Have you ever thought about what truly makes your business unique? Do you have an incredible team? Do you have a mission and a drive to change the world? Do you have an excellent track record of outstanding customer service? Regardless of what sets your company apart in your particular industry, the answers to these questions form the DNA of your business. Understanding this DNA can help you to uncover one of the most critical marketing tools that you will need in order to be successful, your story.
Behind each growing company, lies a compelling story that brings the organization to life, and yours is no different. Your story not only sets your business apart from competitors, but it allows both team members and customers to connect with your vision. If this connection is strong enough it can inspire others to wholeheartedly back your cause. It will also help others to feel a sense of loyalty and kinship that they rarely feel towards large corporations. Actually, if you are ever trying to outflank a large competitor, your story is one weapon that you have that they do not. If you think about it, does anyone really know the stories behind corporate giants such as Walmart, McDonalds, Home Depot or Walgreens?
My goal of writing this post is to help you determine whether you are leveraging your story to enhance both your marketing efforts and the day to day operations of your company. I also want to provide an example of a company that has mastered the concept of using their story to inspire employees, gain a loyal customer base and grow their business.
Waffle Love, a company fueled by its story
Since first moving to Utah County at the beginning of the year, I have heard many great things about a local restaurant in Provo, Utah called Waffle Love. Actually, several of my close friends go there on almost a weekly basis and I am beginning to wonder if one of them eats anywhere besides Waffle Love. After being invited week after week by my friends to go with them, I finally decided to tag along and discover what all the hype was about.
Less than one minute after first arriving at Waffle Love, I realized why it is such a popular place! From the mural painted on the outside of the building to the atmosphere inside, everything about the restaurant says “fun”. Furthermore, upon entering the restaurant I was greeted by one of the friendliest people that I have ever seen working at a restaurant.
As we walked up to the counter, the employee welcomed us and asked us how our day had been going. He then asked whether we had been to Waffle Love before. When I told him that I was a first timer, he became even more excited than he already was and while grinning from ear to ear he said, “Thank you for coming in to visit us!” Sadly, not being there in person makes this experience sound like a pretty common encounter, but this was definitely not the case. He was sincere and genuinely did want us to have a great experience there.
After placing our orders I looked to the person I was with and commented how friendly that guy was. She agreed enthusiastically and we proceeded to find a table to sit at when we met another employee. This one was equally as friendly as the first. By this point my thoughts changed from, “Wow! That was an incredibly friendly person!” to “Wow! Both of the employees working here are incredibly friendly!” After seeing a third employee who seemed just as happy, my thoughts changed once again to “Wow! This must be a really cool place to work!”
As we sat down and began eating our waffles (which were incredible and lived up to the hype in every way), I noticed that a few refrigerator doors had been converted into chalkboards. I began reading the writing on the chalkboards and realized that they were telling the story of how Waffle Love began. I will let you read the story for yourself since they do a much better job telling it than I do, but I do want to point out that their story amazed me.
Since I am also an entrepreneur that left a bank job to chase my dreams, I was able to connect to Adam’s (the founder) story incredibly well. After reflecting on what I had read for a few moments, I realized that not only could I relate to the story, but so could anyone who had ever struggled financially, lost a job, lived in a small apartment with several kids, or wanted to pursue their dreams and do something challenging. In short, just about 98% of the people living in Provo could connect with Adam’s experience. This has helped lead tens of thousands of people to become loyal Waffle Love supporters.
At that point I realized their story must have had something to do with why those 3 employees were so happy. It must have had something to do with why my friends go to Waffle Love several times a month. It must have had something to do with the restaurant’s success.
How the story shapes the business
I ended up getting in touch with Adam to find out more about his story. He told me about many of the challenges he had to face when he first decided to open a food truck. For example, since no one had previously opened a food truck in Utah County, he had to go through the process of getting the county to create the proper health codes and licenses. He also talked about how creating the truck was also a challenge. He had been saving up money for several years to move his family (wife and 3 kids) out of their one bedroom apartment and into a house. He ended up using that money to fund the food truck.
Once the first Waffle Love food truck was finally complete, Adam found a good friend who was willing to work with him that agreed to get paid per waffle. Adam was extremely grateful for this since the business wasn’t generating enough money to pay anyone hourly yet. One waffle at a time, the Waffle Love brand began to spread and everything began going in a positive direction. Adam told me that he learned during those early days to be grateful for each and every customer. Even to this day, he reminds his team about their humble beginnings and asks them to be grateful to their customers since they are the reason Waffle Love is in business and they all have jobs.
Adam also told me that the early days of the business taught him the importance of attacking goals with tenacity. He said he approached obstacles with a “won’t take no for an answer” attitude. During the days of the Vikings, whenever the Vikings would land in a new territory, they would burn their boats to ensure that there was no possible way to retreat. Adam compared investing his entire savings in the business as his ship burning and pointed out that he had no choice but to press forward. As he did this, his “won’t take no for an answer” attitude spread among early team members and helped create an ambitious and customer-centered culture. Everyone had a desire to bring Waffle Love to life and would stop at nothing to give their customers the best experience possible.
At one point in our conversation, I asked Adam why they decided to write their story on the chalkboards in the restaurant (after all, I couldn’t recall ever seeing anything quite like this anywhere else). Adam told me that he first and foremost wanted the customers to know how grateful he and his team are for their support. Next he said that he wanted team members to remember where everything began and how each team member plays a huge role in growing the company.
After over 3 years since Waffle Love first began, it is clear to me that neither Adam nor his team have forgotten the passion or the circumstances that first formed the business. Their story brings Waffle Love to life and inspires customers to rally around the company as they realize that they can become part of the team.
If you are looking for ways to create a powerful marketing strategy that will inspire customers to rally around your cause, telling your story is a great start. Make sure your story can be found on your website and your other online marketing channels if appropriate. Help your customers see that your business is worth supporting and that you truly do value those that you serve.