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The New Stuff

Does Your Business Story Stand Out or Blend In?

I love a good story. Truth be told, I am all into mysteries, but not just any mysteries, Agatha Christie and Paul Temple are my favorite. Why? They require you to think. You are forced to really figure out who the guy is, and perhaps, the motivation behind their murder.

What does that have to do with your business? Quite a bit. I want a story where I am rooting for you, not one of "come to my business because we have the cheapest price." I want a story that tells me you put some thought into the service or solution you are providing. I want you to beat the odds.

One of my favorite business stories is The Kenneth Cole Story:

"I had an idea.

I called a friend in the trucking business and asked to borrow one of his trucks to park in Midtown Manhattan. He said sure, but good luck getting permission. I went to the Mayor’s office, Koch at the time, and asked how one gets permission to park a 40 foot trailer truck in Midtown Manhattan. He said one doesn’t. The only people the city gives parking permits to are production companies shooting full length motion pictures and utility companies like Con Ed or AT&T. So that day I went to the stationery store and changed our company letterhead from Kenneth Cole, Inc. to Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. and the next day I applied for a permit to shoot a full length film entitled “The Birth of a Shoe Company.”

With Kenneth Cole Productions painted on the side of the truck, we parked at 1370 6th Avenue, across from the New York Hilton, the day of shoe show. We opened for business with a fully furnished 40 ft trailer, a director (Sometimes there was film in the camera, sometimes there wasn’t), models as actresses, and two of New York’s finest, compliments of Mayor Koch, as our doormen. We sold 40 thousand pairs of shoes in two and a half days (the entire available production) and we were off and running.

To this day the company is still named Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. and serves as a reminder to the importance of resourcefulness and innovative problem solving.”

The innovative beginnings of Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. was driven by the determination to become resourceful when confronted with NO."

How can you not want to reward that creativity and innovation with a purchase? You want Kenneth Cole to win, because they went above and beyond to stand out, when it was probably cheaper to blend in. They could have taken the shortcut route, but instead sold the consumer through this story that they not only spoke to their creativity, but also to the quality of the work. I mean, would Walmart do that for shoes they sell for $19.99? I doubt it since there is nothing special about them.

What's more impressive about this story is that I have remembered it over 15 years, and share it quite often.

So, again, what's your story? Why would I, as a consumer, being hoping you win the battle for business?