How does your travel business or your service differ from others? What makes you unique? Why should a customer choose you over your competitors? Setting yourself apart from other similar services is vital for your income. It’s your way of attracting customers. There are many ways of doing this.
One of the most cost effective ways is telling and representing your unique story. Making it clear why you are special. If you invest some of your precious time in doing this properly, it will make many other tasks in your business life a lot easier as well.
In this article we will make our claim on why storytelling is important for your business. And we give you simple steps and ideas on how to find your unique story.
Before we go further, please watch this two minute video.
How did you find it? What was good and what did you not like? Why?
What is your unique story?
Whether you have an established business in need of a refresh or a completely new endeavour, it’s good to stop for a minute and take stock of who you are and where you are heading. Do you really know what your strengths are? Do your customers know about them? Why would they choose you?
You might already have an excellent origin story on, for example, how you came up with your travel service idea or how your business today is rooted in your local history. But quite often just the running of your day to day business takes so much of your time and thoughts. It can feel impossible or too artificial to come up with a ‘gimmick’ that sets you apart from others. What to do then?
A true story is the best story
Real life is almost always stranger and more fascinating than fiction. So you don’t have to invent your story. In fact, don’t use made up stories. Local folklore and fairytales are exceptions to this rule, like in our sample video. You’ll damage your business when people find out you’re not authentic. And they always find out. A true story is the best story. It’s easy to remember and incorporate into your business life. It’s easy to tell others and you can add to it when your business develops.
So authenticity is important. There is so much online advertising these days that people easily mistrust very sleek and expensive looking ads that focus on pushing the product. If your business is very sleek then that’s totally the right way to present it! But if your travel destination or service is more rustic and down to earth, let it show.
A true story is relatable and engaging. Tell your potential customers something they didn’t know before or be funny or emotional in telling it and enrich their lives. That way you get their interest, and in the long run, loyal customers.
How can you find your story?
Quite often you as the entrepreneur sit a little too close to the subject. The easiest way to get a new perspective on what makes you unique is to ask someone else who know a bit about your business.
- Ask your friends and family what they think is unique about your concept. They know you well and are not afraid to say what they really think. When asking for feedback to your own ideas they might love you too much to give an honest opinion. But when asked for original ideas or unique traits, they may be a very good source.
- Ask your colleagues and your network of service providers. How do they see you or your idea? Do you have a network of locals who need help with the same thing? Pool your ideas together and help each other out.
- Ask your staff. Find a way to engage them in the process so they are involved from the beginning. They are after all, the ones who will represent your story to the future customers.
- If you already have an established business, you can also ask your customers. But be aware that they often have a very limited view of your business. A simple customer happiness survey is not a very informative tool when you are trying to dig deeper. But if you have loyal customers who come back to you time and time again, they can probably formulate why they love your service.
Don’t be discouraged if they give you very different answers. Your unique characteristic might be something completely different from what you originally thought.
Different ways of gathering data, pluses and minuses
+ Easy to do anytime, anywhere.
+ You can chat about the subject as you are working, on location and in other relevant places. This might remind your interviewees about unique traits they wouldn’t otherwise come up with.
+ Works well with every group: friends, business partners, employees, customers.
– You need to remember and write down the answers later on.
– Your interviewees might be too surprised to give you well thought answers. Is there a way you could remind them later when they have had time to process their thoughts?
+ Your interviewees come prepared. They can read your questions in advance and have more time to think about their answers.
+ You can record or write down the answers so nothing vital is missed.
+ Open ended questions (“What do you think of…” “Can you give me an example of…” etc.) give you more info than questionnaires.
+ If you get a totally new point of view from an interviewee, you can ask follow up questions and change your questions for future interviews.
– Needs more time and effort in preparing the questions beforehand and the interviews take time.
– Interpreting the results takes more time and effort too. You might have many notes or recordings to go through.
– You can easily get side tracked and need to concentrate more on the goal of these interviews.
+ A group of people together generate more ideas and are faster in creating solutions than single separate interviews.
+ You get the benefit of different people sharing their expertise with you and each other. If you engage your local people with shared interests, it’s a win-win situation where everyone benefits.
+ You probably get more and better quality results from a good workshop than by any other method.
– It takes good preparation and some experience to get good results from a workshop. If you lack the experience, it’s a good idea to get help from a seasoned facilitator.
– It can be difficult to get several busy people to find common time for a good workshop. A whole day or at least half a day is a big ask. How can you make it worthwhile for all attendants?
+ Best method if you aim for lots of answers to very specific questions. (For example “Which one of these claims is closest to your opinion…” and “evaluate on a scale from 1 to 5…”)
+ You get standardised answers that are easy to compare.
+ If you use an online questionnaire, there are many ready tools to help you gather and present the results.
+ They work best when you already know which questions you need answers to. And who you need to ask. For example if you already have several options and need to find out which one is the best for your target group.
– Are often boring to fill in. How could you make it fun or worthwhile for the interviewee?
– Coming up with very specific questions that everyone understands the same way is hard work.
– You get only the answers you asked for. Anything new and hidden from you stays hidden.
Choose your methods with your resources in mind. If you don’t have time to go through masses of data, choose the easiest, or hire help at this stage. You can mix and match different methods depending on which stage in your process you are in. This isn’t rocket science, but choosing a method, and knowing its limitations, helps you get results you can trust.
OK, now you have your unique story. How do you use it?
To put it simply: your unique story is your guideline for everything.
- Your story helps you build your brand. It’s much easier to decide what kind of pictures to put on your Instagram account, what kind of language to use in your posts and on your website. When you make sure they all support your unique story, you can use your story as a guideline for your entire brand design.
- If you are buying these services from others, it’s much easier for them to come up with an excellent web design or the perfect interior when they know exactly what you want to tell others about your service. What kind of mood or feelings you aim to raise in your customers. You get better value for your money and quicker results.
- You can segment your ideal customer when you know what kind of people are attracted to your kind of story. By establishing the target group your marketing won’t waste time and money in attracting the wrong type of traveller.
- It’s easier to recruit the right kind of staff when they like and can identify with your story.
How can you tell your unique story?
All stories have a similar structure. Whether it’s a fairytale or a movie screenplay. Whether it’s the story of your unique business or a hilarious anecdote you tell your friends. They all have:
1. The starting point in the ‘ordinary world’. What the world was like before your adventure.
2. The change. Something happens that shakes the ‘ordinary world’ from its axis.
3. The solution. How your world has changed because of what you experienced. What it means for your future.
The basic structure of a good story hasn’t changed in millenia. So it’s good for you to trust it too. For a more in depth guide to storytelling in business, check out Matteo Cassese’s article in La Fabbrica della Realtà.
Do remember that your story doesn’t have to be the history of your business. If your unique character is the quirky way you greet your customers, or the landscape you’re situated in, then tell them about that.
Choose your media
The easiest way to tell this unique story is to write it down as a text. Many companies today have an ‘our story’ page on their website. Take a look at other travel businesses. How do they describe themselves? What’s good about them and what’s not?
Not all people are readers. Social media platforms today use more and more short videos that mix pictures, sounds and written words. Videos are great in evoking emotions. Emotions in turn stir up interest and attraction to your travel destination or service.
For inspiration, take a look at how some of the USA’s best known cities presented themselves in new ways in 2020 when lockdowns restricted travel and lessened the appeal of mass destinations (by skift.com, a travel news outlet). This article also includes a truly local and low budget sheepview cam by the Faroe Islands’ tourist board. Fun and totally unique! What thoughts and ideas do these examples raise in you?
Presenting your story in text or video is the starting point. How many ways or places can you come up with where you can present your story or parts of it? Naming your products, colours you use, pictures, foods, smells, landscaping etc. Really only your imagination is the limit.
Start by writing your story down. And rewrite it with the help from your natural networks until you are satisfied with it. Then you can restart the round of chats or interviews with your different networks to come up with ideas on how and where to use it.
Life happens and business changes
Your story doesn’t have to be complete or unchanging. Real life isn’t complete and constantly changes. Leave room for your story to evolve and expand as your business grows and moves in new directions. And hopefully you have lots of fun with it.