The other day I visited the Museum of Science in Boston – one of my all-time favorite places, and, yes, my former employer.
I was there to spend time with a friend of mine on staff (who shall remain nameless) and he told me to be sure and see their new exhibit on the history of the museum.
He confessed that he had not originally been in favor of the exhibit, but he was talked into it. But now that he’s observed people going through the exhibit and heard their comments, he knows how much people love the exhibit and he “got it.”
“They love the exhibit because history is personal,” he told me. And he’s right!
Sure enough, when I went through I became very emotional. I loved the 19th century connections to some of my historical work, and I loved seeing the old natural history objects, the portraits of people involved, early inventions. It’s just fascinating. So that was fun.
But what got to me is where I connected emotionally. What got to me was seeing pictures of Spooky the Owl, who I remembered vividly from my childhood.
What got to me especially were pictures of Brad Washburn, the former director who I’ve known my whole life because he is a family friend, and who took the museum from a small outfit in Boston’s Back Bay to the international prominence it enjoys today.
What got to me were pictures from the exhibits I worked on when I was there in my 20s.
And what got to me was the enormous pride I felt for being part of the museum story.
What does this have to do with your business history?
If you can make links for people between your story and what people care about and remember, you will get to them.
Do you have a connection to momentous events like the Great Depression, any of the wars we’ve been through, or an event in your community that everyone remembers, like a fire or flood? How did your business respond?
But it doesn’t have to be a negative event. Was there a town celebration your business played a role in? An event? The opening of a museum or an exhibit? Did you participate in a parade or a book about your town?
So take a look at the entire length of your business history, and then also look at what was also going on in your community and how your business either participated or responded.
People will appreciate that you took the time to remember what they cared about in the past, and that you reminded them of something very special.
Any marketer will tell you that when you make that emotional connection, you will draw people to you.
When you do this work, I think you will find a lot of happy and grateful customers on your hands, and new ones who will say, “Oh my gosh, I remember that too!”
2011 © Bonnie Hurd Smith
History Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status. Subscribe (above, right) to our free Ezine, Connections, where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve business goals.