April 12, 2013

Your Story Is The Most Powerful Asset You Have – Are You Telling It Right?

storytellingWithout a doubt, the one piece of your business that really makes you stand apart in a crowded marketplace is your story.  All of us have a story to tell about how we landed on this wonderful rollercoaster known as entrepreneurship and the kicker is that other people actually want to hear this story!  They may love your product but it’s your story that will really help them connect with your company, your brand, and your products.  So what are you telling them?

I had the opportunity to talk with an extremely motivated young couple who in just their first year of business have managed to get their specialty food product* into a number of very well-respected local retailers.  They’ve done all this while also taking their product to farmers markets, attending school part-time, and financing this all via part-time jobs (if you’re like me, you’re trying to figure out how they’ve managed to do all this…oh to be 20-something again and have that kind of energy!).  The product they make is unique enough that it does stand out on the shelf, but when I met with them they were struggling with how to tell their story to retail buyers.  Believe it or not, they didn’t necessarily even believe that they had a story to tell despite the fact that the motivation for creating the company was based on one of the owner’s heritage.

If you’re struggling with something similar think through this exercise and see if that helps bring your story to life:

Why did you start this company?  Few of us get into the food world solely driven by the financial profits.  No, instead, most food entrepreneurs get into the industry because they have a love of food, a love of history and culture, a love of community, and a desire to share and do something/provide something good to the world.  Look past the ‘business plan’ for a minute and pretend like you were telling your best friend why you started the company.  What, in your heart, motivated you to start this?

That initial reason – perhaps you only wanted to use fair trade products because you believe it’s better for the earth or maybe you wanted to provide food that someone on food stamps could afford and is good for them – is the emotion you need to convey to customers.  You want them to be as excited about what you’re doing as you are but it’s hard for them to be excited if they never hear the story behind the company.

Thanks to social media, it’s now easier than ever to share your story with your customers.  Put it on your website, develop a logo that connects with that key emotion that’s driving you, share your story with your social media fans and ask for their thoughts and feedback.  Better yet, engage them and ask them to share with you what motivates them about your brand.

So let me turn the tables on you – care to share what your company’s story is?  I’d love it if you’d share your stories with me either here in the response section or by emailing me at info(at)smallfoodbiz(dot)com.

*Sorry, as I have not asked their express permission to mention their company in this piece I’m opting to respect their privacy.

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6 comments on “Your Story Is The Most Powerful Asset You Have – Are You Telling It Right?

  • Paul Britton on said:

    Another excellent article. This is one of my favorite aspects of smaller food businesses: their ability to share/maintain their story and personality with consumers is directly related to their success. If they connect well, they build such great loyalty. If they stray from their roots it can be devastating (Jones Soda’s unfortunate decline following rapid efforts to expand.)

    Thanks again!

  • sfosterkent on said:

    This article spoke to me! Since I’m just starting out, I’m still very close to the roots – that initial reason – that inspired me to launch my small business. When I share “my story” with would-be customers, I tend to get pretty excited and the response is immediate and emotional and almost exclusively a positive one.

    The Cottage Bakers Market is not your typical artisan food business. I don’t bake any breads, make any pies, hand-pour chocolate candies or preserve any jams to sell to food-savvy folks, locavores, or the gluten intolerant, or the gift-giver or party-planner. In its simplest sense, I provide a community-based place to buy and sell goods. That’s what a market is and yes, it sounds pretty boring. But when those goods are fresh pastries, vegan cinnamon rolls, breads baked with organic flour, hand-made ethnic desserts, custom-blended spices, pies with in-season berries, theme-decorated cupcakes or muffins made in a gluten-free facility, then things start to get interesting. I recognized that behind each of these yummy products is a person or family with their own story and unique passion — their inspiration for becoming a food entrepreneur. They may not realize it, but I knew in my heart that their stories were waiting to be told and they needed a place to do it! I wanted to help them by providing such a place, where they could sell their specialty food products while connecting face-to-face with customers. Based on some informal market research, I knew there was no place like that around our area, and was counting on filling that void.

    As I prepared to launch the first ever Cottage Bakers Market last May, I spread the word to potential vendors such as recently-permitted Cottage Food Operators, artisan bakers and other small food businesses. I know now that what I was actually doing was telling them my story.
    I got responses like these:
    “…this is almost like a dream come true for me.”
    “This sounds like a really great idea, and I would definitely be interested.”
    “I would LOVE to be there next Saturday if you will have me???”
    “Very excited for the upcoming event and meeting you and other vendors!”
    “I’m so excited to have the opportunity to reach a bigger market with fellow bakers! Thank you for supporting the fledgling cottage kitchen industry; its my hope to make all our supporters proud.”
    “…what a wonderful surprise. Your market sounds perfect for me and my business!”

    I can’t help but be reminded of the true reason why I started the Cottage Bakers Market with feedback like that,… and that was just from the vendors! At the first Markets, I spoke to various customers who were equally excited about the idea and even wanted me to hold markets in their cities.

    So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It seems to be working well!

    Felicia Foster
    Cottage Bakers Market

  • Jamie Fender on said:

    You’ve given me so very helpful ideas to write our story. I’ve been pondering this for a while and have written a few versions, but truthfully, it’s very hard to see your story from an outside persective and imagine what other’s would be interested in: the struggle, or previous expirience, or the passion behind the idea? Thanks for the help!

    • smallfoodbiz on said:

      Good point Jamie! My main recommendation is to try and get inside the mind of your target customer and understand what would resonate with them most since those are the folks you want to attract and keep. I know, easier said than done. 🙂