May 222017

You And Your Story: The Best Differentiators 

We are all looking for differentiators that make our business stand out in the market, right?

There’s good news! You and your story are likely best differentiators you will find for your business! It’s good news, as you are in complete (mostly) control of sharing your story with your prospects and your customers.

I’m mainly speaking about small businesses here, of course, but you don’t have to search far to find big businesses that have become big by sharing the personal story of their founders. How often do you hear Tesla spoken of without Elon Musk being mentioned in the same sentence?

There’s more good news. You don’t have to have a pristine background and story with a straight line to success in order to be successful using your story as a differentiator in your marketing and sales process. In fact, given the way humans root for the underdog and love stories of overcoming adversity, you are better off if your back story includes some difficulties and challenges you’ve had to overcome!

Why is it good that your backstory has some “hair” on it? Think about it for a moment. It shows that you are human! We want to do business with other people we like and trust, not with some formless, faceless large business! There is no better evidence of your humanity than having faced adversity. And there is no better evidence of your commitment to success than having overcome adversity.

Consider for a moment the companies, particularly the local ones, that you choose to do business with. If you have a choice, do you do business with the company whose owner you know and trust, or do you go to a large company with which your only connection is that you give them your credit card or cash and they give you the product or service you are seeking?

I realize that the answer to this question is complex. It’s not as simple as just doing business with people you like. You also need to take into consideration key factors such as cost, convenience, and to some extent, quality: the main reasons for the existence of the Walmarts of the world. All else being roughly equally, though, would you rather buy from someone you know, or a big corporation? For me at least, the answer is almost always “someone I know and trust” and perhaps more importantly, like and want to help.

I’ve paid special attention to this topic in my own family’s purchasing recently, and I’ve noticed that we almost always opt for the local vendor we know, or even the not-so-local vendor with which we’ve established more of a personal connection – an online vendor, for example. Examples include our purchase of pre-made meals, running gear, HVAC services, real estate services, nutritional supplements, and the list goes on.

So, if people are more likely to buy from people they know and like and you could say “are rooting for,” how do you establish this status in the marketplace?

First, and most obviously, if you want to take advantage of this differentiator in the marketplace, you must provide a good product and/or service! It goes without saying that if you don’t provide a good experience and satisfy the needs your prospects and customers are seeking to have satisfied, you will not have repeat customers.

Second, once you have the great service and customer experience piece solved, which admittedly is no small task, you can begin to share a bit about your story with your target market, including prospects and existing customers. What made you start your business? Why are you so committed to providing the best experience possible for your customers? What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome and what are some that you continue to face in your effort to do anything possible to make your customers’ experience the best possible in your market? Don’t hesitate to share challenges and failures, especially when you’re able to show that you’ve persisted (or are persisting) to overcome them, which further shows your commitment to the marketplace. This can be especially effective on social media.

Third, find a variety of channels to share this information with your target market! As a small business, you cannot be everywhere. You’re better off focusing your advertising and marketing efforts on lower cost, higher leverage marketing mechanisms such as social media. That’s not to say that you should not advertise through traditional print and broadcast mechanisms, but do so judiciously, and when you do, don’t be afraid to incorporate a piece of yourself and your story and that of your company into the marketing and advertising materials! Don’t make your marketing and advertising just about features and benefits – you will find it very difficult to differentiate on that basis alone.

Fourth, and finally for now, use video where possible! If a picture is worth a thousand words, video, especially if done well, may be worth a million. It allows you to tell a more complete story and to convey whatever message you’re trying to get across to your target market more thoroughly and convincingly. It also gives you an opportunity to reinforce your “voice” (what you and your business represent and want to be remembered for) in the market, further strengthening your chances of leaving an impression of humanness and credibility on your target market. As humans, we want to do business with other humans, particularly those we like, who we know have faced and continue to face and work to overcome many of the same challenges we face on a daily basis! As long as you’re selling to humans, which I imagine you are, at least most of the time, you and your story are the best differentiators for your business.


Paul Morin