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Are you missing out on this opportunity to engage your customers?

What’s your story?

Why are you in business? How did you start? What prompted you to do what you do? If you work in a larger corporation, what their history? Did you know?

Your story and that of your company is a great way to attract and engage customers (as well as employees), and yet most of us never take advantage of this incredibly powerful tool.

I once worked for a 92-year-old woman with a voice that sounded like 50-grit sandpaper. She was the founder of a small broadcasting empire. Here are some highlights from Dorothy Bullitt’s story:

  • She built her empire as a single woman when her husband died suddenly, and in an era when single women did not run businesses, much less build empires.

  • At one point, she was the richest person in the state of Washington (until an upstart named Gates surpassed her).

  • He once cornered Walt Disney on a train, and he wouldn’t leave until he, personally, drew the cartoon icon of your broadcasting company.

  • She was absolutely committed to serve the public with its multiple television and radio stations (and make healthy profits while doing so).

  • He made the strongest eggnog in the world and could drink more than anyone else in the company.

Pretty good story, right? And everything is true. Now here’s the sad part:

The only reason I know all of this is because I met Dorothy Bullitt and worked at her flagship television station, KING-TV in Seattle, while she was alive. When he died, that station, along with the rest of his empire, was sold to an outside company, which was then sold to another company, which was then sold to another company. Along the way, the story was lost. You won’t find her story anywhere on the KING-TV website. Today’s new hires probably couldn’t tell you who Ms. Bullitt was. Only veterans in Seattle still associate KING-TV with the woman who was committed to serving the public.

Now, KING-TV is a practically generic local television station. Better than some, certainly. But there is nothing that really sets it apart.

I think it is a mistake. I think it is a mistake because, as human beings, we are programmed to respond to stories. Star Wars. Harry Potter. Game of Thrones. All the stories. All convincing. All attractive.

When Simon Sinek famously said “Start with ‘Why'”, he was actually saying, “Start with your story.” Your story is what makes you and, by extension, your company interesting. It is what can make people want to know more, want to support your causes, want to buy your products and services.

It’s particularly important to millennials, who are eager to support brands that represent more than just profit.

So what is your story? You have one? (And the answer is almost always yes, if you dig deep enough.) More importantly, are you sharing it, in a compelling way, with the people you serve?

If not, you are missing a golden opportunity to engage your customers.

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