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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, Online Career Tips
Imagine the following scenario at a networking event or conference: You’re in a conversation with a potential customer you want to impress. The customer asks you, “So what distinguishes your company from all of the other ones out there? Why should I do business with your organization?”
You have to pause for a minute and think about it. “Well,” you respond breezily. “We’ve got great customer service!” The customer then rolls his eyes and walks away, unimpressed.
Why Merely Having Great Customer Service Isn’t Enough Anymore
Many organizations have good customer service, so such a trite answer won’t impress your prospective customer. It’s as bad as saying, “I’m a people person!” during a job interview.
Today’s customers are overloaded with companies who want their business. They can choose from local, regional, national and even international options, thanks to e-commerce and the Internet.
To win the business of today’s customers, it’s now more necessary than ever to distinguish your company from a host of others in the same market. One way to get people’s attention is through memorable business storytelling.
Memorable Storytelling Is the First Step in Hooking Your Customers
Your potential customers, especially millennials, are looking to make an emotional connection with companies they like and trust, as opposed to listening to the standard “hard sell” tactic that many organizations still use. Thanks to the 24/7 availability of social media, forming this connection with other people has become a lot easier.
It’s one thing to say you’re an expert in your field. However, telling a good story in person or online is a powerful way to cement that expertise in customers’ minds, build your credibility and help them remember your company. You can tell vivid stories and show off your expertise in many ways, including:
- Personal anecdotes
- Customer testimonials
- Blog articles
Tips for Crafting Memorable Business Stories
So how do you craft memorable business stories that will impress customers and make them more likely to recall your company later? Consider these tips:
1) Think long and hard about who your company helps. Are there any particularly memorable stories about how a customer’s life was improved after using your product or service? What adversity did that customer face and how were you able to resolve it?
2) Consider your customers’ needs. Customers typically have problems that they hope making a purchase from you will solve. How will your product or service make their work or home life easier? How can it save them time?
3) Adopt the Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) method of storytelling. This storytelling technique, often used in job interviews to response to behavioral-based questions, is equally effective at networking events and conferences. In your story, talk about the situation a customer faced, the task and action you took, and the positive outcome resulting from what your company did.
4) Create a memorable opening line. The beginning of a memorable business story is the hook that gets people’s attention. They become intrigued and want to know more, so they are more likely to pay attention to your entire story.
5) Show your social conscience. Does your company participate in community events? That can win the approval of customers and makes for an interesting networking conversation.
6) Keep your story concise. At a typical networking event or conference, there are many people your customer wants to meet. Pay attention to your potential customers’ body language to see if they are starting to tune you out. If their eyes start wandering around the room, it’s time to quickly wrap up your story and let them go.
Business storytelling is a powerful way to make connections. When you take the trouble to be authentic with potential customers, you increase your chances of business success.