As a brand creator, I talk with a lot of entrepreneurs who are worried and lost when it comes to thinking about using their story to grow their business. They think they have to invent a story and clever marketing about their businesses and themselves to be successful. There are a lot of marketing agencies, brand shops, and other professionals who would have them believe that’s the right approach.
But I think you and I know, we can smell an invented story a mile away. We can see right through marketing that doesn’t have guts or meaning behind, and we sense when a business isn’t really the real deal.
That’s why what I tell my clients is that our work together is not about inventing what’s great about them – it’s about putting a spotlight on it. I like to say, “you’ve already got an amazing story and amazing business, so your branding and your marketing – they just need to make sure your ideal clients don’t miss those things about you.” I believe that when you finally stop worrying about inventing a message and instead, embrace what sets you apart – that’s when the real growth and fun can happen.
Brand storytelling is about tuning your ideal message
In 2016, Tim Barnes – the owner of a piano care company in Charlotte, NC came to me with a profitable, successful company simply named, “Barnes Piano.”
In business for 14 years, they were growing but they had no real story to their marketing. They called because they’d hit a wall in how to share what they did with new customers as they expanded into new cities and markets.
Though they were a cut above as a piano care company in their services, there wasn’t much that really brought it all together from a marketing perspective. They thought they had no compelling story to sell – but the right one was there all along.
To find that true story, I took Tim and his marketing director/sister Stephanie through a full rebranding process and we kicked things off with my Brand Story Questionnaire Process – a tool designed to help you get outside your comfort zone and think differently about your business. From this and talking with Tim, I learned the incredible strengths of his company – and not only what it means to him, but to all the piano technicians that work for him.
What emerged was a story of how much love, care and expertise goes into the work he and his technicians do. There was also the side of love that families and people felt for their pianos – often heirloom and legacy pieces, passed down from loved ones.
Caring for these instruments takes incredible skill and mastery and it is truly an investment to maintain them. Those that love their pianos know this and want to ensure they can continue to pass down this piece of memory, tradition and music to their own families someday. They want to entrust that care to people and a company who is really invested.
So knowing this and seeing their tremendous value – we had to start at the very beginning. While we certainly could have created a logo and branding for Tim to tell this story, we mutually decided that to really unearth the story, we’d have to give the company a name (and with it, a vision) beyond just “Barnes Piano.” Using insights from my questionnaire, I came to Tim with multiple name options and we ultimately chose one that perfectly brought to the forefront part of the story that had been there all along.
Is your brand story about what you make, or what you make happen?
Through our brand story process, we went from:
The Well-Loved Piano Company
Being “well-loved” communicates the kind of care that Tim and the team pour into all that they do. And as The Well-Loved Piano Company, they deliver on their new tagline – “signature piano care.” True to who they are, they provide full-service care for the piano you love, and do so with unparalleled care and attention.
I equipped Tim and his team to finally move past their marketing barriers by writing and designing a full brand story identity – including logo variations, a color palette and other visuals – but also his foundational marketing wording and Tim’s own “About Story.”
At every point, we fleshed things out so the company would have a marketing toolkit that didn’t just tell a “nice story” but truly embraced what was strong about his company and instantly communicated it to his customers.
We wrapped up the process with Tim having everything in place he and the company needed to clearly communicate what they do and play to its strengths.
And while the brand materials are powerful and guiding, Tim often says that this approach gave him a new foundation and direction to run in. Here’s a bit of Tim’s perspective on that process.
Tim found the right note for his brand story
“Yes, we were those people without a real logo, no cohesiveness with our brand, and a self-written ‘about us’ page that was factual (yet boring). We were rapidly growing as a business, but boy was it painful! Nothing was easy and we were ready to make some changes.
The truth is anything would have better than what we had. We could have paid anyone to create a new logo, new website, and redesign our company to look and feel cohesive and professional. However, ‘anything’ wasn’t what we needed, and knowing what I know now I’m convinced that route would have yielded the same result.
Annie got us out of our box. She helped us see beyond our natural limitations and inspired us with our own story. What Annie provided was so much more than just a nice logo and cohesion; she enabled us to define the future of our company.
It only took about 48 hours after launching our new branding for us to realize something was different. Annie had torn down our house, built a new foundation, and gave us the blueprints for being a truly exceptional company.
Now we are having so much fun stepping into those shoes. Everything has changed and we are more excited about the future of our company than ever before.”
Brand storytelling to express your greatness
What I am reminded of when I work with clients like Tim Barnes is the unbelievable capacity you have to soar when your brand and marketing reflects your greatness.
He’s right – branding isn’t really about logos, or colors or cleverness. It’s about your foundation – your story.
The things you bring to the table – the sum of your parts that add value and through your work, change people’s lives and their stories, too.
This is a lot of what gets me up in the morning. When the branding work I create can give a business owner confidence in who they are and what they are doing for others, there’s no better or more rewarding work.
In light of Tim’s story, I challenge you to consider your own business and your own strengths as an entrepreneur – are they highlighted in your brand and in the work you do?
What changes could you make to put more you and more of your value into the messages about your business? When you stop inventing the story and start embracing your own, I can’t wait to see how you’ll grow.
Listen to Annie Franceschi on episode #107: Using Story To Evolve a Dream Job Into Your Dream Life