A while back, I met a mom whose daughter was headed to the US Air Force Academy. The mom was thrilled but she was having trouble explaining to her friends. She kept getting questions like, “But why doesn’t your daughter go to college? She’s really smart!”
That’s a mom who truly needs a story.
She could say, “Darlene’s always wanted to be a pilot. So she was thrilled when she found out the US has a special 4-year college for future Air Force officers – and the best place to go if you want a flying career.”
Of course, she’d need another story when her neighbor says, “But that’s not very ladylike, is it?”
Lots of business owners find themselves in the position of the mom. You tell people what you do. They wrinkle their noses and say, “What the bleep is that?”
You know the adage: “A confused mind doesn’t buy.” So your first step is to get past those looks of puzzlement – the ones that say, “Sounds like something I wouldn’t want if they gave it to me.”
And that’s a challenge.
It’s often hard to explain something you’re passionate about to people who have no idea those things existed, let alone want to get involved with them. This challenge comes up at networking events, especially if you’ve got a new-to-the-world, one-of-a-kind offer.
For instance, I met someone who founded a company to help people find space for special events. I had trouble with the concept myself, until he shared his story (which, like the service, was founded in the days before we had pandemic restrictions).
“We were searching for a place to hold a birthday party for my teenage daughter. We wanted a place big enough for 30 people, where we could bring our own music and fix our own food. We couldn’t do that in a hotel meeting room, even if we were willing to pay the exorbitant prices the nice hotels charge in my city.
“Then a friend of a friend told us about a church that rented out its reception hall during the week. It was a great facility, conveniently located, with a really nice kitchen.
“So we wondered: how many halls like this go unused because nobody knows about them? And we bet there are conference rooms, meeting spaces and more.
“Since we’re well-connected in the tech world, we built an app. When you become a member, you get access to hundreds of great places.
“Now you don’t have to depend on luck, like this family did. You just type in the details of your dream event. You’ll get a list of choices. And, without all those phone calls and the hassle, you’ve go a location. Let the parties begin!”
The key ingredient of the story isn’t the process.
When you’re asked to describe your offer, it’s tempting to begin with the process. This business owner could have said, “Well, we have an app. You begin by typing in the date of your event…”
Instant nap time.
Instead, your story begins with their backstory. We’ve got these frantic people, desperate for a place to hold their party.
“How am I going to tell this kid we’re going to have to settle for the backyard…in the middle of winter? Or we can only have six people because our living room won’t hold more than that?”
You’re not focusing on features: you’re describing the problem you solved.
One of my favorite examples is a service for hair color, eSalon. Most of their customers are women, but they’re starting a men’s line as well.
They describe their service in terms of a common backstory. “I need DIY hair color. I can’t get to my salon. The salon prices are high.
“But I’ve tried those drugstore products. I look like I poured a bucket of paint over my head.”
E-Salon responds directly to that story. They mix each customer’s hair. color individually and send the formulated color by mail.
They don’t begin with, ‘You send us your requirements, maybe include a photo, and we’ll send you something you can use right away.” When you realize this product is something you want, you’ll look for those details.
If you’d like to learn more about backstories, I’ve got a free download for you: Discover what your client REALLY wants. Click here to get your free download right away.