Companies tell stories all the time - to themselves, to employees, to potential customers, to the competition, and to the world. Stories help us to position our organizations to successfully sell products and services to specific markets.
We tell these stories by developing well-thought-out concepts around establishing and growing our businesses. The resultant messaging manifests itself in brands, logos, marketing campaigns, websites, business proposals, internal communications, and deliverables or products for customers.
When there is a great, well-maintained narrative that customers want to believe, an organization has a great opportunity to succeed. All too often though, the story doesn’t exist, it gets lost in constant retelling, or some employees and customers have never heard it.
This is where storytelling and organizational coherence come into play. When you have a central account of your reason for being and the value you bring to others, it can permeate your team, your company, your audience.
Qocreate incorporates the art of storytelling and, always, emphasizes the critical importance of coherence in business and business proposals.
Here is the gist: your business begins and ends with a story. Your company marketing materials, proposals, technical reports, social media posts, website content, and everything else should reflect that core story.
In many organizations, different departments take responsibility for different parts of the message. Marketing handles social media, the website, and promotional material. Business development or sales teams handle proposals. Operations handles the technical reports, deliverables, product development, and packaging.
A problem begins to surface over time – if there is no coherence to the story, no attention paid to who is telling it and how, and if no one believes it, the quality and truth of the story begin to fall apart. Without attention, you have many people working to tell the story over and over, reaching for whatever they used last, sprucing it up a little, and sending it on to whoever needs it for whatever purpose.
The story starts to change. Over time, without care, it begins to fall flat.
In order to solve the problem of a non-existent, flagging, or inconsistent story, Qocreate works with clients to develop organizational coherence around a remarkable narrative. Organizational coherence means that the underlying values and vision of the story manifest in content and behavior across the organization.
More importantly, others recognize and believe your story because they feel it in the way your people treat them and treat each other. Everyone knows the message and it shows up in front office emails, greetings, executive memos, customer service calls, field team deliverables, and authentic and compelling proposals.
Part of working to develop this coherence is making sure that the story you tell is consistent in all of your content.
Two books our staff has been reading recently -- Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars and Jeffrey Gitomer’s The Little Red Book of Selling -- confirm the importance of making certain that a coherent, compelling narrative infuses our clients’ organizations. Godin writes “…if you want to grow, make something worth talking about. Not the hype, not the ads, but the thing. If your idea is good, it’ll spread.” And in The Little Red Book of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer states, “…branding is sales: it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”
Taking these two ideas together, we encourage our clients to focus on making something remarkable -- worth talking about -- and then telling the story in a way that compels others to talk about it -- it’s who knows you. When you form the core message, then you work to incorporate that message into every aspect of your organization.
Here are three steps to follow:
1) Get your story straight and write it down. Developing and articulating your story is the first and hardest step. Many of our clients don’t know where to start, even those with companies that have been in business for years. The story begins with the product or service you provide, the motivation behind providing it, the benefit to your customers, and what sets you apart from others. Developing this narrative takes time and dedicated work. (If you don’t know where to start, visit our Story page.)
2) Assess your content needs. Once you know the story you want to tell, and it genuinely represents an exceptional product or service, begin with listing all potential content that you need to develop or reorient to incorporate this story and get it out to the people who need to know. Your content needs may include websites, marketing materials, company manuals, capabilities statements and business proposals, and any documentation or content media your people use to produce or provide whatever products or services you sell. Visit the marketing, sales, proposals, and operations teams to get perspective on their needs. Do your homework on the content they are using to represent your organization and its message. Then plan for change to incorporate the story in a coherent fashion across all possible content mediums.
3) Develop your content and get the word out. Now it is time to develop your content and share it with the audience you’re trying to reach. Put a plan in place and a schedule for developing your material. This may include reworking your business strategy, creating a new logo, refreshing your website, creating reuse material for proposals, or updating the look of your technical reports. Focus on creating content that reflects your story and elicits the feelings you want others to have about your products and services. As Godin writes in All Marketers Are Liars, “The good news is clear: authentic marketing, from one human to another, is extremely powerful. Telling a story authentically, creating a product or service that actually does what you say it will, leads to a different sort of endgame.”
The challenge in accomplishing these three steps is often getting people to work together. More often than not, motivation and direction for this effort has to come from the executive level. However, we’ve worked with more than a few organizations to help writers, marketers, and business development people create their own coherent narratives. Once customers and others in the organization see the quality of content being produced, they want to know how to get in on the game. Then you have an opportunity to grow that organizational coherence (same story across ALL content) from within, rather than top down.
If you want to prevent your message from getting lost between disparate functions and multiple teams, and if you want people to talk about your organization, then think about how to drive a consistent and remarkable story throughout – from the front desk to the executive’s office to the field where your products and services are impacting customers.
When it comes to business proposals, make sure you include the narrative being lived and promoted throughout the organization. Play with the art of the story in responding to customer requirements. Make sure that your offer is coherent with your brand and messaging.
For more information on how to get started on this kind of work, contact Qocreate or check out our other blog posts. We’re happy to talk through any content problems you’re having, to recommend ideas, and to help you establish the best proposal content to grow your business.