If you’re a business owner, you probably know you need to go outside your comfort zone to achieve the results you desire.
- You might have to speak to audiences when you’re really an introvert.
- You might have to write content when you still hold memories of your scary tenth grade English teacher.
- You might have to reach out to prospects and take the initiative to ask them for their business.
When you need to take action, “go outside your comfort zone” can be good advice. But it’s usually bad advice for content creation.
You might be encouraged to find a way to reach your audience’s emotions.
Or you might be advised to, “Tell a story about why you started your business. Share your mistakes and be vulnerable.”
You can usually tell when people are forcing themselves to share content that doesn’t feel comfortable to them.
Just the other day I got an email where someone, desperate to relate to a news story, actually wrote, “One way or another, death is often a profound experience.”
Often? The person who wrote that sentence is probably in cringe mode right now.
When you write about yourself, your audience can sense whether you’re comfortable sharing your story. If you feel awkward, they’ll squirm right along with you.
Once I got an email from someone about missing a word on a third-grade spelling test. I can’t remember what the point was … but I do remember feeling embarrassed for the person who wrote about it. Your clients want to learn how you can help them. They want to believe you’re an expert.
Stories are powerful. When you tell a story that works against you, that’s what your audience remembers. Your story becomes your brand. So it’s important to control the story.
“The life coach who lived on the streets because her home was so abusive…”
“The keynote speaker who had to max out his credit cards to get started…”
“The editor who lost the spelling bee in third grade…”
These stories will be especially damaging when you’re new. After you’re firmly branded in your audience’s mind, you can show a different side of your experience.
“But I need to show empathy!”
True. But empathy doesn’t necessarily mean, “I’ve walked in your shoes.” It can mean communicating, “I treat my clients with respect. I don’t keep them waiting. I listen to what they’re telling me.”
To understand where to add empathy, look at the backstories of your clients — the stories they bring when they call you or make their first appointment.
Here are 3 examples of backstories a client might share:
“The last time I hired a lawyer, she seemed competent. But she made a sarcastic comment about how I was stupid to have this problem, never returned my calls, and sent me a big bill.”
“I was scared to call a financial planner. My portfolio isn’t that big. He’ll think I’m a loser.”
”My career coach was warm and friendly. But she made suggestions that were more appropriate to a beginner. I felt that she didn’t see me as a whole person.”
When you address these concerns, you don’t need to dig up your own past. You don’t need to get uncomfortable. You simply present, with complete professionalism, the story of how you provide service.
Don’t let anyone tell you to be vulnerable or share a painful story.
You can connect with clients and demonstrate empathy by focusing on your business. Sometimes it’s appropriate to share a story, especially when you deliver services on particularly sensitive topics.
The key is not to force yourself. Clients can tell when you’re not being authentic and not comfortable in your own business persona. They’ll push back because they want you to experience you as someone they can trust – not someone needy.
To learn more about relating to clients, check out Storytelling for Personal Branding: Your Clients Want You To Brag. Click here for details and purchase.