People are more interested in ‘your story’ that you think…
In a workshop this week I met Olivia, a ‘high-end’ glass designer. I made the mistake of saying; “Oh what a lovely bowl”. “It’s a vessel,” she said. “Ahh,” said I, feeling like a bit of a non-arty twit.
Anyway, Olivia made amazing arty vessels that have a typical retail price of around £2200, with other bigger pieces costing a lot more. The big problem is, she is not really selling that many, with most retailers asking for a ‘sale or return’ arrangement. Consequently, she is essentially ‘suffering for her art’. This is a very common problem for people who fall into the category of ‘artisan’ or ‘craft’ businesses.
This story is not about price…
I bet your first instinct is to ask, ‘why can’t she just lower the price’? It’s not actually a price problem. The problem here is that she is 100% focused on the product and selling ‘vessels’, when she should be spending more time selling herself.
People buy because of the back story - it's about the human connection...
What Olivia needs to do (in my humble opinion), is spend time raising her profile and telling her story. People like the story behind a brand. They like to know things like:
- Who are you?
- Why did you start this business?
- How did you get to where you are now? E.g. how did a criminal lawyer become a Alexander Technique teacher?
- What makes you tick?
- What inspires you?
- If you are an artist or designer, what inspires your work?
- What do you believe in?
Using this approach, Olivia would be presenting herself to the world as a credible artist rather than someone who just makes pretty bowls. This makes it easier for a gallery owner to sell her work. So rather than a customer in the gallery looking at a pretty bowl and then wincing at the price tag, the gallery owner might say, “Ah yes, that’s an Olivia Smith piece. She’s very collectable right now.”
- £2200 for a bowl is eye wateringly expensive.
- £2200 for a piece made by a fashionable, award winning, up and coming artist makes it sound more like an investment.
- Then, if you take it one stage further, and write a little story to go with each piece (what inspired it, what the design means etc.), then it will become a bargain...
...because when it’s in your lovely home, and people admire it, you have a lovely little story to tell at your dinner party.
The ebay experiment
Ebay did an experiment where they took a load of old rubbish such as, a piece of rope, a chipped mug, an old ceramic tile, and other stuff you would probably throw away. They created an auction for each piece and the average bidding price for each item was less than $1. Then they withdrew the pieces, and commissioned some creative writers to write a story about each item. They then re-listed everything and guess what happened? Everything sold for at least 10 times more than the previous listing without the story.
They made a little video about, here’s the link. It’s really worth a watch.
How can you use this?
- Take a good look at your About page. Don't be afraid to let your personality and humanity show. Ages ago, I was experimenting with some writing styles and wrote a ‘My story’ page for my website. I thought it was a bit silly and I was going to junk it, until one day I was looking at my site analytics and I discovered that it was one of the most read pages on my site. So I’ve kept it. Love it or hate it, there’s something about it that visitors to my website like.
- What’s your motivation? Whenever you launch a new product or service, think about why you developed it, and make that part of the product/service story. E.g. “After having many conversations with our clients, we realised that we needed to create a XXXXXXX to meet the needs of XXXXXXX”. The story people will hook into, is that you listen to your customers and care enough to make changes.
- Editorial. If you want to get some more editorial coverage for your brand, remember that journalists are interested in that back story. Why do they focus on that? Because it’s what people like to read.
- Product descriptions: If you have a physical product, try and make your product descriptions a bit more interesting. An American company called J Peterman do fantastic mini-stories as part of their product descriptions. Take a look.
- Case studies. I’ve written about that before. If you are a B2B company, case studies are probably the most powerful marketing tool you can use. Click here if you missed the article on how to create a good case study.
- Presentations. If you are asked to give a talk and don’t know where to start, just create a few slides with a picture on each, and tell some stories. E.g. The people in your business, some client stories or inspirational stories. Your audience will love it.