have had that moment at a coffee shop or restaurant where we are recognized as a regular and treated amazingly well with above-and-beyond service simply because they recognize you. Now imagine that happening when you first walked into that coffee shop or restaurant. They don’t know you, but you are still treated to exceptional service and given an amazing experience. Would you go back? Would you tell your friends, family, and acquaintances to go there? Sure, because you were given an amazing experience upfront.
Treat your customers and the people browsing your store, and even your website, like they are gold ... because they are. If you provide an amazing experience, you will be building up what is known as “Brand Equity.” You are letting people know you value them and are focused on providing them exceptional experiences.
Showcasing your customers is a great way to increase your reach and show the human side of your business. If you have particularly sociable and enthusiastic customers, consider asking them to be a part of the content you share. Has someone come in wearing clothing you sell in a unique and interesting way? Ask their permission to share their awesomeness with your followers on Facebook. Use your good judgement on requesting to take and use their photo—you will be able to tell which people would be flattered to be asked and which would be too shy. Take the photo and add the post while they are in the store. If they are on social media, ask them to tag themselves and any of their friends.
Reach beyond your current customers
Don’t be afraid to boost posts on Facebook or promote content outside of your current followers. When content is getting a lot of attention (engagement) from your current followers and customers, spend a few dollars to promote that content to a further-reaching audience. You already know the followers of your Facebook page are interested in your content, so why shouldn’t others be as well?
This increased reach can cost as little as $20 a day. You choose the audience you believe is the best fit for the content (by geographical location, age, gender, and interest). Experiment to find out just who your potential new customers are. Perhaps you thought women ages 40 to 55 were your main demographic. Run a few advertisements, or boosted posts, and you may find you are attracting and converting a large number of customers from women ages 27 to 35 instead.
Tell the story you want told
By making a few adjustments to how you interact with your customers, you can increase and expand your reach. Update your About Us page to be more than corporate-speak and instead focus on your unique story. Pay attention to the words your customers use to describe your business and ask them questions. More often than not, people will provide you with the insight that lets you know how well you are telling the story you want told.
First published in Vol. 30 No. 4 of Retailing Insight. © 2016 Continuity Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.