It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times. We are at a renaissance moment in online land. It has never been easier to start an online business to sell your products or services. And with an ever-expanding audience of people who are coming to expect products as unique as they are, learning how to tell your story on your business website is vital. Not to mention it will help you stand out against bigger, faster, potentially cheaper options from powerhouse, big-box companies.
If there is a problem — any problem — someone is contemplating a way to solve it and then mass-produce and mass-market that solution. (Artists even are seeing their creative works ripped off and mass-produced using AI.) In the clutter of products mass-generated by easy and automated replication, how can small businesses differentiate themselves from the noise? With a strong story.
Danielle Vincent from outlaw soaps explains her story and how her website evolved …
How to tell your story on your website in 3 steps
You have something no other business has, and that is your story. Over the past year, I have come to realize that the best and only differentiating factor for small businesses is story. Story wins hearts. Story builds connection. Story creates a shared experience. Story gives customers a reason to love — and be loyal to — you and your company. And if you’re not sure how to tell your story, we’ve got some steps to get you started.
- Talk about the people behind the business.
- Focus on connecting with customers.
- Include company values.
Your website is the best place for this information, because you own this territory. You bought the domain, you built the site, it is your home. People come to your website looking for information about your products and services, and in this article, we’ll look at how we can deliver so much more.
1. Talk about the people behind the business
Your story is unique to you. It is as unique as a fingerprint. No matter what companies make similar products to yours, no one has your story, no one has your perspectives, no one has your challenges, and no one has your triumphs.No one is you — so tell everyone who you are and why you’re taking it upon yourself to start this venture.
For example, over at our website, OutlawSoaps.com, we take a brief moment to introduce ourselves in a way that humanizes our business:
“Russ (the other half of Outlaw Soaps) and I moved to Oakland shortly after the Outlaw Soaps launch on March 15, 2013. We adopted Roxy, our dog, on May 10th, 2013. We started out in a big concrete warehouse in a pretty crappy part of Oakland, with workshop downstairs. Russ was the building manager, so we got free rent.”
We go on to talk about our transition from that crappy part of Oakland to Colfax, Calif. — which we adore — but the main point is, we put a face to our business with our story. People can meet Russ and Danielle. They can follow us on Facebook, get a sneak peak at who we are, and form a lasting connection. These are all important things when learning how to tell your story, because people buy into your words — sometimes before they even buy the product.
Speaking of forming lasting connections …
2. Focus on connecting with customers
The natural first place people go to read about your business is your About page. When we first built ours, we focused on why we valued the ingredients we use, and how we learned to make soap … stuff like that.
A couple years ago, we changed it to emphasize the importance of creating a connection — a shared experience — with our customers. We want our customers (and potential customers) to feel an affinity to our spirit and our attitude first, and our historical records second. We wanted to let our customers know we are one of them, that we go camping and light campfires, we shoot at cans with BB guns, and we have a rambunctious, devil-may-care approach to life.We also wanted to build some exclusions, since what you exclude is as important as what you include.
Our products are not going to make you tidier or smell pretty. We don’t value clean fingernails, and we’re pretty sure our customers don’t either. We want to create a common bond with our customers.
And it’s not fake. This is who we really are. Take a look for yourself:
Outlaw Soaps a company for adventurous people, by adventurous people. We live like the products we make: we love campfire, whiskey, and ill-advised explosions … standing a little too close, but being sure to wear fire-proof clothes.
We know there’s a time for quiet conversations and a time for asking your friend to hold your beer because you’ve got a great idea. (note: it’s never a great idea … and that’s why there’s YouTube)
Russ and I have built a business around what we find fun and interesting. It’s not for everyone … We get a lot of bruises in the regular course of life. Our hair is usually a mess. I probably have dirty fingernails.
But it’s our life, and it’s pretty damn fun.
Now, I have to put the caveat in here that we don’t include the boring details of our lives. We’re not always out camping and swigging whiskey. But those are the important parts of the shared connections we are looking to build with our customers.
3. Include company values
Once we’ve shared a bit about ourselves, we go on to talk about our company foundations (including our commitment to outdoors and adventure), and finally how we believe in the importance of things that are made in the USA.
Like is drawn to like. Shared values help your customers make informed buying decisions and inspire trust in your products or services.
If you value the entrepreneurial spirit and pioneers like our business does — and if you’re a small business owner, you probably should — then say so. In fact, 94 percent of people like to do business with SMBs. Showing off your true grit, what you believe in and why it matters to you, helps hammer in that connection we just discussed.
“We want our customers to get out there and try stuff, challenge routines, and focus on living life to the limits.”
There’s nothing in there that says, “buy our soaps!” because that’s not what this is about. Right here, in this moment, our focus is on expressing our values so our customers understand the reason behind why we do what we do.
Tell your authentic story
We often hear from customers who say they loved reading our story and feel proud to support a company like ours. And the wonderful thing about having an authentic story is that we know they mean us. Hopefully these three tips can help you learn how to tell your story on your website so you can start making valuable, authentic connections with your customers.