If you want to form connections with potential customers and clients, having a great brand story is key.
Brand stories enable people to identify with your brand and care about it - a brand story is the "why and how" of your business, including your driving mission, your struggles and your successes.
A brand story should not only present facts but also evoke feelings. In order to help you create your own brand story, here are 20 keys to putting together a narrative that will resonate with your followers, and help your business grow.
Authenticity can only be achieved through honesty and transparency.
You'd be surprised how quickly people can figure out if you're trying to fool them - customers appreciate businesses that are upfront with their intentions.
It's not enough for a business to exist simply to make profits - what makes a business truly have a "brand" is the big picture.
A brand with a purpose will do a lot better in the long term.
Your vision is all about the impact you want your brand to make in the world, and everything you do in your business should fit that vision in the long term.
The set of principles your brand follows is what enables you to execute your vision - it shapes your internal business culture and guides personnel in day-to-day operations.
It's also good if your brand shares the same values as your customers.
5. Products and Services
The lifeblood of a business is the products and services it's selling. They have to live up to the brand story you're telling, and the promises you make as a result.
6. Your People
You, and the people behind your business, are tasked with telling the brand story, and each employee has an important role. You need to make sure they're able to do their part adequately.
7. Value You Deliver
Products and services alone may not be enough to show the value your brand delivers - being able to show it in definitive terms will enable you to better convince your audience of how good you are.
8. Name and Tagline
A brand can never be without its name and a tagline that both represent what it's all about.
The name must be recognizable and the tagline needs to concisely say as much as it can about your brand.
9. Content and Copy
Your content and copy are the meat of your brand story - they fill in the gaps and add more detail, helping you to attract your customers.
Content and copy is where you showcase your brand voice, letting you establish the personality of your brand.
A big part of what makes a brand identifiable is its aesthetic design, and this is mostly done through the logo, which should be the first thing customers can recognize.
When done right, the visuals associated with your brand can help to sway their judgment.
11. Your Actions
Nothing represents a brand more than your actions as a business. Every action matters, from how you run your operations to how you interact with customers.
12. Customer Experience
What your customers go through in doing business with your brand is another major part of its story. No matter how good your marketing is, it's nothing if you can't fulfill your promises.
13. Price and Quality
The price of your products and services, and their quality in return, will also determine the true value of your brand.
This will also relate to which kind of customers your brand attracts. You may be a budget brand or a luxury brand, but quality is always expected.
14. Position and Perception
As the old adage goes, "perception becomes reality".
How you're seen by your audience dictates the position your business resides in - it's more about how you win hearts and less on how you manipulate their minds.
How you get your products and services to your customers is just as important as what you sell.
It can even give you a competitive advantage, if your method is unique or very convenient.
Where your business is located can greatly affect your chances of success in the long run.
Your business strategy must fit in with your location and vice versa. Visibility and accessibility both dictate how customers can physically get to you.
17. Ubiquity or Scarcity
There are products that are available everywhere else, and products that can be exclusive.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, for both your business and your customers.
Your customers can come together and share their stories about your brand - a community of loyal customers built over time can factor significantly into a brand's ongoing success.
It's the story your customer tells about your brand, which can then spread to more people.
A brand's reputation is everything, and marketing alone can't reverse a brand's bad reputation. Maintaining a good reputation is the most important factor in ongoing success.
20. Reaction and Reach
Your ability to reach customers, and how they react to your brand, is an ongoing story.
They may either not care that much about your business, or they may come in long lines to buy your products.
In combination, these various elements will form your brand story, and the better you can connect the dots and communicate that narrative, the more successful your broader marketing efforts will be.
A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.