How to Create a Compelling Brand Story for Your Online Store

Written by Brenda on October 13, 2014 How to sell online.

Your brand story is what separates you from everyone else.  It’s the reason why anyone should care you exist. But what is it, exactly? The simple answer is “your business itself.” Everything you do is part of it. Everything you are is part of it. Why you started, what you do every day, how you treat your employees (that one’s far more important to the story than many entrepreneurs realize), how you interact with customers, the content of your ads, the design scheme you choose to represent it—everything. It’s not just a linear narrative of how you founded your business and how it grew to its current incarnation.

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Your challenge, however, is to figure out how to wrap all that up into a few paragraphs your customers can read and understand. Of course, this isn’t totally possible, but being interesting should take place over being comprehensive, so you don’t even need to put everything in there anyway.

Okay, enough intro. Let’s begin.

Start with how you founded your business and how it grew

It’s only part of the story, but it’s a good jumping-off point. First, sit down and outline your company’s chronological timeline, and any particularly important events or milestones in its history.  Nothing too involved—you won’t use most of this, anyway—just a bulleted list.

After you’re done with this, take what you believe are the most interesting events, not necessarily the most important, but the ones you think can be spun for humor or emotional value. Think of some interesting ways to express these, then file them away for later. You’ll pull a few of them out when you’re going through your notes looking for things to put in the final version. But more on that later.

Continue with what people might like about your company

What are your strongest attributes? What do you stand for? Do you have a cool underdog story your viewers might be able to sympathize with? Believe it or not, those are all forms of value. The good feelings a customer gets from supporting a company they love can be as powerful as the ones from receiving the product itself.

And most importantly, what’s different about your company? And no, I’m not just talking about those 50% off sales you run every fifth weekend. Those are great, but why do you run them? Is it just to bring in new customers, or do you just like knowing the customers are using your products and will probably be returning for more, even if their first one wasn’t sold at full price? Take note of that.

Summarize what value you present

Here’s another bit of advice we give fairly often. It’s almost like marketing is based on a few simple principles. Hmm. Imagine that…

When writing a brand story, as with a sales page, an about page, or any type of sales material, remember to keep the focus on the customer. To modify a metaphor from QuickSprout, think of your customer as the star and your business as the production company. Your job is to make them look and feel great. Yes, you’ll be getting a nice reward for your efforts, but remember that no one’s coming to the show for your sweet lighting setup. Show them the effects it will have for them instead of the gear itself.

In less pretentious terms, that means you need to put all information about your business in terms that will help the customer understand its value, assuming they’re not a tech-head. If you sell widgets, instead of going on about how precise the instruments you use to make them are and how committed you are to putting bigger motors into them each year, talk about how reliable and fast they are.

Wrap it all into an engaging story

Now, it’s time to construct that narrative. You need a hook and a theme. For example, are you going to portray yourself as the scrappy underdog or the time-tested industry leader steeped in tradition?

And pick a writing style that matches that theme. If you’re going for the underdog route, you’ll want to be informal, fun, and project a “no-BS” attitude. If you’re going for the latter, you’ll want to seem dignified, formal, and businesslike.

We know we’re beginning to sound like a broken record between all the other articles where we’ve told you to use analytics, but seriously. Use analytics. If you know who your customer base is, tailor the contents of your story and your writing style to your audience. We’re not telling you to fabricate anything, but if your audience is primarily hip twentysomethings, they might not want to hear about, for example, a company’s “traditional values.”

Match it to your brand aesthetic or match your brand aesthetic to it

Either way, make sure both of them match. This is also where you can defy the “write for your audience” rule a little bit. If you’ve themed your entire business a certain way since the beginning and crafted an image to match it, go ahead and continue with that, even if it’s not what your demographic is supposedly into. Chances are that’s part of what attracted your customers to you in the first place, even if they’re not what you had in mind.

As a side note, visuals can add to the telling of a brand story on an About page or in a pitch, but make sure your writing is strong enough to stand on its own without them, too.

Choose your words carefully

Your readers are generally not impressed that you have a brand story in and of itself. Literally everyone does. So the deciding factor in how they’ll receive it is in the telling. Especially when talking about your founding, the history, and the need you believe your business can fill, use vivid language. The ultimate goal here is to arrive at a wording that can make your reader see the company from exactly the point of view you want them to.

Cut, cut, cut!

Too much verbage will ruin an elevator pitch and make an about page visitor feel burdened having to read it, so efficiency is key here. And you have a lot of brand story to squeeze into the little space you have, so be ruthless in your editing. As we mentioned, your goal isn’t to tell the entire story, just the parts that would be of interest to a customer.  So make sure to remove all of the parts that won’t, no matter how proud they make you feel to read them.

Conclusion

We saved the best tip for last: don’t be boring.

Dry, self-indulgence is the worst sin a brand story can commit, so make sure not to fall victim to it. Brand stories, although part of your marketing, are not ads or sales pitches. They’re a summary of your business’s history, values, and persona, all told in your brand’s unique voice. And as counterintuitive as it may sound, don’t try too hard to sound smart. You want your intelligence to be communicated through your great products and customer service, not a pretentious brand story.

Keep these in mind while writing, and you’re much more likely to hit your goal.

Have you crafted a brand story for your online story? We’d love to hear about your experience with the development and writing processes in the comments!

Image: Troy Thompson

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