No matter what type of business you have built or are looking to start, you will connect with customers on a deeper level, increase brand loyalty, and inspire more passionate and lifelong followers if you learn how to correlate your personal story with your business. You can also use your story to create multiple streams of income for yourself, such as books, paid presentations, and even movies and documentaries.
Some businesses are built around a brand. Other businesses are built around a person, where the person is the brand.
The first type of business might sell a product or a service, ranging from food to fitness to accounting to insurance to tax planning to anything retail or online. It might also include franchises. The second type of business tends to be service oriented, such a consultant, a speaker, a trainer, or a marketing guru in a specific niche. But it can also include services such as dentistry, real estate, and product inventions that solve a specific problem.
When it comes to telling your story, it doesn’t matter which type of business you have. Everyone who starts a business has a personal narrative that can be woven into the fabric of that business.
Why don’t more business owners and entrepreneurs tell their story?
Sometimes, they’re just afraid of how people might react. Others simply don’t realize the power behind their story. Some people know they have a story to tell, but aren’t sure which parts to use, or how to use them effectively.
Even if you come from a troubled or tragic background, the goal of using your story to strengthen your business is not to make everyone feel sorry for you. As you’re about to see, the best business-related personal stories are inspiring, motivating, and galvanizing. They produce action. They increase self-confidence. They make us feel better.
Let’s look at two very different businesses as examples for how to use your story. One sells bourbon. The other sells a newsletter production service. The bourbon one is built around a brand (though it certainly began around a person, as the name implies). The newsletter one is built around a person.
Both are successful, growing businesses with loyal customers. And both are using their own stories as integral parts of their marketing. It is hard to do business with either of these – but especially the newsletter producer – without knowing their story. And as a customer, it is that story that plays a key role in establishing trust and motivating you to want to work with them.
Let’s look at each example. First, the bourbon brand.
Jim Beam – After the End of Prohibition
Jim Beam began in 1795, well before any modern forms of advertising or media existed. Electricity hadn’t even been invented yet. So while they could attempt to tell the story of their founder using modern media, it would be hard to make it feel like anything other than a history lesson.
They can find a way to tap into a particular set of modern values.
In a 2019 television commercial, Jim Beam served up a superb example of how to integrate the story of their company into their marketing. If you’re reading the eBook version of this book, you can view the article int he Business Journal here: https://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2019/02/13/jim-beam-bourbon-launches-raised-right-ad-campaign.html
The commercial begins not in 1795, but the day after the fall of Prohibition. Jim Beam hadn’t operated for 13 years while alcohol was banned in the United States. Its entire business had vanished as a result of an act of government. The commercial begins with throngs of people drinking in celebration with the end of Prohibition. But then it cuts to a shot of a man all alone in field.
The man is presented as a descendent of Jim Beam, and the narrator explains what he’s doing there. He’s not celebrating. He’s not going to drink anything today, because he wants his first drink to be from his own distillery.
But his distillery lies in shambles in a nearby field. Over 120 days, he rallies a bunch of friends and old employees to help rebuild the distillery. Once finished, the brand is relaunched. And this new founder doesn’t take a drink until it produces its first new batch.
Then the commercial makes a great statement:
“While their names might not be on our bottle, it’s because of them we can raise this bourbon today.”
This line celebrates the unsung heroes who helped rebuild the Jim Beam distillery. These are the kinds of people who do things to make a difference in the world but never get any credit for it. No one knows them, and no one ever will. But anyone who likes Jim Beam’s bourbon has them to thank.
Now, I don’t get as excited about alcohol as some people. But this advertisement demonstrates the powerful potential of using story to tap into deeper human emotions and values.
Consider the values espoused in this commercial, and how we perceive them.
People respect hard work. We empathize with people who serve but get no credit or financial reward, and who expect little in return. We exalt people of principle, especially those who withhold pleasure for themselves in a quest for great achievement. We admire quality, and the time it takes to produce it.
Jim Beam takes those values and integrates them into this sixty second commercial. By the end, you don’t think of this as just a bottle of bourbon. Price becomes a non-issue. The story is the reason to buy. Unspoken but implied of course, is that Jim Beam is so much better than all the other alcohol available at the time, so it was worth waiting 120 days for. So, there’s a subtext of high quality woven in but never spoken.
Compare that to a more typical alcohol advertisement that talks about the great quality, the distilling process, the crops used, the freshness, the parties and celebrations you can have, and all the other more common marketing tactics for alcohol. That approach doesn’t come close to connecting with the audience like this story-based one does.
That approach is the first 5 seconds of this commercial. That’s what everyone else is doing. But Jim Beam? He’s standing in a field, determined to do something greater.
That’s using story to sell the brand.
The Newsletter Pro – Shaun Buck
Shaun was a teenage dad making $4.25 an hour dressed up as a big mouse at Chuck E. Cheese, a pizza restaurant that caters almost exclusively to families with young kids.
Shaun knew this job wasn’t going to help him raise his son. So, he quit school and started his first business at age 21. His first attempt was a pager business. Remember pagers? Neither do I. Needless to say, that business didn’t go so well.
But Shaun didn’t stop.
He learned the lessons from his first experience, the things he did right and the mistakes he made.
He started a second business, a hot dog stand. He did pretty well at it, but it became clear this wasn’t the way to build something that could accomplish the goals he had set for himself.
So, he started a third business, this one a dry cleaner. And here is where his success began to grow. But Shaun is a smart guy. He took note of how his business grew, and what caused it. It wasn’t his great service. It wasn’t that his cleaning was so much better than other dry cleaners, or that he was more friendly, or better looking, or faster, or anything else of that sort.
Shaun’s business grew because he started sending out newsletters to his customers.
What other dry cleaner sends out a printed newsletter to their customers? Shaun realized that not only was his newsletter the reason his company grew so fast, but that this represented a true opportunity.
This was a business idea. This was new. This is what he had been looking for since starting his first business at age 21.
Shaun took his own success story and started pitching a print newsletter service to companies of all sorts. After all, if a dry cleaner can do this, truly, any business can do this. It sells itself, because his own success story is the proof.
The Newsletter Pro now mails millions of newsletters (print, not email) for clients in nearly every industry. And Shaun makes more money doing this than he ever would have made running his previous businesses.
Shaun’s story hits us on two different levels.
First, there’s his personal story of grit, determination, and resilience in the face of repeated business failures. But his motivation to provide a better life for his son impelled him to keep trying new things, to keep pushing, to keep testing. That’s great stuff all by itself.
But then, there’s his business success story. Turning a dry cleaner into a newsletter marketing company – it’s unheard of. And Shaun has upended countless other industries by empowering them to do the same thing. When you do business with Shaun, you are both rooting for him and hoping to profit from his service.
Now, imagine a random guy showing up at a lawn care business pitching a newsletter service. “Hey, you want to mail newsletters to your customers? We can offer you a great deal for your first six months.”
Get off my lawn.
The Newsletter Pro is Shaun’s story. The business itself wouldn’t exist without his story powering it.
Jillian Haslam Bio
Jillian is a Motivational Speaker and a coach with distinction, and has had a 20 year career in banking, including working with executives at board level. Bank of England. RBS, Nova Nordisk. McDonalds and The University of Cambridge are some of the names on her impressive list of clients.
Born and raised in abject poverty in Calcutta – Jillian is a truly inspirational and professional keynote speaker. She uses her experience and motivational stories to inspire others to face their fears using the power of resilience, something she calls “The Irrepressible Mind.”. With her motivational words and her warmth, she engages and empathises with her audience. She has received some of the most amazing testimonials from Corporates, universities & schools alike. To review some of these, please visit https://jillianhaslam.
Aside from being a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and conference speaker, she is a published author of the book Indian.English., an inspirational story about her life, of finding the road to success, and how she utilises her wisdom and vision is a story that will make anyone take action in their lives. Her story is currently being turned into a Hollywood production. You can read all about it at: www.jillianhaslam.com/press-media/.