Local Sight
Home » Marketing » What Story Does Your Local Business Website Tell?

What Story Does Your Local Business Website Tell?

Better content, better stories

The story surrounding a thing is just as important as the thing itself. If you don’t believe me, try watching your next sporting event on TV with the sound turned off. You’re still seeing the same thing – the same players, the same plays, the same scores – but at the same time, you’re not. You’re missing something vitally important to the experience: the story.

Your business tells its own story. Your name and logo tell people who you are. The list of services you have posted on a website, flyer, business card, or classified ad tells people what you do. You might even take it a step further, telling people how long you’ve been in business, why you got into your trade, who you typically do work for, and why they should hire you.

It’s a story almost everyone tells on their website’s “about” page.

But is it a good one?

It’s not your fault.

Most people aren’t good storytellers. The ones that are generally get paid for their abilities (except for novelists, but that’s a topic for a different day) because a good story is hard to tell.

We build a lot of websites for contractors. When we ask them what kind of story they want their website to tell, they usually have a hard time coming up with an answer.

And why shouldn’t they?

A company that builds decks doesn’t need a fairy-tale to illustrate the usefulness of lumber under your feet when you walk out your second-story back door.

A company that mows your lawn doesn’t need to sing you a lullaby while they do it.

We build decks. We mow lawns. What more do you need? Pick up the phone and call us.

Or, you could take this approach…

We build decks you can stand on without falling through – if you wanted, you could even jump! And if you hire us for your lawn, your HOA will finally stop coming around your house every two weeks waving a ruler at the grass and bushes.

Wait a minute…

Did we just accidentally tell a story?

What doesn’t work… but also kind of does. Usually.

Most small business websites have a list of services. Usually, it’s bulleted and looks like this:

  • We do this.
  • And that.
  • And this.
  • And more of that.
  • And even more we can’t list here!

Sometimes, that’s enough. After all, if someone has a plumbing issue and lands on your website where you mention being able to fix that issue, you’ll probably get a phone call.

In that case, it’s all you need.

But what about a property manager with thirty-five units who is looking for a new vendor to handle all of their plumbing issues, or a home-builder who is looking for a new subcontractor? This person has time to look for the right provider, and on every website they go to, they see plumbers that do this, and that, and this, and more of that – it’s all right there in the list of services. Who are they going to choose?

I believe it’s going to be the one with the better story. But what does that even mean?

Why are they called home-builders and not house-builders?

Allow me to be pedantic for just a moment. I promise to be quick.

Your house is a home. Other people’s homes are just houses – to you, at least. This is something that doesn’t need to be explained. You feel the rightness of it.

There’s a reason why spec houses are always staged with furniture. Often, companies hire more aesthetically adept companies to do the staging. They do this because you’ve never been to an open house and heard someone say, “Honey, come quick! Look at these walls!”

You might have heard a couple talking about which child would get which bedroom, or where they would put the home office, or if their television would look good over the fireplace.

Are those things a replacement for the quality of workmanship that went into building the house? Of course not. If the paint is peeling and the molding is dinged and there are nail-pops all over the place, no amount of storytelling is going to sell the house. The same way that if you’re a plumber who can’t fix the leaky pipe, no amount of storytelling is going to save you.

But if all other things are equal – if the pipe gets fixed and the house gets built with roughly the same degree of quality – the story becomes the differentiator.

When people walk into a spec house, the staging helps them envision it as their home. Without it, they’re just looking at walls, floors, and empty rooms.

That’s not very exciting. Anyone could build that.

(I recently discussed this topic (okay, it was more like an argument) with a real-life homebuilder online. He helpfully pointed out that they are indeed called “spec houses” and not “spec homes” as I had originally written, and that the only reason companies stage these is because the average consumer doesn’t have the ability to conceptualize an empty room full of furniture the way contractors can. They can’t conceptualize an empty house becoming their home. I’m not sure who won the argument, but we both seemed to be making the same point.)

Sure, whatever. I understand the deeper meaning – the words behind the words. Now what the heck do I actually do?

“Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Don’t tell one story. Tell many.

Don’t tell your story just one time. Tell it over and over and over again.

A landscaper came to me a few years back. Among other things, he needed help coming up with a compelling story for his business and website.

“I cut grass,” he said dryly. I’d just asked what set him apart from his competition.

It turned out to be a silly question.

“You ever seen a lawn that was mown, another that wasn’t?” he went on. “See, one of them will have grass about yay-tall.” He separated his fingers a smidge to demonstrate. “The other, the one that wasn’t cut? That grass will be yay-tall.” His fingers separated a little more. “Don’t matter if I cut it or someone else. It’s either cut or it ain’t. People generally know the difference.”

I nodded thoughtfully, tapped my nail against my teeth. “You about the same price?” I asked, thinking I might be on to something.

“Everyone in this area is.”

Not the price angle. “You use similar equipment?”

“Not sure the blade I use is the exact make and model.” The sarcasm was palpable. And well-deserved, if I was being honest with myself. But I had another idea.

“Do you put those fancy checkerboards in their lawns?” There it is. That’s the one.

“No. People don’t care about them at this price.”

I thought for a couple minutes. This was hard.

“Show up on time, every time?”

“Well, I do.”

“That a selling point for folks?”

“You wouldn’t think so, but when an old lady steps out her door in her slippers and house coat and sees that her lawn looks awfully shaggy compared to her neighbor’s – and oh, would you look at the time, getting dark soon and that mower-boy hasn’t showed up yet. That happens and she has to wake up to a ragged lawn with all her neighbors peeking at it out their windows, calling each other, gossiping about the sorry state of her front yard? You’re apt to get one angry phone call, probably lose the customer if it happens again.”

I smiled. So did he. I asked if he could make a guarantee. He could. From that point on, his marketing material – website, social media, mailers he sent out, everything – drove home that guarantee: on time within 60 minutes, or your grass gets cut free. Eventually, he started doing higher-ticket services and we came up with other stories to tell, but that first one always stuck. He almost rebranded his company to “On Time Lawn Services,” but I suggested against it.

Tell your story, absolutely, but don’t gild the lily.

Examples of this are easier to come by than you think.

The easiest, cheapest, and most readily available example is a team member page. Feature your team and their photos, biographies, and job descriptions on your website. No matter what type of company you are, now you’re no longer faceless. You have personality.

Another similarly available example is project portfolios. You probably already feature photos of your work on your website, and that’s great. Now, attach a story to them. Here’s why the customer came to us. Here’s what they wanted. Here are the products we used to achieve their result. Here’s their glowing testimonial after we finished.

Here are some more examples:

A roofer might want to be looked on as an expert. He might do a blog or Facebook series about the different types of products he uses, why he uses them, and why customers should consider one over the other. I don’t know what product my roof needs, but I sure have a roof. If he can tell me what I need and why before we get on the phone, I’d buy that story.

A remodeling expert might decide to inspire potential customers, talking about how their experience as a competent contractor allows them to build specialized creations: home gyms, outdoor kitchens, wrap-around porches, heated bathroom floors with waterfall showers, and more. Half the time, I don’t know what I want before I see it. Or read about it.

A home builder might have a series on aging-in-place.

A hardscaper might write an article on building wood-fire pizza ovens.

A landscaper might cut checkerboards into people’s lawns, and show them off.

And a web design company might just do one thing really, really well. They might build websites that make the phone ring.

People love stories. Which one are you telling?

Call it “branding” or “positioning” – call it whatever you want. It’s storytelling.

Think hard about your story.

What makes you different?

What makes your product better – or worse?

Is the mere existence of your product or service enough to sell it?

And even if it was… is that any fun?

Tell your story on your website and on social media – not just once, but over and over again. Create content about yourself and your products. Educate people on things they need to know. Get in front of a camera. Inspire people about the things you can build or fix for them.

And do it all with personality. Tell a story.

We do. We don’t just do website design, we build websites that make the phone ring.

If you’d like us to help tell your story (and get you more traffic, phone calls, and leads in the process) give us a call at (304) 223-9030.