Why did you start your company?

No, I am not looking for the "I spotted a need in the marketplace," answer.

I am looking for the story you tell your friends (maybe after a drink or two.)

Was it because you knew your former boss could have been serving customers better? (Or was a jerk and you swore you could run a company better?)

Was it as a byproduct of trying to improving your own life; you were looking for a better tasting, healthier snack; a more efficiient way to get work done; something that would keep you 15 month old amused for more than 12 seconds?

In short, what I am looking for is your story....and so are your customers and potential customers.

A story makes everything better.

There are literally thousands of companies out there--some of whom are your competition--who offer a product or service as good as the one your provide.

How can you stand out?

By having a story.

How did you end up creating the product or service that you did? What was unique about your journey? What was funny? Odd? Different? What might customers truly want to know about you and what you have to sell.

In other words, how can you humanize your company and make yourself memorable?

Whatever it is, tell people. In your marketing materials. On your web site. Through social media. Face-to-face.

It will help make you stand out.

Need proof?

Think about the stories you tell about a product you love.

For example, if you come over to our house for dinner, odds are we are going to offer you a California wine you have never heard of.

It is not that we are wine snobs. We're not. I can barely tell a white from a red.

And it is not that the wine is extremely pricey. It isn't.

We serve it because it is our favorite. And it's our favorite because of the story we are sure to tell you.

We were out in wine country and made it a point to visit the winery that makes the Chardonay we like, the expensive one, the one we have on special occassions.

The winery was lovely. The wine we tasted was great. But the experience was awful.

The place was mobbed. (They had valet parking.) They were trying to sell you not only wine glasses and sweatshirts (with the winery's logo) at every turn and overall it felt like Disney World during school vacation. It was a zoo.

We worked our way to a tasting section that was furthest from the crowds--yes, they had multiple places to sample the wine. We shared with the person pouring our negative reaction to the experience and asked "if you were us, which wineries would you visit."

That's simple, he said. Just head north on the Silverado Trail, the main road through Napa, and "stop in at places you have never heard of. You'll have a great time."

We took his advice and the first winery we came to couldn't have been more different the palace we had just left.

There were dogs running around the property. The tasting took place in their barn and the wine glasses for the sampling were laid out on a plank that rested across two wine barrels. (You could see that the barn cat, who kept circling around us was thinking about how much fun it would be to jump up and knock them over.)

The entire experience was terrific. We left with a case and have them ship us at least one more every six months or so.

Is the wine truly wonderful? Well, it's good. But we have had better.

What makes it our favorite was the experience and the story we can tell.

So, what's your story?


Published on: Dec 7, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.