Small business marketing begins with a story — not a tagline or logo. If you’re a service-based small business, your brand reflects who you are, what you offer and how you deliver your benefits. Your brand influences who will become your ideal clients, your biggest challenges and — perhaps most critical — the types of online marketing and content creation that will be most effective for you.
As a small service business, your brand and your story will be different from the big players in product marketing.
For example, Budweiser, an iconic US beer company, has branded with the Clydesdale horses. Their commercials feature heart-warming stories about dogs and horses. There’s the famous “lost puppy” commercial, where a puppy refuses to stay in his new home because he misses the horses. Then there was the emotional commercial after 9/11, where the Clydesdale team bows silently before the new skyline; that commercial was aired only once, but received over 22 million views on YouTube.
I love those commercials. I’ve watched some of them over and over again. These narratives create an emotional connection with the sponsoring company. When their audience sees Budweiser cans in a retail outlet, or sees a Budweiser sign at a bar, they’ll recall the commercials and evoke those moods by association.
Budweiser has created a brand personality: warm, comforting and caring.
But beer, after all, is just a combination of chemicals in liquid form. Without the accompanying narrative, a can of beer has no personality.
If you’re a service-based small business, the product is you. You’re more than a collection of chemicals. You already come with a personality — and, more important, a particular style of serving your clients. You don’t create your personality or your style with a story. You find ways to communicate your personality, promise and style with stories, and those stories rarely represent fictional creations.
Most service based businesses can be branded based on one of these five story archetypes. We’ll just summarize the promise of each. You can get more details here.
The Role Model: “If I did it, you can too.”
The Educator: “After I explain the process, you’ll want it for yourself.”
The Innovator: “I’ve created the solution you’ve been looking for and you can’t find it anywhere else.”
The Celebrity:”I’ve created a wonderful life, which gives me the credibility to help you reach your goals.”
The Passionate Advocate: “I’ll go the extra mile to help.”
Case Study Example “
Belinda started her business after developing her skills in improv theatre. She wanted to bring the playful, spontaneous attitude of improv to corporate businesses. Her business was named “The Playground” and her website had clever references to jungle gyms, hopscotch and dodgeball.
“I help companies develop a creative culture. I show them that “play” is not a four-letter word,” she said.
At Belinda’s request, I’ve changed her name and the details of her business. But her problem was one that many business owners will recognize all too readily. She’d spent a small fortune – money she could barely afford -building a drop-dead gorgeous website.
Belinda drew lots of “Wow!” reactions from her website. But these admiring visitors rarely turned into clients.
Belinda had even more trouble when she attended networking events. People would say, “What’s your story?” and she’d freeze. When she talked about her business, her listener’s eyes would glaze over. “Interesting,” they said, and changed the subject.
Belinda was going broke. She decided her first step would be to create a new website. “Where do I start?” she asked.
Belinda’s first step was to answer the classic copywriting question: “So what?” Why do companies want to build creativity into their culture? Why do they want to be more playful?
“When a company — or division — becomes creative,” Belinda explained, “they increase employee engagement. Employees become more productive. Teams finish their projects faster and resolve conflicts more quickly.”
There are lots of consultants who help companies increase productivity and manage conflict. Belinda has developed a way to do this — something no other consultant offers. If you want to accomplish these goals with a creative culture, you need Belinda.
Therefore, Belinda’s story archetype is Innovator. Her stories, promise, and persona will be based on this archetype.
Her clients will have tried a number of tried and true solutions that haven’t worked; they’re ready for something new. That’s important for business owners who position as innovators. Most people will do anything to avoid straying from the beaten path. They have to feel a truly pressing need if they’re going to move in this direction. From this framework, Belinda can develop her content strategy and find supporting stories.
Innovators need to reassure their prospects. Belinda’s audience will wonder, “How do I tell the CFO that we’re spending money on something playful? How can we get a left-brained engineer to bring a positive attitude to a workshop?” She’ll need to address these points in her website copy.
Innovators need lots of demonstrations to explain exactly what they’re doing. They’ll need stories of clients who applied their innovation successfully, so they can communicate their value in the face of resistance.
Most important, they need a story that reinforces their brand — a story that characterizes who they are and what is their archetype. Belinda’s story might go something like this:
“I was studying acting and working on a day job in tech. I was working with a team to implement a project that involved implementing new accounting software. It wasn’t the type of topic that has you dancing on the tables.
“We had to work through a lot of details. We kept running into glitches so everything took longer than we expected. Our team started to fray at the edges. We had a few outright clashes and a couple of people actually stopped speaking to each other. Our boss sent someone from HR to do some team building exercises. When she suggested a scavenger hunt, we all united in one big, ‘NO!’
“I’d been studying improv and I got an idea. I asked if people would be willing to experiment with an exercise where we’d draw something on paper and then talk about it. To everyone’s surprise, even the engineers and accountants agreed to participate. We took the afternoon and…well, we just played. Along the way we started laughing. People opened up about what they were worried about.
“The next day, we felt like a brand new team. People felt refreshed. They came up with breakthroughs. They talked … at least enough to be polite. Since then I turned the process into a repeatable system, and I work with clients to get the same results I experienced for the first time at that project.”
As an Innovator, Belinda knew her website would need videos that demonstrated what she did. She’d need to have testimonials that specifically addressed her innovative approach.And now her website practically wrote itself. She knew how she was unique. She understood what she wanted her clients to remember her — as someone who’d solved a problem no one else could. At the same time, she’d need to clarify what she offered and what the clients needed to bring to the table.
But she knew what she needed. She knew exactly where to direct her focus.
If you relate to Belinda’s story, check out the Story Consultation. You’ll uncover your standout story, develop brand clarity and nail your message, in just 90 minutes. Click here to get the details and sign up.
Learn more about the five archetypes and how they can change your business. This workbook currently is FREE! Click here to sign up.