We are all constantly building stories about the things around us. From relationships to commerce, we categorize our feelings about everything in our lives based on the information we have available. From a business standpoint, the way we think has important implications.

Global business consultancy Forrester describes the customer experience as “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” This is a fitting definition – and the most succinct one I have found yet.

The reason this definition works so well is because it places the onus on the customer. Essentially, it doesn’t matter what we think – it only matters what the customer thinks. The customer is in control of their own thoughts. The story of our brand is being built and rebuilt in the mind of the customer based on the inputs they have available.

As marketers, it is our goal to influence this story as positively as possible by providing the best inputs. A great way to start that process is to place ourselves in the role of the customer. We can ask ourselves the questions they’d ask themselves. From the identification of a need through the research they’ll conduct, customers will come into contact with tons of information about us and our competitors. In this highly connected world, it is essential that we make information availability and ease of use paramount.

Our customers expect that they can and should find the information they need about us before they contact us. Does our solution fit the problem? Does it make sense? And yes, What’s the price? Further, what is it about our organization that speaks to them? Do we align with their perceptions of what a company in this industry should be?

In a perfect world, of course, we would just poll every customer that comes into contact with our company and ask those questions. But since that’s not possible, we can only act as if we were the customer. That’s the great marketing conundrum, of course. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Building a brand story is not to be confused with the concept of storytelling as a business tool, although that method of marketing is useful and can help paint a picture for our customers. In this context, the story of a brand is the culmination of our marketing, outreach, reputation, service, quality – all the ways in which our customers can and do come into contact with our brand.

Everything we do should “match” the overall vibe of our company. If we’re selling simplicity, simplicity should be key. If we’re producers of content, our content should be top-notch. With so much going on it’s easy to lose sight of some of these rudimentary concepts, but these small things can be just as influential to telling our story as the larger, more complex initiatives.

Think about how you want your customers to perceive you, and work backwards to make bring that goal in alignment with reality.

Story in business is as important as ever, so make sure you’re telling a good one.

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