What the first day of school has to do with your business and attracting visitors

I’ve just had an extraordinary week. My eldest started school. It’s huge – the fear of being able to find new friends, the panic at not knowing what goes where and the hope that the teacher will be awesome. Yep, it’s tough on the parents!

My son was fine, completely and utterly content to wave us goodbye and go off to begin his educational journey. All while we still hovered nervously at the door.

So why was he so happy to be there? There’s a few reasons that this small child didn’t feel like a ‘visitor’ in a strange place, but it felt like home, and I think there’s a huge opportunity to take those reasons and apply them to visitors to our places of business:

1. Welcome

Firstly the teachers greet each student as they come in the door – with enthusiasm. It makes a huge difference when you feel wanted and appreciated by the people you meet when you go somewhere new. They even sent him a Christmas card saying they were looking forward to seeing him in the new year. How are you welcoming your visitors, and showing your appreciation that they are there to share the day with you? Can you follow up on that at different times of the year?

2. Preparation and setting expectations

There was a lead up to the big first day. It made all the difference. Friday afternoon sessions at the school to familiarise himself with the teachers, the routine and the layout of the place were involved. There was even a welcome barbecue for students and parents. Everyone has to learn to trust new people, new things, new places. So are there ways you can introduce your place or your business to your customer before they visit you? If your website or brochure is an introduction, does it give a good picture of what people can expect when they arrive?

3.  Fun and exploration

The first part of the day at my son’s school is called ‘Exploring time’. They pick a subject they want to learn more about that week and they go for it. It encourages responsibility for their own learning, developing their interests, and it’s fun. Are there things you could be doing that engage people’s interests, allow them to explore deeper and have a lot of fun?

It’s already been a great experience for me to see the difference starting school is making to my boy’s life. Proving that we never stop learning, it’s taught me a few things about myself as well (like how organised I need to be in the morning!). If school continues to be as fun, provide that sense of belonging and set clear expectations, I think this boy’s school days are going to be truly awesome. And don’t we all want to experience that everyday, whether at work or visiting new places?

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Getting hooked on the story

Story telling is all the rage in business now. But I think there is good reason. We’ve always loved telling stories. We keep inventing new technologies to do more of it – from mobile technology, to television, to the printed word.

As Stephen Denning, champion of organisational story telling begins his book ‘The Springboard’:

Why storytelling? Nothing else worked. Charts left listeners bemused. Prose remained unread. Dialogue was just too labourious and slow…. I found that a certain sort of story enables chnge by providing direct access to the living part of the organisation.

Australian story experts Anecdote put it simply that:

  • Stories inspire us to take action
  • Stories stick in your mind much better than bullet points or clever arguements.

So, great, okay, but it begs the question – how exactly can I use a story in my business to create more engagement with my target audience?

There are so many ways. Here’s some great examples I’ve seen:

  • Fair trade clothing maker Eternal Creation adds a vignette of its workers on its facebook page. It works because you get a real sense of the people you are supporting with your purchase – feel good factor = repeat customers!
  • QR code technology is being used in Wales to give people more information on gravestones they come across. It works because it is instant – visitor finds something, is intrigued, wants to know more and can easily with their phone right there and then.
  • And then there are product stories, like those of Original Bean:

For each bar sold, Original Beans plants a tree in the rainforest where the bar’s ingredients originated. Each bar carries a certificate inside the wrapper with a lot number that designates the location of a new tree. By entering the tracking code on the company’s website, customers can not only trace where the cacao beans in their individual bar were grown, but also what their contribution is to the chocolatier’s rainforest replenishment efforts. Hence the company’s mantra: “One bar, one tree, go see.”

So how can you let your customers and visitors know how special you are, allow then to dig deeper and find out more about you?

And of course, we are here to help. Done well, stories could have a huge impact on your customer and staff engagement. It doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. Want to brainstorm some ideas? Great, shoot us an email