Normally my message is, “You’ll gain a strategic advantage when you tell a story…especially the right story.”
Every marketing challenge can be met more easily with a story.
Getting to know your client? Check.
Branding? Double check.
However, I’ve come to realize that sometimes a story is not what you need to accomplish your purpose.
Not every sales letter should begin with a story. Why? Because I see so many stories that are essentially clones of one another.
It takes me back to my years as a college professor when students would come in the day before an exam with a “grandmother died” story. The first time I felt sorrowful and sympathetic, but by the fifth grandmother, my feelings went numb.
A cookie-cutter story won’t deliver results – especially one that’s told because you were advised to “tell a story, any story.”
Cookie cutter stories won’t make you a business storyteller.
You started with five-figure debt and paid everything off in six months? Terrific…if your system still works in 2021, for someone who may lack your charisma and experience.
You slept on the floor of a church basement for six months? You grew up on welfare? A great story…but no longer relevant if you’ve been enjoying success for the last ten years.
You took on credit card debt to fly to your first conference…where you just happened to meet the person who transformed your business? Awesome but not exactly something that’s delivers a reliable result.
Effective storytellers begin by asking, “What do you want the story to accomplish?” They’re business owners first. They use storytelling as a tool to accomplish their mission.
Sometimes you don’t need a story to fill your purpose.
When your client wants to talk nuts, bolts and numbers, your story just gets in the way. He might even wonder what you’re trying to hide.
Sometimes people will pay for solid information. I sometimes see articles claiming, “Facts are boring. Tell a story.”
People pay a lot of money to get straight facts. Look at the increasing number of university courses offered online, in lecture form. Sure, some of them tell stories (especially history classes). But some just deliver solid information and people love it.
When someone comes along with a truly effective story, tailored specifically to the business purpose, they can have a real impact.
You shouldn’t try to come up with a story “because I need one.”
Great business storytellers are great strategists.
Storytelling in business isn’t the same as storytelling for campfire stories. Great stories begin with the purpose. Many business owners present great stories that would work well as fairy tales or movies. They just won’t do much for your sales.
They’re not targeted. They’re almost always about the writer – not the audience. They divert attention from your services.
If your story doesn’t move your business forward, don’t tell it.
If you’ve got a convincing success story, related directly to your offer, you’re probably in good shape with your story.
If your story gives us a new outlook on the world, great. If you give us an “aha” moment, you’re on track to get more clients who will love working with you.
If people say, “I see myself in your story,” you’ve developed the most important quality of stories – relatability. That’s even more importat than being personal.
If you struggle to do this, get some training or skip the whole story thing for now.
You shouldn’t tell stories you “borrow” from others.
Many business owners struggle with finding their own stories so they borrow from people they admire.
That defeats a major purpose of storytelling: uniqueness. Your story needs to be your own.
Begin keeping a story journal. You’ll become attuned to all kinds of stories in your environment. Some will work well as direct communication with your ideal clients. Some will help you explain complex concepts.
When I get a story idea, I open a blog post and set it up as a draft. Sometimes I use it right away; sometimes. it simmers for a while. Sometimes I realize I have no use for this story, ever.
The idea for this post came several weeks ago. It finally felt ready to be a “go.”
You don’t have to be a storyteller.
Lots of people succeed online (and offline) without ever telling a single story.
Personally, I believe I can help anyone enhance their marketing by telling stories strategically. But not everybody wants to…or needs to.
And you certainly don’t need to tell stories about yourself, your struggles and your moments of vulnerability. Lots of people never, ever do this. And they’re doing just fine.
When I first started working online, I became frustrated with people who told me all the things I “must” do.
One marketer suggested inviting community leaders to breakfast in your own home. I tried to imagine serving them food I’d cooked myself, while they sat gingerly on their edge of their chairs, brushing off cat hair and telling the dog not to steal their miserably cooked meals.
No. Sorry, but no.
The one thing that became painfully clear to me was that I’d have to carve out my own path. I’d take some tips from others. I’d borrow a few ideas here and there. But when anyone said “should,” I’d head for the hills.
Must is the worst 4-letter word. Much worse than the other one you’re thinking of.
That’s why I wrote the book Grow Your Business One Story At A Time, which offers a contrarian, controversial approach to storytelling. It’s why I set my website up as Strategic Storytelling – helping people implement strategy by telling stories, not telling stories in hopes of reaching.
You can also refer to my free tip sheet – 17 Surprising Ways to Grow Your Business By Telling Stories. Click here to learn more and download.
If you’re not a business storyteller, become one – but not by following what everyone else is doing. Begin by asking your followers what they want to learn from you. Ask yourself what you need to accomplish in your marketing.
I promise that when you do, the words will flow from your fingers like a fountain.