A business narrative must be your first step in creating a new business. It is the act of putting the vision for your business into words. It’s the story you want to convey to your customers, your investors, even your employees.
To create your narrative, you must consider such important questions as: Why would customers want what I have to offer? Why is my product/service better than the competition? How will I get my product/service in front of potential customers? What are my 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year business goals? What are plans B, and C, if plan A doesn’t work?
Properly planned, and faithfully followed, a business narrative can help drive your success. It can help to grow your company from within, and without, but only if your customers don’t get the wrong message.
Here are five essential elements to help your business narrative send the right message.
1) Core Competencies
What are your business strengths? (This is a question which may also help define your weaknesses.) What distinguishes your business to your customers and from your competition? What value and benefits do you have to offer your customers? Ultimately, what makes your business unique, and why should your customers care? If you don’t make the answer to these questions the foundation for your business narrative, then you will probably be forced to find another business.
2) The Customer Journey
Map out the experience you would like for customers to have with your business, from initial contact all the way through to post sales customer service. You can find many map templates online to help you chart the course. However, the important part of this process is to speak with actual customers to see if the buying experience matched their expectations, and yours. You’ll never get repeat business if your customers don’t reach the destination (satisfaction) they, and you hoped for.
3) The Customer Story
Make your marketing outreach about the customers’ story. How does your product/service fit into the customers’ worldview? How does your business solve their problems? Are you listening to their needs, wants and desires? If your business narrative can be made to fit the customers’ narrative, your message will find a very receptive audience. Conversely, if you think you can somehow force the customers’ narrative to fit your own, you will ultimately fail. You need them, more than they need you.
Consider this question: In your business, to whom are you accountable? Unless you are a large public corporation, the answer shouldn’t be shareholders. If your answer is anything other than “the customer” you are sacrificing your long-term business success. Accountability to your customer is the natural result of your personal and business integrity. Your integrity leads to your customers’ respect. Your customers’ respect will make them repeat, and loyal customers. A business narrative with integrity makes people believe in what you have to offer. Integrity means that you believe in what you have to offer.
5) Performance Analysis.
If you don’t have a method to measure your success, you may be doomed to failure. The good news is, most of the methods businesses are using today to find and engage customers have built-in systems to show what’s working (and what isn’t). You can see how many people are visiting your website, and which pages are most popular. All your social media efforts have built in methods to determine how many prospective customers are finding your outreach, and how it is being received. E-mail marketing can give you quick, and detailed feedback. If you can’t determine the results of your marketing efforts, then you’re not paying attention to the tools available to you.
Ultimately, a business narrative is your very personal story. Considering all the effort you’re putting into making your business a success, your narrative can’t help but be a reflection of who you are. Make it interesting. Make it prominent. Make it appeal to the emotions, yet hold up to the scrutiny of reason. If you can sell your business narrative, then you can sell anything. Because, who knows your story better than you?