Editor's note: "The First 90 Days" is a series about how to make 2016 a year of breakout growth for your business. Let us know how you're making the first 90 days count by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Inc90Days.
Since before recorded history, humans have been a storytelling species. For millennia, stories have told us how to survive in a hostile world. The ability to hear and remember a story is literally part of our DNA.
In business, we remember stories, especially those that help us better understand ourselves and our world. The most memorable ads, companies, and people all possess such stories.
That's why it's sad and ironic that when asked, "What does your company do?" most people blurt out a dull fact like, "We make widgets." Or, if they work in marketing, they might tart it up like so: "We're the industry-leading maker of state-of-the-art widgets."
Boring. So boring.
People--even the biz-blabbers--know that they could make their company sound interesting if they could only figure out how to turn those bland facts into a meaningful story.
Well, I'm telling you today that, not only can you make your company interesting, you can easily turn whatever you or your company does into a story that people will remember for years.
And they'll remember you, too, because you told them a memorable story.
The technique is both incredibly easy and completely foolproof. It's the closest thing to a magic bullet of marketing that I've ever heard. And did I mention that it was easy?
To make your company and yourself unforgettable, you use these three incredibly simple phrases (the parts shown in the brackets are what you customize to fit your company):
1. You know how when you're trying to [accomplish some goal], you run into [an annoying obstacle]?
2. Well, my company does [something different].
3. As a result, you get [the goal you were seeking and something extra].
The formula works every time.
Let's start with a company that everyone already knows: Uber. Suppose Uber didn't yet exist and you were just starting a ride-sharing service. You're on a plane, sitting next to an attractive person who asks: "So, what does your startup do?"
You could say, "We're launching a ride-sharing service" (snooze) or "We're a state-of-the-art disruptive innovator using GPS and instant transactions to revolutionize the transportation industry" (big snooze). Or you could say:
"Well, you know how when you need to get a ride somewhere and you call a taxi, it always ends up costing more than you thought it would? Our app lets regular people bid against one another to give you a ride at a fixed price in their own car. As a result, you know right up front exactly how much it will cost and that you're getting the best possible deal."
Now, that's memorable to anybody who's ever fumed over a taxi fare (which is almost everybody). That was an easy test, because Uber is an exciting idea. Let's try the same formula with a company whose product is spectacularly boring.
For example, suppose your company makes the little plastic swords that hold cherries for mixed drinks. You're at a wedding, again sitting next to a very attractive person, who asks: "So, what do you do for a living?"
You could say: "My company makes plastic drink swords" (cricket noises) or "We're the industry leader in the rapidly expanding marketplace for plastic drink swords" (attractive person runs for the nearest exit). Or you could say:
"You know how sometimes you finish a cocktail and there's a cherry at the bottom mixed in with the ice? And you really want the cherry, but to get that cherry you'd have to fish for it with a fork or dump the tumbler into your plate? Well, we make those little sword things that keep the cherry in the drink but let you eat that cherry whenever you want it, without having to do something that makes you look like a crazy person."
Do you see what's going on? Those three magic phrases force you to talk about what your company does from the perspective of what that means to your customer. They not only create a story, but they create a story that's meaningful.
And because people are hard-wired in their DNA to remember stories that mean something to them, they'll remember what you said as well as who you are. Heck, they might even pull out their checkbooks right then and there.