A few years ago I wandered into a Jonathan Adler home decor store in my neighborhood. They’ve since moved to the suburbs, but they were a fixture of Old City Philly back then. The store owner has imprinted his personality on the store and has carefully chosen the items for sale. If I didn’t have so many furniture-destroying pets, I’d buy half the merchandise.
I couldn’t help noticing a framed image on the wall: the store manifesto. It’s also on the store website and it’s funny, but you also get a sense of the store personality:
“We believe in rustic modernism.
“We believe celebrities should pay full price.
“We believe dogs should be allowed in stores and restaurants.
“We believe our lamps will make you look younger and thinner.
“We believe in irreverent luxury.”
Wow, I thought. I didn’t have the slightest need for anything in the store, but I wished I did. Who wouldn’t love a store that welcomed dogs and understood the hidden motivation behind buying a lamp?
A Manifesto On Your About Page?
Service-based businesses often look for ways to share their values with prospective clients. When clients are struggling to choose between two service businesses, they often look for points of connection.
They’re more likely to do this when the services are genuinely difficult to differentiate. But some prospective clients aren’t sure what questions they should be asking. They may ask for work samples but have no idea how to evaluate them. They ask about previous clients but don’t realize how they’re unique.
Other prospective clients are extremely nervous about hiring you, especially if there’s a lot riding on the outcome. They look for clues about how you’ll relate to them. Will you be judgmental? Do you have a sense of humor?
Set up your manifesto as marketing content.
The Jonathan Adler manifesto does many things right.
Make it about the customer: “Your values are our values, especially the ones that set us apart.”
Be light-hearted rather than strident, unless you’re in a particularly serious business, such as malpractice or criminal law.
Make it specific.
And above all, be original.
Statements about who you are and what you do might not be the best way to communicate your values.
When you’re a service business, you’re writing about yourself in first person. You’re not representing a company. You’ll be more convincing when you tell a story.
For instance, a lawyer tells a story of flying across state lines to locate a client who was detained. He negotiated with the warden to meet with his client outside normal visiting hours because he needed to prepare for a hearing.
He doesn’t have to say, “I’ll go the extra mile.” It’s obvious.
For your service business, it might be fun to write a manifesto as a way of exploring your own values. And then see how you can demonstrate your values by sharing a story.
What about mission statements?
Manifestos inspire the customer; mission statements are supposed to inspire the owners, staff and partners. There’s rarely a reason to put your mission statement on your website.
Mission statements tend to put everyone to sleep. They’re almost always interchangeable. You could take most mission statements, change a few words (like replace “cup of coffee” for Starbucks) and you could use it as your own.
Passions are a little more ambiguous. I catch myself writing, “I am passionate about helping business owners identify their brand and differentiate themselves, especially if they’ve got a truly unique approach to service.”
It’s true. But I’m not sure it really moves my prospects.
Generally instead of saying “I’m passionate” it’s best to illustrate with a story to show how your passions led you to serve others. Share stories of how you helped clients transform their businesses, lives or relationships.
Your story might sound like …
“We scheduled meetings in the evening to accommodate the client’s schedule.”
“We showed a client how to save money for the down payment on her first home, just a year after she could barely pay the rent.”
“We staged a home that had been on the market six months. We used the client’s own furnishings because she had a tight budget. It sold in two weeks.”
No story? Then you have to ask, are your passions relevant to your clients? Do they belong on your website?
No need for bells and whistles on your About Page. No need for a manifesto and no place for a mission statement. You’ll be much more convincing when you replace them with a well-crafted, purposeful, business story.
Stories are the “show, don’t tell” of marketing. Start here with 3 Storytelling Mistakes Most Businesses Make (And The 1 Way To Fix Them)