Thursday, January 31, 2008

If You're Selling to Humans, You've Got to Tell Stories

The Story of Soup If a friend of yours told you he was going to make soup in his kitchen and deliver it to you each week, would you find that appealing? You might wonder about health issues.

What if he told you it would be $10 a quart? That's a bit pricey.

What if he told you he was going to deliver it on his bicycle each week? That certainly sounds a bit unreliable.

This was the business proposition of the Soup Peddler, an Austin phenomenon created by David Ansel that has grown into a commercial kitchen, a small fleet of delivery trucks, and a loyal group of "Soupies" who order week after week.

How did David build a business peddling soup around Austin? He sold something more valuable than good soup. He sold a story.

Here's how the Soup Peddler described Tomato Basil soup back in April of 2002:

This week's Tomato Basil Soup is sure to get your summer started right, and may indeed have the power to stoke your fire inside...Tomatoes and Basil are firmly entrenched among the ranks of the most aphrodisiac of nature's offerings.

He then goes into a history of the tomato; about it's reputation as the "love apple" and the scandal created by its "red, juicy, sensual flesh."

With regard to basil, he warns against frequent smelling, as it was believed that this would cause "spontaneous generation of a scorpion inside the brain."

I've got to get some of that soup.

His prose never talked down to his readers. In fact, he always assumed that they were like him.

I know many of you probably join me in the habit of curling up in bed with a good cookbook. You read the little headnotes, scan the ingredients, make mental notes of the clever little twists to the recipe or improvements that you'd likely make.

He gave his customers the honorary title of "Soupies" making them part of the business. He cajoled them to return their empty containers because he believed reuse was important to protect the environment.

While he's no longer peddling through the streets of Austin to deliver soup, he continues to write the stories for his creations each week and to dote on his Soupies.

I only tasted his soup once, at a semi-formal dinner. The hosts spent considerable time telling us the story of the Soup Peddler. The soup was good, but I remember the story most.

Your Hidden Story

When you stop taking yourself so seriously; when you pull your head out of the financials and the management details of your business; when you think about those customers that you really love to serve, what stories come to mind?

If you didn't feel that you had to put up a professional image, what parts of your personality would shine through?

Try This

Hire a creative writer to describe your business. Tell them you want three versions of the description, each one completely different. Arrange for them to go to happy hour with your employees.

Your stories may start to emerge.

Can accounting software be a "breath of fresh air" in an otherwise constricting environment? Can manufacturing equipment be "soldiers at the ready, guarding against waste and flaws?"

You tell me. Tell me about the businesses whose stories you're engaged in. The comments are open.

Find more of David's tasty prose here in his Menu Archive.

Brian Massey for the Bootstrap Blog

Brian Massey writes about online marketing and conversion on the Customer Chaos Blog.

1 comment:

Brian Massey said...

P.S. Here's a company that really needs a story: Yahoo! Otherwise, they'd never consider an acquisition by Microsoft. TechCrunch-Combined Microsoft-Yahoo