In October 2020, 6 million small businesses in the UK declared they were in a precarious position. This left 16 million jobs at risk.
There were 190,000 retail jobs lost in the year from March 2020.
It’s felt pretty gloomy.
Good news is not all good news
There are green shoots, with a stock market recovery, household savings on the increase, and more staff being hired. The easing in lockdown requirements has seen a release of pent-up demand for shopping and eating, and drinking outside the home.
But here’s why you might have a worry.
Nearly half a million companies were launched from March to September last year. An increase of nearly 10% on the previous year.
Noisy just got noisier
New things tend to make more noise. New things tend to be shiny and attract attention, turn people’s heads.
How are you going to remind them that you exist?
It’s not about money
As smaller business owners, throwing money at something isn’t going to be an option. Even if you had a magic money tree surely it would still be important to make a good return on your investment?
What causes the Dragons to say “I’m out”?
I loathe Dragon’s Den, mainly because I hate cringing at seeing other people’s mistakes play out on screen. On the occasions I’ve watched it through my fingers, there are three things that seem to make the Dragons opt out:
- A bad product, particularly a bad product demonstration
- Not knowing your numbers, especially when they don’t stand up to inspection
- A boring story
And really the story is the first thing. If they don’t grab them with the story, they’re constantly battling up a hill after that. Of course, a good story won’t help them if the product is rubbish or the financials stack up, but it sets them off on a better foot.
The reasons behind that are simple.
Great stories make us care
The people you really want to reach, the ones you want what you do to resonate with, the’re not going to be persuaded by facts. They want to know your story. Great stories are the backbone of every winning idea.
Telling better stories than your competitors cuts through the noise. A business with a great story will be believed, not just noticed. And when we believe things, we’re more invested in them.
Fantastic quote from Mary Portas, and sums up why storytelling has such power to connect with customers. To be connected, you need more than a good story, you need a great one. Here’s why:
A great story engages
If a story is only good, it tends to just tell you stuff. If it’s only purpose is to convey information, it’s more of an anecdote than a story.
A great story moves people
An averagely good story tells people what they need to know. A great story elicits an emotional response. There’s an incredible amount of neuroscience to explain why that happens. Our brains don’t want to waste energy on synthesising oxytocin if there’s actually no reason to care about something.
The brain makes its mind up very quickly, and moves us on if there’s nothing to see here, nothing to feel.
A great story changes how we feel
If your story truly connects with people, it can change how they feel about something, even if they’ve never considered what their feelings are on a subject.
For example, choosing a pair of flip flops might have been something you just did as part of your pre-holiday preparation. Reading the story behind Gandys, and the work your purchase could support, might make you feel very differently about the choice you could make.
A great story changes what we do
When a story truly connects and resonates with you, it can change what you choose to do. For example, when the British Heart Foundation started telling the story that it wasn’t the kiss of life that was important in helping someone whose heart had stopped but the chest compressions, then the number of people who said they would be prepared to give it a go in an emergency rocketed.
It tapped into a paradox in people’s minds: wanting to help but not wanting to give the kiss of life. The video actually fits all the classic stages of a great story.
It sets the context. Vinnie talks about what do we do when someone’s stopped breathing.
It shows the catalyst. The body arrives
It talks about the complication. Kissing on the lips is only for the missus according to Vinnie.
It shows the change. Press hard and fast to the rhythm of Stayin’ Alive.
And it shows us the consequence, almost. In this case we’ve got someone breathing again. Or at least the promise of that.
It’s simple, but it’s memorable. And it changed what people would do, if they needed to.
Stop chasing attention. Start building affinity.
Instead of creating lots of content in the hope of getting some people to take notice of you, could you tell less stories but ones that will grab the attention, and emotions, of the people you really want in your tribe? Don’t worry about turning off some people, they’re not your people.
To me, the joy of being a small business is that you are not for everyone. You are distinctive. Find the stories that help people to believe that. When you give your customers a great story, then you might well find that they’ll tell that story to other people.
Word of mouth, or the modern version of sharing and likes, is still, at its heart, about great stories.
How will you start telling great stories today?
Need some help? Drop me a line.