“Nobody cares about how you struggled to get here. Let’s just get that out of the way.”
That’s what one frustrated audience member said after attending a business workshop. He wrote up a scathing review, which was devastating to the enthusiastic, knowledgeable workshop leader.
After all, every single one of her marketing coaches, mentors, and role models had told her the same thing. “Tell us how you got here. Share your mistakes. Bare your soul. Be vulnerable.”
The truth is, these hero’s journey stories won’t accomplish much for you. At best, your audience might feel they’re bonding with you; at worst, they’ll wince or feel embarrassed for you…or even assume, “If he did that, he must not be very competent.”
Many business owners believe you can use storytelling primarily to engage your audience. You’ll often see claims that stories “captivate” your audience.
Gaining attention definitely is a critical objective. In today’s cluttered environment, it’s easy to be invisible or, even worse, dull and boring.
But you can also use your story to sell.
What turns a story into a selling machine?
- A story that sells will….paint a picture of what life will be like after they accept your offer.be completely realistic and believable.be specific and concrete rather than abstract and general.
Like going to a restaurant …
By way of analogy, have you ever gone to a restaurant and think you know what to order…and then you see someone else eating something that looks even more delicious than what you originally had in mind?
You’re not reading a restaurant menu, with those mouth-watering details like, “lovingly braised in wine sauce.” You’re seeing something you hadn’t expected. You figure it’s available: after all, people in this very restaurant are eating it.
You say to the waiter, “I want what he’s having.”That’s what a selling story does. It gets your targeted prospects saying, “I want what they’re having.”
The Fact Is, You’re Writing To People With A Problem
When you tell a story about how you struggle to get where you are, you turn the focus to you. That’s fine if your sole purpose is to establish rapport with your audience.
It’s all about your message.
“If I can do it, anyone can,” is not the same message as, “I’ve got the solution you’ve been seeking – and I’m not making this up.”
That’s the problem. We think our hard luck, rags-to-riches story makes us special and desirable.
So, we get it!
We need to do paint a picture of the prospect’s ideal world. There isn’t always going to be a hard luck story that resonates with our prospects. We need to move directly to the question, “What can I do for them?”
How To Actually Sell With A Story
The best tactic you can use as a marketer is to begin with the prospect’s backstory. What brought them here? For instance:
“I’ve been trying to build a website for the past five years. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on web designers. And I’ve not nothing to show for it.”
You can apply this concept to any business, whether your clients buy out of desperate need or as a “nice to have.”
Some people seem to sell with rags to riches stories.
You’ll often see successful business owners writing about their difficult childhood, o repeated business failures, or their recent divorce. Why do they succeed?
First, they may be succeeding in spite of the story they tell.
And second, they may relate to their clients the way entertainment or athletic stars relate to their audiences – as a celebrity to a fan. Some professionals successfully position themselves this way, although usually not till they’ve been around awhile.
When your audience sees you as a star, they want to pull back the curtain. They want to learn about you in a way they don’t want to learn about “ordinary” people.
Fans are hungry for intimate details about their heroes.
When the Queen of England hosts a family dinner, it’s news. When your next door neighbor does the same thing, you don’t even want to read about it on Facebook.
Sales come when you choose the best story for your purpose.
The successes your clients achieved with your offers.
The best place to find stories will be in the testimonials and grateful messages from your satisfied clients. Their backstory becomes the first part; your actions form the middle, the smallest part of the story; and their transformed lives get featured as the ending.
“I struggled for years trying to get my website built. I spent thousands of dollars on web developers and designers. But I never was able to get a website that actually delivered the goods and made me look good.
“Then I took this course. It was a lot of work. I learned how to put up my own WordPress site. I became my own designer. In the last year, I’ve put up 3 websites. They’re all bringing in money.
“My business looks very different from a year ago. Now I work 20 hours in a typical week and I get 40% of my new clients directly from a website.”
The experience your prospect will enjoy if she becomes a client.
One business owner wanted to sell a high-end VIP day. She painted a picture of what that day would look like, targeting directly to her predominantly female audience:
“We meet you at the airport with a car service and take you to your hotel. The next morning, you’re driven to my office, where we spend the day working in a room overlooking the beach. We break for lunch, and I know a place that has terrific salads where we can eat in or take out…”
Or you can borrow a picturesque phrase from a satisfied customer: “Holy sh*t, I did it!”
Keep on the lookout for stories you can use.
“But where will I find the right story?” That question comes up a lot – until you start using stories in your marketing. Once you become aware of the power of story, you’ll see stories in the most unlikely places.
For instance, I wrote this article to show how I found a surprising story on the back of a real estate agent’s postcard.
Your story’s selling power is only as good as your offer.
At some point, you’re going to have to take a look at your services. You’ll find a lot of competitors who provide plain cookie-cutter solutions. They don’t have strong backstories or success stories – so they don’t have stories that sell.
When you start looking for stories, you’ll be viewing your own brand and offerings in a new way. You’ll look at your business through the eyes of a storyteller.
And as you integrate top stories into your market, chances are you’ll find new ways to improve your business and your marketing in totally unexpected ways.
If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!
And please visit my course, Build Your Brand One Story At A Time.
My ebook on Kindle: Grow Your Business One Story At A Time.