Many times we’ll see an email message that claims to share a success story. Many marketers appear to be sharing stories, particularly success stories. But in fact they’re sharing half-stories. They’re leaving out critical information. They skip a step. Or they take liberties with facts.
Susan works with business owners to create a mindset that supports their entrepreneurial activity. It’s somewhat woo-woo but she claims to get solid results.
Susan wrote an email promising, “You don’t need a website to start your business. I didn’t have one and my practice filled within three weeks.”
Sure, you can start a business without a website. But Susan’s not sharing the whole story. Her boyfriend, Tony, was a well-known online marketer with a very large, very responsive list. Tony introduced Susan to his list, with claims like, “Some of my clients start making money after just a couple of sessions with Susan!” He does make a disclaimer about their relationship but he’s very convincing. Susan could fill her practice from Tony’s one email.
Janet experienced an abusive encounter with a prospect when she tried to pitch them in person. After crying all the way home, she put on her business owner hat and decided things had to be different.
As she tells the story, “Finally it hit me: I was trying to appear like someone I wasn’t. So I attracted prospects who hated me. I started sharing the truth of who I am. I allowed myself to be vulnerable.
“I focused on building relationships,” she reports. “I became more visible. Clients started finding me. My income doubled.”
Janet actually added a step to her story. Her success didn’t come from being vulnerable and authentic. Most likely she gained momentum by building relationships and clearly identifying her message and her brand.
Finally, Tom told a story like this: “My client Betsy needed a quick infusion of cash. I sent her my templates for a sequence of 3 emails. Betsy sold 10 copies of her class at $997 each — giving her what she needed and something left over to celebrate.”
Wow. I was almost ready to sign up for Tom’s program to get my three emails!
But Tom has skipped ahead several steps — just the opposite of Janet.
In order to sell even one program at $997, Betsy needs a program with an irresistible promise her audience will believe. Most programs in that price range aren’t made in a day.
To sell ten at that price, she needs credibility and a responsive list. List size isn’t important: some people could sell 20 programs at $997 from a list of 1000 or less. Some couldn’t match that goal with a list of 10,000 or more.
Tom’s story may be completely accurate. But without those intermediate steps, his three emails won’t make a difference.
So what makes a really good, effective, honest success story?
Here’s an example that would be appropriate for a financial planner:
“Bob, a bank manager in a medium-sized city, and his wife Susan feel frustrated because they don’t have enough money each month. Bob feels Susan spends too much money on hair, nails, and the latest fashions. But Susan says Bob spends a lot more on “expensive golf and fishing trips.”
“Susan called because she couldn’t stand to face another fight with Bob over money. She was considering a divorce.
“As a financial planner, I introduced Bob and Susan to the No-Fault, Win-Win budget system. Although this couple had tried other budgeting systems without success, this one worked because I offered them support and guidance along the way.
“Two months after our meeting, Susan called me again. She’d forgotten about divorce and was celebrating a special date with Bob …”
This story could be expanded to show details of how the financial planner worked with the couple. He might refer to intake sessions and additional information. The real story features the planner as hero and emphasizes, “There’s no magic!”
Bottom line: Every service-based business owner needs at least 3 success stories. When I work with clients in the Story Consultation, we work on the details. Often we turn up a story that the business owner hadn’t considered. When you’re close to your business (as you should be), you almost always overlook stories that will appeal to your best clients. “Of course it turned out that way!” you’re saying.
Your client may have had a very different experience with a different kind of service or with a competitor. Or your client simply may not realize that these results were possible and realistic.