We are hearing this a lot: It’s important to “be vulnerable” when you present yourself to listeners, readers, visitors and any potential clients.
“Let people see you are human!” we are told.
One communication coach even urges her clients to, “Go bare! Take off everything!”
To go bare with my own opinion, these stories make me cringe.
Just what kind of story do you want to tell, anyway?
I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, some people will find much more success by keeping their metaphorical clothes on.
Choose a story related to your business. Relate your background directly to whatever you are selling. For instance, if you’re a relationship coach, share the story of your break-up to communicate, “I’ve been there. I’ve walked in your shoes.”
If you’re a business coach, you probably don’t need to share your relationship break-up story. But if you did, your break-up story could:
- be a metaphor for a business breakup: “When you dissolve a partnership…” or, “When your market deserts you for the new technology…”
- be a source of tips for running a business when you’re emotionally vulnerable
- show how your breakup made you a stronger, more resilient business owner
Present your story as “Lessons Learned,” not “Work In Progress.”
A Law of Attraction coach shared her struggles to attract a mate. Finally she attracted a wonderful boyfriend, only to break up a few months later. All these stories were shared in real time.
Clearly this coach needs to attract some good marketing strategies. “If she can’t attract her own desires,” a reader might say, “how will she help other people? Maybe the Law doesn’t really work.”
The more successful you are, the more vulnerability stories will help you.
One marketer – a male – makes sure everyone knows he gets $500 haircuts. A female marketer makes frequent reference to her Manolo Blahnik shoes (which ran as high as $965 last time I checked). For audiences who respect high earning power, these folks can also share stories where they failed miserably and made horrific mistakes.
Research psychologists find that we feel warmer toward a very successful person – someone we already admire – who displays vulnerability. But we don’t respect a less successful person who appears vulnerable.
Finally, avoid embarrassing your prospects with TMI: “Too Much Information.” If you just had a particularly personal type of surgery, you don’t need to share unless you’re a health coach. Some of your readers might be squeamish. They’re reading your business blog, not a health blog, for a reason.
On a public podcast, an experienced business consultant shared a story of his journey into the depths of despair. What he described sounded like clinical depression, following a death in his family. There was no reason to share this story, but he told the audience he’d been advised to be more open. Backfire, big time: his audience felt more uncomfortable, not closer.
And it should go without saying: If you’ve done anything illegal or spectacularly dumb, save the story for your lawyer and your therapist.
With these warnings in mind, do you have to share at all?
Some very successful marketers disclose little or nothing about themselves. I’ve bought products and services from some people who are just names to me. I don’t know if they have spouses, children, homes or cars … and frankly I don’t care.
If you’re a life coach, you might feel you have to share a lot more of yourself. But it’s even more important to share success stories. Ultimately, it’s not about you: it’s about who you serve and how you can communicate, “I can help you. I deliver value.”