Is your brand story communicating clearly – or sending mixed messages?

Want to win new customers and grow your business?  Of course you do.  But it’s hard to know where to start – there are so many ways you could approach this task.

New Year new brand story

To win new customers you could get busy with social media and reach out to a bigger audience on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.

You could spend your time acquiring new technical skills and become a real whizz at video production, marketing automation and ad words.

Or you could concentrate on gathering and analysing data to get a better idea of what’s working for you, what’s not, and why.

The one thing most business owners and marketers seem to ignore is the very thing that will probably make the most difference –  reviewing and improving their brand story.

Do I have to? 

Oh that, yawn…you want me to think about what we are actually saying??  Look, I’m really busy with all this media, mechanics and metrics stuff – and on top of all that you want me to think about the messaging as well?  Let’s just run with what we’ve got.  Or curate some content from our competitors.  We’ll talk about it later, ‘cos I just don’t have the bandwidth right now.

That’s the way it is – the message is treated as an afterthought, a low priority and a bit of a distraction.

Crazy, or what?

The message still matters – duh!

If you want to win new customers what you say is at least as important as how deliver, produce and measure that message.

Doing a great job of polishing, broadcasting and evaluating a weak, dull, bland message is an expensive waste of time and effort.  No matter what else you do it’s simply not going to work on human beings who are spoilt for choice, overloaded with information and too busy to give you more than a couple of seconds of their fleeting attention.

Be brutally honest – if your brand story doesn’t tick the following three boxes it is not going to work.  Period.

Does it differentiate you from competitors?

A brand story or marketing message that makes you sound just like all the others in your marketplace is the kiss of death.  You absolutely have to find, and communicate clearly, some point of difference.  What’s more, it must be meaningful and relevant to your prospects – if their response is “so what?” then your story or message is not fit for purpose.

It could be that, in truth, there is nothing intrinsically different about what you do or offer – at least nothing that passes the meaningful or relevant test.  This is not uncommon, because markets are so crowded with similar companies that anything you can offer is likely to be me-too.

That does not mean you give up, and settle for being the same – it just means you have to get creative and smart in the way you tell your story.  You have to find a way of presenting your story or message that sets you apart and creates a perceived point of difference.

Does it stimulate interest and create engagement?

The biggest, and most common, mistake that business owners and marketers make when creating a brand story or messaging is to talk about themselves rather than the prospect.  Look at the home page of your website – is it “we, we, we…or you, you, you?”

Are you just listing the features (facts about your business, product or service) or are you emphasizing the benefits (what’s in it for the customer)?   The default position is to talk about ourselves, but the audience have the same default position.  So if you want to get their interest and buy-in you need to talk about them, their hopes, their fears, their needs and their wants.

If you flip your story and messaging around, so the prospect is centre stage, and not you, two things will happen.  Firstly, you’ll come across as different – because few brands and businesses manage to do this.  Secondly the prospects will be hooked, because you are talking about their favourite subject….themselves.

Does it use emotion and wit to win hearts and minds?

People use logic to make decisions, but emotion to justify those decisions.  So if you want to persuade a prospect to go with you, rather than a competitor, you need to put emotional weight behind the logical arguments.  Look at most successful brands – they target the heart as well as the head.  If your story and messaging lack emotion then it’s unlikely people will feel sufficiently moved to take any action.

Finally, the best brand stories have a degree of wit.  They are characterised by the kind of brevity, intelligence, playfulness and inventiveness that creates “a smile in the mind”.  If you can amuse, entertain, surprise, charm and credit people with intelligence then they’ll love you for it.

Good news – there’s a process you can follow

If, after reviewing your brand story and marketing messages, you can answer “yes” to all three questions, then congratulations.  If you can’t, putting this right is a priority – any other marketing activity is pointless.

But how, exactly, do you make the necessary changes?  Creating real and perceived points of difference, flipping things around so the focus is on the customer, using emotion and wit – sounds simple enough…until you try it yourself!

The good news is that there’s a proven process you can follow.  It’s a series of steps that take you from start to finish, beginning with a blank sheet of paper and ending up with a brand story that doesn’t just tell, but sells.  The process, in one shape or form, is used by most of the most successful brands and marketing agencies on the planet.  And it’s laid out in my book “The Authority Guide to Creating Brand Stories that Sell”.

It’ll cost you £9.99.  But a brand story and marketing messages that undersell your business, products and services will prove considerably more expensive.  I’ll just leave you with this comment, posted on LinkedIn by a copywriter in Cornwall.

“I read this Authority Guide by Jim O’Connor last week on a train and thoroughly recommend it, not least for being a riveting read (there was an unfolding incident involving police boarding the train going on around me and I read on, oblivious).  For marketing people, it brings home the significance of that often forgotten “m” – the message – you’re trying to convey. For clients, it’ll make you a ‘top’ client (able to whip up a perfect brief) and for business owners looking to DIY, this takes you, step by step, through creating your most powerful brand story. Not forgetting of course, fellow copywriters – Jim shares our pain and you’ll definitely feel less alone!”    Eva Seymour

For further details and sample chapter click here.


Picture credit Todd Lapin