Every Company Needs a Story

We have a celebrity amongst us! Austin Craig is best known for starring in the Orabrush YouTube videos, which collectively have been viewed more than 30 million times. After 8 years of pounding the pavement the Orabrush inventor decided to look for help at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management, and through the grapevine found Austin. Since then the team has grown Orabrush sales from almost nothing to extremely high demand in over 40 countries. Their Facebook group has over 325,000 fans and their iPhone app has been downloaded 400,000 times! The growth of Orabrush is nothing short of extraordinary, and it would not have happened without Austin Craig. And not only has he helped Orabrush, but he’s also been involved with MSNBC.com and the social media group at FamilyLink.com.

Austin was nice enough to write two related posts for us. Today’s is about the importance of a story for every business. Good stuff ahead…

You’re an entrepreneur, or you’d like to be one. You have ideas that you know are solid gold; you just need a little time, money, and a capable team to make it a reality, and paying customers will flock to your store/site/service/product.

That’s great. I really mean that. To get anything started, you first have to dream a little about what could be. It could take off. It could be a huge hit. The most successful companies in the world are founded and helmed by people who have faith in themselves and vision for their enterprise. Hang on to that faith and those visions; you’ll need them when things get hard. They will.

Let’s assume you’ve already taken care of the first steps. You have lots of ideas, but you chose one that’s right for you right now. You validated the idea with real world feedback from potential customers to prove they’d actually pay for it. You’ve pivoted the idea as necessary. You’ve focused on the minimum viable product, and you’ve crunched the numbers to make sure your bottom line is where you need it.

Looks like you’ve got everything in order, and you’re ready for customers to come flooding in.

But here’s the thing. Nobody knows about you, and nobody cares about you. If they don’t know about you, they won’t come. If they don’t care about you, they won’t come back.

There are all kinds of tricks and tools you’ve probably heard that could get your name out there, but let’s focus on one core principle that will work for you regardless of industry or scale.

Story Time

I work with a company called Orabrush. We have something of an interesting backstory, shown in the video below.

Our company story has been a huge asset. People identify with the story. Who doesn’t love a rags to riches underdog tale? It’s gotten us major media coverage from radio, televison, newspapers, blogs, and countless mentions in social media. For those who haven’t heard of us before, the story is a fantastic introduction to Orabrush. And when they remember the story, they’ll remember us.

Stories are the best teaching format imaginable. How often do you remember long sequences of facts and figures? I only do when I’m forced to. But can you quote extensively from your favorite movie? Or sing along to some of your favorite songs?

As a business trying to sell something or as a marketer, a good story can be invaluable to you. Tell stories. Tell your story as a company, and don’t think you don’t have one. Everybody has a story. Whether it’s overnight success (unlikely) or years of struggle (more likely), you have done things or things have happened to you that don’t happen to everybody. And if you really don’t have any kind of story, make one.

All The Way To Ellen

My sister Katie and her husband Ben started a small baby products company called Puj. For years they worked nights and weekends while Ben maintained a day job and Katie stayed at home to raise their three sons. The work paid off. They got into more stores. Online sales increased. They hired a public relations firm to get their name out there. And an amazing thing happened. They were invited to show off one of their products, a baby boot, on the Ellen Degeneres show. The exposure from a top rated daytime talk show is enormous, especially for a small boutique like Puj.

But they had some obstacles to get over. The shipping time from their manufacturer wouldn’t allow them to get their normal product to the filming on time. To make matters more complicated, Ellen understandably wanted the product to be leather free, as she is known for her animal friendly values.

Katie and Ben had to figure out how to make their product without their regular manufacturers’ help, from materials they didn’t usually use. If they could pull it off, millions would see their product endorsed from an A-list celebrity that the country already knows and loves. If they couldn’t figure it out, they got nothing.

With no other option, they set out to make the product locally, with locally sourced materials so they could get it made right and right now. Katie, with an ill son in arm, went to fabric stores across Portland where they live, searching for the right synthetic material to make the boot. It was miss after miss. No stores carried anything close. There was one small shop left on the other side of town. She was about to give up and go home with her woozy toddler, but called the shop instead. A gruff Russian merchant on the other end of the line assured her in a thick accent that they did in fact have the material she needed. Katie was dubious. Maybe he didn’t understand what she was asking for? Why would this small shop have it when nobody else did? But she took the chance and drove out there. There was a single small roll of the material left.

I could go on with this story. It involves finding a local shop that would work through the night to manufacture the boots, then an order mixup with only half as many boots made as were needed, a rush run produced to have all the boots done for the show, and a flight to Los Angeles with a suitcase full of tiny baby boots.

Katie showed up just before filming started. Their online shop was immediately slammed with orders as soon as the boot hit the air. Their servers crashed. They sold out months in advance.

Stories Make Us Remember

Heck of a story, huh? I probably got some of the facts wrong, but it doesn’t matter. You’ll remember the mental image of a mom with her sick little boy traipsing around town trying to find the right material. You  can probably hear in your head a gruff Russian accent telling her they have the right fabric. That story is an asset to them. That story tells not only what they do, but who they are. With a good story, people remember who you are.

Tell stories. Tell stories even if they aren’t yours. Tell funny stories in your ads. Tell relatable stories. Tell fantastic stories. Just tell stories. You can’t ask for a better introduction to new customers. And if you tell the stories well, if it’s a story worth hearing, they’ll remember you. And they’ll want to know you (and your business) better.

Share this Story

About Austin Craig

  • Hi Alex, Austin, great post!  I’ve followed the Orabrush phenomenon since its early days.  I’ve always known that story-telling is instrumental in making your company memorable but I haven’t applied this principle as well as I should.

    Here’s to my resolution to start telling more compelling, real-life, relatable stories!

    Once again, great post!

  • Really great post and awesome timing. I’m working on a startup right now that will benefit greatly from a great story to share.

  • ‘atta way, austin.  you’re a good man, my friend.

  • Pamrcraig

    You are a great story teller Austin!

  • Katie : Puj

    I could not have said it better myself. Austin, I am so impressed that you remembered so many of the details from the Ellen show. Including the Russian. I do need to tell my story more. Thanks for eloquent reminder.

  • Pingback: Experience Required | Alex Lawrence()

  • Awesome post

  • Austin, loved it. Great write. Lets catch up, love to see if you would have any tips for http://launchleads.com

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