Winning entrepreneurs bond emotionally with employees, investors and customers when relating meaningful stories about their businesses.
Last week, I listened intently to Jana Francis, seeking money for a growing company, tell her story of why she started her online business for new mothers. In a very natural way, she described how her idea originated from the need to buy an item for her new baby.
Unable to find quickly and inexpensively what she sought in retail stores, she turned to the Internet. Not satisfied with what she found online, she envisioned building her own website to sell specific products to women with infants.
"My vision was to start a business that provided a wonderful buying experience coupled with high-quality merchandise at a significant discount. I want my site to also be entertaining. I want women to enjoy shopping with me," she says.
The customer experience is the most important aspect of her business. She wants her customers to be overjoyed -- with the product, with the online community of shared experiences, the descriptions and photography of the product, the packaging and even a personal connection with her and the employees.
As a result, her customers genuinely care about the company's success and become evangelists for the site.
Attending this meeting with me were three female associates, all mothers of small children.
I watched their responses as the story was told. Each nodded in agreement about the need and the positive solution. Almost instantly, the entrepreneur and the investors became friends and allies. One associate exclaimed that, with utmost satisfaction, she had already purchased a product from the entrepreneur's website.
Launched in 2008, Baby Steals is flourishing, with hundreds of thousands of customers who love shopping online. Mothers are enthralled with every aspect of the business.
Employees are likewise enthusiastic. For them, it's not just about work, it's being part of a noble cause.
As possible investors, we love the story, too. Who wouldn't want to fund a company that connects at the emotional level with millions of potential customers?
My associate, Alison Wistner, describes her feelings this way: "An emotional connection to a brand or company leads to truly deep and persistent loyalty. Those happy customers become the best marketing tool a company could ask for. The Internet has created an extremely efficient way for people of similar interests to connect, so a company that acknowledges the power of the customer and consistently exceeds their expectations will be a successful one."
What can we learn from this flourishing company? Here are 10 steps we need to follow:
* Communicate our story. Why did we launch the company? What problem needed to be solved, and why are we committed and passionate about the opportunity? Entrepreneurs should engage a professional marketing executive for assistance in designing, developing and writing a compelling story.
* Tell our story proudly and with major impact. Deliver this message on a regular basis, over time, to reinforce our position in the marketplace.
* Demonstrate our uniqueness and how we are different from other providers. Communicate what sets us apart and how our philosophy of doing business is superior to others.
* Understand solutions that competitors provide. Evaluate what competitors offer and the story they present to buyers.
* Learn who else shares our problems. Finding and understanding targeted customers is critical to success. An entrepreneur should spend most of the day listening to potential customers.
* Develop a vision that is emotional and noteworthy. Promote a noble cause. Business builders should ponder what they want to become and how they will solve problems for customers. Again, the key is sharing our story with others to see if it is embraced.
* Provide a grand purpose. Know why our company exists. Great companies see service as more important than making money. Savvy leaders view money as a byproduct. As such, we should develop a mission statement about taking care of customers and employees.
* Establish core objectives and demand exceptional results from our efforts. These goals should be perfectly aligned with our purpose and mission.
* Ensure that benefits are accruing to everyone within our circle of influence -- customers, employees, vendors and shareholders. To this end, we should learn what our audience expects from us and deliver it with excellence.
* Connect and bond effectively with our target audience. The best method for accomplishing this is to engage directly with customers in a personal way to demonstrate our appreciation and high regard.
What is your story? Please share it with me at www.AlanEHall.com or connect with me at @AskAlanEHall.