Save Money in this Sunday's paper

Building your business


How to make your business memorable

By Jennie Wong
Jennie Wong
Jennie Wong, Ph.D., is a nationally syndicated columnist, executive coach, and the creator of the product quiz website

Are your business stories unforgettable?

Every business claims to have amazing customer service, the lowest prices or a “secret blend.” We hear and see these kind of marketing messages so often that we’re practically immune to them.

But stories are a different matter. Stories engage our hearts and minds in a more vivid and memorable way.

So how can you make your business stories equally compelling and repeatable?

Define your origin story

Start at the beginning by crafting the origin story of your business. What were the key elements in your background and your partner’s background that led you to this business? Why this business, why this customer, why solve this problem? Some origin stories begin in college, some in childhood, some even go back multiple generations.

Many begin in adversity. Think about how you talk about and describe the entrepreneurs you know. When I get home from a networking event, I’m not going to tell my husband about a new acquaintance by listing their service offerings. Instead, I’ll describe their business in terms of their personal life story. The former Marine who taught himself to code, the birth doula who is the granddaughter of a famous obstetrician, or the Realtor who is also a professional sports announcer.

Each of these origin stories serves a dual purpose. Not only does it create a peg for remembering that specific person and their business, it also implicitly conveys a reason for doing business with them, e.g. discipline, expertise, poise. In a sense, your story is your brand.

Story spotting

Your origin story will likely help you clarify what you want to be known for. Or you might find that what you want to be known for doesn’t relate directly to your origin. That’s fine, too.

What’s most important is that you have a niche, instead of trying to be all things to all people. Armed with this niche, you can actively look for stories that express your brand.

Customer success stories are a great place to start mining for narratives.

Did you help a customer triumph against overwhelming odds? (Customer as hero.)

Did you go the extra mile and save the customer’s bacon? (Business as hero.)

Pay close attention to the concrete details that help the listener envision the tale.

Instead of, “We’re great with special requests,” try, “One of our brides wanted us to incorporate a live fish tank into her wedding cake.” Instead of, “Our prices are extremely competitive,” try, “I can’t divulge any names, but even our competitors buy from us when they run out of stock.”

Both versions should be true, but the true story sticks better than the true fact, and is believed more often.

So remember, when it comes to your business stories, use the writer’s adage of “show, don’t tell” to make your business unforgettable.

Jennie Wong, Ph.D., is a Charlotte-based executive coach and the founder of, a friendsourcing tool for online shopping.
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more

Quick Job Search
Salary Databases