There was time, not long ago, when all of the biggest power players in Boston knew Frankie and Tony.
They were legends in the Boston business world, even though they were not technically in the “business world”. They sold to more business people than most b2bs ever dream of.
While there are many excellent reasons to build your brand story—buyer loyalty, connection, and a top spot in the customer’s memory–they understood the best one–a good story is retold.
For over 40 years, the two men worked the floor at Boston’s oldest fine dining restaurant, Locke-Ober. Big name CEOs and politicians made their lunch reservations around Frankie and Tony’s schedule.
I met them when I was the Sales & Marketing Director in the mid-2000s. At first, I believed it was their tenure slurping in all the attention. However, much of the staff had worked there over ten years.
You could see Frankie and Tony as characters within a story, but they were more like independent contractors. The truth was after 40 years of charming the and pouring thousand dollar bottles of wine, these men knew how to use their story to bring them loyal business. They knew how to spin a tale that their customers would want to brag about.
What can you learn about writing your business story from Frankie and Tony? Plenty.
1. Your story must tell the world about your customers, not about you.
- Knowing Frankie and Tony had its perks, but what customers liked most was that it meant you had been doing business in Boston for eons. You were experienced, a traditionalist, and loyal. You were the suit equivalent of the aging hipster who only listens to Peter Gabriel Genesis.
- Buyers care more about themselves than about you. Your customers will retell your story if it makes them look good. What do your buyers want to brag about themselves? If they want to look like they give back to the community, you need to give back. You might think the most interesting thing about your brand its roots in your grandpa’s workshop, but if your customers want to be hip and innovative, they won’t want to brag about your grandpa.
2. The truth is in the details.
- Tony worked the Maitre d’ stand in a double-breasted suit complete with colorful pocket square and spotless shoes. With his thick Italian accent and a vocabulary of hand waves, he greeted everyone like they were walking into an old movie.
- In the cynical business world filled with frauds, it is easier to live into the details than to fake it. Find a story you can stick to down to your pocket square and your buyers will want to retell it. Think of your buyers starting sentences about your brand like this, “They even have a…” or “You should see this company. They are the real deal, down to the…”
3. Story accentuates service. It doesn’t replace it.
- In 2002, Frankie appeared on the cover of Saveur magazine. He was a legend in the serving world. Yet, Frankie knew every tuxedoed member of that staff could recommend a perfect wine pairing or filet your Dover sole with finesse.
- Buyers might love your story, but your service or product must back it up. Create your story to push you forward. Your story is not a safety net.
4. Find your stories within stories.
- Frankie and Tony were a story within a story. The restaurant, Locke-Ober, opened in 1875. It had its own story. Locke-Ober was a piece of the modern-loving Boston restaurant scene. Without the contrast of the local competition and the complementary history of Locke-Ober, Frankie and Tony would be either commonplace or ill fitted.
- Your story needs layers to feel important and true. Look at how it fits into your industry, but also take note of the smaller stories that make up your brand. When your buyers can’t see the big picture, they can attach to the little one.
- Are your buyers bragging about your story? What do they talk about when they tell your story? Let me know in the comments below.