There’s money in a well-told story.
And not just for best-selling novelists, Oscar-winning screenwriters and witty public radio yarn spinners. It’s true for small businesses, too.
Think about it. A well told story has the power to help you entice, win and keep customers. It has the power to convince lenders and investors to risk their money on your success. It has the power to stir government to enact pro-business policies and laws. It even has the power to harm your business, if told by someone else.
In an information-saturated age, a compelling business story is a basic (many would say essential) tool of self-promotion. Every business owner should know how to engage a customer with their story. And they should understand the tools available to tell it. Why? Well, P.T. Barnum, the great American circus showman, businessman and tireless self-promoter put it best: “Without promotion, something terrible happens … nothing.”
And with social media, email marketing, and other digital tools on websites and mobile devices multiplying by the minute, there are lots of options for informing customers, pushing products, offering incentives and generally tooting your own horn.
Here’s a great opportunity to tell the story of your business, promote it through some social media channels, and maybe even earn a few thousand bucks for your effort.
FedEx has brought its Small Business Grant Contest back for a second year, offering entrepreneurs nationwide the opportunity to win a grand prize of $25,000 and smaller prizes of $1,000 to $5,000.
To enter, just register your company at the contest site. Be prepared to spend a little time and thought. The trick here is you have to be compelling – and brief – all at the same time. So it really pays to focus and choose your words carefully.
You start by delivering your best elevator speech -- in no more than 140 characters. Then you move on to these questions:
You can upload three photos and your company logo to the contest site. Company website information is required, and there are also options to include certain social media outlets that you use for business, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Here’s the interesting twist on the contest: To pick the 100 finalists and the prize winners, judges will consider how well you tell your own story, but they'll also let your customers weigh-in on your behalf.
Once your entry has been approved, your friends, customers and business associates can cast votes in your favor once a day. (Yes, you can vote for yourself, too.) The more votes you get, the more visible your entry will be to the judges.
This is where you put your self-promotion talents to the test as you use traditional, electronic and marketing and social media tools to engage your customers and get them to cast a vote (or several) in your favor. How will you reach them and get them to exercise their clicking fingers?
If you make the cut of 100 finalists, you’ll get a second chance to engage the judges and customers.
Here's some advice from past winners on how to make a winning entry:
• Honesty and authenticity go a long way. Tell your story, warts and all.
• Know your elevator pitch. Share your big dreams and big ideas in detail.
• Believe in your business. Don’t underestimate your chance of success.
• Harness the power of social media – but don’t alienate your customers by becoming that pesky little mosquito constantly buzzing in their ears for votes. You likely to get swatted. Sometimes, you have to be more subtle. It helps if you integrate your requests for votes into your other marketing offers and efforts.
Enter by Feb. 9. And don't think that there's isn't enough time to compete. One of last year's prize winners was a last-minute entry.
Even if you don’t win, entering is still worth your time. It’s a great exercise in understanding and using the power of digital marketing to get the attention you need in a loud and crowded marketplace.