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Importance of a corporate narrative

Do you need a corporate narrative?

As B2B marketers, we’re all storytellers, shaping and sharing the stories of our companies, customers and products. But there’s another story that is just as integral to your organization’s success. Your corporate narrative is much larger in scope than the stories you tell about your company’s innovations, or your customers. It’s not your mission statement, and it’s not a history of your company and its rise to success. Instead, your corporate narrative explains nothing less than who you are, and how you are changing the world. There isn’t a fixed beginning or end, as this story is still evolving.

Apple offers an example of a very powerful corporate narrative. “Think different” is much more than an advertising slogan. It also illuminates Apple’s corporate narrative. Apple is a technology company that is enabling people to change how they think, create and interact – and this is truly changing the world. This narrative is so compelling and attractive that people not only want to buy Apple products, they want to work there, they want to invest there, they want to read about Steve Jobs and the history of Apple – people want to be part of the Apple story.

The Apple narrative also illustrates another key point about corporate narratives: they’re not about the company, its employees or products. They are about the potential that is somehow enabled or empowered by the company for consumers, prospects or customers.

But what if your products are not as transformational as Apple’s? Can you still create a corporate narrative that is compelling and attractive? Try looking at your business from a different angle. For example, say your company develops and manufactures medical devices that are purchased by hospitals and healthcare groups. One way of looking at your narrative is that you provide products that help hospitals manage costs and fulfill their service commitments to their patient groups. But another interpretation is that you help people with chronic or acute medical conditions live better, longer and happier lives. The first version might be more practical, and might be what everyone at your company thinks about when they look at the balance sheet. But the second narrative is equally true, and it’s much more emotional and inspiring.

As this example illustrates, a compelling corporate narrative needs to get beyond what your story means to your company, and explore what it means in the wider world. So do you need to envision your company, and its story, in this way? Consider these benefits of defining and sharing your corporate narrative:

Helps differentiate you from your competitors.

If your market is crowded, you need an edge to rise above the commodification of your offering. If your company is viewed as a transformative force, instead of a commodity provider, you gain a strong advantage over the competition.

Streamlines the launch of new products and services.

When your stakeholders already know your broader corporate narrative, it’s easier to introduce new products and services. That familiarity with your company and its approach streamlines and simplifies the acceptance of new offerings.

Builds relationships and loyalty.

Customers, employees and investors are all drawn to an emotional connection, and will make the choice for something they feel connected to over something where there is no emotional pull.

Offers a solid foundation in a changing world.

Your products might change, but the benefit that they enable or create stays the same. Whether you’re selling typewriters or PCs, for example, you’re helping organizations communicate and manage information, and that’s how you’re benefiting the world.
Humanizes your business and products. Has anyone ever developed an emotional connection with a company because its goal was to “maximize shareholder value?” Sure, there are some investors for whom profit is everything. But for most customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders, there’s a lot more to consider when deciding to buy, invest or work for a particular company. People want to feel that they’re part of something worthy and important. A corporate narrative helps them to clearly see the advantages of connecting with your company.

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of a corporate narrative, or explore how you can develop or refine your company’s story, contact Gunther Walravens

Gunther Walravens
Gunther Walravens
Associate Partner at Living Stone

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