Tell Before You Sell


Marketing has come a long way in the past century. Gone are the days of Henry Ford’s “You can have any color [of Ford] as long as it’s black” and the buy, buy, buy mentality (not to be confused with N*SYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye“). In today’s marketing, customer relationships are the focus. Companies spend millions of dollars and hundreds of hours each year to build bridges between themselves and their target markets. The emergence of social media has facilitated the creation and maintenance of these relationships.

One of the most powerful tools in this marketing climate is often overlooked. In fact, it is something that is unique to each brand and cannot be copied by any competitors. Utilizing this key unlocks the door to deeper relationships with customers, clients, employees, investors, fans, members, etc.  

So what is this secret to succeeding in the world of relationship marketing? Tell your story! 

It sounds simple because it is. Storytelling is one of the most ancient forms of communicating information. Before writing and drawing, people conveyed information through oral tradition. To make it memorable, cultures had to find creative ways to make their stories memorable including rhyming, poetry, epics, chiasmus, and other literary forms. Many of these stories were later written down and exist today, giving us insight into each people group.

Think about the brands that you connect with best, the ones you tell everyone about. What gets you so excited about them? Do they make a great product? Probably, but so do some of their competitors. So, what sets them apart? The story behind the product.

Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, refers to these brands as “lovemarks“: a product, service or entity that inspires Loyalty Beyond Reason. One of the differentiating factors for these brands is the fact that they have a story that they share: Apple refers to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founding the company in a garage and always pushing innovation and simplicity, Walmart points to Sam Walton and his humble character and care for customers, TOMS tells stories of how their shoes are helping children in the third world.

Their is a lot of power in telling your story. Whether you brand is a company, product, church, nonprofit, or person, the ability to share your skillfully will lead to real-world business results. Here are a few benefits of telling before selling:

Enrich Relationships

Trust is an important part of any relationship. The more you trust someone, the richer your connection and ability to empathize with the other party. The same is true of brands. If you want to get people excited about what you are doing, share with them: tell them about how you got where you are and how you are continuing to write your story with their help. The more you share, the deeper the relationship formed with your target audience.

Cultivate Commitment

As the relationship deepens, the recitation of your story begins to fans that rave about your brand. A significant number of these people don’t talk about your brand as much as they retell your story to other people. These brand evangelists get others more excited about what the brand is doing than the products it sells. In turn, the ones who hear the story investigate it more, which leads to them discovering and trying what the brand has to offer. Telling a story doesn’t only create with customers, but also with employees. Walmart is a classic example of this: almost everything that happens in their company culture is built around founder Sam Walton. The company constantly refers to him in Saturday morning meetings, shareholder meetings, and other internal communications. Almost everyone admires Sam and wants to carry on his values as they work to continue writing Walmart’s story.

Inspire Action

Telling your story will inspire people to take action. Whether it is the growth of a small business like James + James that has a great story that people can connect with and want to be a part of, or an established company like Apple who has created a cult-like following of Apple lovers, a story is a company’s most powerful asset to inspire people to action.

You and your brand have a unique story: share it! Of course the end goal is to sell product, but you will find that people will be more willing to do so if they connect with your brand in more places than the checkout counter. The next time you want to market your brand, remember this important rule of relationship marketing: Tell Before You Sell.

Learn It. Love It. Live It.

[image credit: Surian Soosay on Flickr]


About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

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