Breaking down the buzzword du jour


It’s one of the latest buzz words being tossed around business media. Sounds intriguing – like it could be the first stages of a PR or content marketing strategy.

Yes, it can be powerful in business. But how do you do it? Do you create a reading circle at your local library and start with Once upon a time? Do you hire Samuel L. Jackson to narrate your website?

Storytelling in the context of business and branding is actually much more basic than you might think. We’re not talking about making up incredible tales about overcoming adversity to get your business doors open. We’re not talking about revamping your About Us page to read more like a Hemingway book jacket.

Storytelling, at its core, is just another way of thinking about your core value proposition.

Your story starts by answering these questions with as much detail and fact as possible:

  • What do you offer that is unique?
  • What do you do better than your competitors and what evidence do you have to back up that claim?
  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for?

Sounds simple enough. But the the majority of real estate companies fail to answer these questions for themselves and for their customers.

Instead, they fall prey to classic mistakes. They start with declarations that overstate their position without hard facts to back it up, use vague statements because they’re catchy, fail to distinguish services, or use language and terms that consumers simply don’t understand because they’re too inside baseball.

A common example:

We’re the #1 real estate company in X!

Who says? Show me the data to support that.
Who cares? Show me how this benefits me.
What’s unique? I’ve seen others in your market make the same claim. Show me what’s special about you.

Distill it down to a statement that is true, supportable, unique and shows your audience how it benefits them.

Otherwise, you won’t pass the bullshit detector.

Your story and your tagline

Even in nonfiction, the elements of a great story are passion and purpose, authenticity, voice and tone, human interest, and details.

What kind of personality does your brand have? How does it connect to customers? What details about your services can tell your story for you? This is where a tagline can be extremely useful.

Some of the biggest brands in the world have used taglines to help tell their stories. Think different, Just do it, The Ultimate Driving Machine, Don’t leave home without it.

It’s not uncommon for a company to evolve its tagline to include more than one, then eventually drop them. Apple has used several over the years and now you only see them in ad campaigns – nothing attached to the brand on its website. You can do that when your brand’s story has reached a tipping point and everyone knows what you stand for, what makes you different, what makes you you. That means your tagline worked.

In real estate, the opportunity for a meaningful tagline is a wide open sea. Not many companies use them or if they do, they don’t do a good job with them.

Think about it this way: The average home buyer or seller looking at your website doesn’t have a clue what makes you special over the dozens of other options in their market. We’ve known for years that there’s very little brand distinction in the industry in consumers’ minds.

Now’s your chance to tell them.

Your story is your core value stated eloquently. Start with a value statement. Weave it into a tagline. Your positioning statement. Your “About Us” page.

Point is – start with the unique value proposition. It is the first word. Without it, you’re just spinning fairy tales.